By Kathryn Gallo
For the first time in 12 years, Maricopa residents are without the leadership of Anthony Smith.
After serving two two-year terms as Maricopa mayor, Smith was elected to the Pinal County Board of Supervisors in 2012, beginning an eight-year run that ended as board chairman. He chose not to run for reelection in November, confident he was leaving the county in a better place than where he found it.
“Our economy in Pinal County was where we lost about 50% overall of employees to go work in another county. We didn’t have the benefit of having a home-based economy,” Smith said. “In 2012, what I campaigned on was turning that around and adding local manufacturing and job growth. We have certainly seen the beginnings of that.”
The developments of sites like the Lucid Motors factory in Casa Grande and the Nikola electric semi-truck manufacturing facility in Coolidge will help bring more jobs to the county and make it a more service-based economy rather than one that relies on agriculture.
When Smith took office in 2012, Pinal County reported 84,876 jobs, according to the Arizona Regional Economic Analysis Project. On his exit from county leadership, the number of jobs had risen to 102,834, a 21% increase, through 2019.
In addition to creating more jobs, Smith also helped secure plans for the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which would create new roads and allow easier access to those jobs.
In November 2017, county residents voted in favor of Proposition 416 to approve the regional transportation plan and Proposition 417, a funding mechanism in the form of a half-cent sales tax.
“For the city of Maricopa, they were very well-positioned, and they still are very well- positioned, to get two key roads improved in this area — widening (State Route) 347 and building the East-West corridor from Maricopa to Casa Grande as another way to get over to I-10 and to get to the jobs that are being created,” Smith said.
But Prop 417 is being challenged in the Arizona Supreme Court by The Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank, with a ruling expected in spring. Smith said the county’s future relies on access to better roads and believes that should be the top priority of his successor, Republican Jeff McClure, who defeated Marlene Pearce, an Independent and the District 4 administrator for Smith, in the November election.
Even if the court does not rule in favor of the RTA, Smith said Pinal County’s focus should still be addressing transportation needs.
“It’s a lot of hard decisions about how you are going to go forward in the future,” Smith said. “You’ve got population that is coming, and will continue to come, and the jobs will continue to come. You don’t want to be doing that on old, torn-up and highly-deteriorated roads.”
He is confident in McClure’s ability to make smart decisions based on his prior leadership experience on the Oracle School Board and in the Republican party, Smith said.
Maricopa is the largest city in District 4 and after the results of the census come out, it could leapfrog Casa Grande as the largest in the county. Smith said McClure needs to be active in his work with the city council to address its continuing growth.
Smith will remain in Maricopa with his wife, Nancy, vice mayor of the city, but he doesn’t plan on sitting around at home often.
Along with enjoying more time with his family and continuing his work with nonprofits, he is excited about having more time to begin checking off a long list of places and events in his travel planner. That includes a trip through the Panama Canal, visiting some of the world’s national parks and attending the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
“I have got an incredible, fun and adventurous bucket list of things to do, so why not do it now?” Smith said.
This story appears in the January issue of InMaricopa magazine.