Authors Articles byMichelle Chance

Michelle Chance

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Sisters Shell Abbott (left) and Eliah Abbott hold a photo of their brother Josiah Abbott, who died in 2014. Photo by Michelle Chance

It was a one-vehicle crash that took the lives of two teenagers Christmas night nearly three years ago.

Josiah Abbott, 15-years-old, and Morgan Martin, 14, were passengers inside a friend’s truck that rolled on Papago Road in Thunderbird Farms.

In early May, the driver of the vehicle pleaded guilty to two counts of negligent homicide. William Gay, 25, was sentenced to 2.5 years in the Department of Corrections for each count when he appeared in a Pinal County Superior courtroom on June 12.

According to the plea agreement supplied by the Pinal County Attorney’s Office, the two imprisonment terms will “run concurrently with each other.”

Josiah Abbott and Morgan Martin were victims of negligent homicide on Christmas night 2014. Submitted photos

Josiah’s older sister, Shell Abbott, said no amount of prison time would heal the pain caused by her brother’s death.

“The whole family had pretty much come to a consensus that some time or no time wouldn’t change the outcome of our hearts and how much we miss him and how much we think of Morgan,” Abbott said. “It wasn’t going to change that.”

Abbott said Josiah was charismatic and enjoyed making the women and girls in his life know they matter.

“Josiah had a way about making women feel special, and you could be 92 or you could be 3,” she said.

 The loss of Josiah and the emotional support he provided, she said, is comparable to the sensation of a phantom limb that has been amputated.

“You know it doesn’t exist, but in your brain it really does. You can still move it, but you can’t put weight on it because it’s not there,” Shell said.

William “Bubba” Gay. PCSO photo

Abbott said she is reminded every day she cannot lean on her brother. His young life was taken along with another’s from an accident caused by Gay — a friend of the family whom they refer to as “Bubba.”

“I think that’s the hardest part because Bubba will be able to get back out, and for him he’s not missing a limb,” Shell said.

Gay was a roommate in Abbott’s home at the time of Josiah and Morgan’s death. Abbott said she felt Gay did not take responsibility for the families’ losses. Additionally, she said Gay did not apologize to her. After a while, because of Gay’s behavior, she told him he needed to leave.

“Even through everything that Bubba’s done, we don’t hate him,” she said. “There is hurt, but I also understand that Bubba, whether he addresses it or not, is also hurting because Josiah was his friend – a very close friend.”

Gay taught Josiah about cars, Abbott said, and because Gay had a driver’s license and Josiah did not, the friends drove around together frequently.

Shell Abbott said her mother, Ranelle Abbott, requested in court that Gay receive counseling.

“I think that’s the only reason why him being in prison is actually a good thing,  … the fact that it will give him a lot of time to think,” Shell Abbott said.

Josiah Abbott romping with dog Filly. Photo by Rahannah Abbott

Even as a young child, Josiah was bright and had entrepreneurial tendencies, she said. At 4 years old, he began a small frog farm. In buckets, he placed tadpoles at varying points in development. By age 9, Josiah switched from frogs to chickens, and he made business cards to promote the eggs he sold.

Josiah would be 18-years-old now, and Shell Abbott said it saddens her to think of what he could have accomplished.

“There was no doubt in my mind that when he grew up he was going to own his own business and he was going to be able to do the job, whatever it was,” Abbott said. “Because of his charisma with people, there wasn’t a thing that he wouldn’t have been able to do in his life.”

The last Abbott family photo that included Josiah (top). Submitted photo

Mark Cisterna has been MUSD's athletic director since 2014.

When Mark Cisterna accepted his position as district athletic director at Maricopa Unified School District three years ago, he said he expected to retire there.

“It was a very difficult decision because I really thought I would really end my career out here,” Cisterna said.

However, that was before he heard a different but familiar calling.

In early June, Cisterna resigned from his post at MUSD to become the athletic director at Notre Dame Preparatory, a private Catholic high school in Scottsdale.

Cisterna, a Catholic, said he had always wanted to work in a similar environment.

“I never have had the opportunity, and I kind of have looked at it from afar. And when this opportunity arose, it was a faith-based decision,” Cisterna said.

The seasoned AD will have similar duties at the prep school to those he had in Maricopa. Cisterna will work closely with athletes and coaches at the high school of about 900 kids.

Cisterna said he will miss mentoring coaches whom he built relationships with at MUSD.

“These coaches mean a lot to me,” he said. “That was probably one of the hardest things in the world for me to do, to leave these young coaches that I’ve committed some time to and ask them to commit back – so that was very hard.”

Cisterna said one of the biggest successes he and the coaching staff have had since his tenure was the growth of the athletic program.

“I’m not going to measure it by wins or losses, but I think that all of our programs have gotten better,” he said.

The athletic program has had its share of challenges. During Cisterna’s second year, the Arizona Interscholastic Association realigned how it classified school divisions. The result boosted Maricopa High School into a difficult division based on enrollment.

“We are getting better every day and – as with all competitive people – even if you are in a little bit tougher league, you find a way to rise. And our kids did do that and so did our coaches,” Cisterna said. “It was fun to see and I think in the years to come, it’s going to pay off.”

In July, current MHS Dean of Students Brian Winter will take over as district AD. The position is not entirely new to him, however. Winter was MHS athletic director in 2012.

Cisterna said Winter’s understanding of the district will be helpful to the position.

“He’ll step in and I don’t think there will be a missing of a beat at all. He’s got experience and he knows the school and he knows the community,” Cisterna said.

The former MUSD AD said although he is leaving, he will always care for the district and its athletic program.

“There is great family support out here and the community is lucky to have the quality of coaches that they have right now. I think Mr. Winter is going to step in and do a good job,” Cisterna said.

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Water customers crowded into the Thunderbird Farms Improvement District board meeting Thursday. Photo by Michelle Chance

Customers of a rural water district were successful in striking down a tax levy proposed by its local board Thursday night.

The Thunderbird Farms Improvement District Governing Board failed to pass an 11.52 percent tax increase after hearing from domestic water clients, angered over the tax that many said could push residents out of their homes – and the water district out of business.

Chairman Patrick Lacey motioned to approve the tax, but the proposed levy died after board members Martha Courtney-Boblitt and Beverly Smith did not second Lacey’s motion.

The result was met with applause from the few dozen customers who packed the district’s conference room for the duration of the three-hour meeting. Thunderbird Farms is in an unincorporated area south of Maricopa.

The three-panel board was able to approve, however, a $15 rate increase of its basic monthly fees. It also decided to table its proposed 2017-18 budget for its next meeting on July 20.

As part of policy, all TFID board members live in the district.

The budget itself was the center of contention for customers. During the hearing’s public comment, many residents questioned budget line items that were published in a legal notice within a local newspaper on May 30 and June 6.

Customer Scott Crawford urged the board to reconsider. He said current figures would transform the water district into one nobody could afford.

“How do you justify $500,000 increase operation and maintenance in this thing? You can’t justify it to these people and if this goes through I’m telling you, you might get locked out of this place down the road because it’s not going to happen,” Crawford said.

In November, district staff moved into a new office building that also houses a new water treatment plant they said is state-compliant.

“We do what needs to be done to provide safe water within the confines of state laws that apply here,” said Jeffrey Crocket, the water district’s attorney.

The construction of the office and treatment plant were part of a $5 million project district officials said were necessary to become compliant. The project also resulted in the creation of a third water tank, dry waste pond and generator.

The project transformed the water district from a small operation to what officials deem as state-of-the art.

Years prior, the district went under a consent order after its arsenic and nitrate levels did not meet increasing water safety standards by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

Lacey said the district’s first two “low-cost” project proposals were denied by ADEQ before its current project was eventually approved.

“I will point out that the ADEQ has been very patient with us,” Lacey said. “They could have been fining us for this entire period,” but because the district showed they were making progress toward meeting standards, Lacey said the district got a pass.

Now with the project completed, Lacey said the district is in “total compliance.”

While district employees are managing its new system, they are also budgeting for anticipated repairs to its ageing, 35-year-old waterlines. In a moment of unity, around 10 customers said they would volunteer in various capacities at the district, ranging from office help to waterline repair, in attempts to drive down costs.

The room that overflowed with customers Thursday night was an illustration of other concerns many said were derived from a lack of communication and transparency from the district.

Customers complained public meetings occur on weekday mornings when many of them are at work and unable to attend.

Lacey said the taxation hearing was changed to 6 p.m. Thursday to allow for better customer attendance. The board agreed to discuss permanently changing their public meeting times to the evening after the outcry from their customers.

Even with the rise in domestic water costs, the board and its customers did appear to agree on one thing: They said staying an independent district was in everybody’s best interest.

Lacey said Global Water, the private company that services incorporated Maricopa, offered to buy the rural district out three years ago, and he said he expects the company to attempt it again. 

The large and often hostile crowd had the presence of Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. Photo by Michelle Chance

Brian Winter was set to become an assistant principal at Maricopa High School but instead will now be the district's athletic director, a position he held five years ago. Photo by Michelle Chance

A man familiar with running the athletic program at Maricopa Unified School District will soon return to the position.

Brian Winter will begin as district athletic director July 1, after the MUSD Governing Board approved the move Wednesday night. In 2011-12, he was athletic director and assistant principal at Maricopa High School before leaving the district that year.

Winter returned in 2016 as the current dean of students at Maricopa High School and was poised to become assistant principal for the upcoming school year.

Winter said his focus has been preparing for his new role as assistant principal of academics — until last week when the former district athletic director resigned.

 “It was bit of a whirlwind when Mark Cisterna put in his resignation. I don’t think any of us saw that coming,” Winter said. “It took a little time to process it all, but it will be good.”

MUSD Academic Coach Heidi Vratil will move into Winter’s assistant principal slot at MHS.

The responsibilities of his position as AD have changed since Winter held the spot five years ago. Back then, he played dual roles as athletic director and assistant principal.

This time around, Winter said he will retain the administrator’s duty of teacher evaluations, but will have less to do with discipline.

Winter said as district AD he will work to build an alignment between middle school and high school sports programs. He said his goal will also be to hire and retain qualified head coaches.

“What I found in Maricopa is a lot of times it ends up being kind of a stepping stone to bigger jobs up into the valley and I’ve always felt that Maricopa is a diamond in the rough,” Winter said.

Growing strong athletic and academic programs at MHS, Winter said, will hopefully grow enrollment from students who live in Maricopa but attend school elsewhere.

“People are going to really consider whether or not it makes sense for them to send their students on the bus up 347 when we’ve got so many good things happening right here in town,” Winter said.

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Photo by Michelle Chance

A warm afternoon couldn’t keep cold-blooded creatures from greeting children at the Maricopa Public Library Thursday.

A presentation by Radical Reptile Fun featured a Burmese python, tortoise and an argus monitor lizard. Afterward, children lined up to pet the scaly animals. The event was part of the library’s Summer Reading Program.

Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board mulls the new budget. Photo by Michelle Chance

Details surrounding employee pay increases were not resolved among board members Wednesday night at the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board meeting.

Before a proposed budget for the 2017-18 was approved, governing board member Torri Anderson pushed back on the board’s previous salary increase proposal, which would raise district workers’ pay by 3 percent.

Anderson instead suggested that teacher raises stay at the proposed figure. All other positions would receive a 2 percent pay raise in an effort Anderson said would “incentivize” teachers to come to – and stay with – the district.

The current pay increase across the board for all employees would cost the district $817,500. Dropping other employees by 1 percent would save the district money.

Anderson said MUSD could take savings from her proposal and contribute them to the district’s reserve.

“I want to incentivize teachers, even if it’s just that 1 percent because everybody is important, but we have a hard time hanging onto teachers,” Anderson said.

Other board members sustained arguments supporting an equal percentage raise across the district. Gary Miller said MUSD also has issues retaining bus drivers and other classified staff.

Board President Patti Coutré said teachers wouldn’t have the support they need without the work of attendance clerks, bus drivers, janitors and district office staff.

“In the past, we kind of got away from that because we wanted all of our staff to feel valued,” Coutré said in regards to giving one group of employees a higher percentage raise than another.

Administrators would also receive the 3 percent increase in the district’s current proposal.

AnnaMarie Knorr, board vice president, sided with Anderson and agreed keeping all staff except teachers at a 2 percent raise could build the district’s reserve fund.  

However, Coutré referred to a previous report given by district Business Manager Aron Rausch, in which he said the reserve fund would stay at an acceptable level with all employees receiving a 3 percent raise.

Knorr also supported the argument that raising teacher pay above others could help the district retain teachers.

Board member Joshua Judd said, “finding teachers isn’t at epidemic levels,” citing the district’s recent hiring efforts. However, he said MUSD should consider incentivizing teacher pay in future budgets.

The board agreed to continue the salary discussion at a later date. Superintendent Steve Chestnut said the figures would be gathered and discussed during a future board meeting.


After months of arriving to meetings as the sun was setting, and not leaving until the moon was positioned high in the evening, MUSD Board member deliberations over the 2017-18 school year budget are expected to end Wednesday night.

The board is poised to finalize its proposed budget at 6:30 p.m. at a regular meeting in the district board room.

Surviving the proposed final cut to its maintenance and operation budget were: staff pay raises, a sick leave bank and smaller class-size targets.

The board is proposing a 3 percent increase for all district employees. Teachers will receive an additional 1 percent increase from the state. The district calculates its raise in staff pay to cost MUSD $817,500.

The district is also proposing the creation of a district sick leave bank for employees. The $28,000 cost to the district would facilitate the donation of unused sick time by employees to those who have depleted their 11 day allowance.

In previous meetings, board members agreed a sick bank would “increase district morale.”

Lowering classroom sizes are also on the agenda. It comes at a cost of $20,400.

The lowered class size targets come as enrollment grows. District budget documents show enrollment across MUSD increases by around 200 students every year since 2016.

Enrollment growth revenue figures for regular and special education comes at a total of $400,000 for MUSD next year, according to district documents.

MUSD projects the teacher-to-student ratio at the district to be one teacher for every 18 students.

Budget documents show district staff will increase next school year by nearly 60 employees.

Staff switch-ups will also be voted on during the meeting.

Current Maricopa High School Dean of Students Brian Winter is being recommended to fill the shoes of former Athletic Director Mark Cisterna.

Cisterna’s recent resignation is expected to be approved Wednesday evening.

Winter was to start as assistant principal at MHS beginning in July. However, if approved, he will instead reprise his role as district AD after previously serving in that position five years ago.

“Brian did an excellent job as our athletic director in 2011-12 and we are very excited to have him back in that role,” Superintendent Steve Chestnut said ahead of the board’s anticipated approval of the hiring shift.

Expected to take Winter’s slot as assistant principal is MUSD Professional Development Coach Heidi Vratil.

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Expenses are rising for TFID, which completed construction on a new water treatment system this year. Photo by Michelle Chance

The price for domestic water could go up for residents living in Thunderbird Farms.

The Thunderbird Farms Improvement District Board will propose tax and fee increases to its customers during a public hearing Thursday at 6 p.m. inside the district’s office located at 10675 N. Brewer Road.

According to a public notice posted by the district in May, “the district is proposing an increase in secondary property taxes of $469,957 for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.”

District Manager Debra Genantonio said the 11.52 percent increase in the district’s secondary property taxes is on customers’ limited property value amount, and not a tax increase on full cash value.

Customers’ basic monthly fee could also increase.

The district is proposing its base rate to rise from $39.90 to $54.90 per month.  Additionally, an existing USDA bond revenue monthly fee of $22 – coupled with the taxes on the amount of water used each month – could result in customers’ water bills increasing to over $80 per month, according to the proposed fee increase outlined in the public notice.

TFID provides water only, not sewage, and residents are on septic tanks.

District customers are paying back a $2.85 million USDA loan, which funded a new facility that includes office space, a new water treatment system and a 500,000-gallon water tank in addition to its other two large tanks. The district also received a $2.45 million grant for the project.

Genantonio said the new water treatment system went online at the end of March and is in compliance with state and federal standards. The district includes 670 lots that have water capability, with 564 of those being active accounts.

The board will make a presentation to customers Thursday evening, and afterward residents can voice their questions and concerns. The board will take a vote on the proposed increases after its call to the public concludes.


Arthur Eric Magana and Gustavo Olivo are charged with murder. PCSO photos

A trial date was affirmed in court Monday for two Maricopa teenagers accused of first-degree murder and armed robbery in the November shooting death of Wyatt Miller.

Gustavo Olivo and Arthur Eric Magana are set to stand trial before Judge Kevin White next year on April 10.

A status hearing for the accused will take place Aug. 28 at 9 a.m. at Pinal County Superior Court.

Attorney for Olivo, John Schaus requested in court Monday that a future settlement hearing be scheduled in the fall. That date has not yet been set.

Last November, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office said Miller was found dead inside his truck of numerous gunshot wounds outside of a residence on Cardinal Road north of Interstate 8.

PCSO said deputies tracked Olivo and Magana to a residence on South Oak Road using two sets of footprints they said matched the patterns on the bottom of the suspects’ shoes.

Miguel Figueroa Sr. (PCSO photo)

The man accused of stabbing to death is wife, Olivia Cecelia Julian Figueroa, with a sword in December may not see a trial.

Attorney Paula Cook represented defendant Miguel Figueroa in court Monday for a hearing that was expected to produce a trial date and possible change of plea. However, Cook told Judge Kevin White she has “submitted a proposal to (the prosecutor) for her to consider to resolve this without a trial.”

Cook requested Monday’s hearing to be re-set to provide time for the prosecution to go over the proposal details.

Outside the courtroom, Cook said she would not comment on those details. Cook also represents Figueroa on a probation violation case.

If the murder case is set for trial, Cook told the judge it could begin in March of next year. The Pinal County Attorney’s Office announced earlier it would not be a death-penalty case.

Figueroa’s next hearing will take place at Pinal County Superior Court on July 17 at 9 a.m.

Figueroa was indicted by a grand jury in December on charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and aggravated assault.

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Photo by Michelle Chance

Children raced through an inflatable obstacle course Wednesday morning during the city of Maricopa’s Summer Fun & Fitness Camps at Copper Sky. Coached by Ricky Muro of Bounce Boot Camp in the East Valley, kids jumped over hurdles, crawled through tunnels and climbed an inflatable wall. Camp aides and “future leader” teen volunteers were also there to assist campers through the course.

The recreational “boot camp” is a weekly feature of the camp’s program at Copper Sky. Youth Coordinator Heather Lozano said she is planning to bring it to other camp locations at Saddleback Elementary and Maricopa Elementary schools in the future.

Johnny Bochat and Mike Waterman do much of the physical labor as Desert Wind Middle School prepares not only for a new school year but also the addition of sixth graders. Photo by Michelle Chance

The halls within Desert Wind Middle School are virtually empty in June. Besides the few classes of children attending summer school, the building can feel vacant by the afternoon.

Lined against its olive-hued walls are hundreds of desks. Most classrooms are emptied, chairs pushed to the side.

It’s the time of year most students don’t see at school – staff rearranging entire classrooms, scrubbing glue off of floors, mopping and buffing them to a sparkle.

But not all is quiet.

A bluesy guitar riff echoes through the school lobby.

The sounds don’t come from the music department, but instead from within the facilities office.

Inside is Site Lead Custodian Mike Waterman, whose fingertips strum the strings of a black guitar. His audience of one is Night Custodian Johnny Bochat.

It’s a rare time the two break from the labor their summer duties require.

The pair is responsible for keeping the school operational and clean throughout the year.

 “We do anything they need to make the thing move smoothly,” Waterman said.

And in the summer that means a lot of heavy-lifting around the large 48-room campus that will soon house nearly 700 students once school starts in the fall, Waterman said.

In August, the custodial team will add 14 previously unused rooms to their daily cleaning routes due to the influx of sixth grade students from district elementary schools.

To prepare, the two-man team is in charge of rearranging the entire school before kids return.

“Something that might have been a computer lab this year is now going to be something else this year,” Waterman said.

So while shampooed carpets and polished linoleum floors dry, the men move furniture from one end of the building to the other.

More classes to clean, and even more students to clean up after, mean Waterman and Bochat will receive a new fulltime custodial co-worker once school begins.

“It’s still going to be a lot for three people,” Waterman said.

Although the workload is heavy, the duo still finds time to lead interesting lives.

Bochat is a native Maricopan who loves working with his hands and spending time outdoors. In the past, he combined his love of craft and adventure when he lived in Alaska working as a mechanic. Soon he will vacation in Prescott to pan for gold.

Waterman is the unofficial in-house artist known as “Miko Ceviche.” Administrators and staff hang his acrylic paintings in their offices, often switching and trading them out between each other.

It’s a work culture the two men said they love.

“I’m with these people more than I am with my family,” Waterman said. “You work eight hours a day with (them) and they become your family after a while.” 

Mike Waterman’s paintings are seen at various locations with MUSD and he plays a mean blues guitar, too. Photo by Michelle Chance

Mark Cisterna has been MUSD's athletic director since 2014.

The Maricopa Unified School District is chasing down a new athletic director.

MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut said former Athletic Director Mark Cisterna submitted a resignation letter to the district on June 5. Cisterna was hired in 2014, coming from Gilbert. Over the past year, he led MUSD through the realignment process of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

“He will be the new athletic director at Notre Dame Preparatory in Scottsdale,” Chestnut said.

The district posted notice of the position vacancy on its website the same day it received the letter and is currently accepting applications.  The salary range is $73,000-$84,810.

Kelly Antone explains the process

Kelly Antone and his wife Stephanie Burnette-Antone have teamed up to get healthy. Photo by Michelle Chance

A Maricopa man stepped on a scale Thursday evening and learned he dropped nearly 110 pounds in less than five months.

Kelly Antone began his journey in January when he and his wife Stephanie Burnette-Antone walked into Copa Craze. The couple was looking for a solution to health problems they said were caused in part by being overweight.

A history of high blood pressure and painful back and knee pain were motivators for Kelly Antone, who works seven days a week irrigating crops at Ak-Chin Farms.

Kelly Antone has been gradually shrinking since starting his current regimen of diet and exercise. Now his photo hangs on the wall at Copa Craze.

The strenuous, 10-hour days spent working in the heat were made worse by his extra weight, he said.

Irrigating fields requires workers to spend approximately half their day bent over small canals, siphoning water through tubes from the ditches to the crops.

“I started out at 475 pounds,” Antone said. “Four hundred seventy five pounds doesn’t really go too well with walking on little boards (across the canals).  I’d be breaking boards and the little edges on the ditches just trying to start the pipes.”

After work, friends and family described him as a “walking corpse,” depleted of energy. As the New Year rolled around, he knew it was time for a change, and so did his wife.

Stephanie Burnette-Antone said she is diabetic and had high blood sugar levels, sustained, she said, because of certain lifestyle choices.

“It was mainly because we were always eating out,” she said.

One day in mid-January the couple met wellness coach Nathan Smith.

“He came through that door and you could see it in his eyes that he was ready,” Smith said.

Kelly and Stephanie began replacing two meals a day with shakes and incorporated a daily fitness routine.

Since then, Stephanie’s blood sugar levels have become normal and Smith said Kelly has lost an average of around 22 pounds per month.

“It’s not typical to lose that much that quick,” Smith said, adding the fact that Kelly had more weight to lose than most as another factor to the rapid loss.

However, Smith also attributes Kelly Antone’s success to his dedication, as well as to his support system.

“When you have somebody in the picture that you don’t want to let down, then you work harder to do that,” Smith said.

The couple wed in March, crossing off another goal that Kelly said motivated them to get healthy.

Their dynamic is a marriage of love and enthusiasm, with both partners encouraging the other to keep at it.

“There was one point where I wanted to quit because it was getting too rough for me, but she’s my backbone on this and she kept pushing me forward,” Kelly said.

A photo of Kelly Antone now hangs on the florescent-green “wall of fame” inside Copa Craze, a tribute to his success.

But Kelly said he is not done. By the end of October, he plans to lose another 100 pounds.

“This is only one step for me,” he said. “I’ve got a few more steps to go and I’m going to get there.”

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Photo by Michelle Chance

The Maricopa Public Library experimented with “Mad Science” Thursday afternoon. Children experienced interactive demonstrations with an educational element. One concoction mixed water, food coloring, dry ice and soap to create a brew of bubbles the kids could see and feel.

The event was part of the library’s Summer Reading Program.

Maricopa Wells Middle School

Although school has ended for most, principals and staff are still on campus over the summer preparing for the 470 additional sixth grade students at Maricopa Unified School District middle schools.

The move comes after the voter-approved override allowed the district to hire more teachers. That includes teachers across all six of MUSD’s elementary schools, which have housed sixth-grade students for the past four years.

With increased need for additional space in elementary, MUSD approved the move in January.

Maricopa Wells Middle School Principal Rick Abel said 270 new students will take their seats in classrooms in the original sixth-grade wing of the school when classes start in August.

In 2013, the sixth graders were in the middle school but were shifted to elementary schools.

“They had talked about possibly closing a middle school, so they moved the sixth graders back. There was room in the elementary schools at that point in time,” Abel said.

Both MUSD middle schools remained opened, however, and as enrollment numbers grow, principals say they are ready to welcome sixth graders back to campus.

June Celaya, principal of Desert Wind Middle School, said she has also been working to ensure the transition from elementary to secondary is easier on staff and the 200 incoming sixth graders.

“I’ve rearranged the entire school and how teachers are in classrooms,” Celaya said.

Desert Wind Principal June Celaya stands on the stairs that will soon become familiar to sixth graders. Photo by Michelle Chance

Sixth and seventh grade students will be housed in the school’s second story; eighth graders will fill the classrooms downstairs.

Although the younger students will sometimes travel to the first floor to attend their elective classes, Celaya explained the separation will allow for the transition into the middle-school environment to be slow.

Sixth graders will attend five classes a day, mostly upstairs with their cohort of friends and teachers.

Celaya said that although parents might fear the change from elementary to middle, it gives the students an opportunity to grow.

“Throughout the rest of the year they find their way, and they find their voice, and they start to define who and what they want to be,” she said.

Sixth-grade teachers will also “adopt” their first period-classes and become mentors for those students, Celaya said.

Maricopa Wells sixth graders can expect four classroom options, Abel explained.

A breakdown of those options are:

  1. Blended Learning Classroom

“We will have about 50 of the kids in a blended learning setting and there will be one-to-one technology for those kids on campus,” Abel said. “It’s kind of a preparatory program to go in to what we used to call the 20+1 program at the middle school campuses.”

  1. Four-Teacher Cohort

“We will have a group of four teachers working with probably 100 to 115 kids and those four teachers will each teach one of the four core classes. That gives the kids a chance to move from teacher-to-teacher,” Abel said.

  1. Two-Teacher Cohort

“We also will have two teachers, each of them will teach two of the core subjects,” Abel explained, adding “About 50 to 55 kids there.”

  1. Traditional Classroom

“We had a number of parents who were interested in the traditional classroom which is one teacher teaching all of the core classes,” Abel said.

Classroom sizes are expected to range from 25 to 28 kids per class at Maricopa Wells, Abel said.

Both schools are adding nine teachers each – many of whom worked at district elementary schools.

“They are experienced teachers and they know how our system works, so that will make the transition a little easier, I hope,” Abel said.

Desert Wind Middle School. Photo by Michelle Chance

Peppers were part of the bounty on sale at CAC-Maricopa Wednesday morning. Photo by Michelle Chance

An array of locally grown tomatoes, peppers, squash and other produce made its debut at the first Wednesday Morning Chef’s Farmer’s Market at the Central Arizona College Maricopa Campus.

The market will run every Wednesday from 8 to 11 a.m. through July 26. Chef Gabe Gardner and CAC’s Culinary Department sell a variety of organic vegetables that are grown in the school’s garden. Student-baked artisan bread is also available for purchase.

However, those who arrive early to the market at 7 a.m. will receive the produce free-of-charge after they assist with the weeding and harvesting of the garden.

For more information contact Chef Gabe Gardner at

Mark Smith (wearing red rose), formerly of Maricopa, received UofA's Lifetime Achievement Award last month, 19 years after his father John Smith (in red tie), who still lives in Maricopa, received the same award. Submitted photo

Maricopa farming pioneer John Smith and his son Mark are familiar with cultivating growth in their agricultural communities.

John farmed cotton and other crops here since the early 1950s, and Mark is president of Smith Farms Company of Yuma Inc.

Together, they share more than blood and green thumbs.

In 1998, John Smith received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Nineteen years later, Mark Smith received it, too.

On May 5, the family traveled to Tucson to honor Mark’s achievement during an awards ceremony held at the college.

A representative from the university said John and Mark are the first father and son combination to be awarded the distinction.

Unsurprisingly, his son’s accomplishment makes John Smith happy, but he said it also makes him proud of Maricopa High School.

According to a biography provided by the U of A, Mark was one of the first graduates of the agricultural business curriculum offered by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at U of A. He received a Bachelor of Science from the school in Agronomy and Plant Genetics and Agricultural Business in 1977.

But before that, he was a graduate of MHS.

“Maricopa had a pretty good little school system at the time,” John said. “Having a school system that small was not a thing that most people thought they could get their kids educated in, but they could here.”

John Smith shows the award he received from U of A in 1998. He has been involved in Maricopa agriculture since the 1950s. Photo by Michelle Chance

Smith Farms Genesis in Cotton Country

John himself is no stranger to reaping the benefits from the seeds he sowed in Maricopa, or as he remembers the town in the 1950s, “cotton country.”

“(Back then) there were 16 or 17 cotton gins in the west end of Pinal County, and today there may be one, may be two,” John said.

After graduating from U of A with a B.S. in Business in 1950, he took a job as a foreman on a cotton farm west of Maricopa.

Not only was John the boss, but he also did most of the work.

“There wasn’t anybody out there then to help,” he said. So he had to do a little extra.

A few years later in 1953, he bought farmland in Maricopa with partner Fred Enke.

During their first growing season, Smith said he and Enke labored in the fields themselves, irrigating, weeding and driving tractors.

When the work was finished, Enke would return to a different field – the football field.

Smith said Enke played for professional football teams in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Detroit.

“You don’t see many pro quarterbacks going to work out there chopping weeds,” Smith said. “Not any I know, anyhow.”

Enke was the exception.

Smith Homestead Survives Development

As the farm grew, so did necessity. John and his wife Mary Lou needed a house near the farm.

“There were no places to live in Maricopa,” John said.

So, in the mid-1950s, the couple built a house in the middle of farmland in what is now The Villages subdivision.

Today the sprawling ranch-style home, with its tall, mature trees is an icon of heritage, as well as a portrait of defiance inside the neighborhood of much newer homes.

When developers began eyeing Maricopa for housing growth in the early 2000s, the Smiths fought to keep their property.

Eventually, John sold most of his farmland in the newly incorporated city, but he and Mary Lou held onto the homestead.

“I just told them ‘We’re not going to move. If you want to buy the land, well the house is going to stay and we’re going to stay in it,’” Smith recalled telling developers.

His loyalty to the land might have something to do with the years he worked to develop it through various boards.

According to another biography provided by the U of A, “He was a member of the Site Selection committee appointed by the Board of Regents to locate a new research farm after the College of Agriculture was instructed to close (two other centers).”

The location of the new research farm Smith helped to select? The Maricopa Agricultural Center.

His work didn’t stop there. Smith also served 27 years as president on the board of directors of the Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District.

The biography supplied by the college also highlights Smith’s work in “negotiations for the implementation of the Central Arizona Project and the delivery and distribution of Colorado River water.”

Not one to take all the credit, Smith said his accomplishments were a “collective effort.”

The lineage of agriculturalists does not stop with Mark. His brothers Jim and Matt own a turf farm in Maricopa named Southwest Sod.

“I think it’s wonderful. I’m very proud of all of them,” Mary Lou Smith said of her husband and children.

Maricopa Farmers Adapt

Eventually, the Smith-Enke farming empire expanded so much the partners split.

“We had plenty of land and plenty of equipment for both of us,” John Smith said. “We didn’t even have a lawyer to write it up; we just wrote it out on a piece of paper and it still stood.”

Smith Farms grew to include not only cotton, but a vast pecan orchard, as well as grain and alfalfa crops.

Smith still owns and leases farmland in California, but he said his responsibilities nowadays are mostly to himself.

Sitting inside their home that once stood surrounded by cotton, John and Mary Lou Smith discussed the change in life they’ve experienced throughout Maricopa’s growing pains.

“Everything always looks better looking back,” John Smith said.

And even now, surrounded by houses instead of crops, one thing is for certain: The Smiths are here to stay.


Craig Davis brought his magic show to Maricopa Public Library for the Summer Reading Program. Photo by Michelle Chance

It was a spell-bound mixture of risk, trickery and magic inside the Maricopa Public Library Monday morning.

The Craig Davis Magic Show performed for families as part of the library’s Summer Reading program. Davis – who is based in the valley – entertained children with a variety of illusions including a juggling exercise, card tricks and the vanishing of a pet bird.

Future library events can be found on InMaricopa’s calendar.

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Teens have signed up to do some good this summer in Maricopa. Photo by Michelle Chance

Forty teenagers in Maricopa are volunteering to become “future leaders” in the community.

Zachary Schroeder, 13, is one of them. He and his friend, 14-year-old Morgan Godfrey, attended orientation of the Future Leaders Teen Summer Volunteer Program Wednesday at Copper Sky.

However, the experience isn’t entirely new for them.

Both teens volunteered in the city-run program last year and assisted aides in the city’s Summer Fun & Fitness Camps – which cater to young children between 5 and 12 years old.

Schroeder and Godfrey said it was an opportunity to socialize and gain volunteer hours, but most important to them was their time spent with the kids.

Recreation Coordinator Heather Lozano said the teens mean a lot to the campers too.

“It gives them somebody to look up to. It gives them a mentor,” Lozano said.

Before Schroeder was a future leader volunteer, he himself was a camper. His mother, Jennifer, said she has seen her son take on more volunteer and leadership opportunities since his first experience with the program.

She said it also helps prepare young teens for the real world.

“There are not a lot of opportunities for kids this age to be able to get out there to learn what it’s like to work,” Jennifer Schroeder said. “So this gives them a chance to get out there and do a job and see what it’s like to be responsible and become a leader.”

Teens volunteer at four camp locations around the city for six weeks: two at Copper Sky, one at Maricopa Elementary School and another at Saddleback Elementary School.

The camps run Monday through Friday for four hours per day.

Lozano said this is the biggest group of volunteers she has had in the program and added she may have to expand it next year.

Teens who complete the program receive a letter of recommendation from Lozano, which includes the number of hours volunteered.

It’s an opportunity for the teens looking to build their resume, Lozano explained, as well as the possibility of future employment.

“I have actually hired staff from future leaders,” Lozano said.

Camp begins for volunteers and campers June 5.

Photo by Michelle Chance

Torri Anderson

A familiar face in Maricopa will lead a committee of the Arizona School Board Association.

Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board Member Torri Anderson was recently appointed chair of the organization’s Legislative Committee.

Anderson said she was selected by the association’s president only two weeks ago because the committee’s previous chair could no longer serve.

“I didn’t have much time to prepare, but I’m looking forward to it,” Anderson said.

The committee met Friday to discuss its legislative agenda for 2018.

Anderson said her experience serving on the committee for the past eight years and her familiarity with its process helped association officials in their decision to promote Anderson.

The committee is made up of around 25 school board members from across the state.

Earlier this year, the association sent Arizona school districts forms to fill out. In them, governing boards submitted five items they would like to see adopted in next year’s legislative agenda.

“On Friday we will be discussing the new items and figuring out how they fit in to our current agenda and (if) these items (are) still applicable,” Anderson said after a governing board meeting at the MUSD District Office Wednesday night.

Anderson said, as chair, she will be ensuring the conversations stay on track Friday.

“Sometimes it can be a pretty hairy process because you’ve got all of these people that are passionate about their school districts, which I’m hoping to spin into a positive,” Anderson said.


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Kids 5 to 12 are invited to summer camp, but time to register is running out.

School may be out for the summer, but it some cases, the fun is back at school.

Submitted photo

The City of Maricopa’s Summer Fun & Fitness Camps at Maricopa Elementary and Saddleback Elementary provide children with arts and crafts, games, sports and special events.

Parents can register their kids, ages 5 through 12, until June 5 at 11 p.m.

The six-week camps run Monday through Thursday, 1 to 5 p.m., and is managed by trained camp staff who have passed a background check. “Future leaders” with the city’s teen volunteer program will also be on-hand to assist staff.

Heather Lozano, recreation coordinator at Copper Sky, said the camps are a safe place for kids to build relationships with other children over the summer.

“It’s not only to keep them active, but it teaches them teamwork and cooperation,” Lozano said.

The city offers two additional summer camps at Copper Sky every year. However, those classes are currently at capacity.

For more information contact Heather Lozano at 520-316-4603 or

MUSD staff who will be training other teachers went through SchoolCity training this week. Photo by Michelle Chance

Thursday, Maricopa Unified School District teachers will finish training for the new assessment system the district purchased earlier this year.

SchoolCity replaced the contract MUSD previously held with ATI Galileo.

“This is a train-the-trainers-training,” Curriculum Director Wade Watson explained. “Everybody here will learn the system well enough to go back to their campuses and train the teachers on their campus once the year starts.”

Watson said around 36 teachers from the district participated in the training, which began Wednesday.

The training involves lecture, review and hands-on practice with the new platform.

Teacher-trainers will then hold the first of many trainings within district schools beginning Aug. 1 and 3.

Superintendent Steve Chestnut explains budget options to Torri Anderson and the rest of the board. Photo by Michelle Chance

Draft budget talks progressed Wednesday evening at the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board Meeting. However, board members are split between three proposals that pinpoint where and how to spend the $1.25 million MUSD has in additional revenue.

Option 1: The “Conservative” Draft

This draft, which Superintendent Steve Chestnut jokingly referred to as “Option Zero” during the meeting because he said “it has zero chance,” ended up gaining some support from board members by the end of Wednesday’s budget debate.

Option 1 bloats the board’s reserve amount to $169,100. It also funds a sick-leave bank, a 3-percent pay increase across the board for district employees, and the cost of its target class size, among another 10 or so areas the district has finished debating.

However, it would not allow for the hiring of a communications specialist nor the funding for after-school activity buses – two issues board members have debated for months.

“This is the most conservative approach,” Chestnut said regarding the draft’s ability to build the reserve above the district’s preferred target of $125,000.

Board Member support: Mixed

Option 2: The “Compromise” Draft

The funding of after-school activity buses in this draft means the reserve would lower to $98,817, below the district’s target. However, this option would still fund items from Option 1 like the class-size target, sick-leave bank and staff pay increase.

Although the after-school buses would be revived in this draft, the frequency would decrease from the board’s previous proposal of five days a week to only two at Maricopa High School.

Board member Joshua Judd called the draft “a good compromise” as it allows students to utilize after school buses, but at a lower cost to the district.

Like the first draft option, the communications specialist position would not be funded if the board adopts Option 2.

Board member support: Torri Anderson, Joshua Judd

Option 3: The “Aggressive” Draft

This draft “is where we fund everything (from Option 2), except we (also) fund the communication specialist at half-time instead of full-time, which we have been looking at in previous drafts,” Chestnut said.

Board President Patti Coutre has advocated for the position for months, in part because she said the hire could help the district’s online presence and attract parents and students to MUSD.

Option 3 pushes the reserve down to its lowest amount of $58,812.

Coutre and Judd said their initial apprehension toward Option 3, the riskiest of the drafts, were eased after MUSD Director of Business Services Aron Rausch expressed confidence in it.

Board member support: Patti Coutre

Board Vice President AnnaMarie Knorr was absent during the meeting so her preference was not given. Board member Gary Miller said he did not want to comment on his draft choice yet, but he did say he supports funding activity buses and “putting more money in our reserve fund.”

Photo by Michelle Chance

The MUSD board met in special session to discuss budget options Monday. Photo by Michelle Chance

The budget priorities for the Maricopa Unified School District are homing in on three main areas: funding for afterschool activity buses, setting classroom target sizes and raising staff salaries.

Although the MUSD Governing Board is drafting 14 expenditures in all, the conversation around increasing employee pay is compelling board members to discuss shifting even more funds from afterschool transportation to supplying more income for its workers.

The board sharpened its focus Tuesday night during its budget work session inside the district administration building, but a more in depth discussion takes place tonight at 6:30 p.m.

Here is a snapshot preview of tonight’s budget discussion:

·         Activity Buses: Out of three draft funding options discussed Tuesday night, the board leaned toward the least expensive, which would keep activity buses running two days a week at MUSD’s middle schools and high school. At a previous meeting, the board pitched the idea of running the bus five days a week at MHS.

    o   Cost: $64,283. The proposed figure is down nearly $50,000 since the board’s last meeting. The cost would include the salary of a security guard who will monitor the high school students using the after school bus.

·         Classroom Target Size: Lowering class sizes could be expensive at MUSD if it goes with one of the three options Superintendent Steve Chestnut proposed Tuesday. The costliest of the trio, “Option C” would also alleviate crowded classrooms the most.

    o   Cost: $20,400.

·         Employee Pay: The district is discussing a 3 percent salary increase for all employees. Teachers will receive an additional 1 percent increase from the state. Board members agreed that giving staff a significant wage increase would raise district morale and attract quality teachers in the future.

    o   Cost: $775,000. This figure is a half-percent increase from the board’s previous proposal of a 2.5 percent salary raise for district employees.

The board is also expected to discuss, Wednesday, the creation of a “sick time bank” which would allow employees to donate a portion of their unused sick time to those who have used their 11 day allowance and are in need of more. If approved, the proposal would cost the district $28,000.


MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut. Photo by Michelle Chance

The hunt for a new superintendent will not be on Maricopa Unified School District’s agenda any time soon

Superintendent Steve Chestnut, who announced earlier in the month that he was a finalist for the same position at a large district in the Valley, said he will stay on board with MUSD.

Deer Valley Unified School District hired candidate Curtis Finch, superintendent in Big Rapids, Michigan, to fill the role with approval of the board at its Tuesday meeting.

“It was a professional opportunity I wanted to take a look at, but it wasn’t because I was unhappy here,” Chestnut said.

The prospect attracted Chestnut because of the chance to manage a large post.

MUSD, which educates about 6,500 students at nine schools, is similar in size to previous districts Chestnut managed earlier in his career in Washington state.

DVUSD is considerably larger with nearly 34,000 students and 38 schools.

However, MUSD will hold onto its superintendent for now.

“I’m not actively seeking another job,” Chestnut said.

Chestnut and MUSD.

About Steve Chestnut

Hometown: Bellevue, Washington

Family: Chestnut lives in Maricopa with his wife Kellie. Their son Matt and his wife Jen live in Seattle, with two kids and one on the way. Their daughter Monica and her husband Brian live in Denver.

Hobbies: Appreciates spending free-time visiting children and grandchildren, attending church and enjoying big city amenities.

Favorite sports: Football and baseball

What he likes most about Maricopa: The climate, people and the small town-feel.

Chestnut was hired in 2012 after MUSD was still reeling from the effects of the recession, state budget cuts and a teacher shortage.

He and the Governing Board were forced to be resourceful.

In 2013, they considered closing Maricopa Wells Middle School to save money, eventually deciding to keep the doors open.

The same year, the district shut down all-day kindergarten to alieve budget pressures, before re-instating it a year later.

To increase funding received from the state, Chestnut and the board in 2013 chartered six schools for a contract that would have paid out $2.5 million to the district for 15 years. Unfortunately for MUSD, the state severed the agreement with all districts due to budget cuts only two years later.

The challenges for Chestnut and the board were just getting started.

For years MUSD worked to pass a 10-percent budget override proposal to solve the teacher shortage and improve instructional technology in classrooms. Their efforts finally succeeded in 2016 after the initiative was struck down by voters in 2012 and 2014.

Currently, 48 out of the 50 override-created positions have been filled, and Chestnut said it may take until the end of July to hire the others.

Funds from the override also allow the district to spend $500,000 a year on instructional technology for students. More specifically, it funds the purchase of 595 student laptops and 17 carts with charging stations.

Chestnut’s most important goal for the district, however, remains consistent with that of the board: Raising MUSD’s “B” state letter grade to an “A”.

“That’s a big mountain to climb, and we’ve got to climb it,” Chestnut said.

Improving Student Achievement

It will take teamwork and a variety of successful integrations to contribute to higher student test scores — a feat Chestnut said might take a few years.

To accomplish this goal, he said the district plans on successfully integrating:

  • 50 additional certified positions
  • The new Ram Academy
  • Instructional technology into the classroom

Fresh curriculum could also assist the district’s goal of raising student achievement, Chestnut said. In early May, the board approved new district-wide math curriculum, an update students and teachers hadn’t seen in over a decade.

Adoption of new English-Language Arts Curriculum could be on the horizon for the 2017-18 school year as well, he said.

“It’s going to take several years to get where we want to be, but I think we are going in the right direction,” Chestnut said.

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Maricopa children will have the opportunity to be dazzled by a very different storytelling experience tonight at Copper Sky.

Valley-based performer “Mrs. B’s Story Time with a twist!” will bring her interactive and educational show to the gym at 5:30 p.m.

“The twist is that a lot of the stories are done in very different ways, and we also use a lot of different music,” said Carri Blake-Brekke, also known as “Mrs. B”.

Blake-Brekke’s sister, puppeteer Jodi Melton, will also be on-hand for the night’s entertainment.

The event is free and families do not have to be members of Copper Sky to attend.

The occasion kick-starts the Maricopa Public Library’s Summer Reading Program, which promotes continual learning during the long break from school.

“We are trying to prevent the summer slide — kids not keeping up with what they’ve learned throughout the school year — but in a fun way,” said Ann Marie Creegan, senior library coordinator.

According to the National Summer Learning Association’s website, low-income children are especially at risk, with studies showing they “lose two to three months in reading” over the summer.

The reading program is free to register and is open to every child from birth to 17-years-old.

“A realistic goal is to read, or be read to, at least 20 minutes a day,” according to a city press release. Participants can register for the program at the event, at the library or online at

Young booklovers can choose between three reading goals:

1.       The Empire State Building Challenge: Read 400 minutes by the end of the summer

2.       The Willis Tower Challenge: Read 800 minutes by the end of the summer

3.       The Burj Khalifa Challenge: Read 1,200 minutes by the end of the summer

Participants log their minutes on the city website through July 15. Those who meet their halfway mark, as well as those who finish the program, can then visit the library for prizes.

“If they complete how many minutes they want to read, they get entered into drawings, Creegan said. “We have some really cool prizes: we have a couple of bikes (and scooters) to raffle off.”

Additionally, all children who meet their reading goal by the end of the program will be invited to a pool party at Copper Sky to celebrate.

Creegan said children are encouraged to read any medium that suits them, whether that be a magazine, e-book or website-reading.

“This is the time for them to do their recreational, fun reading,” she said.

Photo by Michelle Chance

The City of Maricopa, along with the Fire/Medical Department, hosted its fifth annual Water Safety Day Friday at the Copper Sky Aquatic Center. Families learned the “ABC’s of water safety” from MFMD’s Carlos Schulz, as well as other drowning prevention tips from the department including CPR training.

The ABC’s of water safety are:

A: Adult Supervision

“If adults have direct, eye-to-eye contact (with children), it’s almost impossible for a young one to drown,” Schulz said.

B: Barriers

“The more difficult it is for an infant or child to get into a water source, the less likely it is to drown,” Shulz said, adding, alarms on a pool fence and the back door can save a child’s life.

C: Classes

“All parents should know CPR,” Shulz said. “If they haven’t taken the CPR class recently, they may need to enroll in one so that as the standards change they stay up-to-date on the newest things.”

The City of Maricopa Community Services offers a CPR and first-aid class once every month. For more information visit


As summer temperatures migrate back to Maricopa, pet owners must take heed of the heat and the effect it has on their pet’s health.

Veterinarian Calvin Cordell said if not properly prevented, animals can suffer heat strokes and risk paying the ultimate price: death.

Cordell, who operates a mobile veterinary practice in Maricopa, said pet owners must always provide a consistent and accessible water source for pets to prevent heat-related emergencies

Additionally, he said pets should be kept indoors, if possible. However, if pet owners keep animals outdoors, Calvin recommends they provide adequate shade and water at all times. He added water should be kept in a container that cannot spill or empty.

Lastly, Cordell said animals should never be left in a sitting car, even when the vehicle is running and is air-conditioned.

He said pets left in hot cars during the summer can die within moments.

“It can get up to 180 degrees within 5 minutes in there,” Cordell said.

Pet owners who suspect their companion of overheating should look for symptoms that include excessive panting and a loss of coordination.

Calvin instructs concerned owners to give first aid to pets immediately because wait times at veterinarian offices can often be up to one hour, which is precious time to an animal suffering from heat stroke.

Heat Stroke First Aid:

1.       Take pet’s temperature.

“A normal temperature is between 100 degrees and 102.5 degrees,” Cordell said. However, an animal is in danger if its temperature ranges from 104 degrees to 105 degrees and above.

2.       Put pet in a tub of cool water and call a veterinarian.

Cordell reminds pet owners to hold onto the animal so it does not drown while they use the phone to make an appointment.

3.       Take pet to the veterinarian once its temperature is down to 100 degrees for professional, medical care.

If a pet is saved from heatstroke, however, its medical complications may just begin. Cordell said some can be left with brain damage, so prevention is key.

“They could be a happy animal as long as they have supportive care and people are patient, so they can rehab and train the brain how to walk and talk,” Cordell said.


Celebrity vet Dr. Ernie Ward posted the following popular video showing the dangers of leaving a pet in a hot car, even with the windows cracked.


Was there a real connection between John Wayne, whose 110th birthday is May 26, and Maricopa?

Before Maricopa was a city, it was a tiny town in the Wild West. In fact, its history spans nearly 150 years prior to its incorporation in 2003. Split down the middle by the railroad, Maricopa was inhabited by farmers, cowboys and a Native American tribe.

Headquarters owner Alma Farrell tells about actor John Wayne’s visits to her restaurant, one of the oldest remaining buildings in the Heritage District of Maricopa. Photo by Michelle Chance


It seemed to be the real-life snapshot of a scene depicted in so many Hollywood western movies. Perhaps that’s one reason John Wayne spent many years here away from the spotlight.

Wayne’s presence in Maricopa began over 60 years ago when he bought nearby farmland. He later partnered with local farmer Louis Johnson, and together they cultivated cotton and cattle.

The 110th anniversary of Wayne’s birth (as Marion Morrison) is May 26. The impact he left in the community is still displayed throughout the city. A drive through Maricopa’s main street, John Wayne Parkway, and a round of golf at “The Duke” at Rancho El Dorado is evidence of the city’s romance with the star’s name.

Despite local landmarks named after Wayne, many dispute the legitimacy of his spending time here – often chalking it up to urban legend.

“I’ve heard people say it was just a hoax,” said Maricopa’s first mayor and lifelong resident Edward Farrell.

But he says that’s not true. As a child, Farrell met Wayne inside his family’s restaurant on multiple occasions.

“There were times he’d stop at Headquarters for a cocktail and my dad would call my mom and say ‘John Wayne’s here having a drink. Bring the kids,’” he said.

Farrell’s family still owns and manages the mid-century-style restaurant and bar that received a name change in the 1990s as “The New HQ.”

Hanging on a wall is a black-and-white portrait of Wayne – a tribute to its most famous patron.

Wayne made brief stops inside the establishment for drinks during his business trips away from the silver screen.

It was an experience the then 4-year-old Farrell couldn’t appreciate at the time.

“Now I’ve watched all his movies. He’s this big, tough cowboy who kills everybody, but he wasn’t anything like that. He was a very nice, cordial gentleman,” he remembered.

During dove-hunting season in September, HQ owner Alma Farrell said Wayne and his entourage filled a round table in the back of the diner after mornings spent shooting. Some notable friends who joined him were WWII Marine Corps fighter ace Joe Foss and baseball player Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean.

Alma laughed at the doubts some hold as to whether Wayne dined there.

“Too bad you weren’t here to see it,” she joked.

During dove season’s fortnight, Wayne and friends rose early before daybreak to hunt. Once they reached their 10-dove limit, they brought the birds to Headquarters.

“We used to have different health regulations then,” Alma recalled. “They would get together in the back of the restaurant and they would clean the doves, and that’s why we have that barbecue pit in the clubroom because they would cook them in there.”

Times have changed, but the memories still last.

On the second floor inside Edward’s home is the round oak table Wayne and his friends dined over and played poker around during Headquarters’ heyday.

As the story goes, Wayne, distracted by his card game and fueled by cocktails, would set his lit cigarette on the edge of the table, letting it burn to its end. The practice eventually stained the edge of the wood, leaving behind permanent, vertical streaks.

The famous cowboy left his mark on Maricopa in more ways than one, and Edward Farrell said it’s one more bit of Maricopa’s legacy that should be preserved.

“I think it’s very important that we keep those roots in our history and know where Maricopa’s coming from – not just where it’s going,” he said.