Four candidates are in the running for three council seats in the Aug. 28 primary for the Marana Town Council.
Long-time incumbents Jon Post and Herb Kai are running for re-election, as well as newly-appointed John Officer and challenger Jack Neubeck.
Neubeck was one of nine people who applied for the seat left open by the death of Carol McGorray. The council appointed Officer by a 5-1 vote on April 17.
Councilmember Roxanne Ziegler opposed his appointment, saying that while Officer was qualified, she thought Neubeck and other applicants Thomas Dunn and William Garner were more qualified.
Dunn is vice president for the Southern Arizona Builders Alliance, board president for MHC Healthcare/Marana Health Center and chairman Pima County Bond Advisory Committee, and he ran Mayor Ed Honea’s 2016 re-election campaign. Garner was an Oro Valley council member for eight years.
Ziegler is backing Neubeck in his bid for the council. She said he’s well-liked, intelligent, engaging, confident and his “footprint is all over the Town of Marana.”
She said his work with town annexations put Marana on the map, helping generate sales tax revenue. And he was instrumental in actualizing bank protection along the lower Santa Cruz River, making it so residents in Continental Ranch and Gladden Farms don’t need to buy flood insurance.
Ziegler also said the other council members had made their decision to appoint Officer before the April 17 council meeting.
“It came to my attention on Wednesday, prior to Friday, that Officer had already been selected by a majority of the council,” she said. “I found that incredibly unfair to the rest of the candidates.”
Before Officer’s appointment, both Mayor Ed Honea and Vice Mayor Jon Post said they wanted someone who will get along with the other council members. When Officer was chosen, Honea added that Officer is the only applicant who he sees at council meetings.
Ziegler said choosing Officer because he’ll agree with the other council members and already goes to council meetings is a bad reason to appoint him, adding that the four council members who live farther north “pretty much stay together to appease the mayor.”
“Four votes is a majority, so on any issue, I’ve already got four people deciding something,” she said. “That’s why I’m disgusted with this.”
With the May 30 deadline to file fast approaching, Ziegler hopes more candidates will run in August. She thinks the idea that Marana doesn’t need innovation is too “complacent and relaxed.”
“We need some new ideas, some new voices and some new blood,” she said. “In John, they found a person they could maybe mold in their way.”
Honea said he made his intentions clear before the meeting that he thought Officer was the best fit, but that there was no collusion in choosing him.
“I can assure you that Post, Bowen, Comerford and Kai do not let me tell them how to vote,” he said. “That’s just unrealistic.”
He added that as Marana is the fastest growing region in Southern Arizona, choosing someone who can go along with a well-running agenda is not a bad thing.
“We work well as a unit,” he said. “We don’t have a bunch of sheep that follow each other, but if we disagree, we’re respectful about how we do it.”
Officer has been active in Marana for 25 years, and he lost a bid for council against four incumbents in 2016. He said he didn’t have knowledge that the mayor or other council members were rooting for him, but he figured he had a good chance due to his history of town involvement.
Until being appointed to council, he was on the Marana Planning and Zoning Commission. He served on the Parks and Recreation Commission while Marana was establishing its general plan, and before that was active, on an early version of the Marana Citizens’ Forum. He also participated in the Citizens’ Police Academy two years ago.
He agrees that it’s good to have like-minds on the council, but said if something comes up that he doesn’t agree with, he voices his opinion.
Officer said his years of town involvement has enabled him to understand and explain to constituents why the town does what it does. He doesn’t have a specific agenda, but wants to help the town continue to grow and manage that growth and said working on building more infrastructure would be critical.
For his day job, Officer is a lead maintenance specialist for the Central Arizona Project, where he’s worked for 30 years. He’s also owned a weed control business since 1996.
Jack Neubeck has been active in Marana for 32 years, though he only moved to the town from Tucson less than three years ago. A few highlights from his resume include volunteering to procure annexations for the town, including Saguaro Bloom, where he now lives; construction management for the Marana’s first town hall; and planning and zoning of a number of master planned communities, including Dove Mountain and Barrios de Marana.
He was also president of the Marana Chamber of Commerce Board for six out of his 10 years on the board. He’s currently on the MHC Healthcare Foundation Board. And, as Ziegler pointed out, he was instrumental in securing $5 million from the Bureau of Reclamation for bank protection along the lower Santa Cruz River.
After working with eight town managers, going door-to-door to collect signatures for annexations and working with the town from the time it had a $440,000 annual budget to what it is today, Neubeck feels that he is more qualified than Officer to serve on the council.
He also said with Officer on the council, that makes four people who live north of Avra Valley Road, which makes people in other parts of the town feel underrepresented.
He also thinks it would behoove the town to focus on building more infrastructure, like sewer and water, to support growth. And he’d like to see the town annex the Pinal Airport, which he said would make a successful import and export hub and keep Marana financially viable in the event of an economic downturn.
“I just don’t want Marana to slip into dire straits,” he said. “Overall, [the Marana Town Council] is doing a terrific job, but we’ve got to keep looking toward the future.”
CORRECTION: In an April 25 story about Officer’s appointment to council, it was noted that he was an aqueduct maintenance supervisor with the Central Arizona Project. He is a lead maintenance specialist.