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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Young a Tireless Community Advocate

George Young is not your typical retiree. For example, at age 63, he has a paper route.


On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Young drove around South Mountain delivering the latest issue of the South Mountain Villager, a local newsletter with an abiding motto to print only positive news about the communities of SoMo and Laveen.


Young not only has been a resident of SoMo for 50 years, but he also is an advocate who has been involved in projects ranging from economic and community development to neighborhood safety to social and networking events.


“I’m a real believer in partnerships,” he said. “I’m a connector—I connect people with different organizations to get things done. It’s kind of a good life, I tell you.”


His commitment runs so deep that Young actually was among the few who helped transform the community’s name and public image from “South Phoenix,” which conjured images of blight at crime, to “South Mountain Village,” reflecting a more family-friendly, upwardly-mobile and economically secure place.


It was in the mid- to late 1980s, Young said, that people began discussing the name change and where lines should be drawn on the map to delineate the area. Young and others first approached the Phoenix City Council with the idea, and after that began courteously browbeating the local media to help shift the public’s perception of the area through language. They embarked on an email, letter and phone call campaign.


Despite his commitment and vision, Young says he’s not an ideologue and does not put forward his own political positions: “All I wanted was for the community to be the best it could be,” he said.


Friends describe Young as supportive, protective, wholesome and loving. They say it would take more than just one article to capture all of his community contributions.


He is “the most faithful advocate of progress and the preservation of (South Mountain’s) character,” said Wayne Smith, owner of The Farm at South Mountain and Young’s long-time friend. “My golly he was always, always meeting with people. He’s got to be dangerous now that he doesn’t have a full-time job.


Everybody respects him,” Smith added. “Even if you disagree with him you respect him.”


Joe Banks, co-owner of IronCo. and also a member of the South Mountain Clean & Beautiful Committee agrees: “His contribution is pretty great,” he said. “I don’t know how he does it.”


Banks and Young began an anti-graffiti project that eventually received funding from the City of Phoenix. But in addition, Banks would see Young and his father-in-law scrubbing graffiti off buildings on the weekends, too.


The anti-graffiti project eventually grew into South Mountain Clean & Beautiful, whose mission is to facilitate large-scale clean-up projects throughout the community. Young continues to chair this committee.


Said Banks: “Whatever needs to be done George is always there to do it.”


Retired last fall from the state government, where he worked for 20 years as an investigative auditor for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS, today Young has a part-time job as an assistant for Carlie Back, a Realtor with Keller Williams Lifestyle Realty.


“This is my second life,” he jokes.


Thinking back on his childhood, he remembers the days when he and his brother ran paper routes in the South Mountain area. They would pick up their papers at the corner of Central and Southern avenues. There was a huge house with lots of Palomino horses where the South Plaza now stands.


 “Of course all four corners have changed,” he added, returning to the present. “People being involved—that’s what it’s all about.”


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