City office helps to preserve Tempeís sense of community

Editorís note: Maryanne Corder, Tempeís longtime neighborhood services director, retired last year. The job was awarded to Shauna Warner, Corderís assistant for the past five years. Wrangler News contributor Melissa Hirschl asked Warner about the job and how she sees the departmentís work progressing under her direction.

First, explain your job in your own words and tell our readers why the position is important to the community. 

The main responsibilities of the Neighborhood Services Division are to maintain clear communication lines between residents and City Hall, help preserve the integrity of Tempeís neighborhoods, promote a sense of community and inform citizens on issues so that they can be involved. 

Neighborhoods are a priority for the mayor and Council, so itís important for the community to know that they can effect change rather than have change happen to them. 
What about your growing-up years and how your past influenced what you do now.

Iím a native Arizonan. I grew up in Mesa but now live in Tempe. My parents have always encouraged me to give back to the community. Throughout my youth and adult life I have volunteered and been involved in civic organizations, which led to my interest in public service as a career.

What is your educational and work background, and how did they qualify you for this position?

I have a bachelors degree in Spanish and political science from New York University and a masters in public administration from Arizona State University. I started with the city of Tempe in April 1998 as a management intern and then served as a management assistant in the city managerís office. I joined Neighborhood Services in 1999 as a neighborhood specialist and was named director in December 2004. As a part of the Neighborhood Services Division for over five years Iíve been directly working with residents on neighborhood issues.

Why did you want this position?

Tempe has amazing residents, who make this type of work truly enjoyable. As Tempe ages and changes, there are exciting challenges ahead for neighborhoods, and I want to play a role in the future of our community.

Describe a typical day or at least some highlights or examples of your day.

What makes the job exciting is that no day is the same. 

What are some of the challenges you face?

I would like to explore ways to reach out to residents who havenít been traditionally involved. 

What are some of the programs Maryanne implemented that you are going to continue?

The City Council created the Neighborhood Services Division in 1987 and Maryanne Corder was the director from the beginning until her retirement in November. I will continue that service to the community. As the issues facing neighborhoods change, the division needs to adapt to the needs of the community.

What new ideas do you have that you would like to see implemented?

The Neighborhood Advisory Commission, which Neighborhood Services staffs, is currently working on a manual that will address public participation in planning for their neighborhoods. Itís important that residents know how and when they can participate in issues. There is also a need to establish programs to recognize and thank residents and neighborhoods for the efforts they put forth. 

Is your job harder because people are busier now than ever before? 

One of the challenges of the job is reaching out to residents and getting them involved because everyone has so much going on in their lives. In some ways technology has made that easier because information is more easily accessible, i.e. meeting times and agendas on the website.

It is because people are so busy that itís important to keep them informed on whatís happening in the city so that they can choose how and when they want to get involved and devote their valuable time to resolving specific issues. 

What is the purpose/value of a neighborhood services division in terms of encouraging a sense of ďcommunityĒ and ďbelongingĒ?

One of the most important aspects of feeling as if you belong to a community is to first know your neighbors. The Neighborhood Services Division provides a mechanism for residents to communicate with each other through the mailing of newsletters and meeting notices. Engaging residents in the decision-making process and making sure they are informed of issues is another aspect of encouraging community building. 

What resources are available to neighborhood associations? 

The Maryanne Corder Neighborhood Grant Program is the largest monetary resource we have available to neighborhood and homeowner associations. The City Council sets aside $225,000 each fiscal year for neighborhood-initiated projects. Associations can apply for up to $12,000 per year for projects that would provide a benefit to the entire neighborhood. 

The city offers leadership classes each spring through the Neighborhood Leadership Academy. Tempe residents can learn about everything from tips on homeowner associations to crime prevention and much more. 

The Neighborhood Services Division keeps neighborhood and homeowner associations informed on development directly affecting their neighborhoods by mailing out agendas for the Board of Adjustment, Design Review Board and Planning and Zoning Commission to neighborhood contacts.

Tempeís Neighborhood Services Division can be reached by calling (480) 350-8883.