As the father of young children, Mark Ellis is running for a four-year seat on the Oro Valley Town Council to make his newly adopted community the best it can be.
The 35-year-old pharmaceutical sales rep has interned in a U.S. Senator's office, worked with the Utah state legislature as a legislative analyst for counties, been elected twice as Republican Precinct Committeeman for Oro Valley and served as a delegate to the Republican state convention.
But he believes he can have even more impact as a town council member.
"I want to be responsive to the needs of Oro Valley. The General Plan as presented was rejected by 60 percent of voters. So there's a disconnect between the town and the citizens," he said. "I hope to bring a different insight, to try to represent the residents from the perspective of a younger person with kids."
Among the candidate's top campaign issues are growth, transportation and economic development.
"That this community is growing as fast as it is will have a tremendous impact on infrastructure, creating challenges and putting stress on the system," he said. "And it will continue growing. We should embrace growth instead of fighting it. We have to develop policies and plan for it at all levels."
Ellis favors "smart growth," which would preserve the area's beauty and suburban lifestyle. "We need to protect the place we have but also create new jobs, new employment, while maintaining our wonderful resort and recreational image."
A fitness buff, the candidate biked the 109 miles of the El Tour de Tucson in November and ran the St. George Marathon in southern Utah in 2002.
An Oro Valley resident for just under five years, the candidate said he's been particularly aware of growth's impact on roads and transportation. "When we first moved here, there were stop signs at Tangerine and First. Then they put in a stoplight. Now they're tearing up the whole intersection to widen the road. It would have been smarter to prepare for that in the first place."
On the subject of economic development, he believes it's being hampered by an overly bureaucratic permitting system. "I know a physician who's trying to build an office in Oro Valley. It's taken him over a year to get the proper permits," he said. "He put in a sidewalk and found out the pitch was too high. He had to tear it all out and start again.
"I would think we'd want to do all we can to bring in businesses to provide employment opportunities and goods and services," he said. "It's great that the town has standards, but there needs to be a more reasonable time frame."
The candidate added that he also wanted to emphasize the importance of a single fire provider for the town. "If I had a to make a decision right now I would support Golder Ranch, because of its superior equipment and manpower."
Ellis, who works out of a home office, said he could easily give the job 25 hours a week, and recognizes that some weeks it will require more. "I have the support of my managers and flexibility with the company and my position," he said. "I have a family and a job but I also feel these will help me in the decision making process."
Since his decision to run, the candidate said he's attended more town council or board meetings in the past few months. He gives the current council a B - for it's performance over the past two years.
"They are tremendous people and all of them work hard and feel they're doing what's best," he said. "But the General Plan is a perfect example. The plan they came up with was disconnected with their constituents in Oro Valley."
Ellis has not served on any town boards or committees but he believes that his experience working with a Senatorial staff, a state legislature and as a precinct committeeman has given him a good understanding of the negotiations that go on in government.
"It's about reaching compromise," he said. "I think my experience really plays into my ability. I have a lot of understanding of public policy and will bring a different perspective."
If he had to choose a defining event that made him want to run for office, Ellis said, it would be a series of contentious neighborhood meetings over a proposed church in Rancho Vistoso to be built by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which he is a member.
"I thought, here's private property. The impact of traffic, noise and light, I understand, but it's private property, it goes back to the growth issue. I can appreciate the concern, but they knew the property was eventually going to be something besides desert. If the LDS church didn't own it, it would be 20 homes. That contributed to my wanting to be involved in the process."
Ellis was born and raised in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, the great-greatgrandson of a Mormon convert from Liverpool, England, who crossed the Plains to Utah in 1847 with his fellow Saints.
The candidate's father worked in the insurance industry, while his mother was active in Republican Party politics, as state vice-chair of the party when he was younger and now as national committeewoman.
The candidate played football and basketball in high school and graduated as senior class president. He went to the University of Utah on an academic scholarship, taking two years off to travel to Vienna on a mission for the church.
"I was there in the fall of 1989. It was a unique time with the fall of the Berlin Wall." After that he was transferred to Zagreb, Yugoslavia, an atheist country under communist rule until the late 1980s. "I saw the first midnight mass in 45 years since WWII," he said. "I'd heard stories about what it was like to live without freedom. It was great to see the (people's) excitement not to have to worry about what they said or who they talked to."
He returned to Salt Lake to finish a bachelor's degree in political science, and in 1991, as part of his degree program, interned in the Washington, D.C. office of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
"It was the end of the Gulf War, Thurgood Marshall had retired and the Clarence Thomas - Anita Hill hearings were going on," he said. "It was a neat time to be there."
In 1992, he married Jen, a fellow student, a few weeks after graduation.
While his wife went to work for Child Protective Services, Ellis earned a master's degree in public administration from the University of Utah in 1994. He then spent just over a year as a legislative analyst for the Utah Association of Counties in Salt Lake City, tracking legislation and evaluating its fiscal impact on local government.
In 1996, he went to work as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Pfizer, Inc., first in Mesa, then the following year in Tampa, Fla., where he worked on Jeb Bush's campaign for governor.
After a promotion in 1999, Ellis moved his family - which now included a daughter - to Oro Valley. The couple now has another daughter in preschool and an infant son.
"The greatest thing in my life is my wife and kids," he said. "This opportunity will have value to them and the whole community. It's going to be a sacrifice but I feel I can do it."
In 2000, Ellis was elected Republican Precinct Committeeman for Rancho Vistoso Precinct 360 and re-elected again in 2002.
"I help register voters and increase voter turnout," he said. "It's at the grassroots level where you interact with a lot of individuals."
In 1996 and 2000, he attended the Republican National Convention in San Diego and Philadelphia. He served as a delegate in 2000 to the Arizona Republican State Convention in Phoenix for Legislative District 26, which covers Oro Valley and the surrounding area.
"Pfizer is a great career for me, but I've always had an interest in government," he said. "This is an opportunity for me to get involved and make this an even better place to live."
Family: Married 11 years, 3 children
Education: Master's in Public Administration, University of Utah; B.A. Political Science, University of Utah
Profession/Employer: Pharmaceutical Sales with Pfizer, Inc.
Lived in Arizona: 6 years
Lived in Oro Valley: 5 years
Came to Arizona from: Salt Lake City, Utah
Public offices held: Republican precinct
committeeman, 2000, 2002.
Other biographical data:
Delegate to the Arizona State Republican Party State Convention, 2000
Attended the Republican National Convention - Philadelphia, 2000, San Diego, 1996
Legislative Analyst for the Utah Association of Counties
Intern, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
Why he's running for council:
As a father of young children who attend schools in Oro Valley, ride their bikes on Oro Valley roads and play at the town parks, I want to help in being part of the solution not part of the problem. I want to be a council member who can make a difference and make the life of all residents, not just my own children, even better than it is.
Impact of Growth - Over the next decade the population is expected to grow at 7 percent annually. Members of the town council must address growth in a proactive manner not a reactive one.
Transportation - Almost all Town residents travel by driving personal vehicles and future planning must approach transportation issues with this understanding. Residents of Oro Valley deserve safe, convenient and efficient mobility.
Water Resources - Living in a desert, water issues must be addressed as both a natural resource and an essential part of the town's public services. Policies must be maintained that protect and restore creeks, washes, and promote water conservation.
Economic Development - While Oro Valley's economy currently depends on its residential and resort image, the town must continue to develop new strategies that will generate economic growth. Encouraging the development of small business will create employment opportunities while generating goods and services for local residents.