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The first female mayor of Bisbee took office the same year as the first female Arizona governor. And here she is:

bisbee-mayor-2014

 

LaVerne Williams: lifelong resident of Bisbee, former banker and seamstress, mayor from 1986 through 1996, and current goodwill ambassador.

She’ll be 92 at the end of next month. She has survived her husband and one of her children (tragically). She’s a great-grandmother a few times over, and most likely will make it to great-great status. The phrase “still sharp as a tack” applies.

“When I took office in ’86 it was at the same time we changed the city charter. We went from a town council to a city manager type of governance. It was the only way I’d have taken that job. We needed to put the good ol’ boy network out of business first,” she smiled.

That sort of thing was happening a lot in the mid-80s in Arizona. Times were changing. Ev Mecham got the bum-rush — the only governor to be impeached, prosecuted, and recalled all at the same time. The Azscam investigations revealed a legislature almost as colorful as that of Louisiana. Graft was happening at all levels and in all localities, apparently.

Velma has stories of what it was like living through the boom years in a company town, where everyone had an account at the mercantile store. She remembers parallel-parking to buy groceries and causing truck backups on US80, which was a main east-west corridor at the time. She remembers seeing Victor Mature and Lee Marvin filming Violent Saturday back in ’54. So much has changed in the world around her — and in Bisbee — but she’s still there.

“Bisbee is a great place to be, not just a great place to be from! Spread the word!” She cheers as her eyes sparkle.

That’s her job: Spreading the word. I told her I would do what I could to help.

“What’s the secret to long life?” I ask her.

“Well, I don’t eat cheese. Cheese is very bad,” she said.

And then: “Say, what did you say your last name was?”