Bill Backes Frustrated By Federal Mandates Imposed On Gila County

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Sitting at a kitchen table in his Payson investment advising office, Democrat Bill Backes expounds on the frustrations of the county supervisor office he seeks.

"The big problem as a county supervisor, is trying to solve problems that you don't have jurisdiction over," he said Tuesday morning. "They're asking me as a supervisor to control things I can't control."

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Bill Backes

Federal agencies dictate forest management and rules governing cattle ranchers, often legislating their ruin, Backes said. Too many trees and too much debris exacerbate fire risks and water shortages. Unrealistic regulations are strangling the cattle ranching industry.

When Backes was younger, he said he could drive a Jeep through the forest. Now, laws illegalizing the activity notwithstanding, too many trees clog the way.

"They call it our national forest then they say where we can go in it and what we can do in it."

With roughly 97 percent of the county federally owned, Backes says convincing the federal government to alter its policies regarding forest and cattle ranch management is a lobbying man's game, a game Gila County supervisors must play.

"What can we do as supervisors besides talk and lobby on the issues?" he asked.

As for what county supervisors can control, Backes says that creating the budget is their largest responsibility.

Backes has worked as an investment adviser since 1983 and said he has the expertise to impart wisdom during the budget process. His office kitchen table epitomizes his people approach -- more let's sit down at the table and chat and less formal, you stay on that side of the desk and I'll stay on mine.

"I help people manage their life savings," he said. "They (the county) need my experience with the budget cuts coming." (Backes is among those who predict increasing deficits for the state budget. A rearranged state budget could impact Gila County, though how much is still unknown.)

"I'm not running because I need a job. I'm not running because I have my own agenda," Backes said.

"I want to try to bring some representation back, and I think that's why everyone should be running for this office."

For the three Democrats vying for the retiring District 2 Supervisor Jose Sanchez's seat, the Sept. 2 primary is a must-win since there will be no general election.

District 2, for now, is littered with Backes' signs, which he partially attributes to his being the only District 2 candidate from the northern part of the county. "I've been called the dark horse from the north in this election."

Additionally, Backes said voter turnout tends to be higher in the southern end of the county. "People tend to campaign where the vote is," he added. "This end has got to vote."

As county supervisor, Backes wants to keep pushing for the policies he says are responsible. "You never give up; you never stop. You can't give up; you can't stop."

The long battle to build a bridge across Tonto Creek, for instance, is a must-do for Backes.

"We have to keep the ball rolling on that."

Regarding proposed new jails, Backes said the jail in Globe is old and therefore requires a lot of maintenance. He questioned the fiscal responsibility of building a new jail in Payson when the one in Globe is so old.

"I think it'll end up being a moot issue because we're not going to have the money," Backes said. He advocates using land the county already owns since the cost of buying land and installing infrastructure adds prohibitive expense. Law enforcement already absorbs a large portion of the county's budget. Backes said that while duplicating facilities in general is helpful, "I don't know if putting a jail up here would be wise."

But one thing is for certain. "I don't want a tent city."

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