It is a very rare opportunity that one gets to hear an inaugural state of the city address. But, on Tuesday, May 13, 2014, the audience filling the Palo Verde Energy Education Center, actually got to hear the very first one for Buckeye, Arizona, which changed from a town to a city on January 1, 2014.
It was fitting to have the event at the education center. The visitors’ center is relatively new (opened in 2011), spacious, state-of-the-art, and seeks to educate the public (e.g., Palo Verde provides power for four million), and focus on changing the image of its industry (e.g. nuclear energy provide 20% of US’ energy).
Likewise, Buckeye is large (over 600 square miles), innovative, places a priority on education (some of its schools are rated among the best in Arizona or in the country), and is definitely trying to project a new image. A small, rural town with a population of 6500 in 2000, Buckeye is now of over 60,000, anxious to let everyone know its new capabilities and opportunities, that, as Mayor Jackie Meck says, “Buckeye is open for business.”
Meck gave an enthusiastic talk about growth (e.g., 1000+ new houses being built in 2014); recreation and tourism (e.g., the Aquatic Center attracted 40,000 visitors last year; a new 8600+ acres Skyline Park will open in 2015); business (>40 commercial sites at the Municipal Airport); and jobs (Luke AFB’s production of AF-35s ensures new jobs for years).
Over 150 diverse people attended the event. Meck’s words were encouraging to educators, like new Buckeye Elementary Assistant Superintendent Dr. Randy Watkins, or Robert Alvarez, who has been at the school 20 years, and Library & Museum Manager Jana White, who is overseeing the opening of a new 17,000 square-foot facility. Political leaders included State Representatives Darin Mitchell and Lisa Otondo. El Mirage’s Lana Mook and Goodyear’s Georgia Lord came to support their fellow West Valley mayor. Meanwhile, Cassandra Pastre, a mother of three, and resident of Buckeye for 7 ½ years, came to hear what future opportunities may be available when she decides to re-enter the workforce.
In an era of depressing stories about deteriorating urban areas around the country, it was encouraging to see all of the smiling faces of people leaving the Center with souvenir pads and soda cups, emblazoned with the new Buckeye logo, and thinking about Meck's “glimpse into the future.”