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Hits and misses

November 20, 2018

When Mayor Mark Nexsen retires Nov. 27, there are a few things he’ll pass along on to his successor Cal Sheehy.

One is a baseball bat and batting helmet. When the Havasu Heat won the National Baseball Congress World Series in 2007, the team gifted those signed items to the mayor. Nexsen feels it is only right that the bat and helmet remain at city hall.

Nexsen also will turn over bookshelves full of documents, books and spreadsheets. Those are important things, but the most meaningful is that Nexsen will deliver a healthy city to Sheehy.

City directors, staff and community residents played a significant role in creating a financially sound and stable Lake Havasu City from 2006 to 2018. But Mayor Nexsen’s leadership and countless contributions to the municipality the past 12 years upgraded city government’s reputation beyond Havasu as solid and balanced. He also earned the trust of the city’s voters and taxpayers.

Mark and Eileen Nexsen moved to Lake Havasu City in 1998. He was elected its mayor in 2006. It was a dark time. The nation was galloping into the Great Recession and Havasu was hard-hit. City hall’s cheeky culture and Havasu’s fragile finances needed a makeover. A CPA by trade and soft-spoken by nature, Nexsen was the man for the job.

“I didn’t want to be a politician,” he said of his time as mayor. “I wanted to help this community. I feel good about where we’re at today.”

Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was modifying the complicated architecture of the city’s sewer debt. Nexsen’s plan to refinance $275 million in city-backed sewer debt over a longer period of time saved taxpayers $15 million in interest and delayed residents’ sewer rate increases. Also, the dust finally settled when the mammoth sewer construction project was completed two years ahead of schedule.

Nexsen won his third term as mayor largely because he guided Havasu through the Great Recession and kept the budget balanced, even coming out of the recession with a $2.5 million rainy day fund.

When influential boards and agencies beyond Havasu would meet, the mayor made sure his desert community had a seat at the table. It was vital for Havasu to have a voice on issues such as water allocation, state and federal land use, outdoor recreation issues, youth programs and education.

Nexsen said his greatest accomplishment as mayor was launching the Veterans Treatment Court because it changed lives for the better.

“Veterans are important to me. We took men who served our country proudly and changed their lives. They’d been injured, had PTSD or other things that caused problems. They got the help they needed,” he said.

He also counted the Vision 20/20 win, helping bring Arizona State University to Havasu, and the building of Tinnell Sports Park and Cypress Park as highlights of his time in office.

“There’s also the Havasu Youth Advisory Council. It has an award-winning project that’s about three years old called ‘We OutCare.’ Citizens work with teachers to classroom supply needs,” Nexsen said.

While he isn’t a man prone to regrets, there were a few projects in Havasu that slipped away.

“I wish we could’ve gotten the business park more developed. Kiowa Ponds didn’t get developed either. And the motorsports project to the north (side of town) fizzled,” he said.

Being accessible to all citizens has been a defining feature of his time in office. Nexsen said he’s enjoyed meeting with the public, especially his monthly “Coffee with the Mayor” meetings.

— Pam Ashley

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