The two finalists for the Neighborhood Liaison position, a jointly funded position between Northern Arizona University and the city of Flagstaff, presented their plans for their first six months on the job at an open house Wednesday night.
Valeria Chase and John Dunlap, the two finalists for the position, both drew on their personal experiences in Flagstaff to present their plans to the audience.
Chase, a current NAU employee, received both her bachelor's and master’s degrees from the university and is raising her family in Flagstaff. Dunlap grew up in the Southside and attended Flagstaff Unified School District schools through high school before attending and graduating from NAU. He worked for the city in parks and recreation before moving to Phoenix.
Chase likened the relationship between the university and residents of the city to an arranged marriage.
“Neither knew from the beginning where we were headed,” she said.
In her first few weeks in office if given the job, Chase said she planned to do extensive outreach with stakeholder, including the city, university, business community, neighborhood associations, the police and fire departments and student groups.
Chase said she plans to consider party registration, which would involve students voluntarily registering their party with the police department. If the department received a noise complaint from a party that had been registered, someone with the department would call the party contact and ask them to turn it down. If the person throwing the party complied, they could avoid a ticket or fine that could normally come with a noise complaint, and would free up police resources from having to come to every reported party.
Her signature program would be the student ambassadors program, which would ideally involve students of different majors who live in the various communities off-campus. The ambassador would spearhead neighborhood projects like a trash cleanup, cookouts or other activities for the neighborhood to get both students and longtime residents involved.
Residents and student ambassadors could also be paired up for a mentorship program, she said.
Chase said she also is considering pursuing a “cooperating bar program” which some other cities with colleges and universities have adopted. Bars that choose to participate in the program would hang signage about drinking responsibly and being a good neighbor, and would receive a sticker to display in the window to show they are a part of the program.
Dunlap said his outreach to students will begin at freshman orientation by making students aware of different opportunities in tow, like volunteering or involvement in community organizations.
“I really hold this community dear,” he told the crowd at the open house.
Dunlap said, if given the job, he plans to attend meetings of all the neighborhood associations. For neighborhoods that do not have an established association, he would see if citizens were interested in going about making one.
“It always puzzled me that there was a disconnect — that students weren’t as involved in the community,” he said.
As community liaison, Dunlap said it would be important not to take side with one organization over another, but instead facilitate conversation and provide resources to help each side resolve issues.
When asked about Tequila Sunrise and some of the tension it can cause between NAU students and the Flagstaff community, Dunlap said his efforts would be focused on promoting responsible consumption of alcohol and making sure the event was safe.
“Tequila Sunrise is one day,” he said. “It’s one day that people put a lot into. I would want to be proactive with students and just help them be safe during Tequila Sunrise.”
The position was previously held by Karissa Morgan, who spent less than a year on the job before accepting another job in May. The position has been vacant since her departure.
City of Flagstaff spokeswoman Jessica Drum said the hiring decision is expected to be announced next week.
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