The Gila County District Two Supervisor's seat became vacant in April, 2001, upon the sudden death of Supervisor Edward G. "Bunch" Guerrero.
Democrat Joe Sanchez, then the mayor of Miami, was selected by the other two county supervisors, Ron Christensen of District One and Cruz Salas of District Three, to fill the position which oversees the southern portion of the county that stretches west from Holiday Hills through Tonto Basin and Gisela through the end of Guerrero's term at the end of this year.
Sanchez is now hoping to be elected to the job he's held for over a year.
Also vying for the seat is Republican write-in candidate Roberta Johnson.
"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. "I have found there are many people who are willing to serve if we just go out and ask them. I am able to bring out the best in people. Teamwork is a real key word in our success. It's nothing that I do it's what we can do together."
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 maintenance and service problems of a pair of cemeteries.
"I went and I met with all those people, and I drove them around in my vehicle, so they could tell me what they needed, and so I could help them solve their problems," Sanchez said. "That's what I do throughout my district."
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 expired, six-month term for the previous mayor; and he was elected mayor in 1996.
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 challenge, he said, will be "continuing to provide post-secondary education services to our county, on all of our campuses. 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.'"
A council member for the City of Globe from 1998 to 2002 and a Gila County resident since 1981, Republican Roberta Johnson a successful write-in candidate running for Gila County's District Two Supervisor's seat is currently the emergency center nurse manager at Cobre Valley Community Hospital.
Johnson believes there should be open, honest discussion of all the issues before major decisions are made that affect the future growth and development of the entire District Two area.
She says she was "extremely disappointed" when a 34-year relationship with a progressive community college was abruptly terminated, leaving a great deal of confusion and uncertainty for a large number of Gila County residents who wish to further their education.
Eastern Arizona College provided several campuses that offered a large number of AA, AAS and transfer degrees as well as occupational programs.
"The supervisors have been planning to 'save' the taxpayers $1 million a year less than 2 percent of their total $57 million budget for quite some time," Johnson said. "They intend to do so by voting 'yes' for a provisional college in November. The $1 million that will be saved is the amount that Gila County pays in out of county tuition."
However, Johnson adds, "a 'yes' vote ... will actually increase the tax levy from $2 million to $4 million ... and will not be earmarked in a secondary tax levy; the money will go directly into the general fund."
According to Johnson, the Gila County Industrial Development Authority has hired the advertising firm of Hart and Junkes for approximately $89,000 to "sell the provisional college district to the voters. Also, the tuition rates for individuals have increased under the 'new' contract with Pima College."
Pointing toward "a severe economic depression that isn't likely to improve quickly," Johnson said that "increasing property taxes, which are already the third highest in the state, will only drive more private homeowners out and keep businesses from even considering this area. ... Despite their public comments and commitment to reduce the tax burden for all Gila County property owners, the board of supervisors lost that opportunity once again by not lowering property tax rates Aug. 6, 2002, after recognizing the 3.2 percent increase in net assessed valuation for this fiscal year."
Property tax levies, Johnson said, are based on the net assessed value multiplied by the property tax rate. "If the valuations increased again, then the supervisors could have decreased the property tax rate proportionally and the rate would have remained the same. The supervisors chose to keep the tax rate the same to collect the increased tax levy instead of further tightening their belts."
Johnson says she would like to see more financial accountability and oversight.
"The Fiscal 2000 Citizens' Advisory Council had multiple findings and recommendations that would improve Gila County's financial integrity and promote positive community and employee relationships," Johnson stated. "However, only a fraction of the suggestions have been implemented."