Nearly three uninterrupted decades at the helm of town council has done little to dull Marana Mayor Ed Honea’s passion for local government and the people in his community.
If anything, he’s grown to love the job more over the years.
“I don’t do it for the money,” Honea said, with a laugh. “You’re not going to get rich doing it. I love people and am a very gregarious individual and I speak in churches, in schools, senior centers and enjoy every minute of it.”
Honea’s first stint on the council began back in 1977, his second in 1981 and he’s sat on the dais since winning the top spot in 1991. This year, he is running uncontested.
A longtime politico, Honea said he first became interested in politics in 1964 when Barry Goldwater made a run for the Oval Office. Honea was a junior at Marana High School.
“I still remember the sign, ‘AUH2O for ’64—Goldwater for President,’ and I was so enamored with the idea that somebody from Arizona was running for office,” Honea said. “I got interested in politics as a 16 year old, and always maintained that interest.”
Honea graduated in 1965 and spent a year at the University of Arizona before Uncle Sam shipped him off to Vietnam. A member of the United States Naval Construction Battalions (or Seabees), Honea served until 1969 as an equipment operator. After returning stateside he met his wife, started a family and began work with Tucson Gas and Electric.
It wasn’t long before Honea moved back to Marana, a place that nearly goes hand-in-hand with the family name. A third-generation resident, Honea’s father, Ray, developed and built the region’s first neighborhood—Honea Heights.
Honea even helped pass out petitions to incorporate the community in 1977.
“I got involved because I wanted to have something to say about the destiny of the community,” he said.
The town (and surrounding region) have changed a great deal since the ’70s, though Honea has remained committed to the community he’s called home.
Nowadays, Honea said the town is facing a handful of problems at once: the spread of COVID-19, budget crises amid lost revenue, civil unrest after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, though he is confident in the council’s experience and ability to lead the community through challenging times.
Aside from the surprise headlines of 2020, Honea and the rest of council are still busy managing the town’s growth and use of water resources, attracting employers to Marana and maintaining community services.
While the work often falls on the shoulders of council members, Honea said the community has maintained its small town feel thanks to the caring nature of its residents.
“It just seems like we have a different feel about each other,” he said. “Even with some of the things going on today—with all the rioting and the things going on after the horrible death of George Floyd—we don’t really have that kind of stuff in Marana because people—it doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, red, yellow or brown—old our young, rich or poor, we all live in the same neighborhoods. We’re very integrated, and I am very proud of that. We all live together in peace and harmony. I just love this community.”
Honea may be running uncontested in this year’s election for the mayor’s seat, though he is endorsing fellow incumbents Roxanne Ziegler and Dave Bowen.
“With all the things going on right now—with COVID, with businesses being shut down, we’re currently working on our budget and trying to cut corners everywhere we can because we’re not going to have as much money—I think it’s really vitally important to have individuals that understand all aspects of the community. I think [the incumbents] just have the bigger scope,” he said.