The Past and Present Collide

Marita Ralston, Class 21
Advertising & Marketing Manager, Arizona Lottery

This blog is the last of a three part series exploring how and why history is important to contemporary leadership.

“It is of importance to any modern city to know not only where it is trying to go but also where it has been.”  – William C. Jenkins, Mayor of Scottsdale 1974 – 1980

In my exploration of how Scottsdale’s history is relevant to its present and future, I found no story more compelling than that of Winfield Scott’s dream of building a “trolley line”.  In 1905, the population of Scottsdale almost doubled due to an influx of folks searching for a healthy climate and reprieve from freezing winters.  This growth fueled Scott’s position that Scottsdale should capitalize on eventually becoming “a suburb of Phoenix”.

By 1909, the Arizona Republican announced plans for a “gasoline-powered streetcar line between Phoenix and Scottsdale”.  But for Scott, this was just the beginning. The Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa Motor Line was intended to eventually connect Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa and Glendale.

Had Chaplain Winfield Scott not passed away in October 1910, Scottsdale may have had a light rail almost since its inception.  Having lived in a suburb of Portland, home of the MAX light rail system, I can attest to the ease and convenience of this type of transportation.  When determining a position on the issues of today, it may be wise to remember words of wisdom from leaders before us.

Winfield Scott’s final will to the people of Scottsdale read: “I leave to you my work in Scottsdale. I had planned to do much this winter with you, but God has called me. If you take this work and do it…you will receive my blessing.”

No matter whether you’re a Scottsdale historian, a life-long Arizonan or a wanderer who ended up settling in our beautiful city, we can all share one thing: Scottsdale’s rich history and our responsibility for its future.

What do you think are the major issues from the past that continue to be relevant today?

Bibliography: Lynch, Richard E. Winfield Scott, A Biography of Scottsdale’s Founder. Scottsdale: The City of Scottsdale, 1978



Filed under Alumni, Community, News, Uncategorized

2 responses to “The Past and Present Collide

  1. Steve Steinke

    As a recently retired two-term member of the Scottsdale planning commission, I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment that history is indeed important to contemporary leadership.

    Unfortunately, during my college and early career years, I failed to make the connection that is crystal clear to you and some others. Not only are the events of the past important, but so too was the vision of those like Winfield Scott.

    Life lessons continue to remind me often that history is not something that is “done and over with.” It is instead a portal through which both thought and action took place on its way to today.

    For the longest time, I truly believed that the worst was behind us, that war and pain would never again be a possibility, and that mankind had found its permanent path to “happily ever after.” How coddled and blind I was.

    And now I see.

    Thanks for reinforcing that insight, and thanks for the opportunity to give it a little extra light via these comments.

    Best wishes to Scottsdale Leadership’s current class. Thanks to those in the rank and file who bring their own history and insight via all previous classes as well.

    And a P.S. note re: light rail. Scottsdale will eventually both see it and embrace it.

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