January 14, 2003 - Sierra Vista Herald: Morocco RPCV Mark Apel appointed Senior Planner for Cochise County

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Morocco RPCV Mark Apel appointed Senior Planner for Cochise County

Read and comment on this story from the Sierra Vista Herald on Morocco RPCV Mark Apel who has been appointed Senior Planner for Cochise County at:

Apel brings worldly experiences to county job*

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Apel brings worldly experiences to county job



BISBEE -- Mark Apel's career has taken him halfway around the world with stops in Honduras, Mexico, Morocco and Madagascar. He's had jobs in Philadelphia and at the Muleshoe Ranch in the Huachuca Mountains.

Now, he's found a home in Bisbee working for Cochise County.

Apel, a senior planner for the county, has worked in the Peace Corps, for the National Park Service and for The Nature Conservancy. He has worked on mountain peaks and in the Sahara Desert, in large metropolitan cities and in places miles from anything. Today, he says he's found a place somewhere in the middle of it all.

Shortly after getting a bachelor's degree in environmental resources management, Apel served in the Peace Corps.

He took his new degree and went to Morocco, where he worked for two years as a fisheries volunteer who helped the locals learn how to raise fish, and another two years monitoring and testing rare mountain sheep.

"The first town I was in is now a Hollywood hot spot," Apel said. "It was a pretty big town and it was out in the pre-Sahara Desert."

Some of the movies filmed near the town in Morocco include "The Scorpion King," "Gladiator," "Time Bandits" and "Jewel of the Nile," Apel said.

Apel said his stay in Morocco was one of the best of his life.

"I had so many adventures over there," he said. "I had a motorcycle there so I cruised all over the country. I had the best of both worlds. The first two years I was in the desert, and the second two years I was in the mountains."

After returning to the United States, Apel earned a master's degree in international affairs and went to work with the National Park Service. After four years in Morocco, he found himself in downtown Philadelphia with an office job. There he learned the fine art of planning as he found himself planning river corridors throughout the nation.

"I got a lot of planning in that job," Apel said. "I took a job out here in 1990 with The Nature Conservancy as the manager of the Muleshoe Ranch."

While at the ranch, which is in the far northeast corner of the county, Apel began to find out about Southeast Arizona. After a stint as a consultant, he decided to move to Bisbee. The city attracted him because it offered the best of everything he had found in his stops throughout the world, he said.

"I moved down to Bisbee to see what would happen," Apel said. "I was real lucky to get a job in the planning department. I feel like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I've lived in big cities and in the middle of nowhere, and Bisbee is in the perfect middle."

Apel also got to put his past experience to work. He started off working mostly on dockets such as rezones and special uses, but has since advanced to working on larger subdivisions and creating master plans. He is helping plan out the future of the county. He said the job is exciting because he is helping lay out the roadwork for the county's future -- a future Apel hopes will include responsible growth with environmental and open space concerns addressed.

"We feel like we're catching up to a lot of other jurisdictions, planning wise," he said. "We are planning with new regulations that are making growth more responsible."

When looking at an area, the county works hard to take into consideration neighbors concerns, environmental issues and especially water conservation needs, he said.

That is only half of what Apel does. The other half of his job is working with the Upper San Pedro Partnership in planning the San Pedro River's future.

"Taking a job with the county was quite a switch," he said, "This job brings back some of my river corridor planning experience I was involved with 15 years ago."

A love of music is another part of Apel's life -- a part that has been with him since childhood. Apel started playing the trumpet and shortly thereafter learned to play the guitar.

He has since added the mandolin, drums and fiddle to his music repertoire.

"I took up the guitar my senior year in high school and it has been a passion ever since," Apel said. "Living in Morocco, I had a lot of time to practice."

In Bisbee, Apel joined a local band, The Maroons. The group plays concerts occasionally throughout the city. Apel plays guitar and mandolin and sings. The band plays reggae, calypso and world beat dance music.

"We like the bizarre stuff," he said. "This is the first experience I've ever had playing the electric guitar. I loved it. I felt like a rock star for a while. There's a great music scene in Bisbee and it doesn't matter what you play."

Apel said playing music at home is wonderful, but there is nothing like playing in front of a crowd.

"I really enjoy watching people get moved by our music, to get up and start dancing," he said. "They become a part of the music, too."

Apel's love for music and guitar led to another hobby when he was up at Muleshoe Ranch, miles away from the rest of the world. He started building guitars. He said it takes three weeks to build a guitar by hand, and he would sell the musical instruments for about $1,000.

Since moving to Bisbee, Apel admits he hasn't had much time to build guitars, primarily because something else now occupies a lot of his free time.

"I really enjoy hiking and bird watching," he said. "But my biggest hobby now is hanging out with my 2-year-old daughter, Jasmine."

HERALD/REVIEW reporter David Rupkalvis can be reached at 458-9440 Ext. 180 or by e-mail at david.rupkalvis@svherald.com.
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