Rowden

Councilwoman Terry Rowden reads her retirement letter while her mentor, Mayor Mike Laws, observes during a recent open meeting with masks and social distancing.

A councilwoman with a long history of community service is leaving while a young businessman that’s just starting his community service resume is arriving on the Willcox City Council.

“The community is growing and I would like to be a part of that,” said Greg Hancock, 34, as he prepares to devote some extra time to the community.

Outgoing council member Terry Bowden reflected on her time on the board.

“I have truly enjoyed serving on this council, and I feel I have been able to contribute to the improvement of our city,” she said.

Rowden was a one-term councilwoman who would have liked to serve more than four years, but she and her husband sold their house after 40 years in the area and are moving to be closer to kids and grandkids in Tucson. She told the council last month that she is retiring two months early, as Hancock’s term actually begins as her replacement in December.

Rowden retired years ago from her job as public relations coordinator for the local power cooperative, working 18 years for SSVEC. But her 40 years also included a long legacy of volunteerism.

She was a manager of the Rex Allen Museum, a board member for Rex Allen Days, a coordinator for the Wings Over Willcox birding festival and helped create the West Fest Chuck Wagon event for the Willcox Chamber of Commerce. Rowden is president of the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter, a vice president of the Lambda Chi Omega sorority that created the Holiday House fundraiser, and served on the library board, her church’s Relief Society women’s group and the Sulphur Springs Historical Society.

Plus, she was part of the Theater Board that revived the local theater house and turned it into a twin theater business, as well as a community arts center.

Hancock came to the community six years ago as a business owner of twin motels. He has a wife and two young children, but he figured out how to manage his time to take on the extra duty. He recently served on the planning and zoning commission. He enjoyed a good early experience as a businessman in dealing with the city council to help him combine his two adjacent properties.

The council, he said, agreed to abandon a portion of lightly used road just off the main business portion of downtown Willcox. It allowed the city to avoid maintaining the road while Hancock improved it and closed the section to traffic to allow him to expand parking and the swimming pool area between the two motels.

“I feel like the council wants to see things grow,” Hancock said, “ and I think I can devote my time to help build the community.”

Rowden was able to see growth under her watch as well, from the city’s completion of a new sewer plant to getting a 10-year plan in place to take Willcox into the future. “The plan has to do with restrictions on buildings and the look of this city, which is critical if we want to clean up Willcox and beautify our city,” she said.

She also spearheaded signage that greets travelers on the freeway bypass route to lighted “Welcome to Willcox” greetings that run on solar power. She was proudest to see the council hire current city manager Caleb Blaschke, who has turned out to be a “forward thinking, get it done, city manager.”

Rowden read her retirement letter before fellow council members and said “I’m confident that Willcox is in capable hands with the current council members. A special thank you to the city staff and city manager for helping make my time on the city council easier and more pleasurable.”

Fellow councilman Paul Sheats told her during the meeting, “I know we didn’t always see things the same, but we talked them out and worked them out and I thank you for all that you brought to the table and wish you well with your 11 grandchildren.”

Mayor Mike Laws added “I appreciate your honesty and integrity and appreciated your knowledge of the history of Willcox.”

Her replacment is looking forward to a smooth transition while filling big shoes.

“I know there’s still a lot I need to learn, but I feel like they’ll help me along and be patient with me until I learn the exact way to be part of the council,” Hancock said.