Changes in Constituencies

Camilla: What changes, if any, do you see in your constituency during the years you’ve been in public office?

Jimmie: I think the constituency as it’s grown is much more of a “ME” society. Not all of them. Still, a lot of them don’t care about Casa Grande or Pinal County three to five years from now. I honestly don’t think they believe they’ll be here. I hope they’re wrong. If they see this as a stepping stone, more power to them. They want something—a paved road, a scholarship for their child, or they’re working an angle. They want something for themselves at all the taxpayers’ expense.

People used to look up to elected officials. You know, I put twenty years in with the City and the most I ever got was $4,800 a year. In the early years I know it cost me more for my babysitting, for banquets and other things I was expected to go to. The City would pay for me but I had to pay for Donna. It’s still the same today. Some things the county will pay for, but if Donna goes, I have to pay for her. In some cases, they don’t pay for me, either.

There are people who think you do it for the money, that you have ulterior motives. They think that you’re going to profit from what you do. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more people today who not only imply but say cutting things. “How much did you get for that vote!” They’re a lot harder to please, I guess. Like everything, there are a few bad apples in government, but a lot of good people who might be willing to serve are turned off. They aren’t willing to bare their souls or take the crap. Every year you have to file financial disclosures. You have to fill out information about who you owe money to, who owes money to you. The Dispatch used to run the disclosures! There are people who aren’t willing to do that, people who would be excellent County Supervisors, excellent Mayors, excellent State Legislators, or excellent Governors. Look at our Congressmen who have to run every two years. It costs $2 million to run. Even a Supervisor race can run anywhere between $25-$50,000. This year there’s going to be a Republican and a Democrat running. You’re not done in September. After you win the primary, there’ll still be signs and campaigning to do for the general in November. It just depends. You need to get people willing to generate that kind of money. They may not be willing to take the abuse, file the disclosures. Then you get the snide remarks.

The difference between county and city government is significant. State statue allows counties a very narrow, defined road. You’re a creature of the State Legislature. Cities, Charter cities, have a lot broader powers and you don’t have all the politics—and I don’t mean only Republican and Democratic. There are thirty-three elected officials in Pinal County. Most of them are very fine people. But there may be a better way to do it. The Legislature could allow us to move into the new world, hire more people based on education, qualifications and experience. We could make better use of resources. The counties as well as the schools depend on property taxes. We don’t have the authority to change that. We only have a 1% sales tax. Half of that is for roads and that is shared with the nine incorporated towns in Pinal County. The county gets just 40% of the money. That tax will run out in 2006 unless the voters renew it. We need to begin working on that right now.
Camilla: Jimmie, I want to thank you for your time to do this interview. It will be a valuable resource in the archives at the Historical Society. Thank you so much.