The Gila County Board of Supervisors is mulling over having a lobbyist represent it at the state level.
A work session on the issue was held as part of the BOS meeting Dec. 15. On hand to talk with the supervisors regarding Arizona legislative activity and issues that have the potential to affect Gila County was James Candland from Clarus Consulting.
Currently, the County Supervisors Association provides some lobbying efforts on behalf of Gila County, but since it represents all the counties in the state, it tends to focus on issues that have the widest impact.
“I’m the critical one for having a state lobbyist,” said Woody Cline, District 3 supervisor and chair of the BOS. “We work with the CSA and we have contact with our legislators. What’s the benefit of having you?”
“You wouldn’t have me,” Candland said.
“The CSA relationship is very critical. The difference is there are some issues that don’t get the attention needed, like the Tonto Creek bridge,” he said.
“It is critical to make contact with all the legislators, not just your local representatives,” Candland continued.
Cline asked County Manager James Menlove his position on the matter and Menlove said, “I will remain neutral on this. The decision is yours. I will answer any questions.”
“I voted against this and was outvoted,” Cline said.
“Looking back on the last four years, did we miss anything (that would have helped the county)? When something comes up, the legislators call on us for support. CSA is awesome — it doesn’t want to oppose counties.
“We have some big things coming up — COVID-19, mine assessments, water.”
Deputy County Manager Jacque Sanders responded to Cline’s question about anything that may have been missed due to lack of a lobbyist at the state level. She said several years ago the liquor laws were changed and we were not kept on top of that; further back, the county manager was spending three days a week at the Capitol to keep the supervisors informed about legislative action; even further back we had problems with bypass and land issues.
“We can contract with a lobbyist that can work on specific issues for us. We have one back in Washington and I am not seeing much happening there,” Cline said.
“Apache County has a lobbyist and it brings a lot of grant money into the county. I have a list posted in my office of things Gila County was concerned about that CSA didn’t pick up,” Menlove said.
“Without the support of CSA our concerns don’t go anywhere,” said Tim Humphrey, District 2 supervisor.
“If a lobbyist brings in grants and we have a grant writer, how would the two work together?” he asked.
Cline asked Humphrey if he felt comfortable just picking up the phone and talking to the county’s legislators directly. Cline said he was comfortable with that approach.
Assistant County Manager Homero Vela shared some of the issues he felt could benefit from the services of a lobbyist:
• Broadband is an uphill battle and the county could miss assistance available in the future. “Incumbent providers have lobbyists all over the place and they are talking to more than our legislators.”
• The distribution formula for Highway User Revenue Funds is old and there is a push to update it. “We don’t know the impact that will have on rural counties.”
• The BUILD grant received for the Tonto Creek bridge had help from all areas, including the county’s lobbyist in Washington, D.C.
Both Cline and Humphrey said they still had questions about the benefits of a lobbyist in Phoenix. As it was a work session no decision was made on the matter.