This is the liveblog for the Parker Area Chamber of Commerce Meet the Candidates event for the General Election in Parker on October 5th, 2016. The below was reported live in real time by John Wright.
The election will be held in a little over a month from now on November 8th. The Meet the Candidates event goes back many years, and brings candidates for those offices onto the stage to talk about their platform and answer questions from the community.
Tonight, starting at 6:15pm at Parker Community/Senior Center, candidates for the offices of La Paz County Supervisor Districts 1, 2 and 3 will be heard, along with Sheriff, County Attorney, School Superintendent and those running for positions on the Board of Buckskin Fire District. Candidates will each have 5 minutes to talk about their platform. There’ll also be live questions from the floor.
Refresh this page to see constant updates while the event is live! At the end you’ll be able to read through our coverage of the entire event as a permanent post. Please keep comments constructive and not personal; they will be moderated. Enjoy!
6:12pm- Hey everyone! Welcome to our live coverage of tonight’s event. The crowds are gathering!
6:13pm- The lights system – via which candidates will be told their time is up! – is up and running. Candidates are milling around, getting some campaigning in before the start.
6:17pm- Mary is up talking! I gotta say, the Halloween theme for this evening’s politicking is a little disconcerting. “Creepy” indeed!
6:18pm- “We really want to thank all of our candidates,” Mary says. Up first, Lori Wedemeyer is here to talk about the ‘Home Rule Option’ on the ballot for the Town of Parker.
6:19pm- The Town of Parker has to go out every 4 years and ask for the town residents’ approval, Lori says. She wants a maximum $16 million+ and says to spend that amount they’d have to collect it. If the voters don’t approve the prop, they’ll have the state-imposed limit of $4 million.
6:20pm- She’s outlining some of the stuff the Town of Parker does, including Public Works, the Senior Center and other services. She’s asking for a ‘Yes’ vote on Proposition 400.
6:21pm- A question from the crowd about where Town revenues come from. The Town doesn’t receive property tax, just city sales tax, she says. And that’s it!
6:22pm- Moving on to Buckskin Fire District candidates. There are 5 candidates running for 3 positions. 4 of them are here. The top voter-getters will get the spots on the Board.
6:23pm- Pat Jones is up first. The Board is a “rubber stamp” for whatever the Buckskin Fire administration wants, Jones says. “The last thing anybody wants is a volunteer fire department, but we have to get it under control,” he said. John Mehilich is up next, saying that there’s a part of the Board that has been wanting to get rid of Chief Chris Chambers. He says it’s arbitrary and capricious, and he’d like to support the District. Wayne Posey says he has 36 years of experience including first-hand experience, knowledge and background of the public sector, and says he’s the current District Manager of the Buckskin Sanitary District. Emphasizes that he’s a public servant. Wants to get the best services for the lowest cost. Rumors that he wants to make Buckskin a voluntary department are untrue, he says.
6:28pm- The unfunded retirement liability is in the millions of dollars, according to the candidates, and all seem concerned about doing something about it. Posey has a list of ideas he would like to implement if elected. Don Rountree is up next, and says people have asked him to run for the Board many times. He says this is because he has a lot of experience and training from his whole life in fire departments. He wants to make Buckskin even better, saying that it’s very good but he wants to move forward even further. He says he doesn’t know what the retirement liability is until he gets in there, but he promises to address it if elected. Wants to run the department at the cost we have now and no more.
6:30pm- No questions for the fire candidates! NEXT.
6:31pm- Assessor-elect Anna Camacho is up on stage unopposed in the General Election. She just wants to thank the people who voted for her and reaffirms her promises to the people about service at the Assessor’s Office. Wants to work for all the taxpayers. She promises to have her door open, and to work with other elected officials.
6:35pm- County Attorney candidates are up! Incumbent Tony Rogers versus challenger Kathy Field. Tony’s up first.
6:35pm- Outlines the job. Prosecuting criminals, protecting the community. Past behavior is the best indicator of future performance: says he’s doubled the number of cases prosecuted for no bigger amount of money. Says his staff are largely to thank. First and second-degree murders sentenced to between 16 years and life under his watch, he says. He talks about agency engagement and cooperation. Says in his next term he’ll be expanding the Task Force and wants to include Parker and Quartzsite P.D’s. Wants to create a drug court. Cheering from the crowd as he sits down.
6:38pm- Kathy is up now and cites the Ackerman case, challenging Tony’s claim to be a tough prosecutor, in which a man who shot someone execution-style got just 10.5 years in prison. Prosecution numbers are up, Tony says, but she says copies of the actual records don’t agree and says she has them on her table at the back to look at. She talks about the recent bar complaint against the County Attorney’s office, says she’s not a party to the complaint but everybody should be concerned about it. Cites her years of experience and achievements in other roles and says she can address the issues.
6:42pm- A questioner from Upriver is up to ask whether there are systems to take care of victims in La Paz County. Tony gets up and reasserts his claim to have increased prosecutions. Tony says the victim advocate is pummeled because she’s handling too many cases by herself and needs more finance. Kathy is up to answer and agrees with Tony, saying the services need increased. She cites the victim compensation fund, saying that there’s more that can be done with it.
6:45pm- Another questioner from Parker with a question for Kathy about the bar complaint, asking why the complaint came up and implying that Kathy was involved in creating it. Kathy says she did not instigate the complaint. As to the timing of it, she says that you need to ask Sheriff Drum. She said the people need to know about it, regardless of how it started. Tony hesitates before slowly walking to the mic to say that it’s under investigation. He says he hasn’t been contacted by the state bar but will cooperate if they ever contact him.
6:46pm- A third questioner from Parker is up to ask a very specific ‘hypothetical’ question about what the candidates would do if someone in their department was arrested in a federal case. Tony says he’d put them on administrative leave. Kathy agrees and says you support an employee while they’re charged but not yet found guilty.
6:49pm- A fourth questioner from the Valley is asking about jurisdictional issues, entities working together or not. What do you intend to do about the jurisdictional issues and get prosecutions? Tony is up to say he agrees and empathizes with the situation behind the questioner’s point. Tony says he will talk to people and share the pain of the victim. Kathy says Tony has had 4 years to communicate, and things will be different if she is elected. She says she has experience and knows jurisdictions.
6:53pm- Okay! Mary’s done with questions and now we’re going to hear from candidates for School Superintendent. Armando Heredia is up first, and says he’s a retired teacher from PUSD, citing experience. Services should be served without biases or prejudices, he says. It shouldn’t exclude some and include others. He says the office should be looking for as many resources as possible for the students in the County. Talks about pride in the system. School districts should not have to endure financial hardships, he says. He promises dedicated service to education.
6:56pm- And now Jacqueline Price, who is the incumbent. She was appointed recently after a vacancy but is now seeking her first election. Cites her experience. She talks about updates and improvements made with her office, including software and data, complying with legal requirements. She says schools have budgets and do not have money to spend beyond their budgets.
6:59pm- A questioner from the town of Parker is simply asking for clarification so that people understand the difference between the roles and responsibilities of the school district boards and the County School Superintendent.
7:02pm- A second questioner from Parker asks how important it is to have schools in outlying areas for the education of children. Armando says he’s heard people ask about closing Bouse School District, but he says those schools are providing pride within local communities and sees the schools as important. Jacqueline says that each district has boundaries and areas, and that transportation is handled with budgets for that purpose.
7:05pm- We’re done with schools and now moving on to Supervisor District 1.
7:06pm- Mesina Gilbert is first. She says she’s proud to be running for Supervisor. She’s run 3 successful businesses, she says, and believes being a good public servant starts with being a volunteer, and cites experience as a volunteer. If elected she wants to enhance existing resources like the golf courses and other services for the public. Wants more cooperation between jurisdictions. Believes in one unified government and an open-door policy. The County needs additional sources of revenue from industry, she says, developing new revenue streams. Groundwater basins need protection, she adds. Strengthening services to seniors.
7:10pm- D.L. Wilson, the incumbent, is up now and says he’s the most qualified candidate for the job. Cites experience with multimillion dollar annual budgets. Good customer service. He says he believes the primary election results are a mandate for change, and says he has been working for long-term change and wants to continue. A founder of La Paz County Economic Development Corporation with “real, measurable change.” He wants to continue to change the status quo. Describes himself as “The serious candidate”.
7:12pm- A questioner from Parker asks if the candidates will be willing to give up other jobs to become Supervisor as a ‘full-time job’. Missi says she is “not opposed to” giving up her other jobs. D.L. says he already did when he ran 4 years ago.
7:13pm- Another questioner says she doesn’t like deception and asks if people who deceive people now will continue to deceive people once elected. Missi says she hasn’t run her campaign with any deception. D.L. says he’s been open and honest and says his campaign signs are black and white for a reason.
7:14pm- The first questioner is back to ask the candidates whether they actually live in their district. Both of them respond that they do (and give their addresses, which only happens in a small town).
7:15pm- The second questioner is back to ask about government experience particularly. Missi cites experience with local government agencies like Sheriff, Town of Parker, etc. She says she is currently working on relationships at the state level. D.L. cites many committees, boards, councils and working with legislatures the past few years, including testifying in D.C.
7:18pm- A questioner from the Colorado River Indian Tribes says there are recent examples where the County could have benefitted from working with CRIT, and asks whether the candidates believe that can happen and whether they will act on that. Missi says there are many opportunities to work together and that she intends to make that happen; D.L. says such cooperation is critical and cites Running Man Fuel as an example of where he commends the Tribes for pursuing economic development as well as staying true to cultural concerns.
7:20pm- Now it’s District 2 Supervisor!
7:21pm- Luke Marler is up first. Says he’s been a long-term resident, and talks about his relationships with many entities. Cites the County’s fiscal shortfall and the need to make it stretch. Reduce County’s spending and the Board’s salaries need frozen, he says. “Aggressive direction” to the County administrator. A full evaluation of all County departments. Better relationships with local governments.
7:22pm- Duce Minor is up, saying he’s been a resident for a long time and has tried to give back when he can. He’s served as Director of PAACE, an award-winning organization that has brought millions of dollars to the area. “Our County is in serious trouble and in need of serious leadership,” he says. Says the job needs a full-time commitment. He says the administration likes to say everything is fine, but the “facts speak for themselves” and cites fiscal issues. He talks about his leadership style and says there are tremendous challenges ahead.
7:25pm- Questioner 1 is from Parker and asks what financial background the candidates have to help the County get out of debt and what they’re willing to cut from the budget. Duce says he has a lot of experience with the books of PAACE and says it’s very solvent. Board, school, church budgets. Luke says he has no background in finance but has common sense, where to cut: the top.
7:27pm- Same question about quitting current jobs to become Supervisor: “If that’s what’s needed, yes,” says Luke. Duce says he intends to step down from PAACE if elected, despite how hard that will be.
7:28pm- A question about how long the candidates have been taxpayers and residents of District 2. Luke says since 1992. Duce says he appreciates the attempt to “shame” him for living in the town of Parker for around 30 years (which is District 1) and says he doesn’t see the borders in the County but sees it as a whole. He says he’ll put his record serving the residents of District 2 up against anyone else.
7:30pm- Another question asks Duce whether he’s going to stay on at PAACE as an employee, because that’s been a rumor. Duce says it probably came from the same people who said he didn’t go to his dad’s funeral, was born in Canada, and other unfounded rumors!
7:32pm- Next! District 3 Supervisor. Incumbent Holly Irwin is not here but is represented by her daughter, Berlynn Irwin. “My mother is working tonight” representing citizens at an Arizona Department of Water Resources meeting and says she will be there to represent her but won’t be answering any public questions. Gary Zak is up next, saying that the County is at a crossroads and needs help, and that his opponent supports the current County Administrator: “Of course she does, for the many favors bestowed upon her.” Cites his being forced to resign his position as a park ranger with the County in order to run for Supervisor while Kathy Field was allowed to keep her appointment as Public Defender while she runs for County Attorney.
7:37pm- Holly Irwin’s other daughter is at the mic to ask a question! Saying she thinks Zak’s whole spiel was a “slam against [her] parents” and demands to know what Zak’s qualifications are. “I’m sorry that I had to say these things about your parents but I’ve had to work with them and I’m frustrated,” citing specific issues and calls from employees telling him how they feel about the situation Holly Irwin created.
7:40pm- Another question asks Zak where he lives now that he has resigned his position that gave him County property to live on. He says that he provided security as park ranger while living there, and it was a benefit to taxpayers.
7:41pm- A further question asks for three top priorities for the County. Zak says money management, citing problems with mismanagement of grant money. Says the County needs some business sense and balancing budgets.
7:42pm- County Sheriff! Bill Risen is first. Thanks people for voting for him in the primary. He says he’s been running since March and says he’s been traveling around talking to residents. He says people want deputies around the County, to be seen, to help, to slow trucks down on highways, he wants to start a County-wide detective bureau out of the Task Force building, and he has talked to the Chiefs of Police in the County. Independent investigations. Wants to make the Tribes an equal partner in the Task Force. A new Explorer program County-wide to create a hiring pool of local cops. Has been in contact with other Arizona sheriffs.
7:46pm- Frank Vidrine says he’s the only candidate “born and raised here”. He was a deputy with the Sheriff’s Department. Says the department is “totally desecrated”. He believes in education, education, education. And communication. With all agencies. He knows a lot of people personally. Says the older officers are going to teach younger officers in the department, since there’s no money for sending them away to school. He believes he’ll have the best-educated police force in Arizona.
7:50pm- First question from the crowd. Someone from Parker asks what changes will be made at the Jail to improve morale. Bill says there’s not enough people to staff the jail and problems in the jail. “We’re over $3 million in debt on that jail,” he says. “We’re done reaching into your pockets.” Grants need to be obtained. Paying prisoners need to be brought in. Frank says if there’s not immediate change, there’ll be an “uprising, and not among the inmates”. Wants to get new ideas from jail staff on how to improve things.
7:52pm- Second question asks how to fix the jurisdiction issues. Bill says he talked to the CRIT Chief and there’s a “strong possibility” of being able to certify Sheriff’s deputies to assist CRIT P.D. on the reservation but everything must be approved through the Tribal Council. Frank says it’s all about communication, and the Tribes don’t always operate under the same set of laws.
7:55pm- A questioner claimed that La Paz County was named as having the most dangerous highways in the country by USA Today. (Parker Live hasn’t verified this.) Bill says we need grants written that will provide more money for deputies on Highways 60 and 72. Suggests less enforcement on I-10. Frank says the Sheriff’s Department is not highway patrol, DPS is.
7:57pm- AND WE’RE DONE! Candidates are campaigning at the back of the room with their own tables set up with materials. Thanks for being here! Election is November 8th. Now I’m going to dinner.