Several years after taking a step back from the political arena, Oro Valley resident Joseph Winfield has announced that he will make another run for the town’s top spot and challenge incumbent Mayor Satish Hiremath in this year’s election.
Settling down with Tucson Local Media last week to announce his potential candidacy, Winfield said that as an Oro Valley resident for the past 22 years, he feels like he has a serious “stake in our town, in our community.”
A native of San Bernardino, California, the UA grad has lived in Oro Valley since 1996 and has watched the town grow and change dramatically. A married father of seven, Winfield said his family first moved to the town for the education opportunities, and has since found plenty to love about Oro Valley.
“I love my community,” he said. “I’ve been involved in my community. Because of my professional background and training as a landscape architect, I’m a little burdened by how things look, and how things unfold on the land. I have an understanding of how a community comes together.”
Winfield, 60, formerly served as an appointee to the 2005 General Plan Steering Committee, was a member of the Parks and Recreated Advisory Board and part of the “Your Voice, Our Community” General Plan development.
Though he’s found plenty to love about Oro Valley, Winfield said there are always places for improvement: Building a sense of trust between constituents and elected officials, and working to be more receptive of all community ideas.
Winfield said there’s a “real need” to create, advocate and model civil discourse in Oro Valley, as well as to provide the community with a forum to have their opinions heard. Winfield said that some of those forums materialize in the form of boards and commissions, but that they’re not being utilized properly by the council.
Winfield said that while he served on Oro Valley’s parks board, he didn’t feel like he had a voice. It’s a complaint he said he’s heard echoed by others who have volunteered on boards and commissions.
“The mayor, the council, they can’t be experts in everything, right?” Winfield said. “That’s why you have advisory boards and commissions. But if you’re not utilizing them, they become hollow and in a sense, meaningless. And the individuals that participate on those boards really feel like they don’t have a voice. So you begin to lose good people.”
As for his campaign platform, Winfield said he is driven by his involvement in the town’s general plan processes and believes the council should adhere to those tenets and guidelines when making decisions from the dais.
Winfield said that the development and zoning changes recently approved by council don’t necessarily align with the principals of the Your Voice, Our Future General Plan and the vision for the town’s future.
While he conceded that “plans are dynamic, things aren’t static,” he added that “there is some justification for community concern about what may appear, could appear, as a disregard for the environment, a disregard for open space. A disregard for what the community thought was at least, in principle, an expectation or a decision that was made.”
As for development, conceptually, Winfield said he knows new businesses and housing are a natural part of the municipal process, but that it takes careful decision-making by council to plan a consistent community experience.
Winfield said that development decisions are sometimes “tainted” by outside influence on the council, “both real and perceived,” in the form of campaign contributions. He said those influences begin to “color” council’s decision making, and “undermines the integrity” of some of those decisions.
If elected to council, Winfield said he would bring an independent point of view to the dais. He plans to fund his candidacy with contributions from friends, family and neighbors.
As for the community center, Winfield said he the popularity of the fitness and center programming cannot be argued, but would like to explore other options for the golf courses.
“I’m not entirely satisfied with the recommendations that came,” he said. “I think that we should be out of the golf business. If that means leasing it out, if that means a slow transition to other uses of that open space, that green space. I definitely think that it is an asset to the community.”
If Winfield collects enough signatures to have his name on the Aug. 28 primary campaign ballot, it won’t be the first time his name appears under Hiremath’s in the hands of voters. Winfield was a mayoral candidate during the 2015 recall attempt of Hiremath, Vice Mayor Lour Waters and Councilmembers Mary Snider and Joe Hornat, all of whom are running for reelection this year.
During that election, roughly three years ago, Winfield dropped out of the race “in deference” to fellow candidate Patrick Straney during an October debate. By the end of that election, Hiremath beat Straney by a nearly 10 percent margin, while Winfield pulled in roughly 6 percent of the mayoral vote.
Winfield said his motivations for dropping out lay with his inability to distinguish his own motivations in participating in that election. He said the decision came after an elderly woman at the first candidate debate accosted him, questioning his motivations and integrity as a candidate.
“After all of this, if there is an older woman in Oro Valley who doesn’t know me and I don’t know her, but somehow she has this impression that I’m a bad person, that I have ulterior motives, how can I convince anybody of my genuineness and sincerity?” Winfield said, “Ultimately, what was most important to me at that particular moment was leaving with my integrity.”
Winfield said he was “politically naïve” about the recall, and was only drawn into the process because he believed in changing the town for the better.
“I was admittedly naïve as to how that would be interpreted,” he said.
No longer running during a recall effort, Winfield said this year’s election is his chance to show residents how much he cares for Oro Valley, and that he would only work towards widespread improvement as a member of council.