Essay provides a short history of the contest between the Verde Valley and Prescott over location and operation of Yavapai Community College
History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity.
Marcus Tullius Cicero
There is a long history of political domination of the West side of the County over the East side. Domination began in 1966-67 when there was a fierce contest between the citizens in the Verde Valley and those in Prescott over where the first Community College would be located. The Gulf States and Industries Corporation offered $1.5 million dollars in financing for student dormitories and a student center, an outright gift of $100,000 for building purposes, and 165 acres of what was described as “prime land in the Clarkdale area” of the Verde Valley.
A site review conducted by Northern Arizona University recommended Clarkdale as the most desirable location for the first Yavapai Community College. Despite the site review and the offer by the Gulf States and Industries Corporation, the Verde Valley failed in its effort to establish the first community college there. Rather, Prescott was selected by the State Junior College Board as the location for the Community College.
Voters on May 23, 1967 approved 3011 to 2904 (107 margin) a $2.5 million dollar bond for the creation of Yavapai College. It is said that almost everyone in the Verde Valley voted against the proposal because of their anger over the decision by the State Junior College Board to not locate the college in the Verde Valley.
In 1975 another dispute arose between the Verde Valley and Prescott over the Community College. The dispute was twofold: When would initial construction of the Verde campus begin? Could the Verde campus be administratively separated from the control of Prescott? The buildings were eventually constructed on the Verde campus but the idea of a separate administrative college modeled after those in Maricopa County was rejected.
In an editorial in the Verde Independent, the writer said:
“It isn’t the first time the Valley has gotten the shaft from the Prescott end of the operation. There have been delays batch and this campus has been shoved to the low end of the totem pole at least twice before.”
In 2008 an effort was begun to create a separate Verde Valley County. Newspaper accounts indicate the effort to split Yavapai County was not supported by Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens and County supervisor Chip Davis. However, an article in the Verde Independent of February 19, 2009 suggests many members of the Cottonwood City Council were leaning in the direction of supporting an independent County. For example, Councilman Duane Kirby said,
“It has nothing to do with money. My decision is based on a great deal of emotion. I am tired of being the sad sister on the other side of the mountain.”
Kirby, who had served as a County Commissioner, said he had believed for a long time that the Verde Valley should be a separate government.
Terence Pratt, an instructor at Yavapai College on the Verde campus in Clarkdale, was quoted in the article as saying:
“At the college, we don’t get our fair share, either. If the time has not come yet, it is due to come. That is an awfully big mountain out there.”
The matter never came to a County vote.
For many in the Verde Valley, the most recent disparate treatment at the hands of Prescott came in the form of a 4-1 vote in December, 2013 when the Governing Board approved a $119 million dollar ten year Community College development plan. Less than 5% of that development was scheduled over the ten-year period for the Verde Valley. The plan also contemplate selling the Sedona Center and closing out its film school.
Outraged Sedona and Verde Valley citizens turned up in large numbers at the March 4, 2014 Governing Board meeting expressing their anger at the plan. The depth of the citizen anger no doubt caught the Governing Board by surprise. Within a month the Governing Board had tentatively settled a dispute with a local land owner the College claimed was the catalyst for the potential sale of the Sedona property. However, the College went ahead and closed the film school. This left the Sedona Center by the fall of 2014 with two music courses as the only credit courses being offered.
The Verde Valley citizens pressured the College and the Governing Board for greater involvement in decisions affecting the Valley. As a result, the Governing Board established a Verde Valley Governing Board Advisory Committee and Dean James Perey created an advisory committee to help him with the curriculum.
At the time this essay is written, efforts continue in the Verde Valley to create an independent Administrative College similar to those created in Maricopa County. The College administration continues strongly opposed to such an effort.