Ryan Mahoney, Marana's new town planning director.

Courtesy of the Town of Marana

In its national search for its next planning director, Marana found its man in Colorado, and he happens to be a local product pleased to return home.

Dolores, Colo., Town Manager Ryan Mahoney, who graduated from Salpointe Catholic High School and the University of Ariiizona, has taken the position. He’ll start Oct. 14.

Mahoney, 37, earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and a master’s in land use planning.

The hire caps a search that began in June. To win the job, Mahoney beat out four other finalists who presented their visions to Planning and Zoning Commission and Marana employees in August interviews.

Mahoney and his wife, Minette, are looking for a home on the northwest side for them and their boys, 5-year-old Everett and 2-year-old Theo.

We chatted with Mahoney about his vision for the job and the town.

Q: What drew you to this job?

A: The Sonoran Desert and its environment are what attracted me to the planning profession in the first place. There has been questionable development occurring in the Tucson basin, and I was inspired to look toward more creative ways to develop and kind of set ourselves apart from the run-of-the-mill development we’re seeing. Marana has that same drive to try to be more unique.

Q: What philosophy will you keep in mind as you plan?

A: I think that, as cities and towns in Arizona are so dependent on sales tax revenue, that (some municipalities) are developing in such a way that they are not creating an environment where you can draw a lot of benefit from the residents moving into the community. You’ve got to be able to provide the types of services they demand — maintaining the roads, water and sewer infrastructure. All of those things come into play. You need a nice balance between the residential component, as well as the commercial component ready to support it.

Q: What challenges does Marana face?

A: I think creating a downtown is going to be a real challenge. That’s a real keystone project for them, and I’m looking forward to being a part of that. With all the annexations that have occurred over the past several years, there are a lot of different parts. There’s a farming community. There’s the new golf course up in Dove Mountain. They’ve annexed commercial areas. Trying to draw all of those into a common identity is going to be a challenge, but it’s something that’s not insurmountable. It’s going to be a lot of fun along the way and, frankly, that’s why I wanted to get back into that area. Marana just seems like a really good fit, given my experience in a more rural setting. I think they want to maintain that rural identity, and they also want to figure out what they want to be when they grow up.

Q: Will you live in Marana?

A: We’re going to come down there in a couple weeks and check out places. If not right in Marana, we’ll live pretty close. My wife is an architect, and she’s going to be looking for work as well, most likely in downtown Tucson. We want to locate into a place that makes sense.

Q: What style will you bring to the job?

A: One of the things I’ve focused on a lot because of personal interests and, frankly, economic interests as well is sort of building out pedestrian environments. I’m a big mountain biker, and I think that a lot of that type of lifestyle — cycling, hiking, that kind of stuff — down there is really an opportunity … specifically with the open lands they have.

Q: What do you mean by “connectivity”?

A: To be able to ride from home to the Tortolitas on surface trails — that would be great. The ability to go between neighborhoods safely, get from Point A to Point B. Connectivity to commercial districts so we’re not so auto-centric. As we sort of move into the future, so much of the development in and around the Tucson basin is auto-centric. I don’t think we’re going to eliminate that by any means, but here we have a bit of a blank slate, so we are able to determine our future a lot better.

Q: What is your strength as a planner?

A: I think I have the ability to pull together several different ideas and bring them together into sort of a cohesive focus. Getting different personalities to the table, with different visions, striking that creativity and actually attaining results is paramount. You’ve got to show results, particularly in the public sector, where you’re spending taxpayer dollars.

Contact Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or pvillarreal@azstarnet.com.