Proud of Oro Valley's growth, incumbent town council member Dick Johnson wants to add another two years to his six and a half years of service.
"I still have some things to accomplish," he said. "I want to secure open space, preserve Steam Pump Ranch and grow the retail sales tax base. We have attractive demographics, including income, growth and the need for retail."
The 64-year-old retired Air Force lieutenant colonel has served on the Oro Valley Town Council since 1997, when that body appointed him to fill the remaining three years of a vacated seat. He has served as vice mayor several times and was mayor for a few months in 1998, when the council ousted then Mayor Cheryl Skalsky. He was elected to his current term in 2000.
Three local issues that rise to the top for the candidate are the preservation of open space, council-citizen communication and providing a tax base for the town.
"The need to secure open space is absolutely critical," he said. "People think I want to plow everything under and so on." Not true, he said.
In fact, he'd like to preserve the area east of Oracle Road. "We can't let it turn into La Reserve with houses going halfway up the hillside, that's unacceptable to me."
He believes The Land Conservation Committee, an ad-hoc group, can develop a strategy to obtain open space. "That group can function a lot more effectively than some bureaucratic committee we appoint by council," he said.
Johnson is also looking to the Pima County bond election in May to help preserve open space and historic sites. The candidate said Oro Valley is seeking an extra $3 million from Pima County's bond package to help the town secure 28 acres north of the Naranja Townsite, which would serve as buffer between housing developments surrounding the future park.
"Imagine an amphitheater with a symphony playing and sun setting on the mountains," he said. He envisions trails, community and aquatic centers and ball fields at the site, possibly paid for by a secondary property tax.
"If voters want it, it will cost less than a Big Mac a week," he said.
Johnson said he'd like to resurrect the town page that once appeared in the Northwest EXPLORER as a method for citizens to communicate with the council.
"I think the town does a poor job of informing the public," he said. "We need to be out front, framing the issues. We need to take a look at what's being said and what are the facts. That's a challenge for the town."
On the controversy over the Beztak development at Lambert Lane and La Canada Drive, for example, the candidate said he regrets that the council didn't have the legal issues resolved earlier. The town consulted a Phoenix land-use lawyer to determine development rights on the property.
"I didn't want apartments, but they had the right to build them," he said. "Some people say I'm in the developers' pockets. I reject that." "I voted for development to proceed because it's the right thing and the legal thing."
Johnson, who's lived in Oro Valley since 1992, predicts the town will be built out in 10 years.
"We need revenue sources, contrary to what anybody says," he said. "If we don't have a retail sales base that grows, we'll have no other option but a property tax, or a cut in services.
"It takes money to run a city. Property taxes are deductible on state and federal income tax for those who itemize and have mortgages," he said.
Johnson said the Air Force helped him develop leadership, management and budgets skills, all of which make him an effective council member.
"I'm also passionate about issues, emotional, but sensitive to what others are saying," he said. "Any number of times, I've sat down with people and asked what are the differences that separate us?"
He said he currently devotes about 25 to 30 hours a week to town business. He doesn't attend many planning and zoning or development review board meetings, but spends more time working with constituent groups. He represents the town at the National League of Cities and Towns.
Would he consider running in the mayoral election in two years?
"If Paul Loomis doesn't run again, I'll consider it," he said. "My wife didn't want me to run at all. But I think I have something to give."
Johnson, a moderate Republican, gives the current council a grade of B+ for its performance during the past two years. He ticked off the new hospital, the library, truck tarps and road projects, the arts and a growing retail sales base produced by annexation.
"We've been good stewards, I believe," he said. "I go out and talk to soccer moms and ask how they like living here. This is a great experience for them. They think this is a great community."
Johnson was born in Omaha, Neb., and raised in Monroe, Wash., outside of Seattle. His dad was an accountant, his mother a housewife. At the local high school, he was president of the honor society and the student union.
In 1962, he graduated from Washington State University with a bachelor of arts in business administration and then went on to officer's training school at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
His first assignment brought him to Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson as a supply officer. He was later selected for missile training and became a Titan II operations officer on a missile crew in Green Valley.
"These were large intercontinental ballistic missiles used during the Cold War as a deterrent to war with Russia," he said. "I was with a missile combat crew. We had our fingers on the key. It was an awesome responsibility for a young captain."
In 1976, he earned a master of arts degree in human relations with a major in public administration from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley while stationed at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo. He also headed a Titan II Training School at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, before being reassigned to Davis-Monthan in 1983, when the military retired the Titan
After leaving the service, Johnson worked as business manager for a local firm, went to the University of Arizona for a few years to manage a program in solar research and sold real estate for several years. After the collapse of the Baby Bells, he got into the telecommunications business, representing a number of long-distance companies before turning his energies to politics. For 39 years, Johnson has been married to Roxy, an Oro Valley native whose parents homesteaded La Cholla Boulevard and Moore Road in 1929. "My wife's family cleared La Cholla of brush so the county could come in and grade it," he said.
Roxy teaches culinary arts at Mountain View High School in Marana.
The couple has two adult daughters.
The candidate is a 23-year member of the Sunrise Rotary Club and serves on the boards of the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona and the Metro Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, and on the finance committee of the Greater Tucson Economic Council and the DM 50, a group to preserve Davis Monthan Air Force Base. He is also active with the development committee to help build St. Marks Catholic Church in Oro Valley.
Family: Married 39 years, 2 adult daughters
Education: B.A. in Business Administration with major in accounting from Washington State University, M.A. in Human Relations with major in public administration from University of Northern Colorado
Profession/Employer: Retired USAF officer
Lived in Arizona: 24 years
Lived in Oro Valley: 10 years
Came to Arizona from: Monroe, Wash.
Public offices held: OV council member
Other biographical data:
Wife's parents homesteaded at
La Cholla and Moore in 1929
Tucson United Way Board of Directors
Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau
Board of Directors
Greater Tucson Economic Council Finance Committee
DM-50 member - whose mission is to retain
Sunrise Rotary Club, member
St. Mark's Catholic Church, member
Why he's running for council:
I have enjoyed my tenure on the council and have felt I have contributed to the overall quality of life of this community through visionary action and not just talk. The library, parks, walkways, roads, school related enhancements, and growth of our arts and cultural identification are areas that I am proud to have played a part in developing in our community. There is still work to be done and I wish to continue to commit my energies and experience to ensuring we finish what we have started.
1) Secure open space within the community, especially along the east side of Oracle and north of Sun City. 2) Preserve Steampump Historical area. 3) Enhance our retail sales tax base with high quality stores and restaurants. 4) Expand our library. 5) Build our large park at the Naranja Town Center. 6) Expand our cultural activities. 7) Work with the school district on solving issues of mutual concern. 8) Actively engage in the development of regional transportation solutions. 9) Continue water conservation and alternative supplies to preserve our ground water.