After six years of service as Safford’s City Manager, Horatio Skeete has turned a new leaf. Retiring as city manager in mid-June, he now helps the city as a management consultant on a monthly basis.
Skeete, who hails from the Caribbean country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was hired as Safford City Manager in April 2014. Before that he served 13 years as Litchfield Park’s city manager and four years as assistant city manager in Glendale. Skeete was Glendale’s interim city manager for a short time in 2012.
“The significant difference was just everyday intensity,” he said. “The issues from one community to another are pretty much the same. In larger communities, we just have responsibility to a larger number of people. If you treat everybody the same and give them your best quality service then it’s just a matter of the zeroes at the end — whether you serve 10,000 people or 100,000.”
Skeete said some of the bigger accomplishments in his six years with Safford were improved city finances, a more secure water supply and employee pay reforms.
“When I came on board, the general government fund balance was less than $100,000. Today it’s over $9 million. We did that without any increase in taxes. It was accomplished by careful management of expenses, reviewing the needs and wants of the city and eliminating what I would consider excessive and unnecessary expenses.”
When Skeete came to Safford the city was in Stage 3, or severe, drought conditions. “The demand on the system was greater than the supply or production capacity,” he said. Residents were only allowed to water lawns or wash cars at certain times on specific days. Since then the city has added three wells and a storage tank and made $10 million worth of water system improvements.
“And we got lucky; the rains came back a little bit and the water tables came up,” said Skeete.
Skeete has also been working with Graham County on a line to deliver effluent water from the city wastewater plant to the fairgrounds. Once complete, he said, it will free up about 50 million gallons of potable water that now goes to the fairgrounds every year.
“He’s done a lot of great things for the city. One thing I’ve always appreciated about him is that rather than say something won’t work he finds a way to make it work,” said Safford City Councilman Gene Seale.
Skeete said two of his proudest accomplishments in six years were working to give city employees an average pay increase of 12 percent over that period and to ensure equal pay for men and women. “Gender pay equality was an important part that I saw needed to be adjusted and I was able to do that successfully.”
“He’s been a big asset to our valley,” said Pima Town Manager Sean Lewis. “When I came on as a new manager he was the first to reach out to me and help. I’m very thankful for my relationship with Horatio and hope it extends long into his retirement.”