Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath first set foot in Oro Valley as a young man in dental school when, in 1988, he visited the tennis pro at the then-Sheraton, Don Dickinson.
An avid player himself who played for the University of Michigan and spent time on the pro circuit, Hiremath said he’d always wanted to live in Arizona—and found the blue skies and natural scenery of Oro Valley plenty of reason to settle in town by 1990. A dentist by trade, Hiremath was born in Pennsylvania but raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and attended University of Michigan in 1985 before moving on to the Hoard University College of Dentistry.
After moving to the town, Hiremath said he wished to become more involved in the community, to foster a sense of volunteerism and positivity among his fellow residents. Hiremath eventually connected with local business and arts organizations, the latter because he saw arts and culture as a great way to connect with other residents.
When the Great Recession hit, Hiremath said he noticed an increasing number of patients at his dental practice experiencing personal hardships. Those conversations drove Hiremath to ask himself: Is there anything that local government can do to protect its residents from the woes of the national economy?
That philosophical conundrum led him to enter his name into the 2010 race for Oro Valley’s mayoral seat, a position he’s held since.
Since winning his seat in 2010, Hiremath won re-election in 2014 and survived a recall attempt the following year after approving the purchase of what is now the Oro Valley Community Center alongside fellow incumbent councilmembers Lou Waters, Mary Snider and Joe Hornat.
As a member of council, Hiremath, 55, said that his overarching ideology has been allowing his personal beliefs to be superseded “by the rights of the greater good.”
“Leadership isn’t about not putting all of your eggs in one basket,” Hiremath said. “Leadership is about, what is the greater good, and how do you protect the residents’ largest investment, which is oftentimes their home value? You protect that investment by providing great public safety, great roads. It’s good schools and retail.”
While Hiremath said that each single issue is important to the town operations and the level of service provided to residents, he said that councilmembers must be prepared to look at Oro Valley holistically to see how each decision could affect the town as a whole.
In making decisions for the town’s future, Hiremath said he looks to the town’s general plan, its environmentally sensitive land ordinance and future economic viability as metrics for possible success.
With three main sources of revenue through sales, utility and construction taxes, Hiremath said the dais is filled with difficult decisions with a lot of factors to account for.
Hiremath said that without a dedicated property tax for the Town of Oro Valley, the various tax bases must grow to continue to provide services to the community, preferably without increasing tax rates.
For instance, Hiremath pointed to the more than $60 million in development impact and construction fees the town has received from 2010 to 2017 as a means of taking financial burden off of town residents.
Without those fees from new development, Hiremath said taxpayers would have had to fund those millions of dollars in investment themselves. Developing those relationships is what Hiremath said is key to maintaining a healthy future for the town and its residents.
As for the community center and its operations, Hiremath admits that, as mayor, the complaints for the purchase must fall squarely on his shoulders. While the community center was established to survive and one day thrive based on a dedicated half-cent sales tax revenue, Hiremath said that using outside funds to help manage the account is a standard practice.
With roughly eight years under his belt, Hiremath said he wants to continue to fashion the town into an end-point destination for visitors and a highly appealing community for residents of all ages.
Over the next four years, Hiremath said he would like to put in place means of sustaining the work he and other members of council have achieved thus far.
“We don’t have the systems and the protocols and the plans in place for other mayors and other councils to step in seamlessly to actually keep this going,” Hiremath said. “Think about where we’ve been and where we are now in that short, eight-year timeframe.”