Dec. 7 was to be my last City Council meeting. I had decided to retire after over 13 years serving on the Casa Grande City Council. I made the decision not to attend that meeting, having come in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID. Although we had been more than 6 feet apart and both wearing masks, I believed that this was the choice to be made for all in attendance. Thankfully I later tested negative.

I feel very privileged to have served on City Council. When I had won my first election in 2007, I was just so amazed that people had voted for me! I mean this in all sincerity. Now, 13 years later, I am still amazed and humbled at the gratitude that people have expressed to me.

Being a part of a nonpartisan council has its benefits. I would like to share with you some of my experiences and the lessons that I learned in the hopes that it gives insight into the duties and responsibilities when charged with making decisions that affect a whole community.

Most decisions that I made were fairly easy to make. There were facts and figures that did not dispute the need for those decisions. Then there were those decisions that were not so cut and dry. One in particular was when we were discussing changing out the sedans that were used by our patrol officers and moving on to an SUV body type. My knee-jerk reaction was that this was a luxury that we could not afford. However, I had learned to listen to both sides of the argument and look at the realities of policing. I also researched prices and was surprised how little difference there was in the two styles. The final decision maker was when one of the officers took me out to look at the vehicle they were using and compare it to the newer vehicle. For so many reasons the newer body style made much more sense. Never be afraid to say “Gee, I didn’t think about that” or “Gee, I did not know that.” Never be afraid to question, no matter who is standing in front of you. You can do it politely but persistently. As an elected official that was part of my job.

If I were asked what decision I regret most it would likely be the decision to create Grande Sports World. At the time, the amount of youth playing fields was reduced when our schools made the hard decision to discontinue access to their fields. In addition, the number of young participants was increasing. I let this need influence a decision that has had a negative impact on our city and for that I apologize.

Probably the hardest decision I made was not to continue the city’s involvement with the irrigation system in the Evergreen Historic District. For 18 months I agonized over what and how much support the city would give to the system. I researched past records going back many decades. I listened to those who were directly affected and those who were not. I grew up in this neighborhood and know many who live there. It was a balancing act that I did not relish. It will be the one decision that I will think about for a very long time.

On a more positive note, there are three projects that brought me joy and satisfaction. In no particular order they are the street and landscaping improvements of our historic downtown, the completion of an amazing trail system on CG Mountain and the building of the Community Recreation Center. All three of these projects benefit a wide range of our residents. We were able to accomplish these projects while staying within budget and being fiscally responsible.

I have sat on several boards and commissions. If you choose to serve, choose it because you want to leave things better than when you first came on board. Respect your fellow council and board members. You don’t have to agree, but you can listen and look beyond the moment. Public service is just that: You serve all of the people in your city, district or whatever area that you represent.

Finally, I want to say that nothing is accomplished successfully without the help of others. The city has had talented city staff and employees who truly enjoy working here and we have residents, longtime and new, who love this town as much as I do. I’d like to single out Larry Rains and Gloria Leija. Larry was the finance director when I was sworn in and now serves us so well as city manager. Without Larry’s expertise and guidance my job would have been so much harder. As for Gloria, she is the best city clerk that anyone could ask for. She wears many hats and one of them is to assist City Council. She performs all of her duties professionally and in such a pleasant manner. Last, but certainly not least, I want everyone to know that I have been truly blessed with council members and two mayors who have worked diligently with me to move our city forward. To all of you I say “Thank you.”

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Mary Kortsen retired this week after serving 13-plus years on the Casa Grande City Council.

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