FLORENCE — Pinal County Supervisors Vice Chairman Pete Rios, D-Dudleyville, said he once met a young couple who were interested in visiting Planned Parenthood and learning about family planning, and he encouraged them to do so. He saw them a couple of weeks later and asked how it went.
Rios asked, “So you’re on some type of birth control? She said, ‘Yes, it’s right here. … They gave me this card so I’m not going to get pregnant anymore.’” Rios responded, “That’s not the way it works!” and explained she needed to take the card to the pharmacy and get the pills.
A public officeholder’s job is more than just politics, it’s helping individual citizens, he said. Rios said he believes it’s this “reliability in constituent work” that will be his legacy after a political career of more than 40 years that included the state Legislature.
Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, agreed that helping constituents "is probably one of the things we do the most, and it gets the least amount of attention. But the people know when we do it and they appreciate it.”
Supervisor Todd House, R-Apache Junction, said he’s told people that even when he’s out of office in January, they’re welcome to call him if they think he can help. “I’m more than happy to jump in and help out wherever I can.”
Rios added he also wants his legacy to be that he helped others reach their potential. He said he has gone out of his way to introduce high school and college students to the political process. “As I look back, I have a lot of young folk who were junior volunteers for ‘Pete Rios for the State Senate’ that are now in key positions in state government, local government, and colleges and universities.”
With three members of the Board of Supervisors — Rios, House and Chairman Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa — leaving at year’s end, Pinal Partnership invited all five board members to speak at an online breakfast Friday morning. They shared memories, how they’d like to be remembered and future plans, among other topics.
Smith noted he was mayor of Maricopa during the Great Recession and was chairman of the Board of Supervisors when COVID-19 struck. He said he faces challenges by defining the problem first, then looking for the root cause. He said he believes the board’s greatest accomplishment this year was to convince Gov. Doug Ducey to release federal CARES Act funds to the state’s smaller counties.
“We expended a lot of political capital to do that.” The population centers got their money while the rural areas “were left high and dry,” Smith said. When at last the money arrived, Pinal County didn’t hold onto it like some others but put it to work to help save small businesses, Smith said.
The board believed if it didn’t act quickly, “we thought we were going to lose a lot of our small businesses and we would really pay for that in years to come,” Smith said.
House said COVID-19 has been the biggest challenge of his eight years as a county supervisor. He said it has taken a huge toll with businesses shut down, people afraid to leave their houses and strife in families.
“They want to get out; they want a regular life," House said. "… We lost a lot of people in the Apache Junction area to COVID, especially seniors.” He said young healthy firefighters have also been hospitalized with the disease.
Supervisor Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, who was reelected this month, said he has appreciated serving with the other supervisors. In his district, he said he hopes his legacy will be to bring a diverse area together and unite people for the common good. “I’ve been told I’m overbearing, but I like to use the word persistent,” he said.
When he was first running for office, Goodman said he met a widower who had questions for him and eventually helped “quite a bit” with his campaign. The man became a friend and a regular guest in Goodman’s home and asked Goodman to be executor of his will.
After the man went into a nursing home, Goodman contacted the man’s estranged son, who hadn’t had a relationship with his father for 30 years. The son responded, reestablished contact with his father and cared for him in his illness.
“That’s the kind of legacy I would like to leave behind,” Goodman said.
Miller said he and the others will remember the budget crisis they had upon taking office. Although revenues had dropped considerably, they still managed to give county employees small raises and “just keep the county going in the right direction. I think that’s a really good accomplishment.” Miller said water and transportation will likely continue to be the two biggest ongoing challenges for the board.
Smith said he’s disappointed to leave office before the county’s Regional Transportation Authority survives its court challenges and begins building roads. But he has a big “bucket list” for retirement, including hiking the Arizona Trail, visiting Civil War battlegrounds, visiting the baseball and football halls of fame, visiting all the national parks and going to the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
House said he plans to take a couple of months off and visit his old haunts in northern California and Oregon, where he was born. But he said he’ll be back. “One door closes, another opens. Watch for me, I’ll be around in Pinal County, I’m not going away. ... I hope to still be influential and help out wherever I can.”
House thanked his fellow board members “for working together well.” He said there have been disagreements over the years, including political disagreements, but all five had Pinal County at heart. “We were able to come together for the county and make things happen.”
Miller and Goodman also gave credit to former Supervisor Cheryl Chase, “because she was part of some of that solution-making,” Miller said. Miller said he’s been fortunate, on the Casa Grande City Council as well as the Board of Supervisors, that the members could disagree about an issue, but five minutes later be telling a joke.
Rios, the board’s only Democrat, said the supervisors are in “really nonpartisan positions” as they work for the citizens. Goodman said they’ve all had the best interests of the people at heart, “we just have a different approach for getting there.”