Sedona lost one of its founders and one of its most active proponents, James “Jim” Eaton, who died Jan. 25 at age 91.
Eaton moved to the Sedona area in 1986 before the city existed. He joined the movement to create the city and served as campaign manager of the 1987 drive to incorporate Sedona as a city.
After incorporation in 1988, Eaton served as vice chairman of the fledgling Sedona Planning and Zoning Commission until 1990 and returned as a commissioner in 2000, serving until 2010. While he was initially against growth, he came to understand that no city can stagnate — growth and development are inevitable in any community. The goal of residents and their local government is to best managehow that growth comes and mitigate as many negatives as possible while shaping a city to best serve those who live here.
Eaton was elected to Sedona City Council in its second cycle, serving a four-year term from 1990 to 1994.
“Jim Eaton was a local treasure for our community, an indefatigable volunteer, working to make Sedona a better place to live,” Sedona Mayor Sandy Moriarty said. “He supported many causes he believed in and was always willing to help make things happen, and he leaves shoes to big to fill, literally and figuratively, but he will always be an inspiration for me and many others.”
Longtime readers may remember Eaton’s name from the weekly Keep Sedona Beautiful column he wrote for four years in the 1990s. He served as KSB president in 1995, chairman from 1996 to 1998 and returned to the KSB board in 2014.
Readers of this page also know his name as he consistently wrote numerous letters to the editor over the years — most recently one just last month on gun control regulations.
Eaton’s letters were always heavy on facts and details, parsing minutiae to support his overarching logical arguments, a rhetorical strategy we appreciated because it explained in clear and rational detail the basis for his thesis, making his letters data-rich, yet easy for readers to comprehend.
Perhaps most importantly, Eaton had a passion for preserving Sedona’s history. He was a founding chairman of the city’s Historical Preservation Commission, serving from 1997 to 2000. He coauthored Sedona’s first Historic Preservation ordinance and produced its first Historic Preservation Manual.
“Jim was passionate about Sedona, that was obvious from time he spent serving his community. He was working until he went into hospital on projects and offering his time and talent,” said Janeen Trevillyan, president and historian of the Sedona Historical Society.
Eaton was president of the Sedona Historical Society when Jordan Historical Park and Sedona Heritage Museum opened in 1998. As president in 2009, he produced, wrote and directed the videos “The History of Sedona” and “Oak Creek Legacy: The Story of Sedona.” He compiled and published the book “Sedona Filmography and Videography” and republished Laura Purtymun McBride’s book “Traveling by Tin Lizzie” in 2008.
He was also a board member of the Arizona Historical Society from 1999 to 2006.
“He was about doing — getting something done and moving things forward,” Trevillyan said. “He had pride in Sedona’s history and felt protective of it. That is why he wrote articles, recorded events, created and designed exhibits at the museum. “He wanted the info right and out there for others to learn and recognize value of the stories. He appreciated the local pioneers and their stories and pioneers descendants.”
Looking toward the future, Eaton was first chairman of the Citizens’ Steering Committee for the 2001 Sedona Community Plan, chaired several official and ad-hoc committees ranging from traffic to recycling, forest preservation, growth and public works, served on both Yavapai County’s and Sedona’s centennial committees and with the Verde Valley Forum.
“He was a big man with big interests, talents, ideas and capacity,” Trevillyan said.
To honor Eaton’s impact and influence on the city he loved, his survivors have requested that donations be made to the Sedona Heritage Museum, 735 Jordan Road, Sedona, AZ 86336.
Christopher Fox Graham
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