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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : commentary September 30, 2016

6/22/2013 11:12:00 AM
Commentary: Exceptional Boyce Macdonald: Leaving us with a smile
Boyce Macdonald1951-2013
Boyce Macdonald

By: Steve Ayers

When I decided to take a leap of faith and become a writer, it never occurred to me that my first paying job would come from government. But that's exactly what happened in January 2003 following a chance meeting with County Supervisor Chip Davis. Davis was looking for someone to work part time on a list of special projects, one of which was to develop informational pieces on the work of various county departments.

As a dyed-in-the-wool product of the private sector, the notion of becoming a shill for government was not what I had in mind. Nevertheless, I went in with an open mind and soon realized that the employees of Yavapai County, as a whole, were as conscientious and honest as those I had dealt with in the private sector, as a whole. And, as in any organization, there were those who excelled in ways that set them apart from the rest.

One of the first of many exceptional public servants I eventually met was a tall, good-natured gentleman with an ambling gait whose job, more often than he would have liked, was to tell people no. When the answer wasn't no, it was often something else the person didn't want to hear. As the county's senior planner, whose responsibility it was to see that the myriad planning and zoning ordinances were followed and enforced in a fair and equitable way, his work could get very up front and personal.

But Boyce Macdonald never let it be personal. He didn't need to. He knew his job. He was fond of citing tales of land use gone amuck, leaving his adversaries, who he always called his customers, with at least an inkling of what it was he was doing and why he had to do it. I learned I could always trust in what he said and could always take his advice to the bank. Boyce Macdonald was unflappable, scrupulously polite, always smiled and always had a warm laugh - one of those laughs that made me, and those who knew him, smile right along with him.

I often wondered how it was that he kept his head when those about him were losing theirs. I found the answer a few years later when I was back in the private sector working as a reporter for Verde Valley Newspapers. Having developed a love for arcane stories, I hit on the idea of writing a piece about Cherry, the former mining-town- turned-mountain-top-retirement-retreat at the crest of the Black Hills. In searching for a community spokesperson I discovered Macdonald and his wife Lynn had a bed and breakfast in lovely downtown Cherry.

We met there one afternoon and I was taken for a tour, introduced to some colorful characters and treated to many tales from Cherry's past. Macdonald knew his community like he knew his job, was scrupulously polite, and never stopped smiling or making me laugh. He was the same guy, it turned out, in private that he was in public.

Four months ago I returned to a job in government. And last week Boyce Macdonald died. But not before we had one last chance to meet up.

I called him to discuss a ruling from his office, one in which he had told one of my customers (and his), no. As expected he had sound reasons for his decision.

We also talked about my new job. And he laughed. And I smiled. And I now realize that's the best advice he ever gave me.

Steve Ayers is the Economic Development director for the Town of Camp Verde.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, May 16, 2014
Article comment by: Barbara Barrett

I just wanted to say that Boyce Macdonald was a shining example to all who work in Public Service. I am a Sedona Verde Valley Realtor who has come across a wide variety of inconsistencies and seeming contradictions in laws and regulations regarding properties and surveys in our area. All of which were very confusing to the average property seller or buyer. No matter how complicated and convoluted the situation or question had become, Boyce was able to cut through to the core of the problem and help come up with a reasonable solution. I was out of the area when Boyce passed away, I have missed his smiling presence and calming influence very much.

Posted: Monday, June 24, 2013
Article comment by: Judy Miller

No matter why I called, whether with a question or complaint, Boyce McDonald was always responsive. With credibility and friendly firmness, he certainly had a knack for explaining and resolving concerns. He was a credit to Yavapai County and all the communities he served. I enjoyed working with him in behalf of the Cornville Community Association and Stewards of Public Lands. Yes, Boyce will be missed. I extend my sympathy to all his loved ones.

Posted: Monday, June 24, 2013
Article comment by: Jim Ledbetter

I have worked with Boyce for years, and I could not agree more with the thoughts being expressed about him. Professionally, he was a public employee who always creatively sought solutions. His word was golden. He will be missed.

Posted: Sunday, June 23, 2013
Article comment by: Robin Oothoudt

Well said. I will miss working with Boyce.

Posted: Sunday, June 23, 2013
Article comment by: Deanna King

I had the pleasure of working with Boyce while President of the Cornville Community Association. He always had a smile on his face and always willing to listen. We didn't agree on everything, but in the end you knew he was right and that things were getting done. I am glad that I knew him and he will be missed by all those that knew him. Rest In Peace

Posted: Sunday, June 23, 2013
Article comment by: Thank you for writing about Boyce

Thank you Steve Ayers for writing about Boyce MacDonald.

He was the type of solid government planner that was more of the norm a decade ago but we hardly ever see any more. He had a good head and a good heart, could do his job reliably, and was trustworthy.

You could count on his good judgement. He was fair. He had plain old common sense, and that is a quality we could use a lot more of in government employees these days.

RIP Boyce.

Posted: Saturday, June 22, 2013
Article comment by: Kirk Waddle

I had the privilege and pleasure of working with Boyce Macdonald for five years while he was on the school board for Humboldt Unified School District. He was the consumate gentleman and used his intelligence and love for students to guide the school district to levels it had not been before. I will greatly miss his intelligence and kindness.

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