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Maricopa City Council race already gaining lots of steam
 ksawyer  / 

MARICOPA — While many in Maricopa are winding down their year and enjoying the holidays, some Maricopans are already gearing up for the 2020 election.

Several candidates for Maricopa City Council and mayor have already submitted their preliminary paperwork, including Mayor Christian Price, after the election packets became available Oct. 16.

Current council members Nancy Smith and Julia Gusse have also submitted applications for re-election in 2020. However, Marvin Brown, also up for re-election, has yet to file for an election packet, according to records provided by the city to PinalCentral.

Leon Potter, a former council member who cut his term short in 2012 following City Council decisions he said he disagreed with morally, is running again in 2020. He ran in 2018 as a write-in candidate but lost.

Bob Marsh, who also lost in 2018, is back in the running. He is a firm believer of a diverse city council and hopes his experience as an engineer with Microsoft will help with his ability to problem solve city issues.

Another candidate is Marlene Pearce, a local resident who was a finalist in the 2012 elections. She is a real estate agent in Maricopa and currently works as the administrative assistant for District 4 Supervisor Anthony Smith.

Local real estate agent Andre LaFond is another candidate for council. LaFond ran for constable for Precinct 8 in 2018 and lost.

Some newcomers to politics are also on the list. Amber Liermann is a counselor at Maricopa High School and is running for a council seat. Michael Salgado and Amber Zenczak have also put their names in, adding some new faces to the political scene of Maricopa.

Mayor Christian Price is currently running unopposed.

The deadline for submitting signatures to gain a spot on the August primary ballot is 5 p.m. April 6.

No other candidates were listed at the time of publication.

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Maricopa teen's pursuit of cyber security nets big scholarship
 ksawyer  / 

MARICOPA — A Maricopa High School senior won big this month, scoring a $10,000 STEM scholarship to a college of his choice.

David Luna, a Maricopa native, was entered into the scholarship process by a relative who works for Alliantgroup, a management consulting company. Alliantgroup has been running the scholarship for a few years now and has seen more and more exemplary students apply each year.

In order to apply, students must be entered by an employee of Alliantgroup, have a grade point average of over 3.0 and be planning to major in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. Hundreds of students apply nationwide. The company runs the essay-writing contest twice a year, with a total of 20 students receiving $10,000. Recipients are chosen based entirely on merit, and this round 15 were chosen.

“We really just let the applicant pool drive that. If we feel like there are enough amazing students, then we award that number of scholarships,” said Casey Curry, corporate citizenship director for Alliantgroup.

Luna has already committed to attending the University of Advancing Technology, a private college in Tempe, and will be studying cybersecurity. His father is retired from the military, and his mother works in payroll for Maricopa Unified School District.

The 17-year-old won, in part, because of an essay he wrote about his dad. His father served during the 9/11 period and was subsequently deployed to Iraq. Luna’s mother was pregnant with him at the time, and his father missed out on his first year of life as a result of his deployment.

“He missed out on many ‘firsts’ those 15 months he was gone,” Luna wrote in his essay. “I am proud of what my father has done for our country and it has inspired me to make him proud by wanting to help defend our country against cyberattacks.”

Though he originally wanted to pursue a path in graphic design, he soon found himself drawn to cybersecurity after a tour of UAT.

“After visiting the University of (Advancing) Technology, I saw myself wanting to pursue a degree in network and cybersecurity,” he wrote. “Our ever-changing world is technology driven and I want to be able to protect the world’s security through cyber- and network security and truly make a difference.”

He was overjoyed to receive an email telling him he won, and “my family was really excited for me.”

Though Luna may have been debating his candidacy for the scholarship, Curry was immediately touched by Luna’s words, as she shares a personal connection with his story.

“I’m a military kid myself.” Curry said. “I know what that’s like to have a parent who’s serving our country, and then he extended that story into talking about how his dad’s service really inspired him to think of a career that he could also give back to our country. He was telling us that his ultimate dream would be to work for the FBI and for our federal government, and protecting our nation’s cybersecurity. I just thought it was a really wonderful and kind of timely story for a young person to have. So we were really inspired by what inspired him.”

Luna will graduate from MHS in May, and then set off to pursue his chosen career. Though he had fun at MHS, he is already setting his sights on what is ahead.

“I enjoyed my time at Maricopa High School and am delighted to move on to UAT,” Luna said.

Alliantgroup will continue to help shape the lives of young people entering the STEM fields with the scholarship opportunities.

“We feel like it’s really an extension of our mission to strengthen American businesses to help take part in this part of the solution, and really get in on the front end of that by supporting young people from the very earliest ages — with some of our programming that we do in elementary schools — all the way up to our college scholarships that we give out,” Curry said.

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December brings month of celebrations in Maricopa, Ak-Chin
 ksawyer  / 

MARICOPA — The holiday season is in full swing this week with some very festive events.

MerryCopa is bringing a white Christmas to the desert on Saturday with 50 tons of fresh snow, along with other winter wonders like ice skating, caroling, sleigh rides and maybe even a very special visitor from the North Pole at Copper Sky Recreation Complex.

In addition to the winter activities will be fireworks, contests, crafts and a hot air balloon glow. Mayor Christian Price will make an appearance to lead the Christmas tree lighting ceremony and spread holiday cheer. The festivities are planned for 6 to 9 p.m. with $5 activity wristbands and $5 parking, so dress warmly.

Those looking to avoid the parking fee can take advantage of a free shuttle service that will pick people up at Maricopa High School and Maricopa Wells Middle School. The shuttle will be making the rounds from 5-10 p.m.

On Dec. 7, Ak-Chin Indian Community will begin its own celebrations with the Masik Tas Light Parade. “Masik Tas” translates to “birthday” and celebrates the creation of the community, with this festival being put on the past 12 years.

Enjoy the glittering, tinsel-covered parade as they begin their journey at 46851 W. Farrell Road and follow it down the street. The parade starts at 7 p.m. Attendees will be treated to Ak-Chin Police, Fire and other organizations offering spectacles as they flash and glow along the parade route.

This is just the kick off for what will be a week of winter celebrations, including the upcoming Masik Tas Festival Dec. 13 to 15.