Pinal County Logo (Yellow)

FLORENCE — Strategies for better relationships among Pinal County’s military installations and their civilian neighbors are contained in a study and related documents adopted by the Pinal County Board of Supervisors last week.

The 28-month-long Pinal County Joint Land Use Study resulted in 132 tailored strategies to mitigate issues and 37 issues with the potential for U.S. Department of Defense funding, Celeste Werner, project manager for Matrix Design Group of Phoenix, told the board April 29.

Matrix Design was under contract with Pinal County to conduct the JLUS, which was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment.

The study covers four Arizona Army National Guard sites — Rittenhouse Training Site and Florence Military Reservation in the northwest part of the county, and the Picacho Peak Stagefield and the Silverbell Army Heliport in the southwest part of the county. The ultimate goal of the JLUS is a balance — residents can enjoy their properties, communities can pursue economic development and the military can train, according to the study, which can be seen at

Participating in the study with Pinal County were the Arizona State Land Department, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Military Affairs Commission, Arizona Army National Guard, the communities of Eloy, Florence, Marana and Queen Creek and other local and regional stakeholders.

In other business:

  • Pinal County Manager Louis Andersen introduced Cathy Whelan, the county’s new public defense director since April 20. Whelan was deputy public defender in Maricopa County, where she has 17 years’ experience. “We’re fortunate to have her,” Andersen said.

Denise Keller, Pinal County library director for many years, will retire this year and county staff are looking to recruit an internal candidate to replace her, Andersen said. The job should be posted soon, Andersen, he added.

  • County staff are reviewing an appraisal received for the old Pinal General Hospital building on Central Avenue in Florence, which includes offices for the public defender and medical examiner. County staff hope to relocate the medical examiner with the Sheriff’s Office, which may require remodeling, but “we think that will be a good synergy,” Andersen said.
  • County staff are also coordinating recovery efforts with emergency management and other economic development managers across the county, and working on hiring a data analyst for a clearer picture of what’s happening with the county’s workforce and the costs of COVID-19, Andersen said. He said the county has a new number for business assistance, 800-409-5153.
  • Andersen said Pinal County continues to receive economic development proposals, and site selectors continue to reach out to Pinal County. “We’ve had 15 in the past couple of weeks and several look very promising. We’re very blessed to be in this county.”
  • In call to the public, Board Clerk Natasha Kennedy read a comment from Ruben Leos, candidate for supervisor in District 1, in which he claimed the incumbent supervisor, Democrat Pete Rios, does not live in the district. Leos said Rios should actually be running in District 5 against incumbent Todd House, R-Apache Junction.

Rios responded that this is a challenge his opponents have been making against him since 1980, but his legal residence is always found to be in Dudleyville. Rios further said that “people that live in glass houses ought not throw stones,” and it is Leos who doesn’t live in the district. Rios said Leos should be running in District 3 against incumbent Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande.

  • The board also proclaimed May 1-7 as Peace Officers Memorial Week and Thursday as Peace Officers Memorial Day in Pinal County.

Matt Thomas, chief deputy at the Sheriff’s Office, told the board that instead of a public memorial service as in prior years this year’s service will be posted on social media.


Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at