Gila County Supervisor Shirley Dawson will retire at the end of her term this year, opening the door for the possible election of a northern Gila County candidate to the board that controls an array of services.
Dawson, a Democrat who lives in Globe, represents District 3, which includes Star Valley, the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation and parts of Globe.
In a press release, Dawson said, “It has been great working for improvement in our county. I am proud of the works that have been accomplished and take pride that we, as a county, have thus far survived the worst economic crisis in our country’s history.”
Gila County has relied on a multi-million-dollar reserve fund to weather three years of state cutbacks in funding for counties. The county has avoided major cuts in services, which include the sheriff’s department, flood control, planning for unincorporated areas and an array of social services.
Ronnie McDaniel, a judge the Tonto Apache Tribe, has already announced his intention to run
for Dawson’s seat, which picked up an influx of northern Gila County voters with proposed redistricting. Dawson’s retirement dramatically increases the odds that the board of supervisors will shift to the north, breaking Globe’s decades-long lock on the board of supervisors.
Dawson and Supervisor Tommie Martin hold the distinction of being the first women supervisors in Gila County.
“She and I have served two terms together as the first elected females in Gila County,” said Martin.
Martin went on to say that she respects Dawson for always doing what she felt was right for Gila County.
In practice, Martin and Dawson often clashed on policies.
“She’s a fierce warrior on her issues,” said Martin.
In an e-mail, Gila County Supervisor Mike Pastor praised Dawson. “Supervisor Dawson has worked tirelessly for Gila County at the state and federal level of government during her tenure as a supervisor.
“She has advocated for the underserved population in our county both as a public official and as a private citizen and has championed the effort to sustain post-secondary education in Gila County. I congratulate her and wish her the best on her upcoming retirement.”
Although unsure what Dawson will do in retirement, Martin said Dawson has been helping the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation grow a garden to improve nutrition. Dawson’s husband has also served as a judge on the reservation.
“Whatever she is going to do, I wish her well,” said Martin.
In a press release, Dawson cautioned constituents to carefully analyze candidates. “I hope everyone will carefully analyze why a candidate is running and whether they will build upon the many good things that have been accomplished both in our county and in the cities,” she said, “Serving as a team member who is dedicated to working for sound progress should be the goal.”
Dawson’s retirement caps a major shift of political power in Gila County from the Globe area to northern Gila County.
The county just completed a sometimes contentious redistricting process to redraw the county supervisor district lines to reflect population shifts of the past decade. The redrawn lines left Martin’s district in the north and Pastor’s district in the south, but created an equal north-south balance in Dawson’s district.