Excerpts to be printed in the October edition of the magazine.
Why do you want be a County supervisor?
I am excited about the economic growth and the many opportunities that exist for the County and its residents right now and in the immediate future. The inter-dependency between transportation, water, housing, and education has the power to both, limit and launch economic growth. This is a critical time to be involved in shaping the future of Pinal County, and ensuring it is done in a thoughtful way that benefits all residents, and is sustainable moving forward.
What do you most want to change about how the county is run and how will you do so?
I think for the most part the County is well run, and we are fortunate to have such great teams of staff who do a wonderful job providing a variety of services. As we continue to grow, I would like to focus on some efficiency, and see more analysis put into the designs of County facilities before constructing any more new buildings. For instance, in the new buildings being constructed in Maricopa and San Tan Valley, no space was allotted for Constables, all of whom still work out of the back of their personal vehicles.
What are three main issues you are campaigning on?
Support infrastructure needs for economic development corridors, such as the developing Tech Corridor; anticipating needs for utility and transportation upgrades, along Interstate-10 which may be shared through negotiations with Developers.
Safety issues with regard to understaffed law enforcement which does not seem to be keeping up with our rapid population growth. Mental Health crimes should also be addressed with new innovative approaches which I have seen done successfully in other counties.
Look at innovative ideas for long term water storage and attainment to handle our growing water needs for the future. The amount we currently store is minimal; and as we continue to grow, that will not stretch far enough to meet future needs under the current plan.
What is your evaluation of how Pinal County leadership dealt with COVID-19?
In my opinion, county leadership handled, and is handling, the pandemic well. The Board of Supervisors took advice from many resources including its own Health Dept. officials and the Governor’s office, and balanced it well with the needs/wants of the majority of constituents. Masks and business closures became touchy subjects, but public safety is one of our important obligations, and we are charged with keeping our citizens safe. As we move through the coming flu season and into 2021, our plan for handling COVID will need to be constantly assessed in order to respond to changes in conditions.
What is your evaluation of how Pinal County leadership developed Prop 417 in 2017? If necessary, what would be your alternative to funding Prop 416?
I do understand the sense of urgency the Board felt in needing to get started with providing a transportation infrastructure for the continued economic and residential development of the county. The County was set to grow in leaps and bounds in the foreseeable future; and it has. They were tired of waiting for the State or Federal Government to provide funding. Also, the Legislature was drawing upwards of 20% of funds from the HURF (Highway User Revenue Fund) to balance the needs of the State, beginning in 2009 and until recently in 2019.
Prop 417’s tax was contested by many from the first day. In my opinion, when faced with the possibility of a lawsuit over the language in the ballot proposal, the Board should have pulled the initiative from the ballot and reworked the funding plan to avoid the risk of having to spend the hundreds of thousands of tax dollars accumulated to date on legal fees. Presently, the fate of Prop 417 sits in the hands of the Arizona Supreme Court. We will certainly have to abide by their decision; but another issue is that if the County loses the case this time around, there is about $40Million that would be deemed to have been collected inappropriately, which will create another issue.
Moving forward, HURF is now fully funded, and in FY20, Pinal County received $22.8 million from HURF. In addition, there was already a twenty-year ½ cent sales tax measure restricted for building and improving roadways in Pinal County that was approved by voters in 1985, and again in 2005. It provided $9.1 million, so we have significant funding available, but not enough to cover the proposals of 416’s twenty-year timeline.
If Prop 417 tax does not survive the AZ Supreme Court, it may be time to re-think the plan. Grant funding may be an answer to some of the road projects. The County could consider the pros and cons of going back to the voters with a smaller, non-variable sales tax proposal.
During your campaign, what have been the biggest concerns expressed to you by the Pinal County residents and business owners?
Most of the concerns have been around the COVID issue and the closures/re-opening of businesses and schools.
What do you see as Pinal County’s role in advancing education?
Educating a workforce truly begins with a strong Pre-K -12 environment. It’s all about experience and exposure – showing the kids what is out in the world and getting them interested in something greater than their surroundings; creating life-long learners and creative thinkers. To do this, they need access to information; and a great obstacle, especially in rural communities is lack of access to the Internet, and affordability where it does exist. We may need to come up with some creative ideas and partnerships to provide this critical service to more families. With distance learning in place, this truly is necessary. Another area of concern, especially in rural communities is readiness to learn; with deficits in early childhood literacy, and food security.
With regard to the needs of businesses, the County has already included, in the Master Plan, an intention to support and collaborate with Central Arizona College and other area education facilities to help them develop training programs to prepare our future workforce to match the needs of employers.
Pinal County has been on an economic roll, but how should Supervisors prepare the county for a slowdown?
Pinal County is a service business. The needs of the client come first. The issue with an economic slow down is that cash flow shrinks and departments must cut excess spending. Unfortunately, this usually means layoffs as in 2009. The County shed nearly 1,000 employees (of approx. 2800) in a matter of months. That of course meant more work for fewer people and service to clients was interrupted, or delayed. This shows the value of departmental audits and understanding the workload efficiency of each, and the prioritization of some operations, or services. It may be necessary to automate some functions that presently require personnel, since we have returned to the pre-2009 staffing levels. One benefit to doing this is to transfer some employment from the County to the private sector as new businesses come into our region. Our residents need employment stability to thrive, so stabilizing our employment numbers to avoid large swings in staffing helps everyone. Cash flow efficiency is also very important. Replacement and purchasing schedules should be maintained by all departments to keep unnecessary spending spikes in check.
What do you see as an important issue in Pinal County in the next four years that is not being generally talked about now?
Mid-level job development and affordable/accessible housing is needed in order for people to be able to work where they live. We have many folks who leave the county everyday to go to work in Pima or Maricopa County for a higher paying job; and we have too many others that drive into our county to work, because they can not afford to live here.
Much is made of the great, high paying jobs being imported to our communities. The problem is, not all jobs can be in the $90-100K range, and homes cannot all be $300K. We need mid-level jobs and some more affordable housing that allows people who are not highly skilled to still be able to work where they live. Often the high paying jobs provided by large high-tech companies attract their workers from outside our area. This means we import jobs, workers, and home buyers; creating more competition for resources with our own residents. What jobs will be available for our young families who are just getting started, and retirees who need a supplemental income to boost their limited investment earnings? We need to remember these constituents as well.
What makes you the best candidate for the job?
Experience: Eight years of elected public Board service, managing the entirety of large, whole budgets (vs departmental funding) on relatively fixed income/tax payer dollars; paired with decades of managing a variety of diverse business operations through economic booms and downturns; developing governing policies; strategic planning; innovative visioning; problem solving; and fiscal oversight. I enjoy weeding out inefficiencies in systems, and generally embrace change.
Leadership/Relationships: Ability to build consensus working with various perspectives; able to represent people of all political ideologies, cultures, and priorities; recognition of the importance of supporting nonprofits to help them provide critical community services that government cannot. I value collaboration, feedback, team building and thoughtful decision making on all levels; and I like to hear from the people I serve to be sure I am abreast of issues in our communities, and understand the struggles and opportunities our residents face. Over the last 12 years I have been building relationships with business owners, and community leaders, County staff, and elected AZ State and County officials. These relationships lead to collaborative partnerships that can benefit our communities.
I am interested in people and their opinions, not just in my district, but of all constituents in the County. I would like to find out what makes sense for them in regard to County services and how we could make it better. As residents and business owners, their input is absolutely necessary to help shape decisions that are beneficial for the region; and it is important we balance the priorities and lifestyle cultures of rural, urban, agriculture and tribal communities as we make plans to strengthen all levels of education, bring a wide range of job opportunities, work on transportation, and manage water resources and economic growth. I am in this for the long haul, ready to hit the road running after the election and looking forward to a future where residents can live, work, and play in Pinal County.