City/Town Born: Abington, Pennsylvania
Siblings: One younger Sister
Significant Other and Children: Wife Darlene and two daughters Abbey and Jennifer
Education: BA Communications Temple University; MS Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs Temple University; Post Masters Public Safety Saint Joseph’s University
Job History: Currently employed as a Patient Recruitment Manager for a major pharmaceutical company
Volunteer Experience: Wildland Firefighter (PA), Firefighter II (PA), Emergency Medical Technician (PA and AZ), Assistant Chief and Training Coordinator for ambulance squad (PA), Heavy rescue squad crew chief (PA), Wilderness search and rescue team member (PA), Past member of the Pima County Wastewater Commission (AZ).
How long have you lived in Oro Valley, and why did you move here?
I have lived in Oro Valley for over 14 years. I moved to Arizona due to a job transfer with my employer of over 25 years. Like many, my family and I fell in love with the desert beauty and small town charm.
What do you appreciate about the community?
Oro Valley has a unique charm with a great location and stunning mountain views. The road infrastructure enables an easy commute to most destinations within the greater Tucson area. Having the name “The Valley of Gold” suits the Town well as its history and engaged citizens make the community a special place. Those magnificent mountain sunsets are not bad either!
Explain the circumstances which led to you running for town council again.
I am running to represent the people of Oro Valley and allow their voices to be heard again. I’ve observed that many of the same issues that have plagued our community—inciting recalls and contentious meetings—never get solved. It reminds me of an old wound that never heals. I have watched as many unique and special projects—some that I personally worked on—literally evaporated before my eyes when changes were approved to increase density and the new General Plan was approved. I wanted to get involved when I saw citizen’s committees disappear one by one and the merging of other committees and commissions. I want to bring Oro Valley back to the intent of the founding fathers.
Why do you believe now is the right time for you to make another run for council?
I don’t believe running for office should be looked at as a right or wrong time. A decision by a person—whether an incumbent or a challenger—should never be taken lightly. It takes great sacrifice in both a person’s professional and personal life to be the one who says: “I think I would like to serve my community and make a run for Oro Valley Town Council.” So regarding my intention to run for council again in 2020: this is a decision that I contemplated over several months. And after many supporters jumped in to say they would help with my campaign, I am back on the trail once again. I am honored by the support I’ve received so far and all of the assistance I obtained while collecting nomination petition signatures. I want to thank all of those Oro Valley citizens that continue to believe in our democratic process and enabled my name to appear on their ballot for the Aug. 4 Primary Election.
Why did you apply for a spot on the Marana Town Council in 2018?
I lived in Marana at the time of the sudden passing of Councilmember Carol McGorray—whom I had known personally from my years of serving on the Oro Valley Council. Carol had served the Marana community for over 17 years and, as such, I felt a duty to assist when there was a call for applicants to fill the remainder of her term. I jumped at the opportunity, knowing that my eight years of experience on the Oro Valley Council would enable me to provide knowledge and expertise on day one. I never planned to run for the Marana Council. Rather, my intent was to enable those who wanted to run for the next full term to experience an uninterrupted campaign while I filled in to allow the normal council business to continue.
What have you been up to since leaving the council in 2016?
I was appointed to serve as a member of the Pima County Wastewater Commission to serve for a vacancy that came up. I have continued to stay connected to Oro Valley by participating in Oro Valley Town Meetings on-line as well as staying in touch with friends and neighbors in regards to Oro Valley happenings. In addition I have been busy attending both of my daughter’s sports activities and traveling out of state to attend various tournaments in support of their club teams. My wife and I have been also taking a few vacations to places on our bucket list as well as several cruises on the West Coast and Mexico.
Why should residents vote for you?
I am a candidate with a proven track record of being a voice for the people of Oro Valley. Previously serving on the Oro Valley Town Council for a total of eight years, I understand what it takes to be a sitting member of council. I am not afraid to ask the difficult questions and I take an evidence-based approach to all decisions. I have never accepted campaign donations from developers or special interest PACs. This can be verified by reviewing my past and current campaign finance reports. I feel that allowing only the citizens of Oro Valley the opportunity to contribute to my campaign provides a fully transparent and non-biased approach when making decisions on council.
I am also the only candidate that served on Town Council during the housing crisis in 2008 and assisted the town in navigating a potential disaster caused by the collapse in the nation’s economy.
I have always believed in giving back to my community and have served in a variety of paid and volunteer capacities both in Arizona as well as on the East Coast. Some of my service record includes being a volunteer Fire Fighter, Emergency Medical Technician, Heavy Rescue Crew Chief, Search and Rescue team member and Emergency Management Director. In addition, I have a BA in Communications, MS in Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs and a post master’s degree in Public Safety.
What goals do you hope to accomplish as a council member?
I am a strong advocate of signature events hosted by the Town of Oro Valley, such as competitive swimming meets, Professional Soccer, Triathlon and Duathlon Festival, Second Saturdays, live music concerts at Steam Pump Ranch and craft fairs at Oro Valley Marketplace. I will continue to promote these events and seek new opportunities to bring revenue into the town. I believe we must also support our small business owners during these difficult times—promoting Oro Valley as a unique community to live, work and play; one that provides the chance for business owners to live and flourish—knowing that the town supports their efforts.
I will support the efforts of the Town’s economic development department to bring new businesses to town and will work with the Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce to support our existing small businesses. We must promote a revitalization to bring an expansion to both commercial and retail space. I support the innovation and unique opportunities presented for the Oro Valley Marketplace. I would also like to evaluate opportunities to form public private partnerships in areas such as parks and recreation, economic development and the higher education system.
What are Oro Valley’s greatest strengths and how would you maintain them?
I believe the residents of Oro Valley are the greatest strength we have in our community. Since moving to the town in 2004, I have been impressed with the level of support by residents who donate their time in support of Town operations.
This valuable asset should never be taken for granted and I will continually seek talented individuals to join boards and commissions in their area of expertise. One way I engaged with residents while previously serving on council was to conduct what I called “Council on Your Corner” meet and greets throughout the town. When elected, I will resume these meetings to speak directly with constituents about the town’s business and listen to their ideas.
I would also endorse providing residents the opportunity to look inside the workings of the town budget. One such way would be through a program called Open Books which is used by the State of Arizona, Pima County and numerous other towns and counties within the state. This allows residents to view spending on a real time basis and track where tax dollars are being spent. I will also engage with the various HOA’s within Oro Valley and make myself available to speak and address questions at HOA meetings.
What are Oro Valley’s weaknesses and how would you alter and/or improve them?
We need to change developers’ expectations that every application submitted to the town will be approved without question. Under the previous administration, there was a pattern of rezoning parcels of land to allow clustered development of houses on small dense lots. This pattern has allowed for what I see as an overabundance of small lot housing that adds traffic congestion and stresses our Town services.
I have also seen a pattern of amendments to the voter approved General Plan, a town document that must be updated and ratified every ten years. A General Plan is supposed to be the road map of the future and should be adhered to unless there is some type of overarching reason for it to be amended.
Despite the desire for additional sales tax revenue to support town services and amenities, the town also continues to rezone needed commercially zoned land for residential use. We need to stop listening to the applicant’s canned arguments that a particular location is no longer commercially viable. We must require the applicant to present facts in order to change a land designation from commercial to residential.
We also need to enhance and maintain our parks and recreational assets. I have watched as Steam Pump Ranch and Naranja Park have taken a back seat to much needed improvements and amenities. We need to fully engage all stakeholders to explore true public private partnerships to allow for cost sharing, as well as acquisitions that will continually provide a high quality parks and recreation experience.
If elected, what steps would you take to maintain or improve the town’s financial position?
At the June 10, 2020 Budget and Finance Commission meeting, the Town’s Financial Director advised the Commission of the need for a structurally balanced budget. "...to the extent that your ongoing expenses outpace your ongoing revenues, that's a problem." I believe this is an indication that the town needs to evaluate future expenditures and ways to budget smarter.
Currently, the town enjoys a healthy cash reserve fund. However, as this fund is drawn down for emergency cases and unplanned events such as the recent pandemic, the need for a structurally balanced budget becomes even more important. The town should adopt a formal policy calling for structural balance of the budget where recurring revenues equal or exceed recurring expenditures. The budget presentations should also identify how the recurring revenues are aligned with—or not aligned with—recurring expenditures.
For a variety of reasons, true structural balance may not be possible for a limited time. In such a case, using reserves to balance the budget may be considered—but only in the context of a plan to return to structural balance, replenish the fund balance, and ultimately remediate the negative impacts of any other short-term balancing actions that may be taken. Further, the plan should be clear about the time period for returning to structural balance, replenishing reserves, and remediating the negative impacts of balancing actions.
What do you believe the role of the General Plan is in relation to the work of the town council, and when (if ever) should it be amended?
The Town of Oro Valley’s General Plan was voted on by the citizens of Oro Valley on November 8, 2016. It is essentially a community’s “blueprint” for land use and development. It serves as the basis for rational decisions regarding a community’s long-term development. The policies and programs of the general plan are intended to underlie most land use decisions.
While it may be amended through the town’s legally acceptable amendment process, I find that developers continually seek to modify it without regard for the town’s economic development plan. When elected to council, I will ask the tough questions and carefully evaluate all requests to determine if they will enhance or adhere to the General Plan guiding principles.
Recently we have been too eager to allow a landowner to amend the plan with multiple land use options—thus allowing construction of various options such as senior living, apartments, casita rentals or single-family homes. This gives no closure to the individuals impacted by this amendment as they are unaware what will be built next to them in the future. This is a sloppy alternative to sticking with one goal and allowing residents to understand the full picture of the proposal.
I encourage everyone to become informed on the two General Plan Amendments in this election cycle. Both are going through a modified neighborhood meeting process to seek community input: the former Vistoso Golf Course in Rancho Vistoso and the Southeast corner of Tangerine Road and First Avenue.
How would you foster economic development and job growth within the community, and what kind of jobs do you think Oro Valley needs?
Economic development is the engine that drives our community and provides our exceptional public safety and town services. The 2016 General Plan set the foundation to guide Oro Valley in setting priorities to ensure long-term financial sustainability. The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) further enables the town to achieve that goal.
I am an advocate for jobs in the high tech and biotech industries—especially at Innovation Park. This location serves as the home to many technology sector employers such as Oro Valley Hospital, Tucson Orthopedic Institute, Icagen, Roche, Meggitt Securaplane and other top professional companies. In addition, the University of Arizona is constructing an Incubator start-up—UA Center for Innovation at Oro Valley that will provide much needed laboratory and office space for small innovators.
I’d like to further increase our high tech job growth by expanding into unexplored markets such as film and digital media, higher education, semiconductor and software. We must think “out of the box” to evolve and grow with the ever-changing needs of innovation and technology.
Another option to enhance economic development is through tourism. During my previous time on council, I strongly advocated for town hosted signature events as a means to increase town revenue and support our restaurants, hotels and retail establishments. I support the town’s economic development department and the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce in promoting Oro Valley as a unique destination that provides opportunities for business owners to live and flourish.
How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in the town?
Oro Valley currently has many policies in place that actively engage our citizens in such matters as planning and zoning issues, volunteer boards and commissions and the General Plan revision process. Prior to 2018, I was concerned with the elimination of several citizen centric boards and commissions. While some suggested this action would bring more efficiency and speed to decision making, in my opinion it just added up to a lack of transparency. I was pleased to see the Winfield council re-established them as they bring a fresh set of eyes to town business.
The residents of our community have many skills and talents whether they are employed or enjoying retirement. I have met many residents that want to volunteer to help the town and their community. We need to continually look for areas where these citizens can play an integral role in assisting town staff and council in the best course of action for issues impacting Oro Valley residents. For example, I highly recommend the creation of an actuary committee to monitor the town’s self-funded employee health care model that was adopted several years ago. We could benefit from a citizen centric oversight of the employee health plan which is paid for by residents and employees.
What do you believe should be done with the former Vistoso golf property? Do you agree with the council’s decision to move towards maintaining it as open space?
I agree 100 percent with Council’s decision to facilitate the citizen led initiative to maintain this as open space. If I was currently serving on council, I would have voted in favor as well. One of my campaign points is to enhance and maintain parks and recreation. This facility does just that. If you look at our current park inventory, we don’t have a large park presence north of Tangerine Road.
This property will fulfill the need for paved nature trails (ADA accessible) and large park spaces that were identified in the recent parks survey. This particular arrangement is unique as the residents have created a workable solution by putting their money on the table to acquire the property - thus saving it from development. The arrangement allows the Conservation Fund to purchase the 200 plus acres up front while funds are raised to secure matching grants to offset the purchase price. The Conservation Fund would then gift the property to the town while requiring it be preserved as open space in perpetuity for enjoyment by the entire Oro Valley community.
As someone who voted against the acquisition of the community center and associated amenities in 2014, what do you think is the best way forward for the property now?
I would like to go on record as one of three councilmembers in 2014 who voted against this purchase. I did so because we rushed the acquisition and many of the points presented at the time simply did not pencil out. Fast forward to today and we have spent $13 million for a facility that we were told was turnkey at the time of purchase. But that’s all history. If elected, I pledge to make the necessary ADA improvements to make the community center an experience easily accessible by everyone. In addition, I’m pleased the town decided to go with “Billy Casper Golf” as the new management company. You may recall that HSL decided to use Troon as the management company prior to its acquisition by the town. We had no input in that decision.
There has been a lot of discussion surrounding how to cut the cost of ownership and moving to a “pay as you go” model. I am in favor of continuing the current council’s direction of a “pay as you go” model based on predetermined funding levels that must be met. However, this cannot be our long term solution. We really need to look at how to bring programming and amenities that the residents would like to see in their community center. We need to look past golf and focus on why we purchased this facility: to provide the town a community center.
How would you manage town growth as Oro Valley reaches build out?
As the town reaches build out, we will no doubt look to annexation as a way to continue to grow the town. Annexation activities must be considered strategically. I am a proponent of what I call “smart annexation” and the “wait and see” principle.
A perfect example of taking a “wait and see” attitude would be the State land parcel known as the “885” which is located west of La Cholla Boulevard and extends to Thornydale Road. The state slated the majority of this parcel for high density residential which was met with resistance by the adjacent neighborhoods. Many individuals, including some who are running in this election, extoll the need for additional residential housing. But this offers limited benefit to Oro Valley from a revenue standpoint. Once all the impact fees are collected, the only sustaining revenue would be through our utility tax, as sales taxes would likely go to Marana where the major retail stores are located.
Oro Valley is currently the only municipality able to provide water to this parcel. As such, there is no competition to annex it. If we “wait and see,” I believe there will be a time when the desire for clustered small lots shifts to a demand for large lot residential which is a better fit for the area. An Innovation Park II concept could also be considered. This is an example of how Oro Valley can manage their growth once we are fully built out.
What are your views on current plans to redevelop the Oro Valley Marketplace?
I fully support the re-development of the Oro Valley Marketplace. Having served on Council from 2008 to 2016, I watched as this particular facility continued to fall to empty glass. Many empty promises failed to provide an enhanced shopping experience to the community. We now have new ownership and a new vision for a plan that looks to fully develop the parcel into a destination people will want to visit. I believe this location will bring unique and diversified offerings to Oro Valley that appeal to a wide range of people. I also believe the town could consider this location as a spot to finally call home to the “Town Center” concept that seems to shift every few years. The location—once fully realized—also offers the best opportunity for signature events and destination marketing that could be enjoyed by our community as well as the greater northwest region. I look forward to seeing the final development plans once we move from concept to full development proposal.
If you received a $1 million grant for use anywhere in Oro Valley, what would you fund?
It would be very important to me for the community as a whole to benefit from such a generous opportunity. That’s why I would split it into three separate chunks and utilize it for the greater good of the community. I would fund the much needed ADA improvements for the Oro Valley Community Center with a portion of the grant. Additional monies would fund an already approved plan to rehab the garage at Steam Pump Ranch. This would provide the office space for the Oro Valley Historical Society that was promised in the 2015 revised master plan for the ranch. The final allocation would go to support the ongoing efforts for the nature preserve on the former Rancho Vistoso Golf Course. This money could be utilized to create a fund for ongoing operational and maintenance activities once this space is gifted to the Town of Oro Valley. This will assist other stakeholders involved with this project, including Preserve Vistoso and the many HOA’s who worked diligently to maintain this property as open space.