Vol. 15 Issue No. 2 | January 14 – 20, 2009

To Jon Pearson Carefree is all about the people

By Curtis Riggs | January 14, 2009

Retiring town administrator reflects on 22 years

CAREFREE – While long-time town administrator Jon Pearson has seen an abundance of change in the 22 years he has been in charge he talks most about how things resemble what they were a couple of decades ago as he prepares to retire on May 1.

“From a land-use perspective little has changed,” he said. Carefree still has the same low-density residential feel it had a couple of decades ago.

Pearson, hired in 1987, has been the only town administrator in the history of Carefree.
Carefree is all about the people who call it home as far as Pearson is concerned. He has always made great attempts to get to know as many Carefree citizens as he could.

“It helps to get to know the people,” he said. The years he served as Carefree’s Zoning Administrator also helped him to get to know many locals.

“The mayors and town councils reflect the citizens and the residents,” he said. The Sisseton, S.D. native grew into the town administrator’s job after he moved to Arizona from Stewartsville, Minn. “I wouldn’t be here if they didn’t want me here.”

He has run a tight ship in Carefree by knowing the strengths of his staff and relying on those strengths.

“I look at the goal and how to accomplish it,” he said.

Consistency has been the key to 22 successful years in Carefree for Pearson.

“The mayors are good at keeping the bright line so we don’t send mixed signals to the staff and the public,” he said.

2008 was one of the most challenging years for Pearson during his tenure because the town was affected by the stagnant economy. Declining sales-tax revenue and a screeching halt to growth led to economic problems for Carefree.

“When the economy collapsed we stopped certain capital projects and looked at expenditures to see where we could hold the line,” he said explaining how $600,000 was trimmed from last year’s Town budget. “Now we have to look at the next fiscal year and go ahead with some capital projects.”

Surviving in tough economic times is a matter of “operating with the income we have,” he said about the “basic operation” Carefree will likely have for the next couple of years.

Carefree now carries approximately $4 million in its general fund accounts and has about $5 million in the bank.

Three past Carefree mayors paid tribute to the retiring Pearson at last week’s town council meeting.

Former Mayor Dave Dennison remembered how Pearson has survived many Carefree mayors in his 22 years.

“Jon Pearson has done as much to preserve Carefree as anybody,” he said.
Former Mayor Hugh Stevens said he has been a “breath of sunshine and springtime” for many years.

“He was a steady force for the town and will be sorely missed,” he said.

Former Mayor Ed Morgan described himself as, “a graduate of the Jon Pearson mayor training program” in his tribute.

“I owe Jon Pearson a great deal as does every citizen of Carefree,” he said, remarking on Pearson’s ability to treat everyone with respect and dignity.

Photo by Curtis Riggs