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 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 in December 2002.
Today, Sanchez is hoping to be elected to the job he's now held for more than a year, and two candidates hope to unseat him: fellow Democrat and lifelong Miami native Ernest Valdez, and Republican write-in candidate Roberta Johnson, who is profiled below.
Because Sanchez and Valdez 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 go up against Johnson in the Nov. 5 general election.
Party affiliation: Republican
Years in Arizona: 21
A council member for the City of Globe from 1998 to 2002 and a Gila County resident since 1981, Johnson 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, 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 in 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."