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And the winner is ...

Each year the Arizona City/County Manager’s Association recognizes the top city/county manager, assistant city/county manager and department head in the state. This year’s Catherine F. Connolly Outstanding Assistant City/County Manager award went to Sedona’s Karen Osburn.


An awards dinner was held on Thursday, Feb. 2, in the Village of Oak Creek, which was attended by about 200 city and county officials from around the state. There, the three award recipients were presented engraved glass plaques.

“It’s so nice to be recognized for something I enjoy so much,” Osburn said when accepting the award. “I have such a great gig in a great place. For those of you who have heard some of the stories about local government in Sedona, they are no joke — they’re true. It’s crazy a lot of the time, but that’s also part of Sedona’s appeal.

“It’s just an exciting place to be and to learn. And we have so much talent throughout our organization, and we’re able to do a lot of cool things. I think as a team, we’re also constantly striving to do more and work harder, not just for the organization or even for our community, but also for each other.”

Earlier in the week, Osburn was praised by those she works closest with.

“I’m thrilled to see Karen recognized as one of the best of the best,” said City Manager Justin Clifton, who nominated Osburn for the award. “She shows up every day and sets the example for professionalism, determination and leadership. She’s one of those rare people who accomplishes everything she sets her mind to, no matter how difficult the problem or how trying the circumstance. We’re very lucky to have Karen on our team.”

Mayor Sandy Moriarty concurred.

“Cathy Connolly was instrumental in getting Sedona incorporated back in 1988, so I can personally attest to her embodiment of the nominating criteria for this award, and that Sedona connection makes it especially fitting that Karen is this year’s awardee,” she said. “Karen has definitely brought those qualities to life in Sedona, with her leadership, work ethic and always professional conduct. We are so lucky to have her as an integral part of our team, no one could be more deserving, and we are very proud of all her achievements, and she is an inspiration to us all.”

In his nomination packet, Clifton wrote that Osburn has been active with major issues that impact the community and oversees virtually all of the most important strategic initiatives. Some of those include: Completion of a comprehensive traffic study aimed at tackling Sedona’s No. 1 problem, a study to implement a new managed refuse contract including expanded recycling services, initiation of a wireless infrastructure master plan, the planning and installation of parking meters in Uptown, construction of a new Uptown pedestrian elevator, a strategic planning process to assess financial sustainability and much more.

“Karen is the type of person who is never satisfied with her competency,” Clifton wrote. “Despite being so well-rounded and successful in her current endeavors, she always has her sight set on growth and improvement.”  

Osburn was hired by the city in 2012 by then City Manager Tim Ernster after serving four years with the Sedona Fire District.

“Karen was a great addition to the city staff,” Ernster said. “She brought with her incredible credentials, a tremendous work ethic, outstanding analytical skills and superior knowledge of public finance. She is a strong leader and highly respected by the city staff and her peers around the state. I have no doubt that someday I will be reading about Karen moving on to much bigger challenges. She is an outstanding public servant.”

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