Alfred J. Kunisch, a veteran of multiple Oro Valley volunteer posts and committees, is seeking a four-year term on the Town Council because he believes he can get things done.
The retired gas company manager from suburban Chicago first got involved in civic affairs a few years back when he and other Rancho Vistoso neighbors realized that through traffic from Moore Road was a danger to children playing in an adjacent park.
"I said we've got to do something about this road, it's really terrible," he said. "I went to the council and the answer I got was that roads were meant to be traveled on."
The town put in crosswalks and stop signs, but over the next six months, the traffic doubled to about 1,100 cars a day.
"As more houses were being built there, there were more people," said the 65-year-old Kunisch.
One and a half years later, the town gated the road and closed it to traffic. "People said you can't do anything because it's a Planned Area Development. But we did it."
Kunisch and his wife Pamela retired in Tucson in 1993. "My wife liked Arizona and read Arizona Highways in the third grade," he said. "
The couple bought a house in the foothills near River and Swan roads. But the area was noisy and crime ridden. After a drug bust and shootout nearby, his wife told him, "That's it, we're moving."
They bought a house in Rancho Vistoso in 1995. "There was nothing here," he said. "It was peaceful and quiet." Except for a brief move to Washington state, they've lived in the area ever since.
"I don't think you can ask for any better place to live than Oro Valley." At the same time, he said, he's watched the area grow and has observed the same "poor planning" that created the traffic problem in his subdivision.
"First and Oracle is horrendous. Every day there's an accident there," he said.
He should know. As a volunteer with the Oro Valley Police Department's Citizens Volunteer Assistants Patrol, Kunisch has spent many hours monitoring Oracle Road at Pusch View Lane, where unlucky drivers stuck behind long lines of traffic try to maneuver their way out and end up in fender benders or worse. The candidate has donated 1,500 to 1,600 hours of service to the patrol, which he has co-directed since 2001.
"We need to look at road design before development comes in, not after," he said. "We should be looking at future areas of concern - we know the hospital coming in and the shopping center at Tangerine and Oracle. We should be looking at those areas now."
Another area of concern to Kunisch is historic preservation, one of his three main campaign issues, along with thoughtful growth and expanded recreational opportunities.
"Historic preservation is a problem we have to address," he said. "We have to secure these sites. Otherwise, they're gone."
In 2002, he and Dick Eggerding co-founded The Land Conservation Committee, a grass- roots effort to preserve Oro Valley's few remaining historical sites, including Steam Pump Ranch and the prehistoric Hohokam village at Honey Bee Canyon. In a year's time, the group, which Kunisch now chairs, has begun to develop a brochure and has secured a seed-money grant.
"Now we have to get people interested in saving these sites," he said. "What's so unique about Arizona is that we have the opportunity to save some of this for future generations."
Kunisch believes in property rights, and advocates saving historic places and open space by working with property owners or buying special properties outright.
The candidate hates the idea of losing pristine desert to unfettered development, but favors amenities like good restaurants and retail shops, perhaps a mall with a Nordstroms and a Dillards.
"Why not have a La Encantada here? It would provide tax revenue and jobs," he said. "We have the people here to support it."
What he doesn't want is a property tax. "I don't think we need it if we get nice retail," he said.
He supports keeping the Catalina Foothills along the eastern side of Oracle Road free of development, promoting horseback and bike riding and hiking instead.
In those areas that are developed, he'd like to see it done thoughtfully, with one-story homes that won't obstruct views of the mountains. "I don't like to see houses packed on top of each other with only a 5- or 10-foot backyards."
Kunisch, a registered Republican, wants more and bigger parks with greater recreational opportunities for people of all ages. "Naranja Townsite would be a good way to go, but we have to get that funded somehow."
The candidate promises to give the job whatever time it takes. He already gives more than 60 hours a month as a town volunteer, and has regularly attended council meetings for the past two years.
"I'm very committed to the people of the town and I think I've proven that with the volunteer patrol, and the DRB," he said. "I'm committed to making this town the best we can make it."
He rates the council's performance for the past two years as a B-. "They made some decisions that were not popular," he said. "But in some cases - like Beztak - they didn't have much choice."
The site at La Canada Drive and Lambert Lane had 20-year-old zoning that allowed developer Beztak's proposed plan for mixed residential and commercial development, despite strong neighborhood opposition. After hearing two legal opinions, the council approved the development plan in August.
Kunisch was born and raised outside of Chicago in the suburban town of Des Plaines, Ill. His grandfather, a barber who also set bones, cupped leeches and delivered babies, had immigrated there in 1880 from Germany. His father was an engineer with International Harvester.
After attending the local high school, he went to work as a meter reader for what was then Northern Illinois Gas Company. Between 1959 and 1965, he served four years in the Reserves and two years on active duty with an antisubmarine squadron in the U.S. Navy in Seattle, Whidby Island and Adak, Alaska, where he worked in intelligence and communications during the period of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He left active duty as a petty officer 3rd Class just before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the ensuing Vietnam War conflict.
In 1961, on a blind date, Kunisch met his wife, who was from nearby Glenview. The couple married in 1964 and had two sons, one in 1966 and one in 1970.
The candidate had a 36-year career at the gas company, rising through the ranks to middle management, where he oversaw 75 employees in the customer service department. He was also responsible for review of state and federal codes, standards and operating procedures. In 1983-84, he went to night school at Illinois Benedictine College in Lisle, Ill. earning an associates degree in management through its business school.
The candidate graduated from the Oro Valley Citizens Police Academy in 2000 and the Citizens Planning Institute in 2001. He served on the town's General Plan Steering Committee for two years and for almost three years on the council-appointed Development Review Board, the town's advisory body on development design. He is also involved with the Community Emergency Response Team Training (Homeland Security) and is a member of the Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce, the Oro Valley Optimist Club and Capital Improvement Plan.
Family: Married, 2 sons
Education: Associate Degree; Illinois Benedictine College
Profession/Employer: Retired - Northern Illinois Gas Co.
Lived in Arizona: 11 years
Lived in Oro Valley: 9 years
Came to Arizona from: Illinois
Public offices held: None
Other biographical data:
Co-director, Citizens Volunteer Assistants Patrol
Member, Oro Valley Development Review Board
Chair and Co-Founder, The Land Conservation Committee
Member, Northern Pima County Chamber of Commerce
Member, Oro Valley Optimist Club
Member, 2002 Capital Improvement Plan Oro Valley
Graduate, 2001 Citizens Planning Institute Oro Valley
Graduate, 2000 Citizens Police Academy Oro Valley
Graduate, Golder Ranch Fire Department's Community Emergency Response Team Training-Homeland Security
Why he's running for council:
I have a proven commitment to the people of Oro Valley. Through my volunteer activities, I have become aware of the many challenges of Oro Valley and its citizens. I believe as a council member I will be in a better position to meet the needs of the people of Oro Valley.
Effective police protection
Improved traffic flow
Recreational facilities for all ages
Safe Community for all ages