Residency Riddle

If the City Council forces its city manager pick to move inside city limits, it could be a deal-breaker

Tucson's City Council will chase off Mike Hein, the man it unanimously chose to be the next city manager after abandoning a national search, if it insists Hein and his family move from their Oro Valley home to a Tucson residence.

The council's residency requirement--aimed exclusively at Hein--was a key issue that the council discussed, with and without Hein, behind closed doors last week. Hein has declined to discuss the matter, other than to say he never lived in the cities--South Tucson, Nogales and Marana--in which he worked.

If pressed by the council and its lawyers, the requirement would be a deal-breaker. Hein and his wife are raising a child who attends a special-needs school near their home. The fiercest critics say the council's attempt to make Hein move is the same as telling Hein and his wife where their children can go to school.

Hein, 38, also assists his father, who lives nearby.

The city has flirted with residency requirements for its top appointees, as well as the bulk of its 5,900-person workforce, but has backed down each time. The most recent attempt, in an amendment to the City Code that would have required all new appointed officials and most other employees to live in Tucson, failed in October 1998.

While the council told Hein to move into the city, minutes later, it reappointed City Clerk Kathy Detrick by unanimous vote. Detrick and her husband, the powerful deputy city attorney Brad Detrick, have long lived outside the city in the Catalina Foothills. They are but two of many top city officials, including the command staff of the Tucson Fire Department, who live outside the city.

S.L. Schorr, the Tucson lawyer who once was a city lawyer and administrator, expressed hope that the council would relent. Schorr noted that he lived outside the city while working for the city.

"I could see if he were moving from Berkeley," Schorr said, referring to two managers, James Keene and Mike Brown, city recruiters plucked from the East Bay community.

Schorr is a strong Hein backer, saying the former Marana town manager is "one of the most capable young men I've ever met."

Lawrence Hecker, another Tucson lawyer who supported Hein, is now assisting Hein in his contract negotiations with the city. Hecker said he could not comment on residency or other issues.

While Tucson lacks the requirement, numerous cities--including Phoenix--have some form of residency rule for employees. Phoenix requires its top officials to live in the city and other employees to at least live in Maricopa County, not a difficult task given the size of Maricopa County and its huge variety of communities. Denver, a consolidated city-county government, allows its employees to live among six suburban counties.

Such requirements have been challenged in court, but have been upheld, according to a study by the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy in Pittsburgh.

Fred Ronstadt, the second-term Republican who made the motion to select Hein, said he is hopeful that the residency issue does not devolve into Hein walking.

How hard will he and the council push?

"I don't know," Ronstadt said. "It will depend on what the majority wants. It is important to a lot of people. It's an interesting situation because of his personal circumstances. My sense is that it won't be a deal-breaker."

Ronstadt, then in his first term, opposed the measure that would have required most city employees to live within the city. The councilman's father, Jim Ronstadt, lived in the foothills well outside the city during his 20-year reign as director of city parks and recreation ending in 1998.

He hardly was--or is--the exception.

Voter registration and property records show that the list of city officials who live outside the city includes Jeff Sales and Joella Gonzales of Republican Mayor Bob Walkup's staff. Kenna Smith, a former mayoral aide who now works in information technology, does not live in the city. Nor does her soon-to-depart boss, Todd Sander. Tucson Water Director David Modeer lives near Sabino Springs outside the city. Karen Thoreson, the assistant city manager who has for several years described how the downtown area would be rehabbed with Rio Nuevo, lives in a central foothills neighborhood that the city has coveted but failed to annex. Kendall Bert, head of the city's economic development efforts, lives in the Tanque Verde Valley outside Tucson. Public Defender Charles Davies lives in the foothills outside the city, and Finance Director Scott Douthitt lives in Oro Valley.

Gary Oaks and Richard Nassi, two longtime traffic officials who have their stamp on where and how Tucsonans drive, do not live in the city. Purchasing Director Wayne Casper lives outside the city, as does Rick Singer, the director of the Tucson Convention Center. Sarah More, a planning administrator for the city planning commission, does not live in the city.

Several city magistrates, including Kate Dawes, Mitchell Eisenberg and Eugene Hays, live outside the city. Liana Perez, the city police auditor and equal employment opportunity officer, lives outside the city.

Fire Chief Dan Newburn lives in Marana. Deputy Chief Les Caid lives outside the city, as do assistant chiefs Ray Allen and Dan Larkin.

"Good point," Councilman Ronstadt said. "Very good point."