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employee04 2-25.jpgA handful of names stood out on the list of nominees for Sedona’s 2006 employee of the year, but only one could be chosen.
By Tyler Midkiff
Larson Newspapers

A handful of names stood out on the list of nominees for Sedona’s 2006 employee of the year, but only one could be chosen.

Among other qualities, nominees were expected to have a positive attitude, be committed to improving the city, be an inspiration to other city employees and believe in the city’s core values of fairness, integrity, respect, caring and honesty, according to the nomination form distributed among city employees.

Public Works Inspector Sal Valenzuela doesn’t know who nominated him, but he was flattered by the positive comments from members of the committee that selected him out of more than 100 possible candidates, he said.

“For all the good things that they said, I guess maybe they’re expecting some money or something,” Valenzuela joked. “But honestly, I was really shocked that I won the award.”

He thought carefully before commenting on possible reasons why he was chosen.

“I guess I’m the type of person that’s always there to help somebody out if they need help,” he said.

Lisa Luers, the city’s geographic information system analyst, agreed. She was on the committee that chose Valenzuela.

“He never has a ‘not my job’ attitude,” Luers said. His friendliness, positive attitude and integrity were also mentioned as reasons for selecting him.

He stood out among many worthy nominees, according to Andy Dickey, an associate engineer who works with Valenzuela. Dickey was also on the committee.

“[Valenzuela] made an impression on people throughout the city,” he said.

As a public works inspector, Valenzuela interacts with residents, contractors and city government employees on a daily basis, he said. His role is broad, but basically, he represents the city of Sedona during construction projects. He’s there from the planning stages to the end.

He’s on site every morning to assess what’s been done and what needs to be done, and he remains throughout the day to oversee the day’s operations, he said.

“That includes everything from keeping the residents informed to ensuring that all of the work that is being done by the contractors is being done correctly,” Valenzuela said. He’s currently overseeing the Kachina Sewer Project off of Dry Creek Road.

Valenzuela was born and raised in Cottonwood and his father, a golf course superintendent, instilled a work ethic in him early in life, he said. Even at a young age, he was always out laying pipes, mowing grass and working outside.

After graduating from Mingus Union High School, Valenzuela enlisted in the U.S. Army and for 10 years climbed the ranks up to tank commander. He trained National Guardsmen and even spent two years in the demilitarized zone in Korea, he said.

After the service, he settled down in Indio, Calif., and took a job working in underground utilities. He hung around for eight years before returning home to Cottonwood to work in utilities for another eight years.

In 2002, he saw an ad in the newspaper for a Sedona public works inspector. The job was a little different than what he had done in the past, he said, but he was interested in broadening his career.

“I put in for the job and, luckily, the city of Sedona hired me,” Valenzuela said. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

He hopes to eventually retire from the city, he said. But right now, he’s looking forward to learning more and continuing to get better at his job.

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