Q&A: Winslow's new city manager shares his impressions of Winslow
WINSLOW, ARiz. — John Barkley is Winslow’s new city manager who started his tenure December 2018.
On April 9, the Navajo-Hopi Observer sat down for a short Q&A with Barkley. Barkley and his family are new to Arizona, having lived mostly in the mid-Atlantic area on the east coast.
When did you start with the city of Winslow?
I started in mid-December and had a couple of weeks with previous manager, Steve Pauken. This gave me time to learn about Winslow, its residents and institutions. It was a great help because usually a new manager has to jump right into a state of flux-firestorm. In this case I was able to talk with Steve for almost a month about the issues facing a city manager here.
How did your family respond to you looking at Winslow as a location for you to work and for them to live?
Yeah, well, my wife responded as I did, knowing the legendary history of Route 66. It really stood out as a location for us to relocate. Winslow seemed like a place to come out West (and) to get grounded and give it a try. It’s an adventure for us and it almost feels like a vacation. The area opened up for us and was an easy transition. I remember traveling with my family as a kid coming out west as my father, as a government worker, went to USC for two years for a masters. That’s how we looked at Winslow; a change, a challenge and a big move for my career. It’s an adventure to be here in the wild west – a land of many cultures and history.
What is your take on attracting newer, larger businesses? Also, I’ve been told when executives look at a potential business location, their wives don’t like the cities appearance and lack of amenities. What is your take on this?
Yes, but the city is doing a wonderful job of making the city core hospitable and improving the outlying city areas, in appearance and in functionality. My thing is to rally around existing businesses. Let us grow what’s here – that creates energy which resonates through the region. The media, businesses and services here are my first priorities … building what’s here, but also to be a voice in the region and in the state, generating interest in Winslow.
Is there more we can do to attract more visitors from Interstate 40?
I’m impressed every day with the number of visitors’ downtown. There are a few things we can do to make it more user-friendly. Namely the pedestrian access to La Posada, more amenities, more benches and more lighting downtown.
We need to light up the downtown more so people are more comfortable here at night. I know we have to live down our past reputation for crime issues which we are doing. (Winslow Police) Chief Brown and I have met with the Navajo and Hopi governments and reminded them that we are mindful and respectful of their culture and needs. I’m still learning and (I) know, we still have typical bordertown issues.
What was your most pleasant surprise after coming here from the eastern US?
The quality of life here has been a pleasant surprise for me. We feel safe here. We feel there’s a community that rallies around the values we hold. We are impressed with the leadership of the city. There are people, institutions and non-profits who are sincerely interested in making this community better. There is no traffic and my commute is five minutes. The weather is fantastic. (There are) spectacular skies at night and fantastic sight lines here with unencumbered views.
After being here four months what do you see as the biggest problem you face?
Winslow is a little remote and our housing stock is a not good. The lack of affordable high density housing in Winslow is an obstacle right now. Blight is an issue. We need more beautification and trees. Poverty is an issue here and the median income is very low. We need to provide more resources and access for the very disadvantaged people to get health and hygiene resources.
Have you been able to make any assessment for the Winslow School District?
(There are) good schools here, good staff and our city recreation department works well with the schools. We would like to keep our students here working in trades and businesses. The local community college here has not (been) heavily filed with students the times I have visited. I would like to promote the college better, as a local resource.