It’s not too late to meet Marana Town Council candidates face to face before deciding how to cast your vote in the March 10 primary election.
The Marana Chamber of Commerce will hold forums in February to allow candidates to communicate their priorities and answer residents’ questions.
The remaining two forums will take place 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, at Rattlesnake Ridge Elementary School and 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, at a chamber luncheon at Oasis at Wild Horse Ranch.
In the meantime, here’s a look at the race’s four incumbents and three challengers.
From Kelle Maslyn’s perspective, Marana’s issue that trumps all others is town growth.
Maslyn, who spent four years as director of the Marana Chamber of Commerce, said the town needs to focus on creating high-wage job centers to diversify Marana’s economic base. One prime location, she said, is the area near the Marana Regional Airport.
“It’s close to the freeway and train tracks,” she said. “People could live there and work in Marana.”
Maslyn, 42, has lived in Marana two years and has worked in the town for 10. She works in public, government, media and community relations at Comcast, and she has chaired the Economic Advisory Commission.
“On the commission, we have been looking at additional ways to stimulate the economy, such as a Shop Marana campaign,” she said. “I think the town needs to hire an economic development director.”
Maslyn said if elected to the council she would bring a fresh perspective.
“I have experience working with the town for 10 years but also bring a fresh set of eyes to what the town is working on,” she said.
Issues of importance to her include housing choices — “not just single-family homes with big backyards” — and recreation and open space.
“I think one of the reasons people move to Marana is the availability of parks for families and also the spectacular open spaces that surround us,” she said.
Larry Steckler moved to Marana from Las Vegas four years ago.
He watched Las Vegas traffic increase, classrooms grow scarce and the city’s quality of life worsen due to rapid population growth.
That experience, he said, is precisely why he’s running for council.
“I really feel the town is in a critical state in its development,” he said. “I have lived in other towns and cities that have gone through rapid growth and have seen them destroy themselves. The infrastructure did not keep up with the growth. I admire growth, but if it’s not controlled, the people who live here will suffer.”
Steckler, 75, said he has fresh ideas that will help Marana grow wisely, such as laying an empty pipe each time electrical lines or sewer pipes go in underground — one that can be used in the future when a new service comes along.
New streams of income such as this are important, he said, because the economy and increased Internet shopping are hurting sales tax revenue.
“These things require a change in philosophy and approach, because otherwise we’re going to lose the traditional income,” he said.
Steckler works as a real estate agent for Long Realty in Dove Mountain. His lack of big business interests in the town will keep him from having conflicts of interest as a councilman, he said.
“Other than the house I live in and a rental property, I have no property interest in this town, unlike some of the other council members, who have extensive property interest,” he said.
If Brett Summers were elected to town council, he said he would use his position to lobby business leaders to relocate to Marana.
Summers, a 36-year-old retired police officer, said he has wished for years that the council would take full advantage of opportunities to sell companies on Marana. He pointed to the Accenture world golf championships as an example.
“This event brings CEOs from all over the country, and international businesses,” he said. “They have this window to take care of this opportunity.”
Summers has lived in Marana for eight years and in the Northwest for 21. He retired from the police force after receiving an injury during duty. He is finishing a master’s degree in business and has an undergraduate degree in public administration. He also teaches traffic school and does contract investigation work for the federal government.
In addition, he’s president of the Hartman Vistas Home Owners Association.
Summers, who also ran in the last council election, said Marana needs younger leadership and a greater diversity of perspectives than it has.
“We’re not all farmers anymore, even though they bring excellent things to the table, too,” he said.
In addition to attracting more high-wage jobs to Marana — “I believe we have the candidate pool to fill jobs in the optics and biotech industries, for example” — Summers said if elected he would focus on water and transportation issues.
Marana is facing a tough economy, which is why Jon Post said people should elect him.
The longtime Marana business owner, who took a seat on the council last February when Tim Escobedo stepped down, said the town needs someone who “can cope with a situation in which we have to work hard for what we get.”
“After putting my business together for the last 19 years, I know exactly what it takes to survive and make good decisions without having to struggle hard to know which way to go,” he said.
Post, 39, has lived in Marana all his life. He has served as the president of the Marana Junior Rodeo Association and the chairman of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, and he’s on the boards of directors for the Cortaro Water Users Association, the Cortaro Marana Irrigation District and Trico Electric Cooperative.
He’s also helped to put on Marana Founders Day celebrations and town Fourth of July events.
“You should vote for me because not only do I have your interest in mind, but also my own,” he said. “My businesses are here, my home is here, my children are here, and I want my children to stay here. I want to spend my time on the council making sure that everybody benefits from Marana and what a great place it is to live in.”
Post said his priorities include securing water rights for the town.
“If we don’t have that, we’re not going to be able to grow at all,” he said.
With Marana’s tight economy, Herb Kai said he believes the key to progress is preparing for a brighter future.
There are roads to be built and water and sewer lines to be laid. This is the time, he said, to make commercial property “shovel-ready.”
“While everyone’s hunkered down and not doing much, we should use the time to plan and implement infrastructure for these companies that will make a comeback eventually,” he said.
Kai, 61, has seen much growth in Marana during his 16 years on the council. Born and raised in the town, he’s seen even more during his lifetime.
A longtime cotton farmer and pecan rancher, Kai said he has a business sense that can help usher Marana through tight economic times.
“Being in business all these years and managing the family operations and properties, you get a real frugal business sense that I can apply to running the town,” he said.
Kai said not only good-quality jobs but also good schools will help keep people in Marana.
“That’s one of the first things people ask — how are your schools?” he said. “I think the town needs to cooperate with school systems.”
Kai, who has served on the boards of the Cortaro-Marana Irrigation District and the Southern Arizona Water Users Association, also said water issues matter to him.
Patti Comerford’s vision for Marana is of a largely self-sustaining community that can plan its own destiny and make its own choices and decisions.
And that, she said, is going to require that the town win a lawsuit that will give it control of its wastewater.
“Our water resources are going to be really important to the future,” she said. “It’s going to take a strong council to stand up to the county. We keep winning this lawsuit, and they keep appealing it at taxpayers’ expense.”
Comerford, 49, has lived in Marana for 16 years. She has served on the council for eight.
Before being elected to council, she served for seven years as chair of the Marana Planning and Zoning Commission. She worked for 10 years in law enforcement and has a degree in parks and recreation. She was a founding member of the Continental Ranch Little League, and she served on a bond committee that played a big part in building Coyote Trails Elementary and Picture Rocks Intermediate schools.
These days, she runs the career center at Marana High School.
Comerford said her experience with the town puts her in a good place to help take the town’s budget into the future.
“I have an understanding of where our absolute needs are and of areas where we can hold off for now,” she said.
Other issues she brought up as important are maintaining public safety and making good budgeting choices.
Ask Carol McGorray why she’s running for re-election to town council, and she’ll say, “Because my job’s not finished.”
McGorray, who has served on the council for eight years, said she wants to be around to help Marana “have a stable economy and be self-sustaining for water and sewer.”
“My vision really is to make Marana the jewel of Pima County with good leadership, transportation, education, health care and well-planned neighborhoods with open space,” she said. “We have this wonderful desert here. We need to maintain it and plan it well.”
McGorray, who declined to give her age, has lived in Marana for 11 years and lived near Marana for 32.
She said she’d like to see institutions of higher learning, such as Pima Community College and University of Arizona, have a presence in the town so people who want to return to school or commute to school after high school won’t have such a long drive.
“There have been talks, and they’re thinking about it for the future,” she said.
McGorray also advocates for health care as a board member of Marana Health Center.
“They want to see good health care for everybody, no matter what they have, without traveling to St. Mary’s,” she said. “And that includes prevention.”
In addition to holding these leadership roles in the town, McGorray serves as board chairwoman for Marana Food Bank.
How the election works
When seven candidates vie for four seats in the Marana Town Council’s upcoming election, how will the winners be determined?
That depends on what percentage of the vote they each win.
In the primary election on March 10, all seven candidates will appear on the ballot. Any who get more than 50 percent of the vote automatically will win seats on the council.
The general election on May 19 determines who will fill the remaining seats, but some candidates’ names may not appear on that ballot.
No more than two people can compete for an open seat. That means if three candidates are elected during the primary, only two of the remaining four — the ones with the most votes — will compete for the one remaining seat.
If two are elected during the primary, then that will leave two seats open during the general election, and the four remaining candidates with the most votes will compete for those.
If one person is elected in the primary, the remaining six will vie for three seats in the general election. Likewise, if none are elected, all seven candidates’ names will appear on the ballot in the general election.
Voter registration closes on Feb. 9 for the primary election and April 20 for the general election.