The city of Maricopa has witnessed numerous changes since its incorporation in 2003. New homes bloomed, businesses formed and the population swelled.
Kazi Haque, zoning administrator for the city, grants a rare perspective to the city’s history as one of its first employees. He is marking his 10th year in the city’s Planning Department.
“He is a nice, happy, intelligent man with a passion for community development,” says interim Development Services Director Dana Burkhardt, Haque’s on-and-off boss for three years.
Haque has played an integral part in Maricopa’s General Plan and 2040 Vision, leading by consensus on the many zoning issues that set precedent in the young municipality.
Born in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), Haque attended a private high school alongside many classmates who immigrated to the United States after graduation. With the encouragement of his father, Haque packed his belongings and moved to Missouri in 1981.
“My father was a civil engineer,” Haque says. “He wanted me to study engineering.”
However, Haque earned a bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning and a master’s degree in Resource Planning at Missouri State University.
In 2000, Haque was ready to escape the harsh Midwest winters. With friends in New Mexico, Haque chose Arizona as his new residence. He got his start as a planner in Queen Creek.
There, Haque observed rapid growth and now contributes that experience to his impact on Maricopa. Haque says working closely with John Kross, who was then the Community Development director and is now Queen Creek’s town manager, provided him with invaluable knowledge.
“He became my mentor,” Haque says.
In 2005, Haque learned of an opening for a senior planner in Maricopa, then in its infancy.
“I thought, ‘Let’s see if I can contribute to the community in Maricopa,’” he says.
Haque speaks three languages: Urdu (the native language of Pakistan), Hindi and English. He can also read Arabic. No matter the language, Haque’s ardor becomes obvious when he speaks about the city he’s helped take shape.
Rodolfo Lopez, senior planner for the city of Maricopa, says Haque “stepped in greatly as a leader by keeping the department functioning” when they experienced team shifts and staff changes.
There were fewer than 20 government employees when he arrived. “In the early 2000s, Maricopa did not have an official police or fire department,” he adds.
Growth was so fast, Haque says, U-Haul trucks were used to transport drawings for new homes to Maricopa for construction.
“We were approving 600 to 700 permits a month for new homes,” he says. “That’s how fast Maricopa was growing.”
The city experienced nearly a 4,000 percent population growth rate during the mid-2000s.
Enter the housing bubble, which meant home foreclosures and bankruptcy across the country. Maricopa was hit particularly hard, according to Haque.
Still, Maricopa was well-positioned thanks to elected leaders and how they handled finances, Haque says. “We were growing so fast, and there was money coming in, but we didn’t have time to spend it.”
Burkhardt says one of Haque’s strengths is his caution. As fast as things moved in the early days, he thoughtfully considered compatibility of proposals and the impact on the neighbors.
His style of leadership is to seek out the ideas of others in the department and consult with other members of the city staff, Burkhardt says.
City Clerk Vanessa Bueras has worked with Haque since he joined the city 10 years ago. Bueras says Haque implemented policies within the planning department, including multiple annexations, ordinances and, most recently, rewriting the zoning code.
Now he’s working on the General Plan update. The General Plan acts as a blueprint for city development and serves as a layout for zoning codes and ordinances.
“It is very important because it’s the only document in any city or town that is approved by voters,” Haque says. “It goes through a ballot, which makes the plan a very rigid, stoic and powerful document. You can’t just change it overnight.”
Haque is also involved in coordinating Maricopa’s 2040 Vision and Strategic Plan.
The 2040 Vision is intensive and heavily reliant on public participation. “People from all walks of life have contributed to complete the vision of what Maricopa will become,” Haque says.
The plan, he adds, provides Maricopa with a strong view of what the city can become.
Haque has a strong view of that as well. Burkhardt says Haque’s own motivation and drive has made him a leader in air-quality initiatives. He seeks out information on environmental issues to gauge the impact on the future of Maricopa.
While it may seem even Haque’s outside interests are tied up in issues related to his work, Haque does have a home life. Married since 2007, he has a 10-year-old daughter attending school in Maricopa.
As a peer, Haque looks out for the best interest of others before himself, Lopez adds. “His work ethic is strong [and] built around team work. His strength is his passion for Maricopa’s quality of life.”
Haque’s devotion lies in Maricopa. He likens his work to that of a gardener: “If you’re a gardener and you see your plants grow, you want to nurture the plant to keep it growing.”
PHOTOS by William Lange