Deputy County Manager Marie Peoples has been named the new city manager for Webster Groves, Missouri, and will be leaving in January.
After seven years with Coconino County, Peoples, who is from Missouri, said she started seeking this type of managerial role early in the fall and is now looking forward to returning to her home state and closer to family.
“I’m really interested in being a manager in local government. My heart lies within local government and then, of course, getting closer back to home,” Peoples said.
She was also one of three finalists for the city manager of Evanston, Illinois, but the position was awarded to another candidate in mid-October.
Peoples started with Coconino County as its chief health officer in 2013 until she was appointed deputy county manager in 2018 to oversee its criminal justice and Health and Human Services departments. Before moving to Flagstaff, she held leadership roles in higher education and public health in Missouri.
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More recently, she has served as Coconino County’s COVID-19 incident commander, but Peoples said she is not concerned about leaving this particular role mid-pandemic, noting the proficiency of the Emergency Operations Center and the Health and Human Services teams. She admitted, though, that she would miss the public health aspect of her role and the unique opportunity to help lead a community’s pandemic response.
“I have greatly enjoyed being a part of that team,” she said. “My background is as an epidemiologist, and working with the pandemic is such a unique offering for me that I didn’t think I would see within my lifetime. It is an epidemiologist’s dream, so I will miss it, but the team is going to do just fine.
“Coconino County has some of the most high-caliber and dedicated staff that I have ever had the pleasure of working with. I can’t overemphasize that. It truly has been my pleasure. I am so proud of the work that has been done on the teams I’ve been able to work with.”
Peoples said she hopes to be able to connect with her county counterparts when she makes the move to Webster Groves in order to maintain her ties to public health.
For the last five years, Peoples has also served as a member of the Coconino Community College District Governing Board. She participated in her last meeting Wednesday evening.
“Regardless of the community I live in, I try to get involved in education and to be an active voice,” Peoples said, referring to CCC and her work on a K-12 school board before she moved to Arizona. “It’s been my honor, really, to be an elected member of CCC and to be entrusted with being able to do that. I will greatly miss being part of that.”
According to an article by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Peoples beat out 85 other candidates for the Webster Groves city manager role to replace Steve Wylie, who retired in July after 19 years in the position.
Peoples said her first day is Jan. 11.
Webster Groves has a population of just more than 20,000 over an area of 5 square miles, compared to Coconino County’s approximate 143,000 people over 18,661 square miles.
“I am leaving a community that has deeply become a part of me and my family, and I am going to miss it. It’s just been an honor to be able to be here,” Peoples said. “But I will say that Arizona is not done with me yet. I have no doubt that my path will continue to cross and I will be keeping an eye on Coconino County and I cannot wait to see what’s next.”
Coconino County officials are currently discussing the future of the position she is leaving open.
Kaitlin Olson can be reached at the office at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (928) 556-2253.