Practicing social distancing in a chamber devoid of a crowd, the four remaining candidates for Gila County supervisor Districts 2 and 3 politely answered questions from the president of the Globe Miami Chamber of Commerce during a debate live streamed on YouTube Wednesday night.
The candidates methodically and without unexpected pot shots debated issues about economic development and infrastructure improvements.
So respectful of the rules were the candidates, they avoided ignoring time limits, except Tim Humphrey, incumbent District 3 supervisor. After most of his answers, he announced he was taking it to the limit when he saw the yellow card, then the red before he stopped.
All the candidates had long Gila County residency resumés, as most were born in the county.
All had worked in and around Gila County for decades. All had experience working for or with government, at both the county and federal levels.
All agreed economic development is a top priority, but Woody Cline, District 2 supervisor, broadened his concerns to include supporting infrastructure improvements.
“What comes out of economic development requires a lot of development in a lot of ways,” he said.
Fred Barcón, running against Humphrey, added when he served as president of the Gila County IDA, he regularly supported any meetings about broadband, but he also believes education is an important investment in infrastructure.
The next question posed by Erica Muniz, president of the chamber, had to do with affordable housing. Without that, where would the workers live?
Cline thought any money for low income housing should come from the federal government. Humphrey believes investing in infrastructure would jump-start the county economy to get people interested in moving to the area. Barcón lamented that most of the people who live in Globe and Miami area commute due to the lack of local jobs.
Bernadette Kniffin, running against Cline, suggested a feasibility study.
“Payson is different from Globe. Hayden Winkelman, Star Valley, they are all different,” she said.
When asked how they would work with constituents and be effective in their jobs despite the pandemic, they all agreed it would not be easy, but Zoom helped.
All lamented the restrictions to in-person meetings.
Kniffin ticked off all the usual ways she would stay in touch, but ended with, “Well, now today, it’s Zoom.”
She believes all the other limitations the pandemic creates to be her biggest challenge if she were to win as supervisor.
Cline said he spends a lot of time on county roads seeing what’s being done and setting up meetings with constituents to keep in touch. He thought the challenge to him as a supervisor is his commitment to “not being a politician.” He said he tends to speak directly and “not always … politically correct.”
Humphrey looked forward to the return of his constituent meetings in October because “our area has a lot of elderly people.”
Barcón expressed gratitude for grandkids “that can teach social media.”
He lamented the communications issues this creates and can’t wait to get back to face-to-face meetings.