My wife Deanna and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Deanna has taught kindergarten at Dorothy Stinson School now for 25 years. Andrew is a Junior at ASU and Grant is a senior at Safford High School.
I grew up in a grocery store at my dad’s (Ben Smith) and brothers store at Thriftee Supermarket. After graduating from NAU in Small Business Management, I was fortunate and able to return to the Gila Valley and started a business (Gila Outdoor) from scratch on Main Street in Safford in 1995. I quickly learned that a “rising tide lifts all ships” and set out to revitalize a downtown destroyed by changing times and neglect. In 1998 I formed the Safford Downtown Association and still lead the organization today where we have completed millions of dollars in improvement projects, built events and support our 55+ member businesses.
Gila Outdoor - 1995-2007 - Founder/Owner/Operator of an outdoor retailer in Downtown Safford. I started this business with a cup full of pencils a note pad people that believed in me. We had the best employees anyone could find. I sold the business in 2007 and it still lives on with the Shupe family in Thatcher.
Cross Spear Marble - 2003- 2013 - Vice President of Sales, board member. Our family and investor owned mining company near Willcox mined calcium/marble for several industries shipping around 22 truckloads per day to our customers all over the southwest. I found the markets, found the customers, arranged freight and helped develop the processing for 10 years. I managed our daily sales, marketing, and our Tucson sales location. We sold the business sold in 2011 to Hickman Family Farms.
Safford Downtown Association 1998-Present I started the SDA and now we have an 8 member board and 50+ members of our highly successful organization rebuilding the historic commercial heart of Safford. We have completed 3+ Million dollars in improvements over the past 22 years and we are not done yet. Our latest projects include a 48 Hour makeover of El Coronado Restaurant, a new Mural Program, new monument signage pointing the way to downtown and many facade projects. We do lot's of events and support our members businesses that you love.
Graham County Community Foundation 1999-2001. We started an endowment to help fund our nonprofits in Graham County for future generations. (now known as the Gila Valley Community Foundation) . This fund pays out about $35,000 per year to help our local non-profits each year. The current board has taken the foundation beyond my dreams adding full college scholarships to about 9 Gila Valley high school seniors through the Prina family scholarships.
SEACAB South Eastern Arizona Clean and Beautiful. 2012-present. Myself and others formed an organization to fund and support our founder Jay Rasco’s vision to clean up all of Graham County. We have completed thousands of hours of clean up’s around the county collecting hundreds of TONS of trash from neighborhoods and illegal dumps. Our last clean up was August 15, our next is Sept 12 on the San Franciso and then Make a Difference Day at multiple locations in October
Gila Valley Leadership 2008 Sheldon Miller, others and I at the Graham County Chamber of Commerce invented a group to educate and train leaders from the Gila Valley. The program is based on "Project Centrl" a statewide rural leadership program we were part of. You may know many graduates of the program.
AYSO Soccer Region 216- Board Member, 2008-Present I loved coaching for 9 years and still serve on our board enriching around 800 kids lives each year through the game of soccer.
Safford High, Safford Middle School and Safford Thunder Basketball, 2012-Current I have poured myself into these players coaching around 100 players on dozens of teams in the Gila Valley in hundreds of games around Arizona in the past 8 years. This is one of the funnest things I have been fortunate to do and I look forward to coaching more.
Gila Watershed Partnership- Board Member, 2012-Present We work to improve water quality and quantity to the benefit of people living in the Gila River watershed. We complete restoration projects along the river, contract grow plants for restoration projects and get things done! We are currently working on an idea of mine to build a “linear park”, a trail system along the Gila River connecting to the existing trail systems in the valley.
Graham County Senior Center - Board Member, 2012- Present I find that many people don’t know we have a senior center that serves our seniors. We have programs, food and support for our Graham County Seniors. Come join us, we are located behind the Graham County Court House.
The Safford City Council 2001-2012
Served with 3 mayors and 16 councilmen and women representing Safford citizens for 11 years. During that time we paved as many streets as we had in the previous 30 years, we built the wastewater treatment plant and secured water for future generations through agreements. We invested in infrastructure, parks, downtown, and employees. We protected the revenue streams that allowed Safford to flourish and kept our property and tax rates among the lowest in the state of AZ.
The Graham County Chamber of Commerce 1997-2000 Economic development and helping Graham County businesses succeed through many organizations has been my expertise.
Graham County Board of Supervisors 2012- Present
I am a full time county supervisor. Serving as county supervisor, I serve people. County government is where government services meet people. You can see me at the store and you will get an answer for your concern. I love using this office to help people get things done.
Economic Development If I do nothing else in this job I want to create a Graham County that your kids and my kids want to come back to, raise a family and succeed in a chosen profession. This is mostly where I spend my time every day. As I type this I am rolling out a subsidized gift certificate program I invented to help our smallest businesses survive during
this COVID-19 pandemic. I used my grant writing ability and relationships to design a gift certificate program that has now been copied and implemented in Tucson and other Arizona cities.
Several Graham County businesses credit this program and an effort I called “Gila Valley Take Out Stimulus Plan” for saving their businesses during this corona virus pandemic.
Cleaning up Graham County This is important to me. One comment people make about Graham County more than any other is how our county needs cleaned up! No other elected official in Graham County has worked as hard on this issue a I have. Since day one, using collective resources, I have cleaned up neighborhood upon neighborhood in Graham County and we are not done. Our “Make a difference day’s” have helped organize and pay for the removal of hundreds of TONS of pounds of trash from neighborhoods, trash along the Gila River the sites on public lands. I know because I have organized, helped fund and been there early in the mornings and all day with the volunteers.
People Who Drink Water in the Gila Valley Two years ago I started an effort called “ People that drink water in the Gila Valley” to draw attention to the ongoing water litigation facing the Gila Valley while solutions already exist. After defending Safford in the water rights settlements of the early 2000’s I understand Graham water issues unlike anyone else and enjoy representing Graham County meeting with Ohalleran , Senator Sinema and Senator McSally letting them know how they can specifically help the Gila Valley.
High Mesa Road ,19th Place, Stockton Road, Emory Road When the residents living on High Mesa road came wanting to see improvement, I spent the next 3.5 years getting the road chip sealed for the residents and the Solomon Schools with their buss’s on this road twice a day. We recently chip sealed 19th Place and Stockton Road and Emory Road will be chip sealed next year.
Hearing Officer Process In 2014, I started for the first time in Graham County history a way to enforce our own Graham County codes to enforce the clean up of trash on problem properties. We have now notified 130+ properties in Graham County of violations and for the most part property owners have addressed the problem within receiving the first letter. We have not stopped there and this is not a heavy handed approach. We have coordinated neighborhood cleanups to help the property owners help themselves and I have coordinated volunteers to assist property owners clean up their property. We are not done. We have much more to do.
Cleaning up Little Hollywood Little Hollywood is an example of what can be accomplished working together. For 45 years the Little Hollywood neighborhood was deemed to difficult to unravel and try to clean up after the floods in 1972 and 1977. I refused to accept this and by bringing people, political will power and the property owners of Little Hollywood together we cleaned it up! We are not done as we are now working with the property owners to keep the neighborhood cleaned up. We are in the process of surveying the lots so state and private property can be fenced off and protected.
Safford Theatre Project In 2018 I took on the task of rebuilding the Safford Theatre that closed in 1975. So far I have raised around $570,000 to turn this indoor/outdoor theatre back into a busy concern in the evenings on Main Street in Safford. So far we have 100+ individuals and corporations that have donated. With the support of our Safford Downtown Association I manage the project through design, fundraising, procurement, project management through to our estimated completion in 2021. This is a 1.8M project we intend to accomplish with about $750,000. The purpose? To be an economic engine on Main Street helping our downtown businesses succeed.
Safford Skate Park In 2016 my friend Cathy Romero asked why don’t we have a skate park in Safford? So we set out to build one. Together we raised about $125,000 locally to fund Safford’s first skate park leading to two skate parks in the Gila Valley. The purpose is to add another attraction and give kids and young adults another venue for exercise outside of organized sports.
8th Avenue Basketball Courts In 2017 I gathered friends to rebuild the basketball courts on 8th Ave in Safford in honor of Ed Ragland who has run the 5/6 grade basketball program in Safford for 42 years! We raised $39+ at a time to commemorate Ed's then 39 years of running the league. The $139,000 project was graciously supported by 70+ donors including FMI and United Way Graham and Greenlee County. I continue to maintain the courts available to use by everyone.
Graham County Fairground Soccer Fields For the past 13 years I have been dedicated to improving the sports fields in the Gila Valley. Our kids needed and deserved better fields so I have been dedicated to improving them in Safford and Graham County and building new fields. For the past 12 years I have coached soccer and served on our local AYSO soccer board. In 2017, after applying for and receiving grant funds, and after I successfully negotiating a water agreement with the City of Safford we added new fields at the fairgrounds for the 800+ kids in soccer programs.
Project Centrl Through a competitive process I was selected to Project Centrl Class 19 in 2008. Centrl is a rural leadership development program designed to educated and train
rural leaders to better represent rural Arizona. I use these skills and contacts everyday when Graham County needs a voice on state and federal issues.