Their titles are “mayor” and “town manager,” but they’re not in government and don’t govern. Their job is community service.

Though part of the larger city around them, large-scale Scottsdale residential developments such as Whisper Rock and DC Ranch appear to be communities unto themselves. In these microcosms of living, individual needs may exist at levels that may require more specific attention than City Hall can provide.

Thus developments and homeowners associations are turning to a new definition with old, familiar terminology. “Mayors” and “town managers” of these communities told Tribune business writer Michelle Swafford in a Saturday article that they help neighbors, many who come from other places, connect, find commonality and learn about living in a hometown.

These community officials’ predecessors are the recreation directors of years ago. Today, residents’ needs have grown more varied and complex, involving education, volunteering, community involvement.

As Swafford wrote, these “mayors” work to offer outlets for these needs, planning social and athletic events, even ordering tickets for concerts and arranging for dry cleaning to be picked up — but they also tend to quasi-governmental tasks of keeping tabs on their communities’ budgets and approving outside vendors who provide services.

These quasi-public servants accomplish something that they probably don’t even know: They help residents decide what micro-community activities and concerns are specifically their own and to deal with them without having to involve government. We live on different levels throughout our lives — with ourselves, with our families, on our streets, in our neighborhoods, in our cities, state, nation and the world. It is most important to be able to gain assistance at the levels closest to us, from those who know best what it’s like to be us, on our streets and neighborhoods. They listen, they react, they provide.

Yes, government does that, too. But by economies of scale, telling a real city manager that “I pay your salary” doesn’t represent as close a service relationship as when talking to one’s community “town manager,” whose salary we also pay.

Decentralization of service functions formerly provided only by government can only provide better, more personal service that government cannot and should not provide in an arena of competing interests.

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