A tiny town outside the Grand Canyon that has big plans for development will be under new leadership in 2016.
Greg Bryan, Tusayan's first mayor selected by colleagues on the Town Council shortly after it incorporated in 2010, is leaving the office Dec. 31 to spend more time with family.
"I'm proud and thankful to have been part of this process, building a town from scratch," Bryan said. "It's probably the most frustrating and rewarding thing I've done in my professional career. It was and is the right thing to do for this community."
Craig Sanderson, the town's vice mayor and a pilot, will take over the leadership role until a fall election when residents will for the first time directly elect their mayor. The term of the position will change from its current 4 years to 2 years. About 550 people live in Tusayan.
Everyone who drives to the Grand Canyon's more popular South Rim passes through Tusayan, about two miles from the entrance gates. The town relies heavily on tourism at the Grand Canyon and was hit hard during the partial government shutdown in 2013. The Town Council chipped in to reopen the national park.
Bryan later floated the idea of changing Tusayan's name to reflect its ties to the Grand Canyon. He said the idea fizzled in the Town Council.
Bryan has been a major supporter of plans by Stilo Development Group USA to build a dude ranch, high-end boutiques, five-star hotels, hundreds of homes and a high-density shopping center off the highway to the South Rim.
The company can't move forward until the U.S. Forest Service acts on the town's request for a right of way to access its property. Developers eventually must turn over land to the town for affordable housing in the community where most parcels are in private ownership.
The council has faced criticism from officials at the Grand Canyon, environmental groups and residents who worry that such growth won't be a good fit for the town and about a water source for the development. Bryan said the relationship between the town and developers hasn't been perfect and the plans weren't rubber stamped.
Bryan, who also was the chief operating officer and vice president at a Tusayan inn, said he's confident in the council's ability to make good decisions going forward. He encouraged residents to be involved in the process.
Sanderson said the development will continue to be a hot political topic. The council has been discussing the formation of a housing authority that would set guidelines for ownership of affordable housing in town.
"What we obviously don't want is someone from California coming up and snapping up all the land," he said.
Bryan and his wife have property overlooking Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. He said he's looking forward to getting back into martial arts, playing golf and seeing his children more often.
"The town is taking up too much of my time," he said. "It was given willingly."