Supervisor's Departure End Of Era

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The outlines of frames are still visible on the walls of the second-floor office at the Payson county complex. There are boxes stacked beside the desk; surfaces are generally free of the usual clutter of stacks of papers, folders and binders.

An era of Gila County politics is ending. After 16 years of service as northern Gila County's representative on the board of supervisors, Ron Christensen is stepping down -- and clearing out his office.

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Ron Christensen

"We're packing up and moving, so they can get in here and paint for Tommie (Cline Martin, who was elected District One supervisor in November)," Christensen said.

The changing of the guard will not take place until Monday, Jan. 3 when swearing in ceremonies are held. Until then, Christensen still tends to county business.

Sitting down at his mostly empty desk, Christensen picks up a few pieces of white paper and hands them over.

"I gave this some thought and thought it might help," he said.

Christensen then produces an outline, neatly typed and numbered, of what he considers his most noteworthy accomplishments. There are 41 items.

Although "Equality to Road District Funding," tops the list, Christensen is most proud of item No. 6.

"Closing Gila County Hospital," he said was his personal highlight. "It was costing us $2 million a year."

Christensen also considers paying off the county's debt, centralizing road district funding and overhauling the county jail system other areas of accomplishment.

Christensen said that he and the board of supervisors were able to develop continuity, and together, they created a political culture in which the county was viewed as a whole entity rather than partisan as it had been in the past.

He owes his success, in part, to voters.

"The voters had the foresight to keep those (in office) who have worked well together, instead of replacing all of them constantly, which leads to the staff running the county and not the board of supervisors," Christensen said.

At one point the voters felt Christensen was working so well, he ran unopposed in a couple of his four bids for supervisor.

"I was very fortunate at that time," he said. "I've certainly enjoyed it and the people I've met, including three presidents."

As with success, there are regrets, he admitted.

"I would have liked to have built two more bridges on Houston Mesa Road," he said. But funding was not available. It costs a few million dollars to build a bridge today, he explained.

Two bridges, however, were built on Houston Mesa Road during Christensen's 16 years in office; one at the First Crossing and the other at Whispering Pines.

"(The new board is) going to have to be down there at the legislature and fight for rural issues up against Maricopa and Pima counties all the time," he said.

Christensen has not finished his fight either.

In November, he was elected to serve on the board of governors for the Gila County Community College, and he will continue serving his northern Gila County neighbors by helping improve and expand higher education opportunities for residents of all ages.

"I would like to thank the fine people of Gila County who have supported me and made it possible for me to serve them as District One Supervisor," he said.

"It has been an honor."

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