Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima Town Manager Sean Lewis is the Gila Herald’s first Community Spotlight.
By Jon Johnson
PIMA – He may not have been born there, but one does not get any more “Pima” than Pima Town Manager Sean Lewis.
A cowboy who lost a finger in a roping incident, Lewis is a hands-on town manager who literally gets his hands dirty performing a multitude of tasks but also is a facilitator who brings people together for the betterment of the community.
He said his favorite part about living and working in Pima is its community spirit.
“We’re not a big city; we’re not too political, we’re an actual community,” Lewis said. “I shop at the same stores that everyone else shops; I get gas at the same place; we all live so close we all know each other. I volunteer coach wrestling at the high school, so we get an opportunity to be around the community.”
Lewis began his tenure at Pima in 2004 as a heavy equipment operator in the Public Works division and was soon trained and certified on dealing with the swimming pool and the town’s sewer system.
During his nine-year stay in Public Works, he also became the Planning and Zoning administrator.
Lewis took a sojourn to be a heavy equipment operator for Freeport McMoRan Inc. for four years, but returned to the town in late 2016 as the Planning and Zoning administrator and then back into Public Works, handling the sewer, the pool, highways, streets, parks, and more.
When the position of town manager opened, Lewis was placed as the interim manager and after a search was selected to officially become the town manager July 1, 2017, and the town hasn’t looked back since.
After taking over, Lewis has spearheaded numerous programs for the betterment of the community, including a cleanup program that has resulted in the removal of 27 dilapidated trailers and picking up bulk trash for community members during Community Pride Days.
Lewis, working along with members of the Pima Town Council, also spearheads quarterly events for the community, which includes holiday programs, special events, and activities for the residents’ benefit.
During his tenure as town manager, Lewis has also been the driving force on a resurgence of economic development for Pima.
The building of the Optimal Health Centre building – which basically involved a land swap, cleaning up the old Graco car lot and utilizing a $375,000 zero-interest rate loan made possible through a rural economic development loan and grant fund from the United States Department of Agriculture and facilitated by the Graham County Electric Cooperative as well as other grants, is the biggest and most obvious addition.
“In the grand scheme of things, it was our idea and we pushed it forward, but we got a lot of grant money for it,” Lewis said. “OHS didn’t pay for the building, the town of Pima didn’t pay for the building. Freeport McMoRan and the Graham County Cooperative funded most of that building, so it was really a community-wide effort to get that building up.”
The loan from the cooperative was there only for economic development, and it shows how putting people together is beneficial for the town.
“It worked out great for everybody,” Lewis said. “The co-op people aren’t out any money. The town of Pima people aren’t out any money, and yet we get a very solid business here that employs over 40 people now.”
Lewis is also working with the co-op on a solar parking shade project in front of the swimming pool that will lower the pool’s utility costs. The amount of solar currently being constructed will completely run the pool during the middle of the day and also initially has no cost to the town and will be paid back gradually while still being a less cost to the town than its previous electric bill.
Lewis has also initiated an industrial zone on the south side of town off 1200 South which will be home to various manufacturing and industrial businesses that will lease spots there. Currently, businesses for the area that are in the works include a metal fabrication company, paper shredding recycling facility, and a plumbing company.
While he is now the town manager, Lewis can’t quite let go of his Public Works past and one can find him frequently out at the pool, checking on ditches, working at the cemetery and ball fields, or even knee-deep in sludge in a lift station for the sewer system. Part of that reasoning, he said, is because he is one of the people trained in all the various aspects of the Public Works and even though they have a new employee, it’s like an apprenticeship that really takes about five years to learn everything to where one can handle it by themselves. The other part is Lewis enjoys working the land and the satisfaction of job completion.
“I’m not necessarily an office-type of person,” Lewis said. “I like to be outside and I like to work. I still enjoy that part of the job – still getting out and actually working.”
Lewis said all of the improvements going on in the town are all due to a community-wide push with everyone working together to make it happen.
“With doing the cleanups and with doing the town parties and things like that, it’s just community-based,” Lewis said. “That’s what I like about being here and that’s what I like about this job because before I had all these thoughts on what we should be doing but I didn’t have any authority to do any of it. And now we’re able to do these things that I think are important in a small community.”
Lewis said he enjoys the homespun feel from the town and dresses accordingly.
“I’m not a shirt and tie guy because this isn’t a shirt and tie town,” Lewis said. “We’re part of a community here; all of us are . . . The people who work here who are in charge of the town with our department heads, they are Pima people and I think the community is starting to feel that.”
If you have someone you feel should be considered for a future community spotlight email submissions to email@example.com.