Back in the early '60s, Miami native Joe Sanchez was a popular guy in Payson. At least on Fridays, when as the employee of a distribution company he brought the latest shipments of A-1 and Schlitz beer to town.
"And that was when it was nothing but a dirt road all the way from Payson to Jake's Corner," he says.
Today, Sanchez stands to regain his popularity, thanks to his newest job.
Last Thursday, Sanchez took a giant step forward in the world of Gila County politics by moving from the position of the mayor of Miami to the District 2 county supervisor's seat that's been empty since Edward "Bunch" Guerrero died April 28.
District 2 is roughly the southern portion of the county that stretches west from Holiday Hills through Tonto Basin and Gisela.
Selected from a field of 10 candidates, Sanchez will resign his position as Miami's mayor June 11 and will be sworn in to complete Guerrero's term which expires at the end of December, 2002 the next day. In September 2002, he'll have the option to run for election.
The Roundup talked to Sanchez by phone Monday to help readers get a feel for the man, his views on the challenges facing Gila County, and how he plans to approach them.
Q: Where are you from originally?
Sanchez: I was born here in Miami, Arizona. My parents came here from Spain; my Dad in 1921, my Mom in 1925. They had six kids, and all of us were born here in Miami. I've lived here all of my life except when I left to attend ASU in 1954, and when I spent three years in the Army starting in 1961 ...
After that, I got a job with the postal service and worked for them for 35 years. I was a carrier, and I was the postmaster in the towns of Inspiration, Claypool and, for my last 10 years, here in Miami.
I was elected mayor of Miami in 1996. I'm in my second full term now. In 1994, I was elected vice mayor, and the next year I finished out an expired, six-month term for the previous mayor, Jim Campos, who moved out of town and had to resign ...
Q: Why did you want to get involved in politics?
Sanchez: I was concerned about the way that the people in the Town of Miami were being treated by the town council. They were being excluded from meetings, not allowed to participate ... and these were the people who were paying the bills. Our voice didn't matter. So I decided that the one way to change it was to run for the town council ...
I've really liked working for our community. There are a lot of good people here. Of course, there are always a lot of people who are very critical and vocal about things we do, but there are a lot of people here who had needed our help for a long time and who couldn't find anyone else to help them. That's what has made it so rewarding to me.
Q: Does that summarize why you went after the District 2 supervisor's position?
Sanchez: Absolutely ... For a long time, I've really admired Supervisor Guerrero. He was very much for the underdog, and he was a good representative for all of the people. He would listen and get results. He was very responsive to the needs of the community, and he never gave you lip service.
Q: Right now, what do you think are the most daunting challenges that Gila County is facing?
Sanchez: One of the biggest is finances. I'm not saying that the county is any trouble financially, but one of the priorities is trying to bring our tax rate down so we can try to bring in industry, new employment and diversification. So we've got to learn not only how to manage our finances, but our other resources.
Another one of the biggest concerns for the entire county, of course, is water ... I know that's a big concern in the Payson area, and it's a primary issue in Districts 2 and 3 as well ...
And we are looking into a regional waste-water system, working with the City of Globe and the Town of Miami. There are a lot of people in the county who are on septic tanks; I think down the road, because of the possible contamination of the ground water, those are going to have to be regulated more and more.
Q: An important issue among residents of the Rim country, of course, is the planned redistricting of Gila County. Many people up here are worried they could get cut off from the rest of the county. With the balance of power in the hands of a three-member board of supervisors headquartered in Globe, how can we let our readers know that you are going to be treating this end of Gila County fairly?
Sanchez: That's a commitment that I made to Supervisors Ron Christensen (Dist. 1) and Cruz Salas (Dist. 3) in my letter of application for this position. My interests are going to be equal for the residents of District 2 as well as Payson and all the other parts of our county.
In order to survive and serve the best interests of all the people, we have to work as a team. I'm the type of person who will be asking people all over the county for input, to tell me what their needs are and, I hope, to offer to serve on different committees and go to work for us.
Q: Have you yet formed any ideas as to how the redistricting might best be handled or where the new lines should be drawn?
Sanchez: With the amount of growth that we've had in the northern part of the county, the districts are not in proportion right now. Our entire state is a little out of balance, but this is the right time to do it. Due to the census figures that just came out, we now have accurate numbers to work with, and to do it in a manner that's fair to everybody. How it might best be broken down whether the county should be split right down the middle or what I can't say right now because I'm not even going to see any good numbers until this afternoon. The numbers will dictate the best course of action.
Q: What is the single issue that is dearest to your heart, and that you hope you're going to impact during your tenure as supervisor?
Sanchez: That we can continue to lay the foundation and do the groundwork that will enable the next generation, our young people, to continue doing the work that needs to be done.
For example, a lot of our history is being lost. I want to be sure that 10 or 20 years down the road not that I'll still be in office then that I had the foresight to make it a little easier for the next generation to live and work in our county, and to encourage and enable them to preserve the things that we have.