PINAL COUNTY– Central Arizona College alum and 2012 Wall of Success inductee Brent Billingsley always had his heart sent on attending college.
But despite being offered full scholarships at all three of Arizona’s state universities, going to college in the Grand Canyon State wasn’t his first choice.
“Like a lot of kids did, I wanted to get away from my parents,” he said with a chuckle. “I tried to get as far away from my parents as I could.”
And so he did by enrolling at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.
Unfortunately, even though he graduated from the top of his class at Casa Grande Union High School, Billingsley admits that he was not ready for what he calls a “top-flight” private university so far away from home.
His grades suffered and, to add insult to injury – or vice-versa – he broke the shin bones on both of his legs while competing in the Army Ranger Challenge and was forced to come home to recuperate.
Knowing that he had some unfinished business to attend to, Billingsley journeyed to the other side of the mountain from where he lived and signed up for classes at CAC when he became healthy. Although his bones were healed, he was still battered and bruised – figuratively speaking.
“I was kind of down on myself when I came back from Gonzaga because I struggled so much,” he said.
Kurt Van Hazel, Billingsley’s neighbor and longtime track and field coach and math professor at CAC, and Clark Hiller, an engineering professor whom Billingsley calls “a genius,” both helped the Montrose, Colo., native and fifth generation Arizona resident get back on track.
“CAC was fantastic for me. Those guys gave me such a leg up that, when I went to [Northern Arizona University], it was an easy transition.”
Years later, Billingsley now can look back on what has been a successful career in public planning and civil engineering, one that has included transportation planning and management positions across Pinal County.
He recently assumed a new role as city manager for the city of Globe. In this position, Billingsley oversees eight departments within the city organizational structure including administration, finance, public works, engineering, fire, police, planning and zoning, library, parks and recreation, the city’s Active Adult Center, Arts Center, and the Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park.
Since starting with the city of Globe in January, he has focused on modernizing and enhancing its policies, practices and partnerships.
“I like working for the people,” Billingsley said of his new position and his career. “I like making a difference in people’s lives – building infrastructure that helps people get themselves to work or to shopping.”
And it’s not just his full-time work that he enjoys. Billingsley has been active in his community as well, including a completed stint on the Casa Grande Elementary School Board.
“It’s not just about my job. It’s about helping the 4-H, assisting with the FFA (Future Farmers of America). It’s about helping the community in Pinal County. That’s what I really like to do and that’s what I’m passionate about.”
Billingsley was originally nominated for the Wall of Success by the late Homer Koliba, which he confesses “blew me away.” He was further taken aback when he received a surprising letter from NAU congratulating him on his achievement. The enormity of his accomplishment has not been lost on him.
“I didn’t think in a million years that anything like this would ever happen for me,” he said with a sigh. “I’m not sure I’ve done anything to deserve such an honor.”