In 2008, I was asked by many individuals to run for the Board of Supervisors. I was flattered with every request but bewildered at the same time. Why me? The response back was always that it was clear how much I cared about the community; I worked hard and I was capable of making a difference. Obviously I chose not to run at that time. Why? I didn't think I was the best person for the job. I had only been a resident of the community for a couple of years and although I was very active, I was still new. I also didn't believe I could be as effective in that position as I could be working within the community. Looking back, I still think I made the right choice.
What I have learned over the last 4 years about our area and our county is incredible. What I have also learned about those that have been put in charge is shocking. I have seen personal agendas corrupt our area. I have seen those agendas split our community into factions. I've seen an area that was once full of hope and moving forward, slam to a stop. I have seen assumptions made, rumors spread and fears grow. During this time, I have continued to represent the organizations I am affiliated with. I started to realize that while all the venom and fear and infighting was going on, no one was working for this area. Most were simply using this area for whatever they wanted.
2009 was a pivotal year for our community. We had brand new leadership across the county. I was baffled by the rookie mistakes and the arrogance. I was disappointed by what I heard these individuals say, not just in private, but in meetings and at large community events. Here is an example:
I remember my first Chamber meeting as President-Elect, (I had been elected by the membership at the end of 2008) when newly elected District 2 Supervisor, Bryan Martyn, was the unexpected speaker who had asked to say a few words. I assumed he would simply stand up, introduce himself and let us know that he was there to represent us and would be available for questions at any time. Boy was I wrong. Instead his presentation put us on notice. "It was time for us to get out of the county." We were “red-headed stepchildren” (sorry if that phrase itself offends anyone as those were his words, not mine) living in a basement and he was kicking us out. I was stunned. He spoke with this very message for about 20 minutes. As I looked around the meeting at the businesses sitting there it was obvious that they were as surprised and confused as I was. After the meeting Martyn walked out to the parking lot and I followed him. I had to find out if he was joking. Did he have a bad sense of humor that I didn't know about? After all, I had only met him a few times before at local Republican meetings and campaign events.
Our conversation was a bit tense. I would think mostly because he wasn't joking and didn't think that what he said or how he said it was a problem. His tone was actually a bit confrontational. Now let me interject something here: I am a protector, a fixer and a caregiver to my core. This area had become "my baby" and I was defensive. I didn't want anyone stomping into "my home" and giving me orders on what he/she was going to do to all of us. We wanted someone who was going to listen to us and be our voice; someone who would represent our best interests.
When I told Martyn that it wasn't up to him to decide what happened to us and that his job was to listen and represent us, he told me I was wrong. He was in charge and the control was his. He would tell us what was going to become of us and I needed to just accept it. This is how my relationship with our newly appointed "representative" began.
Martyn and I never really seemed to agree about "how" to do things. He said he was a bull in a china shop -- that was definitely not my style. Regardless, in the beginning, I thought that we at least had the same vision for a community that could sustain itself while providing an excellent quality of life. We could become a destination.
We met numerous times to discuss what our area was missing. A repeating theme was a communication channel. In April of 2009, during one of our meetings, I told Martyn that I was just about finished with a community portal that would allow our community to communicate with each other. It would be something similar to the site "ourqueencreek.org" but with more bells and whistles. As my education and background was in web development, I was going to build it, at no charge, and get it out there. The only piece I was missing, I told Martyn, was the "news" piece. The system would include jobs, businesses, events, resources for our area, classifieds, county updates, you name it. It was during that time, that Martyn told me "he had someone" that was going to do a paper out here. I thought it was great and asked to meet with him/her. Martyn told me he would introduce us sometime in the future.
I had attended every community event possible for years. That is until June 13, 2009. My son was sick and I missed the Johnson Ranch safety fair. Thinking back, this is when my life changed. Martyn had announced during this event, to all in attendance, that our area was now known as Bella Vista, AZ. I stood up to our Supervisor, in a very big way. This particular situation was a result of Martyn's attempt to name our area without any community involvement. I believed that was wrong so I put my thoughts out there. The community rallied, and -- thanks to numerous volunteers -- we got the word out, encouraged the community to vote, and held a Town Hall meeting about it. In the end, the community decided whether or not a name change would happen and if it was to change what it would be. Martyn set the rules of what would and would not be allowed, the names that would be included, etc. Was it perfect? No. But this community rallied and in 7 days (which is all the time Martyn allowed us), almost 2000 votes were counted. Martyn then selected Stacy Deprey-Purper, Rhett Homan and Jill Jones, to count the ballots, alongside him. I also was in attendance. Bryan Martyn then submitted a press release announcing the results, and Pinal County Today was the first publication to release the results that this area had determined its own name.
It was only a few months after this, that the venom and rumors started. I wanted to bring about a positive change and I wasn't afraid to call people out who were cheating, lying, committing fraud, etc. I brought the information to those individuals, giving them a chance to make a change; to take responsibility and make amends. To some, that was their opportunity to attack me and rally as if they were all victims. I could have chosen to fight these particular individuals in public, but my "agenda" was to represent the organizations I was involved with, not to defend myself against misinformation and attacks. I stayed out of that poison and continued to represent the business community as the President of the Chamber of Commerce and the community as a resident. I sought out mentors to learn from. I attended county meetings and events and scheduled meetings with departments, individuals and organizations. I wanted to learn what "we" (Pinal County) had, what we needed and what we had to do to move forward. And that is exactly what I did.
I had a number of situations similar to this over the years and every time, I brought my concerns to Martyn, he continued his way. It appeared to be a bit of a "pissing match" actually. He wanted things to go his way and I wanted him to do what was best for the area.
By 2010, I was being asked again to run for the Board of Supervisors. This time by the same people as in 2008, but there were many more people that started asking me as well. I was asked at every Pinal Partnership meeting, County event, etc. It became such a common question, that it soon became assumed that I was going to run. In 2011, I had "supporters" coming from everywhere, telling me they would support my campaign, get my signatures, help me raise money. Each time I asked "why" and each time I was told because of my commitment to the area, because of my track record of being fair, because I was pro-business and pro-growth, because I was a hard worker who could see the big picture, problem solve and implement and because I would be a great leader. Even Bryan Martyn himself voiced that he thought I was the best person for the area.
I was humbled by the support and I started to seriously consider running. After all, I had support from both parties, all over the area. Then in the summer of 2011, a well known "staunch" Republican approached me at a Pinal Partnership meeting with urgency. We had to talk right away. As I broke away from conversation and rushed over to a corner, I was told we had a big problem. Startled, I asked what it was. He then asked me if I knew that I had a "D" by my name. I smiled and honestly chuckled a bit, and answered "of course I know that.” I was then handed a voter registration form and told to change that "letter" to an "R". I asked him what difference it made and I was told that he wasn't "allowed" to support me if I wasn't an "R". Now to some this may make sense, but to me, I was stunned. I grew up with a Republican father and a Democratic mother. I was raised analyzing issues and candidates . I learned about compromise and how to look at the whole, not just the pieces and as a result have never voted down any party line. I had confused many individuals in the past, that knew me personally, as my views were never party dominated. Democrats called me Republican, and Republicans called me Democrat. That said I can tell you, that the people of this area have never known where I personally stood on any issue, as it was irrelevant. I represented the voice of the people within the organizations that I had been asked to run, as any local representative should. So I questioned him and asked "Really? You've spent all of this time supporting and preparing for my campaign, but now you find this out and I'm not the right person anymore?” His response was simple: "No, you are absolutely the right person. Your views and your positions are spot on, but I unless you change your 'letter', I won't be allowed to support you."
I heard this for months from every Republican that had said before that I was the right person for the job. I was told I was their choice because of my track record, because I was pro-business and pro growth, because I could do the job and I would best represent them. As I tried to understand this "letter" issue, I continued to consider whether or not I wanted to run. I spoke with political consultants from both parties and with organizations in and out of the area. I was told by all of them that this area was predominantly Republican. I was told that I had strong Republican support and that if I would just change my "letter,” I could win the election and really make a difference. My views and my positions were already proven and I had the support, I just needed to allow the party to be able to support me.
Then Martyn resigned and quite honestly, the idea of any of the candidates representing this area made me quite concerned, and it concerned many others as well. I spoke with people from both parties and they all agreed that I would be the best person for the position. That I would be fair and truly represent this area. The only thing holding me back was my "letter.”
I then made the decision to register as a Republican. I did that for this community, not for me. I did it for every Republican and Democrat that believed in me and what I stood for. For every person that thought I was the best person for the position because of my track record. For every person who is fed up with partisanship destroying true community representation. I did it so that this area could be represented by someone who speaks for the people and the businesses in the community, not the people in a party.
Now some of you may think this is scandalous, but let me tell you something. I was never asked to change my view, change my stance or change how I represent the area and I have not. I was simply asked to change my "letter" and that is all I have done.
I have never been "staunchly" Democrat or Republican. All I have ever been, for the past six years, is "Staunchly San Tan Valley" and that is exactly what the residents of this area deserve.