Mayor Nancy Smith has "thoroughly enjoyed" her time as mayor thus far.
Smith said her calendar is "definitely" busier, but it's a "fun busier." She has conversations about the city's economic development, water, entertainment and more.
"It's a type of busy that you really enjoy and I'm having a ball doing it and love all the people that I'm talking to, so it's been a great experience so far," she said.
The end of November marked about 100 days since Smith was sworn in as mayor shortly after Christian Price stepped down to pursue another opportunity with the Maricopa Economic Development Alliance.
Smith's first 100 days have been productive; her 100-Day Plan goals are almost all complete except for just a couple. These, she said, are "slow rolling," but still "very important." Among them is a focus on workforce development and finding ways to make Maricopa an even more attractive place for potential employers.
One concept Smith is currently researching is what can be done to help small businesses, especially when it comes to education and workforce development.
The effort has required her to communicate with Central Arizona College, Pinal County and outgoing Congressman Tom O'Halleran's office, who were all in full support of putting together a package to help support small businesses in Maricopa.
Following the 2022 election, Republican Eli Crane took over as U.S. representative for Congressional District 2. Smith is hoping that despite the change of legislators — from O'Halleran to Crane — she will still have a contact to work with on the project.
Other projects are initiatives that the city of Maricopa is planning to take on to make city services and information more easily accessible to residents. Smith is currently working with city staff to update the city's website to include a Q&A section and create a 311 program.
Smith has also helped start up a community-run influencer group, which currently has eight volunteers; she hopes to grow that number over time to encourage government entities such as the Arizona Department of Transportation, Maricopa Association of Governments, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Maricopa and Pinal County, Gila River Indian Community and others toward assisting with roadway improvements along State Route 347.
"It takes a village to influence them and so as we develop this group, and we continue to meet, I anticipate this will be an ongoing group," Smith said. "It's doing really well. I'm really impressed."
She said many members of the group attended the last few ADOT and State Transportation Board meetings and provided input on SR 347, representing Maricopa on important transportation issues.
Smith said she loves the idea of this group developing a self-run website to update the community on the progress of SR 347 and eventually other transportation issues within the city.
The group may prove especially key to future roadway improvements within the community following the failure of Proposition 469 in the election. The half-cent sales tax increase would have gone toward roadway improvements around Pinal County, including the widening of SR 347. The tax had been previously approved by voters in 2017, but it was struck down in court last year.
Following her first 100 days, Smith said her primary focus will be on Maricopa's economic development and growth, noting that it's "totally exciting" to be around to see the city reach its 20th year of incorporation.
Smith and her husband Anthony have been residents of Maricopa since before the community's incorporation in 2003. She described the decision to move to the area as a "bit of a risk" since there were very few developments at the time.
"But we had faith in it because it just seemed like such a perfect spot for a new city to develop," she said.
They both were right. That small risk paid off, and for the past 20 years, they've had a chance to watch the city grow before their very eyes.
"It only gets better every year that we move along," she said.
Smith said she is often asked why she continues to serve — first on City Council and now as mayor.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that very few people get to help grow a city from 1,500 people to now 70,000 people," she said, "and ensure that we continue to get all of the elements of a well-rounded city into the city of Maricopa, and to successfully bring this city to its full potential is thrilling."
Maricopa will officially mark its 20th year of incorporation in October of this year — and it will do so with its first woman mayor at the helm.
Smith's considered a role model for many young girls living in Maricopa, and she noted that she's been frequently asked by young women at different community events if she can take a photo with them in light of her status as the first female mayor.
"It's thrilling in the way that you can demonstrate to these young ladies that you can do anything and to me that means a lot," Smith said.
For women, or anyone, interested in running for council or mayor, she encourages potential candidates to seek out "well-qualified mentors" and information to accomplish their goals and find a platform that speaks to the community.
Over the next 20 years, Smith hopes Maricopa sees plans for the SR 238 Adventure Corridor fill up with entertainment. Current projects planned for the corridor include the surf park, the development of Palo Verde Regional Park — located just west of Maricopa — and a trails system available throughout Maricopa.
Smith considers Maricopa to be a "one-of-a-kind city" and believes city leadership throughout the years helped lower property taxes. Over the years, the city has developed a budget that typically operates on less than the city's revenue, making the community conservative in its resources.
This approach to city finances has allowed for the community to reserve revenue that has later been used to build spaces for community services like the library and police department without implementing additional residential taxes. Even during downturns in the economy, Maricopa survived thanks to city leadership's mindset of conserving funds when and where possible, Smith noted.
"Periodically, you hear (that) filling (their) shoes is going to be challenging," she said. "But in reality, if you work the hardest that you can with the most passion that you can to move the city of Maricopa along; and if you work in conjunction with the rest of City Council and staff; and if you're promoting Maricopa with all of your heart, there are no big shoes to fill. You're just doing everything that you possibly can do and you're doing it in your way..., but we can still accomplish the same wonderful things."