Cottonwood Heights: not as young as it once was
Jan 08, 2020 01:28PM
By Cassie Goff
Being close to the freeway is one of the benefits of living and working in Cottonwood Heights. (Cassie Goff/City Journals)
By Cassie Goff | [email protected]
2020 will mark 15 years since the incorporation of Cottonwood Heights. Within that time, the city has been through multiple growth spurts. From changes in leadership to finding a permanent home, Cottonwood Heights has been adapting and evolving as the city between the canyons.
In 2005, Cottonwood Heights was incorporated after significant planning from the community council. During the first year after incorporation, there was much scrambling to get the city up and running. Almost every city staff member working at the time recalls the story of Former City Manager Liane Stillman offering her own personal credit card to pay upfront costs for operations, since the city did not yet have a set budget.
“I’m amazed with the great work they did when they started the city,” said current City Manager Tim Tingey. “When beginning a new city, there’s so much that has to be developed. There are processes and policies that have to be established fairly quickly. The past city leaders did a great job.”
During that time of beginning the city, the city’s general plan needed to be drafted, as well as the ordinances and budgets. Since then, there have been numerous modifications to plans and ordinances, and countless resolutions adopted.
“We aren’t really a new city anymore,” Tingey said. “We have evolved from that new city to a much more established city.”
Behind the Scenes
“The city staff do so much to make the city better,” Tingey said. “They put forth extreme amounts of effort to make the community better. We have good leaders and a great staff. I give them all the credit. The work they do, and their efforts, are appreciated.”
Former Assistant City Manager Bryce Haderlie further explained the important role of city staff members. “They are the individuals that get the work done. It’s not just a job, but a privilege, to provide the best service to the residents. If we don't get it right, then it reflects on the entire city because the employees are the face of Cottonwood Heights.”
Tingey expressed that all the city staff members he works with are forward thinking and have can-do attitudes. The quality of their work and their extensive knowledge base creates a better city for all residents and visitors. “The staff does things to enhance the betterment of the community. Each of us play an important role in making our community better. We want to better our community — that’s the focus of our employees.”
As examples, Tingey mentioned important things happening in various departments. “Many city staff members have been applying for grants for millions of dollars to enhance the city,” he began.
Within the community and economic development department, GIS Specialist Melissa Blue has been working to “provide data and information so all city staff members can do their jobs more efficiently,” Tingey said.
The finance administration and human resources department “do so much to connect all of what they are doing,” Tingey said.
Even though the public works department is one of the youngest departments within the city, established three years ago, “it’s amazing what they have done,” said Tingey, specifically in relation to road repair and snow plowing.
Haderlie also spoke to the accomplishments of the public works department. “I will always treasure my time at Cottonwood Heights because of the great people that I got to work with and the amazing accomplishments of building the new city hall and improving the public works department. I believe that we gave the city a greater identity of ‘self’ when we accomplished those two goals. Those are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” Haderlie said.
“The people that work here mean so much to me,” Tingey said. “I am really grateful. We have people that are passionate about their community and the place they live. We have people that care, and that makes my job better.”
Even though each department within the city has their own priorities, there are some overarching priorities city staff members work toward on a daily basis. Many of those priorities have emerged from of the city council retreats.
The main priority that almost all of the city staff members report is to continue “providing the residents of the community with the best service possible,” said Business Development Specialist Sherrie Martell. This includes continuing to improve on existing services and establishing new quality services.
“We are always improving customer service,” said Tingey. “That’s something I’ll always advocate for.”
One of the priorities city staff members have been and continue to work toward to improve customer service is transparency.
Residents like that “we went to great lengths to be transparent and address concerns as they came up in a timely manner,” said former Public Relations Manager Dan Metcalf.
Communication Manager Tim Beery continues that work. “We have an open policy. If a resident wants to contact any city employee, even the city manager or mayor, they are able to. We pride ourselves on being transparent and open. We try to push city items on our social media pages well in advance and give as much notice as possible,” said Beery.
Another overarching priority for almost all departments in Cottonwood Heights is sustainability. In 2018, Cottonwood Heights hired a sustainability manager. In addition, the city is now devoted to a goal of having 100% clean renewable energy for city operations by 2022.
“As a city, we focus on sustainability. That is one of our driving factors in our actions and communications. We take pride in our community and we want to preserve it, so we are taking measures to become more green,” Beery said.
In relation to sustainability, all departments have been and continue to be devoted to open space. A few recent examples of how that priority has influenced the city includes securing funds for the completion of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and the creation of the parks, trails, and open space committee.
In relation to open space, city staff members are constantly working to consider and preserve the canyons that border the city.
“Working for Cottonwood Heights, it feels like we are the guardians of the canyons,” Beery said. “We love the Cottonwood Canyons and to promote exercise and wellness. We try to promote a healthy outdoor-centric lifestyle as much as possible. Those two things really mesh well together with all of the recreational activities available in the canyon. We do our best to promote hiking, biking, climbing and trail runs.”
In order to accomplish some of the goals in mind for these priorities, city staff members work to establish and maintain relationships with other entities within the state.
“Having strong working relationships with other organizations” has always been a priority for the city. For Tingey, some of the entities he personally maintains relationships with are the Central Wasatch Commission, Salt Lake County, and the United Fire Authority.
“We are very proud of our identity as the ‘city between the canyons,’” Beery said. “The city is beautiful, clean and organized. In my opinion, it is the most beautiful city in Salt Lake County and the most scenic portion of the valley.”
Metcalf also spoke to the use of the city’s slogan. “During my tenure with the city, there was considerable debate between staff and city officials as to how much the slogan ought to be used. One side thought it was a vague geographical reference, while others preferred its sentimental value.”
Cottonwood Heights is “a great place to live, work and play,” Martell said. “It’s very active and vibrant, clean and beautiful, with easy access to the freeways, and a friendly business community.”
“A lot of residents love that there is still a small-town feel despite the fact that we are not a small town,” Beery said. “They love that the city is close to Salt Lake City, but also close to the wild.”
“Overall, it’s a great community of people from all walks of life, most of whom love where they live,” Metcalf said.
Looking into the future, Cottonwood Heights will continue to focus on open space, sustainability and transparency, in addition to other priorities.
“We will continue to move forward on being effective in providing services,” Tingey said. “I think providing public amenities and projects that enhance the quality of life will have a focus in the coming years. There are efforts to try and make things better with the canyons, which impacts the quality of life.”
“The quality of life in Cottonwood Heights is much better than most communities because of the local leadership, an engaged core of volunteers, and quiet folks who respect each other’s space,” Metcalf said.
In addition, the city will move forward on some projects and policies in the works and will continue to be responsive to the needs of residents within the community.