Powell development director Betz shepherded city's boom

JIM FISCHER
editorial@thisweeknews.com
Dave Betz, who retired June 30 from his job as Powell's development director, started his career with the city as a zoning officer 28 years ago.

As zoning officer for the village of Powell in 1994, Dave Betz participated in an initiative to enforce the village's property-maintenance code.

A small piece of his 28-year tenure as a member of Powell's staff, the effort taught Betz, who retired as development director June 30, a lesson he carried throughout his career.

"At that time, we learned some things. We found it more effective to use carrots instead of a hammer," Betz said.

That and other lessons learned have guided Betz as he helped plan development in a time when Powell grew from a village of approximately 2,700 residents, encompassed in 3 square miles, to a city that today has a population of nearly 15,000 and is more than 5 square miles.

Along the way, Betz led efforts resulting in the adoption of the 1995 and 2015 comprehensive plans as well as the 2017 Keep Powell Moving Plan. He also established the Powell Community Improvement Corp., which oversees and assists with the economic development activity in the city.

"When we did that 1995 plan, it was a lot of work that drove what we see now in Powell: downtown, residential density, providing for business growth, creating a park system," Betz said. "To use that one for 20 years speaks to how well that was done."

Betz pointed to the consistency and character of the downtown amid the growth as especially rewarding.

"When I started, there were thin sidewalks, a gravel berm and no curbs (downtown). There were no set areas for people to walk or park," he said. "The physical improvements, streetlights and banners, landscape islands helped create a sense of place in the center city, in how we recognize Powell."

Betz called the Village Green project, which transformed an gravel lumberyard and industrial building into park space and a new City Hall, "a crown jewel."

"We're in a great place to do these kinds of things," Betz said, crediting nearly three decades of City Council members, staff and volunteer committee members for casting and executing a vision for Powell. "I'm fortunate to have been able to be a part of making that happen."

"We are grateful for David's hard work and dedication to our community for the past 28 years," Mayor Frank Bertone said. "He has helped shape the growth of this community in a way that is now recognized across the United States."

While the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic creates some uncertainty moving forward, Betz said, he believes the city is well-positioned for the future.

He mentioned continued development of parks and trails and improved internet access and communications infrastructure as two areas he believes will serve residents in a changing, work-from-home economy.

Betz said his future will involve as much travel to visit family scattered around the country as is possible and more time for buying and selling antiques. He said he also recently bought a home in Florida, so he expects to be a "snowbird," splitting time between there and his current home.

Betz has served in various civic groups during his tenure with the city.

He is a founding organizer of Powell Days, now known as the Powell Festival, and has been a member of the Powell Sertoma Club since 1997. He was awarded Sertoman of the Year in 2009-10 and received the club's top honor of Service to Mankind in 2018.

"We wish David all the best in his retirement," City Manager Andrew White said. "We look forward to seeing him still active in the community that he had such a significant part in building over the years."

Assistant development director Rocky Kambo is serving as interim development director.

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