Kearny town manager Gaston hangs up her hat

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Margaret Gaston celebrates her retirement with her children and grandchildren. (James Carnes photo)

After 24 years of service as a Town of Kearny employee, Margaret Gaston is retiring.

The vested interest she has in the Copper Basin area stems from the fact that she was born in Ray, raised in Hayden (HHS Class of 1965) and lived here all her life. Although her blood still runs Lobo blue, she raised three children in Kearny – all Bearcats.

Well before she joined the Town staff, she supported the community as a citizen and parent through Little League, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, and church. She also worked for Kennecott for 10 years and Gordon’s for three.

Margaret joined the Town staff as a maintenance worker for Public Works in 1989. Her first responsibilities were to clean Town buildings, community restrooms and Kearny Lake shoreline. It wasn’t long before Margaret was cross-trained to read meters and drive the loader.

Then she became the original driver for the street sweeper. Soon she had her Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) which enabled her to serve as back-up driver for the garbage truck.

The 1993 flood brought significant changes to Margaret’s job. Suddenly the Town was working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to move Kearny Lake and rebuild the Kearny Airport.

Margaret recalls jumping into the last plane to take off from the old airstrip to video tape the airport’s destruction. She took up grant writing and records keeping to support these urgent needs.

As the Copper Basin area recovered from the 1993 flood, the Town attempted to enhance tourism by getting involved with the Mescal Mountain Off Highway Vehicle Project. This project brought the development of trails and ramadas in the mountains surrounding Kearny.

In addition to writing the grants for these projects, Margaret became an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) instructor and taught classes on ATV riding and safety. She completed ATV mountain trail rides in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Town also sought to increase tourism by hosting Jeep jamborees for Jeep clubs. Margaret worked with the Jeep clubs to organize local events. She recalls meeting Jeep owners from Arizona and across the US.

Working with the Jeep club was one of Margaret’s favorite tasks because she loves Jeeps. As a toddler her first word was “Jeep.” During one of the jamborees she rode in a Rubicon and it became her dream vehicle.

In 1996, Margaret was promoted to Town Clerk where she served as the Town’s treasurer and records keeper. This job fit well with her detail oriented personality. She’s known for finding the error if anything is off even by a penny.

Transitioning from Public Works enabled her to bring a comprehensive understanding of the Town’s operations to her new role. As Town Clerk she sought to establish a welcoming atmosphere in Town Hall where all people were to be treated equally and Town rules applied to everyone.

As Town Clerk, Margaret also enjoyed organizing community and employee events such as the Easter egg hunts, Pumpkin Patch, volunteer dinners, employee Christmas parties and Fourth of July celebrations. She considered it an honor when the Town Council named her Chairman of the 50-year Anniversary Celebration in 2009. She wrote grants and, with the help of her committee, organized a year-long celebration which included five separate events.

Throughout her career as Town Clerk, Margaret continued to develop her skills professionally. After four years of completing in depth coursework and training, Margaret became a Certified Municipal Clerk in 2001. When the Arizona Secretary of State Office introduced an elections certification in 2007 for municipal clerks, Margaret completed the coursework and became a Certified Election Official.

Every year the Town is audited by an outside accounting firm. Margaret was commended by the firm for having a clean audit every year she served as Town Clerk.

After the Town Council appointed her Interim Town Manager in 2012, Margaret desired for all departments to work together for the good of the Town. She was tasked with the completion of some specific projects and to keep the day to day operations on track.

Early in her career she was told the citizens of Kearny like to see their Town employees at events and involved in the community. Margaret took this advice to heart and carried on in her volunteerism for the community.

Over the years she has worked with the Copper Basin Chamber of Commerce on parades, Octoberfest, Winter Wonderland and served as Parade Committee Chairman. The Chamber named Margaret the 2011 Citizen of the Year for her volunteer work.

In 2005 she became involved in the Community Emergency Response Team which evolved into Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS). This volunteer work has her out late patrolling Kearny on some weekends. Since 2010 she has been the Chairman of the Copper Basin Food Bank Committee.

Margaret is a pianist and has served as a church pianist since the 1960s in Hayden and Kearny. As a member, she served on various committees for the Kearny Southern Baptist Church. Presently a member of Church of the Good Shepherd, Margaret is their pianist and is involved with several committees.

As a Town employee and citizen volunteer, Margaret has loved helping her community. She firmly believes a community will prosper when its citizens get involved in local government, attend Town Council meetings, volunteer and attend events in town.

Margaret retires from employment with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude. Accomplishment from the many roles and opportunities she fulfilled as an employee. She is grateful to her family and the volunteers, co-workers, council members, and citizens that have supported her over the years.

In retirement, Margaret plans to continue her volunteer service to the community. She also hopes to get back into horse-back riding and rebuilding her 1971 Jeep. She will also be spending more time with her children and grandchildren.

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