New city director aims to strengthen neighborhoods

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Longtime city of Chandler employee Leah Powell has been named Director of Neighborhood Resources. (Photo courtesy city of Chandler)

Residents of Chandler neighborhoods, including those in West Chandler, now have an experienced advocate on their side who is dedicated to helping them build a stronger community.

Leah Powell, who has worked for the city for more than 20 years, most recently as its community resources and diversity manager, has been appointed Neighborhood Resources Director.

Chandler City Manager Marsha Reed said Powell’s expertise and relationships in the community will help her to effectively lead the Neighborhood Resources department.

“She brings unique knowledge of our community and neighborhoods and will ensure the department continues to deliver outstanding service for Chandler residents,” Reed said.

When Wrangler News caught up with Powell, she was busily preparing for the city’s Homeowners Association Summit to be held later that evening. Her new job title means broader responsibilities in the community.

“I will be overseeing the day-to-day operations and guiding the department toward our goals in the areas of public housing, community development, code enforcement, neighborhood programs and diversity,” Powell said.

Although many Chandler neighborhoods have HOAs, there are a number that don’t. These “traditional” neighborhoods, as they’re described by the city, are sometimes registered and organized however, and Powell’s department has a lot to do with that. The department offers these neighborhoods broad support and helps others start the ball rolling.

“Our neighborhood staff will work with them, educating them on the process and the advantages of being organized,” Powell said. “They can help them get started with the process and set up community meetings. We have grant opportunities, as well.”

Though many suburban areas in the East Valley have large swaths of neighborhoods where weeds, appliances, furniture and vehicles in disrepair create an eyesore in the front yards, Chandler—particularly its Western half—is not one of them.

Powell said it’s because the city takes a dual approach.

“It’s a proactive approach of educating the community and, of course   enforcement when necessary,” Powell said. “We have a very active code enforcement team and we also have a great neighborhood preservations manager. They work toward making sure we are doing both aspects, both education and enforcement.”

The advantages to having a neighborhood organized and registered are many, Powell said, pointing to the ability to set up projects like a largescale clean-up effort. “Having that opportunity to bring people together to work toward the betterment of the neighborhood helps to create that sense of community,” Powell said. It also helps establish an identity for and stabilize neighborhoods to help prevent them from going into decline.

Neighborhoods like Sun Meadows, which sits near the southwest corner of Kyrene and Ray, for example, gain a name and a sense of identity, plus plenty of advice on how to keep their community strong. The Sun Meadows neighborhood association formed in 2016 and met recently to discuss traffic concerns, poorly maintained yards, speed bumps and graffiti.

The city’s Neighborhood Department can help communities start their own newsletters and webpage, and offers printing services for newsletter and flyers.

Powell said her department works with local non-profits in the area to help with neighborhood projects. In the spring, there’s the Let’s Pull Together program that brings volunteers on board to remove weeds for elderly and disabled neighbors who are physically unable to maintain their yards and cannot afford a professional landscaper.

“I think one of the resources that our department brings is that we can connect people with the greater community,” Powell said.

The city of Chandler has more than 300 registered neighborhoods and more than 1,400 neighborhood leaders.

Info: chandleraz.gov

 

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