The Gila County District Two Supervisor's seat became vacant in April of last year upon the sudden death of Supervisor Edward G. "Bunch" Guerrero.
Democrat Joe Sanchez, then the mayor of Miami, was selected to fill the position.
The District Two Supervisor oversees the southern portion of the county that stretches west from Holiday Hills through Tonto Basin and Gisela.
Sanchez' appointment was through the end of Guerrero's term at the close of 2002.
Today, Sanchez is hoping to be elected to the job he's now held for more than a year, and his sole opponent is another lifelong Miami native and Democrat, Ernest Valdez.
Because both candidates have the same party affiliation, the voters will have to choose between them in the Sept. 10 primary election. The winner will then become the official Democratic party selection to go on the Nov. 5 general ballot.
Party affiliation: Democrat
Years in Arizona: 66
"I think the residents of Gila County should vote for me because I'm not a high-profile politician," said Joe Sanchez. "Sometimes people ask me why I even do this. But the last 40 years of my life have been dedicated to public service much of it through service organizations, not in the political arena, and 99 percent of it was as a volunteer."
Sanchez' greatest strength, he said, is his ability and desire to meet and talk with those who approach him with problems.
"There is a wealth of information, resources and talent in our citizens, and sometimes they don't know how to approach their representatives," Sanchez said.
As examples, Sanchez cites the assistance he gave to the residents of Tonto Basin to help them obtain grant money to build a new medical center; helping the residents of Deer Creek Village with their road-maintenance problems; helping the twin communities of Globe and Miami solve the maintenance and service problems of a pair of cemeteries.
The son of Spanish immigrants, Sanchez and his five siblings were all born 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," he said.
After spending 35 years as a postal carrier, Sanchez became postmaster for the towns of Inspiration, Claypool and, for ten years, Miami. In 1994, he was elected to the Miami town council and selected as its vice mayor; in 1995 he finished an unexpired, six-month term for the previous mayor; and he was elected mayor in 1996.
In the year and two months since he has been a supervisor, Sanchez has racked up a number of accomplishments of which he is proud.
"Probably the primary concern of the people throughout my district are roads, and rightly so," he said. "One very positive thing the board did shortly after I became a member was to form the Public Works Department, and to consolidate all the roads into one district. Before we did that, every supervisor had their own road district and had their own equipment and ran their own crews. Now we have a public works director, and wherever the resources are needed, they are available."
In Sanchez' view, the two most vital issues that will loom over the District Two supervisor over the next term will be the county's budget and education services for its citizens.
"We need to be able to run our county and provide the quality services our people are entitled to, but with the money that's available, the next two years are going to be very tough, budget-wise. We'll need to fight to keep our money here in Gila County.
"Another big challenge is continuing to provide post-secondary education services to our county, on all of our campuses," he said. "We're working with all our providers to make sure classes will start in September ... That is very important to many people in our county, especially our young people. We need to prepare them for the real world ... and to also provide educational services to our seniors and adults.
"But there is no way anyone can accomplish that alone. We need to work together. There is no 'I' in my campaign. This is a 'we' thing.'"
Ernest "Val" Valdez
Party affiliation: Democrat
Years in Arizona: 72
"First of all, I am a humanitarian," said Ernest Valdez, outlining the reasons Gila County District Two voters should elect him as their county supervisor.
"Second, I'm realistic and practical about problems, issues, and the needs, concerns and welfare of people. Thirdly, I will try to promote the highest ethical standards in government whether it be local, county, state or federal.
Also high on Valdez' list of priorities if elected, he said, is to work toward reducing county property taxes by as much as 50 percent. "I have been researching this issue for quite a while, and I believe it can be done," he said. "Those are the main reasons, among many others, that I want to serve in county government."
Other "sink or swim issues" on Valdez' agenda are the county's economy, post-secondary education, the allocation of county resources, and limits of two terms for the office of county supervisor.
A veteran of the U.S. Navy who served in World War II, the Korean War and in Vietnam, Valdez followed his 32 years as a miner in the non-ferrous metal industry with a great deal of community, volunteer and political involvement.
Valdez has been a member and officer in several fraternal organizations; a member and chair of the Advisory Board, District 40; a Community Advisory Board member for the Arizona Supreme Court; a member of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality's Water Quality Control committee; a member and chair of the Globe-Miami Senior Retirees; and he served as the Gila County coordinator for volunteer services.
"Government has the responsibility for the security, safety, health and welfare of the citizens it represents all Americans," Valdez said.
"If we phase or scope these factors into categories and duties, it is obvious that they entail a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. The necessity to make changes and decisions among conflicting values is bound to arise and generate ethical dilemmas.
"Elected officials must carry out these duties in conjunction with the U.S. Constitution and adhere to high ethical standards," he said.
"This, then, is government 'by the people, for the people, of the people.'
"Having been administered the solemn oath for military duty and elected public office many times, the electrifying tingle that runs down my spine gives me the feeling of a true patriot. This always has been, and always will be, my mission: to serve and contribute."