March 16, 2005 - Robert P. Condit and Debbie Schmich are Marana's Man and Woman of the Year, the Marana Chamber of Commerce announced this week.

They both were recognized at the March 15 Marana Town Council meeting for their continued dedication to the Marana community, said Ed Stolmaker, executive director the Marana chamber.

In addition to the plaques they received, the award recipients will be grand marshals in the Marana Founders Day Parade at 11 a.m. March 19.

Schmich and Condit were selected by a five-member community panel that included Marana council member Patti Comerford, Coca-Cola of Tucson's Cold Drink Manager Jay Schwartz, Police Chief Richard Vidaurri, and Marana school board Vice President Pat Teager.

Devotion to the community

Those who know Robert P. Condit best say he's been dedicated to Marana even before it became a town.

Born in Portland, Ore., Condit moved to Tucson with his family in 1956 as a teenager, and relocated to the Marana area 10 years later. Ever since, Condit, 67, has called Marana home.

"For the majority of my life, now, it's been my home," he said. "It's where I've raised my family. My children went through the Marana school system. I've met a lot of people who really pioneered the lands in this area."

Condit began working for the Cortaro Water Users Association in 1973 when it was just getting started in the domestic water business, serving about 100 customers in what's now referred to as Old Marana. The association later was reorganized as the Cortaro-Marana Irrigation District, which became the parent company of the Water Users Association.

Condit's first job was to hook up new customers and read meters, but that didn't take up all of his time. His legacy to the irrigation district includes an organized archive of its history dating back to the first well in 1919.

"There's a lot of history that goes along with the development of that, and there were a lot of records when I first went to work that were helter-skelter," he said. "Over the years, I was able to make some sense of all that and get them in files where you can find things. It's how I learned the history of the organization."

Much of the early history, and even early financial records documenting multiple bankruptcies, can be found in the many files Condit carefully archived. Those files include old photos and documentation of work done, as well as records on each of the wells in the district, many of which date back to the 1920s.

Marana Utilities Director Brad DeSpain recalls when he and Condit, along with Pat Garrett, decided the only way to protect Marana's water several years ago was to form a municipality. As a result, Marana was incorporated in 1977.

"He has been a supporter of the town of Marana even before it was a town, and really strong since," DeSpain said. "He's still active, still involved, still has input, still concerned that the town be planned right and built right, and be a place that his kids would want to come back to."

In his younger years, Condit was known for his trademark orange-red jeep, DeSpain said.

"He drove a jeep for years and years, and when you saw it coming, you knew it was him," he said. "Nobody else in Marana had a jeep like that. That was his trademark."

Condit has given much of his past 30 years to the Marana community by sitting on the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Water Advisory Committee, and regularly attending town meetings. Condit still sits on the Water Advisory Committee.

He took over as general manager of the Water Users Association in 1984 and spent the past 20 years as manager of the irrigation district before retiring in March 2003, after he experienced liver problems. Thanks to a liver transplant, Condit continues to do consulting work for the organization.

"Robert's health failed and he really stood well, and was very strong throughout that process," DeSpain said. "He's had some ups and downs, but he's a very strong person that you wouldn't know that he had any problems at all."

Until he became ill, Condit was dedicating at least 18 hours a day to working for Marana, said irrigation district Manager Sidney Smith, who worked under Condit and nominated him for the Man of the Year award.

"I don't think the town of Marana could ever have found a more loyal citizen," she said. "So much of his personal time has been dedicated to this town, to ensure that even the streets are clean. I've never seen any person so dedicated to the area where they live."

Condit and his wife, Mary Ellen, have one son living in Phoenix and a daughter who is planning to go to Indonesia as a missionary.

Dedicated volunteer

Many describe Debbie Schmich as a tireless advocate for the Marana Unified School District.

"She's what you would call the constant volunteer," said Bill Kuhn, president of the district's governing board. "There is nobody that has been more active in the schools as a parent or a volunteer than Debbie Schmich."

Kuhn said he can recall Schmich attending school board meetings for years, even before she was a board member.

"I would love to see other parents do what she and her husband, John, did before she ran for the board: Care about their children's education," he said. "She did so much volunteering in the schools. She's just been an extraordinary proponent of the schools and the town of Marana."

For nearly 20 years, Schmich has been involved with Marana schools, serving on the district's governing board for the last eight of those years. She contributes much of her time to Mountain View High School, where her three sons attended.

"One of the biggest things I enjoyed when I was on the school board was the opportunity to visit the classes and the schools," Schmich said. "Just seeing all the bright smiling faces, that brings me joy."

She recently was named vice president of the Marana Foundation for Educational Excellence, and still puts on the monthly breakfast for parents and staff members at Mountain View, where she is a member of the Parent Resource Organization.

"She's very involved in everything that Mountain View stands for," said Principal Richard Faidley.

Faidley said Schmich had been involved at the school before he arrived in 1997, and every year she spends countless hours creating a scrapbook of the school's history.

"She hasn't stopped her service to kids in any regard," he said. "She's been continuing to keep the scrapbooks up even after her role as a board member."

Kuhn said Schmich's departure from the board following the November election was a great loss to the district.

"I miss her feeling for the students and I miss her understanding of the different organizations," he said. "She'd be the person I would talk to on anything to do with PTOs, booster clubs, and books. I would always ask her opinion and she was always able to keep me informed."

When it came to making sure that parent-teacher organizations and various school clubs were in compliance with state regulations, Schmich was very involved in checking the books, Kuhn said.

"I personally miss her on the board - I miss her input, I miss her insight, and I miss the way she was able to bring comments from parents and teachers to me," Kuhn said.

If there ever is anything Mountain View needs help with, Schmich is always willing to help, Faidley said.

"Those type of special people don't come along very often, and she is a truly special person," he said. "She goes above and beyond what would be expected to make sure the school environment is the best it can be for all students."

Schmich, 52, moved to the Tucson area 20 years ago with her husband John, and said the Marana community has meant everything to her. She said she shopped for the school district that would benefit her children most and found Marana.

"I surveyed all the pros and cons and I chose Marana," she said. "I was always pleased with their standards and how well the schools performed. All three of my boys got an excellent education."

Schmich was selected by the Marana Foundation for Educational Excellence as one of its 2004 MUSD Heroes.

She works as a secretary for a tax preparation firm in Tucson. Even during a busy tax season, Schmich makes the extra effort to volunteer as much of her time as she can.

"I truly enjoy volunteering up at Mountain View," she said. "It's a lot of work, but I truly enjoy doing it."

Her son Brandon is a warrant officer currently stationed in Iraq. Her youngest son, Brenton, is attending Pima Community College. Her son Brodie died about two years ago, but left her two grandchildren. They now attend Quail Run Elementary School.

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