Authors Articles byRaquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson

Raquel Hendrickson
1283 Articles 4 COMMENTS
Raquel, a.k.a. Rocky, is a sixth-generation Arizonan who spent her formative years in the Missouri Ozarks. After attending Temple University in Philadelphia, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and has been in the newspaper business since 1990. She has been a sports editor, general-assignment reporter, business editor, arts & entertainment editor, education reporter, government reporter and managing editor. After 16 years in the Verde Valley-Sedona, she moved to Maricopa in 2014. She loves the outdoors, the arts, great books and all kinds of animals.

Arizona had its largest one-week increase in first-time unemployment insurance claims on record last week, according to the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity.

Mirroring the nationwide jump in claims, Arizona saw 29,348 new claims the week ending March 21 compared to 3,844 the week before.

Doug Walls, a labor-market research administrator for the department, said there had been no forecast estimate of what the number would be, but it was “up significantly.”

The previous high in first-time claims was 11,178 in 2009 during the recession.

Walls gave an entirely remote presentation of February employment numbers to a handful of journalists Thursday. He said Arizona gained jobs in all seven metro areas during the month, but cautioned numbers are incomplete because of the coronavirus.

In the available numbers for February, the state’s labor market increased 3.2% compared to last February. That equaled 111,000 people. Compared to January, there was an increase of 24,300 jobs.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.5%. Nationally in February, the unemployment rate was 3.5%. Both numbers are expected to change dramatically when March numbers come in.

Education and health services had the biggest gain in jobs year-over-year with 22,000 added. The trade, transportation and utilities sector was next with 10,600 jobs. Overall, there was a net gain of 79,000 in Arizona since last February.

Month-over-month, there was a statewide gain of 24,300 jobs, which was close to the 10-year average of 25,100.

Nationally, there was an increase in unemployment claims of 3.3 million, even higher than many economic experts anticipated. The coronavirus has caused the temporary closure of many businesses across the country and worker layoffs, with some even closing permanently.

“This large increase in unemployment claims was not unexpected, and results from the recognition by Americans across the country that we have had to temporarily halt certain activities in order to defeat the coronavirus,” Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said. “The hard impact of this on American workers was anticipated in the bill passed by the Senate last night, which provides hundreds of billions of dollars in unprecedented funding for traditional unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment assistance.”

MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman


Technically, Maricopa Unified School District is still on spring break.

While many public schools in the state were closed by state mandate to mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus COVID-19, MUSD students and their families were taking a scheduled two-week holiday. The mandate initially was for March 16-27.

Not until Gov. Doug Ducey and State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman announced the extension of the closure to April 10 did the coronavirus officially impact the district, which has an enrollment of over 6,800 students, but contingency plans were forming.

Wednesday, the governing board has scheduled a special meeting comprised only of a resolution allowing the closing of all schools “until further notice.” That is already the case, and the teaching staff is still coming back to school Monday to put the distance-learning plan into action.

How long that will last is the question.

“We’re obviously paying close attention to what the CDC says, what the state officials say and what the Pinal County health official say,” Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said. “We are welcoming over 8,000 people every day. The health and wellness of all 8,000-plus has been our primary goal – before COVID, it was our primary goal.”

She said the resolution gives her the ability to respond quickly without having a special board meeting every day.

Lopeman is no stranger to unexpected school closures. As soon as she came on board as superintendent of Maricopa Unified School District two years ago, the #RedForEd campaign drew teachers out of the classroom to picket at the state Legislature for restoration of funding.

“I showed up in Maricopa, and everybody left,” she said.

Coronavirus is, of course, a very different situation with an indefinite end.

If the state opts to extend school closures beyond April 10, even to beyond the scheduled end of the school year, the distance-learning program will continue.

Lopeman said teachers will be providing resources and online platforms as often as possible to keep students engaged. Starting Monday, they will be learning what that means for their specific courses of study.

The students and teachers also have the weight off their shoulders of school assessments, which have been canceled across the country. Lopeman called it a do-over that is in the best interest of the kids as well as the faculty.

An important part of Wednesday’s resolution reads: “Governing Board finds that it is in the best interest of the District and serves a public purpose to continue to pay its employees for the time period of the school closure in order to maintain order in the community, reduce employee turnover, allow employees to care for the needs of their families, meet its contractual obligations and increase morale for District employees during a time of national crisis.”

March 13, the last day of school before spring break and two days before the state announced school closures, Lopeman addressed the school family through a YouTube video to explain the district’s approach, including cleaning and disinfecting procedures and what possible closures might mean.

Last week, the school announced it would begin distributing free Grab & Go meals to its students at all campuses.

SR 347 would be one of the beneficiaries of Prop 417, but the issue continues in the courts. (ADOT)

Maricopa and Pinal County are heading to Arizona Supreme Court.

Thursday, attorneys from the Goldwater Institute filed an appeal of a Court of Appeals ruling that favored the county’s regional transportation authority. The case, Vangilder, et al. v. Pinal County, et al., challenges Prop 417, a funding mechanism for a plan to improve Pinal County roadways.

Prop 417 was approved by Pinal County voters in November 2017. State Route 347 is among roadways on the improvement plan that was approved by voters in Prop 416 on the same ballot.

During the campaign, The Goldwater Institute, a conservative thinktank, had challenged the legal validity of Prop 417’s ballot wording. After its passage, the institute filed suit to stop its implementation.

Despite the lawsuit, with the approval of the courts, the RTA has been collecting the tax since April 2018. According to Pinal County records, the account holds $33.4 million as of the end of February.

Arizona Tax Court agreed with Goldwater in ruling that Prop 417 was “an unconstitutional special law” that exceeded county authority. The appellate court, however, overturned that decision in January, finding the tax to be valid.

The Court of Appeals judges felt the Goldwater attorneys were wrong on some facts of the case. They also stated Braden v. Yuma County Board of Supervisors, which Goldwater tried to cite as precedence, did not apply to the Pinal County case.

The case involves 12 law offices, from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office to private law firms representing friends of the court.

Pinal County, the RTA and Arizona Department of Revenue or direct defendants in the case. The Pinal Partnership and the municipalities of Maricopa, Coolidge, Queen Creek and Florence are amicus curiae. Arizona Tax Research Association, which had warned Pinal County about its concerns about the ballot issue’s validity months before the 2017 vote, also remains attached as amicus curiae.

Goldwater attorneys had until March 19 to file briefs with the state Supreme Court and filed on the deadline day. The parties now wait to learn if the judges will hear the case.

On the ballot, the question read:

PROPOSITION 417 (November 2017)
(Relating to County Transportation Excise (Sales) Taxes)
Do you favor the levy of a transportation excise (sales) tax including at a rate equal to one-half percent (0.5%) of the gross income from the business activity upon every person engaging or continuing in the business of selling tangible personal property at retail; provided that such rate shall become a variable or modified rate such that when applied in any case when the gross income from the sale of a single item of tangible personal property exceeds ten thousand dollars ($10,000), the one-half percent (0.5%) tax rate shall apply to the first ten thousand dollars ($10,000), and above ten thousand dollars ($10,000), the measure of tax shall be a rate of zero percent (0.0%), in Pinal County for twenty (20) years to provide funding for the transportation elements contained in the Pinal Regional Transportation Plan? Do you favor the levy of a transaction privilege (sales) tax for regional transportation purposes, including at a variable or modified rate, in Pinal County?

YES _____
NO _____

(A “YES” vote has the effect of imposing a transaction privilege (sales) tax in Pinal County, including at a variable or modified rate, for twenty (20) years to provide funding for the transportation projects contained in the Regional Transportation Plan.)

(A “NO” vote has the effect of rejecting the transaction privilege (sales) tax for transportation purposes in Pinal County.)

Arizona Supreme Court

Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

Mayor Christian Price declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon in an effort to mitigate the impact of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 that has killed one Arizonan and infected dozens more.

Backed by four members of Maricopa City Council, Price said he understands the frustration caused by misinformation about the virus and the government response to it.

“One of the things you can’t know is how the actual the recommendations will come down and affect you in that very moment,” he said. “One of those things we’ve been dealing with is what does this look like on the ground for Maricopa.”

The City gradually reduced, canceled or closed programs and buildings. Copper Sky, City Hall and the library have all been closed. Price said he’s heard from many residents, some saying the City was overreacting and others saying the City hasn’t gone far enough.

Councilmember Rich Vitiello said most of the people he talked to at Copper Sky were not happy with the closure of the recreational facility.

The proclamation authorizes the mayor or City Manager Rick Horst to close the City’s public buildings, limit hours,cancel or postpone City events among other things. The city manager can also “obtain financial and other forms of aid, relief and assistance from federal, state and county authorities.”

The declaration reiterates Gov. Doug Ducey’s order closing all bars, movie theaters and gyms and limiting restaurants to drive-through, curbside pickup or delivery.

Price said the emergency declaration was due now because the city has crossed from state recommendation to mandate and the City wanted to do so in a “fast and orderly fashion.”

Afterward, Price, a financial advisor, said though COVID-19 is causing a financial crisis across the country with layoffs and closures, residents could look for the opportunities arising – besides the opportunity to spend more time with their families. Just as the great recession created a new reality, he said, the fallout from the virus impact could lead to an entrepreneurial revival.

“A lot of benefit could come from it as well,” he said.

Current recommendations of the CDC, the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Pinal County Health Department:

  1. Use social distancing and avoid groups of ten or more people; and
  2. Avoid contact with those with elevated risks associated with COVID-19; and
  3. Stay home and contact your medical provider if you or others in your household feel sick; and
  4. Stay home and away from other people if you are an older person or you have a serious underlying condition that can put you at increased risk, for example, a condition that impairs your lung or heart function or weakens your immune system; and
  5. Practice good personal hygiene, such as regularly washing your hands, avoid touching your face, sneezing into a tissue or the inside of your elbow, and frequently disinfecting.

Horst said he has navigated around 40 states of emergency, between California earthquakes and Florida hurricanes, in his previous work.


The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) have confirmed the first death due to COVID-19 in Arizona. The individual was a male in his 50s with underlying health conditions. MCDPH is in the process of notifying close contacts of this person and will be asking them to monitor for symptoms.

“We express our deepest sympathy to the family and friends grieving their loved one during this difficult time,” said Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS director. “COVID-19 is a serious disease that can be fatal in anyone, especially our elderly population and people with underlying health conditions. We expect to see more cases of COVID-19 in Arizona, and there could be more deaths. It is imperative that everyone takes precautions to protect you and your family from this disease.”

The best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

COVID-19 spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms are thought to appear within two to 14 days after exposure and consist of fever, cough, runny nose, and difficulty breathing. For people with mild illness, individuals are asked to stay home, drink plenty of fluids and get rest. For people with more severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath, individuals are advised to seek healthcare.

ADHS activated its Health Emergency Operations Center on January 27th after the first case of travel-associated COVID-19 was confirmed in Arizona. The Health Emergency Operations Center remains open to coordinate the State’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. For more information about the COVID-19 response in Arizona, go online to

Crossing railroad tracks on a bicycle earned a man a ride to the jail in handcuffs, but not for a potential trespassing offense.

Brent E. Justin was riding a bicycle in the area of Garvey Avenue and John Wayne Parkway about 4:05 p.m. on March 13 in Maricopa when a city officer parked near a business on West Edwards Avenue observed him cross the railroad tracks and ride north toward Escalada Avenue, according to police.

Another police officer responding to the scene stopped Justin to advise he was not permitted to cross the tracks there and that he could be cited for trespassing, according to a probable cause statement.

But a warrant check on Justin showed a fully extraditable warrant from the Gila River Police Department on homicide charges, according to the probable cause statement. contacted the Gila River Police Department on Wednesday afternoon for information regarding the incident in the Gila River Indian Community, but that information has not yet been provided. This story will be updated with additional information, if the case report is made available.

Justin was arrested and taken to the Pinal County Jail, but online records indicate he is no longer being held there. He also does not turn up in an online search of federal inmates.

Clouds are expected to break for a couple of days before returning next week. Photo by Raven Figueroa

After a slightly cool start, Maricopa can expect a mild weekend with lots of sun, according to the National Weather Service.

Today is mostly sunny with a high near 65 degrees F. Tonight will be partly cloudy with a low around 45.

Friday is forecast to have increasing clouds during the day with a high near 69. The overnight low will be around 47 under mostly cloudy skies.

Saturday is expected to be sunny with a high near 74. The nighttime low will be around 46.

Sunday is likely to be mostly sunny with high near 77. Skies could turn mostly cloudy overnight when the low will be around 52.

The week will start sunny but cloud up, leading to a chance of rain midweek.

With the full support of the Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Council, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino announced effective immediately it will temporarily close The Spa. The casino is also canceling its sixth annual Poker Run, which was to have been April 11.

Spa Director Melissa Tuanaki, said the closure “is a precautionary step to protect employees and guests. The Spa at Harrah’s Ak-Chin is a healing space where health and wellness are at the forefront of everything we do. Temporarily closing The Spa is the right step toward keeping employees and community members safe and healthy.”

Guests with current reservations will be notified about the temporary closure and will receive a full refund for any deposit.

The cancellation of the 5K Poker Run is a direct result of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation against holding any events or group gatherings of 50 or more people across the United States over the next eight weeks.

“Caring for the safety and well-being of our employees, guests and community has always been our top priority,” said Robert Livingston, general manager.  “While we’re disappointed that we have to cancel the event, we know it’s the right things to do.”

Individuals registered for the 5K Poker Run will receive a refund on the card used at purchase.  Please allow up to three weeks for processing.

During this time, Harrah’s will continue to monitor the World Health Organization, the CDC and local health agencies for the latest developments relating to COVID-19 and will continue to follow the guidance of local and state government and public health officials.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

After a wet week, the combination of classic cars and private aircraft again made for a lively, colorful day at Millar Airport for the annual Wings & Wheels Spring Break Extravaganza. Centered on a competitive car show, the event included a pancake breakfast, live music, hay rides, a mini Pin-Up pageant, vendors, Chuck Millar’s military museum and, of course, airplanes. Shriners International were beneficiaries of a 50/50 raffle.

Zoie Zimpleman (student at MHS) playing Luck in "Tavern in the Woods."

What: Little Tavern in the Woods premiere
When: April 3, 6 p.m.
Where: Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center
How much: $5/door; MHS students and staff can purchase pre-sale tickets during lunch.
Info: @littletaverninthewoods (Official Instagram Account) 

Transforming itself from a generic student club to a movie studio, 804 Film Co. is ready to premiere its horror short film Little Tavern in the Woods.

The Maricopa High School students who comprise 804 Film Co. plan a special event April 3 at the Performing Arts Center.


“We’re calling it ‘the Little Tavern in the Woods experience,’” said the club’s co-president, Kaden Rogers, who also directed and co-wrote the film and assisted in the editing.

They plan to create a creepy “Haunted House” feel to the foyer of the PAC before the audience moves into the theater.

“We’re going to make every single second of it entertaining,” Rogers said. “Once you step out of your car, you’re entertained by us.”

He sums up the plot as “human taxidermy.” The owners of a Wisconsin tavern that has been bypassed by society stew in their anger until they come up with a psychopathic way to get customers back in the tavern.

Only one member of the club is in the cast – Zoie Zimpleman plays the granddaughter of the tavern owners, Desert Wind teacher Joe Szoltysik and Butterfield Elementary teacher Liz Zimpleman. Volunteers Kristi Lawrence and Charlie Rogers play a pair of hikers who come across the tavern.

Many of the students in 804 Film Co. were part of the cast and crew of Kindness Equals Calm, which won the student-film awards at Show Low Film Fest and Copa Shorts Film Fest two years ago. Their success inspired them to form a student club when they advanced to high school.

When they received grant funding, their movie-making took off.

“We re-named, re-chartered and basically restarted,” Kaden Rogers said.

804 Film Co. members (from left) Joseph Abel, Kaden Rogers, Lexie Nordhoff, Bailey Rigby, Jaylene Shavers and Audrey Duguay. Submitted photo

They named the film company after the classroom where it all started. They now have about 14 members. The grants gave them access to new equipment and best practices in sound, lighting and camerawork.

“Wanted it to be more like a movie studio,” Rogers said. “We wanted to function like any production company would function. We wanted it to be more professional in a production sense.”

The result was a student-film-club version of a producer in the person of Lexie Nordhoff, who is co-president.

“Initially, I joined film club because I wanted to be more involved on campus, and I had friends who were part of it,” Nordhoff said. “Though I had little knowledge of the film-making process, I always found interest in areas such as advertisement and business.”

Rogers says he comes to her with creative ideas, and she takes the production reins and tells him what the club can and cannot do. That allows the students to operate more like a business than as a club.

“Months later, as one of the club’s co-presidents, I have discovered and further explored my passion for leadership and helping others,” Nordhoff said.

Kristi Lawrence playing Faith in “Tavern in the Woods.”

The idea for Little Tavern in the Woods came from a short story Szoltysik wrote years ago as a transrealism exercise. He and Rogers brought it to the club members as an idea for a film plot, and everyone had equal say in how it would go forward.

That started in January 2019.

Joseph Abel, secretary of the club, is the director of photography and was the one who had to learn to work with the new equipment. Denver Bryant was primary editor, and Bailey Rigby was assistant director.

(L-R: Denver Bryant, Jaylene Shavers, Brenna Fulton, Lexie Nordhoff, Kaden Rogers, Joseph Abel)

While their previous film production often ran off the cuff, “This one was very mapped out, with shot lists and schedules, because we had a lot more people involved. It was a very big group effort,” Rogers said.

They built a set in the gym of Desert Wind Middle School, thanks to volunteer Steven Hull, and shot during fall break and on weekends. They also shot on location at Lynx Lake.

“Pontowoc Lake” AKA Lynx Lake in Prescott, Cast and crew traveled there for an on-location shoot

When they worried they did not have enough funds to complete the set, they started a GoFundMe account and met their goal within a day as friends and family pooled $650 for supplies.

They would like to get back on the festival circuit and later release it on YouTube for free.

“We don’t really care if we’re making money from it; we just want people to watch it,” Rogers said.

The film starts at 6 p.m. and runs less than an hour. Tickets are $5 at the door.

“Little Tavern In The Woods” set built by volunteer Steve Hull. Submitted photo

by -
Dayv Morgan
Dayv Morgan

By Dayv Morgan

When it’s time to put a home on the market, many sellers don’t think about the impact high fees will have on resale. It is important to keep in mind what buyers in the area will consider when shopping for a home in Maricopa, including homeowners association fees.

The majority of the HOAs have not raised their monthly fees since the beginning of 2019, however one-third of the 18 communities now have monthly dues that exceed $90 per month.  The lowest fees are paid by residents of Rancho El Dorado at $48.50 per month, while the highest expense is for the Province Villas, which come at a monthly cost of $365.44.

*In addition to the fees above the seller will pay a resale disclosure fee, ranging from $250-400. Click-right to open image full size in new tab.

Buyers should research the costs associated with HOAs and how that may affect their purchasing power and resale value.

Let’s take a look at an example: At a 4.5% interest rate over 30 years, $50 a month in HOA fees equates to about $10,000 in purchasing power. We’ll say a buyer is qualified for up to a maximum of $200,000 and the lender estimated the HOA at $50 per month. The buyer could make a $200,000 purchase in Homestead North, where the HOA is $48.50. But, if he purchases in Rancho Mirage where the HOA fee $99.21, he will only be able to afford a home up to $190,000, assuming taxes and interest are the same.

Another cost often overlooked is HOA fees that must be paid at closing. Palo Brea, for example, has over $1,500 in disclosure and capital improvement fees, compared to Rancho El Dorado’s $400 disclosure and transfer fees. While these fees could be negotiated to be paid by the buyer, the buyer will likely want a lower price in return.

Even worse, the buyer could walk away altogether at the thought of having to pay the HOA over $1,500 when they sell in the future.


Dayv Morgan is the owner of HomeSmart Success.

This column appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

Maricopa Unified School District Administrative Office


In its preliminary budget, Maricopa Unified School District is giving all its employees a 6% percent raise. The governing board voted 4-1 Wednesday.

Originally, the proposal was a 6% raise for teachers and a 5% raise for administration and classified staff. However, board member Torri Anderson had requested a look at the financial impact of an across-the-board raise of 6%.

After looking at the difference of $147,000 and receiving new budget information, the board approved the salary proposal. Anderson voted against it, saying she wanted to be conservative.

The financial impact to the district is $2.26 million. According to Finance Director Jacob Harmon, the growing district will have around $4 million in new revenue.

Board Vice President Ben Owens said the difference between the original proposal and the 6% raise for all was less than 1% of the $53 million budget. He said across-the-board was the way to go.

The district’s goal is to get teacher salaries above the state average, Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said.

“This helps us get there. As all districts around the state over the past couple years have increased their salaries at the same level, if we want to close that gap, we have to increase it more,” Lopeman said.

The state’s average teacher salary is $52,441, an increase of 7% during 2018-19, according to the Auditor General’s Office. MUSD’s average teacher salary is $50,359.

Lopeman had recommended 6% for teachers and 5% for other employees, which was in the proposed budget. She said that concept elevated teachers and “didn’t create a difficult decision for the board regarding administrative salaries.”

The extra boost from 5% to 6% for an across-the-board raise would come from the Maintenance & Operations budget.

Anderson said the $147,000 difference could be used in other areas or for unexpected expenses. Board members were also concerned the money might not be available in future years.

Finance Director Jacob Harmon said his office recommended the 6%-5%-5% as “a little bit of a more responsible approach,” but said he believes the budget can handle the full increase. “If we were really uncomfortable with 6%-6%-6%, we’d be a little bit louder than we are.

“We believe raises are extremely important, and we want to prioritize for that.”

Though Lopeman agreed with board members worried about future funding, she said other expenses would be prioritized around the “big rocks” of the employee salaries.

“I guarantee every board member sitting on this dais that we would never present anything that would put you or me or any one of our cabinet members in any kind of compromising situation, ever,” she said.

“We wanted to prioritize those items, just like you do in your own home. You gotta make your house payment. No matter what, this is going to happen.”

Though board member Patti Coutré did much of the grilling of staff over future needs and risks, she said she is always in favor of across-the-board salary decisions. “I value all of our employees… Teachers don’t do their jobs by themselves. They rely on those other positions.”

In his last meeting as a board member, Joshua Judd said the difference was a low number “for an egalitarian-type raise.”

Though the board does not approve the budget for a few months, Harmon said it was important to get contracts out early.

Board President AnnaMarie Knorr said she also worried the district would not be able to maintain the 6% raise for classified in the next budget and didn’t want to create an expectation. But she pointed to the strong growing spell the district has been in.

Knorr also said the teachers have been given higher raises than other employee groups in the past and continuing to do so might have unintended consequences. “I think we have shown teachers that we appreciate them,” she said. “We really have to think long and hard about the message that we’re sending.”

The 6% raise for all is still preliminary until the final approval of the 2020-21 budget. Some numbers are not in stone because positions like bus drivers, monitors and ESS teachers are variable.

However, as laid out in the agenda, the 6% raise for certified (teaching) staff would total $1,377,805.85 for the district. For classified staff, it would be $658,688.97. For administrative staff, it would be $220,926.40.

Joshua Judd just over three years of his term on the MUSD Governing Board.

Joshua Judd announced his resignation from the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board during its regular meeting Wednesday.

He was elected in 2016, and his term was set to end in December.

“Home and work obligations have prevented me from being the kind of board member I need to be,” Judd said.

A Marine veteran and a teacher in another district, Judd said Wednesday was his last board meeting.

“It’s been one of the pleasures of my life,” he said.

“Obviously if we could reject his resignation we would,” Board President AnnaMarie Knorr said, telling Judd, “Your insight has been invaluable. Typically, you don’t have the opportunity to have a teacher on a school board. Because Mr. Judd works in a different district, he was able to serve. It’s really been truly enlightening for me for you to be able to share that perspective.”

“I truly, truly have enjoyed all the time we’ve spent together on the dais,” board member Patti Coutre told him.

The terms of Knorr and Torri Anderson are also ending this year. School board elections are on the General Election ballot. To run for office or inquire about an appointment, visit the Pinal County Superintendent of Schools.

Residents eye plans for a rental housing development.

Review permits for a rental housing development and an RV storage complex both received the approval of Maricopa Planning & Zoning Commission on Monday.

The Bungalows on Bowlin is planned for 196 housing units, a combination of detached homes and multi-family duplexes. The project is a little more than half of the empty acreage on the northwest corner of John Wayne Parkway and Bowlin Road.

Housing concepts for The Bungalows on Bowlin.

Along with the residences, the plan includes 426 parking spaces, covered and uncovered. There would also be 60 garages, some included with homes and some for rent.

Mark Reddie of RVi Planning and Landscape Architecture requested a development review permit for the project and rezoning for residential. The main entry/exit point is to be off Bowlin Road, with an additional exit-only on the north side as well.

The commissioners were uniformly in favor the project as presented, though Commissioner Jim Irving asked developers to keep in mind the additional traffic it would bring to an area that is close to Maricopa Elementary School.

There is a neighborhood between the project and the school. For the moment at least, there is empty property between the project and John Wayne Parkway. Senior Planner Ryan Wazniak said the remaining commercial property east of The Bungalows would still have space for “a drive-thru bank or office building.”

Reddie said Bungalows on Bowlin is to be professionally managed, and no renters would be responsible for maintenance and upkeep. He also said the development would provide a buffer for the current housing on its west side.

The City received no comments of opposition to the project.

At the proposed RV storage complex called MC Estates, however, there were a couple of neighbors who did not like the potential of noise, lights and “rooftop parties.”

As proposed by owner Duane Rudnick, MC Estates would be comprised of RV garages that would also have space for “man cave” activities. Owner described the project as echoing his intent to have a place to store his RV that could also be a place to indulge in his arts & crafts hobbies away from his Province home.

But the combination of uses caused the commissioners to hesitate.

“So which one is it?” Michael Sharpe asked. “Is it a hobby shop that we’re looking at and that’s what we have to judge and make a decision on, i.e. industrial flex space, or is it truly storage?”

Wazniak said the zoning code “doesn’t describe this combination of uses. We have to use our best judgment.”

Rudnick said the property would be owned and managed by those buying into the concept. Like a homeowners’ association, it would have “covenants, conditions and restrictions.” He said members would be buying into a higher-end community with a board of directors, self-managed by the association.

Wazniak noted the sliver of property off Farrell Road is bordered by residential areas and reminded the commission that Farrell is a “significant regional corridor,” which is expected to be part of an east-west corridor to Casa Grande.

Both the Bungalows on Bowlin and MC Estates required hearings on zoning map amendments and general plan amendments. Though around 15 residents attended, no one addressed the commission.

Province resident Duane Rudnick wants to construct MC Estates on Farrell Road.

David Karsten (left) and Mike Richey. Photo by Kyle Norby

If Mike Richey seemed even more relaxed than usual at the Seeds of Change Gala in February, he had good reason.

The long-time owner of Maricopa Ace Hardware was enjoying his first day of retirement Feb. 29.

“Jacquie and I are taking a swan song. We’re retiring, and we’d like to introduce the new owners of Maricopa Ace Hardware, David and Cheryl Karsten,” Richey said while donating $8,000 to Against Abuse.

The Karstens have four Ace stores, mostly in the north end of the Valley – Phoenix, Goodyear, Carefree and Queen Creek – with David holding the title of president and chief executive officer. He has been a member of Ace’s Board of Directors since 2011, chairing the finance committee. He’s been part of the Ace company for 17 years.

Richey said Karsten’s experience with retail in general and specifically the corporation’s Pinnacle Performance standards made him feel he would be a good fit in Maricopa. He said it was imperative his employees “be taken care of” during the transition into Karsten’s Ace Hardware. Troy Ricci remains as manager.

Karsten said he knew there were big shoes to fill because of Richey’s involvement in the community. He said it is his “goal and wish” that his team achieves that level of connection in Maricopa as part of their core values.

Richey acknowledged it takes time to earn trust in the give-and-take of community involvement.

“Operate your business as if, if you weren’t there, the community would miss you,” Richey said. “I’ve always taken that to heart. It’s always been the core of what we do. He gets that. The transition will be seamless.”

Karsten said he wanted it to be as seamless for the team of employees as it is for the customers.

“That’s what we strove for, I think we have accomplished that, which is pretty cool.”

Learn more in the upcoming April issue of InMaricopa.

David Karsten of Ace Hardware. Photo by Kyle Norby



Arizona continues to have a teacher shortage, and turnover is a normal part of education, but at Sequoia Pathway, it was particularly an autumn of discontent.

Since the summer break, at least 12 staff members, mostly in the secondary school, submitted their resignations from Pathway. That number includes two principals, and reasons stated for leaving the charter school have ranged from vague to angry.

“I am saddened by the state of things and while I love my students, the staff and my child – I can no longer sit quietly while good people are torn down,” Misti Oosthuizen wrote in her Oct. 22 resignation letter to Sequoia Pathway, a letter that was copied to staff and administrator emails.

Oosthuizen was lead of the Science Department at Pathway.

At least 10 staff members resigned by Winter Break out of about 70 certified positions (14%) at the charter school, mostly from the secondary school. By comparison, during the same time period (June-December), eight teachers resigned from Maricopa Unified School District out of 376 teachers (2%).

Other Pathway teachers resigned after Winter Break. Overall, the results forced parent company EdKey to rebuild its staff by mid-year.

Some resignations were directly tied to disagreements with new administration at the secondary school, which started with the June 17 resignation of Principal Diane Silvia.

Silvia mentioned no discord in her letter, saying instead she was going to spend more time with her first grandson. But by the start of the new school year, staff was beginning to quit the secondary school.

Special Education teacher Heidi Klepfer left Aug. 9. Math teacher Cindy Roadifer resigned Aug. 15. Joe Klepfler also later resigned. Among other assignments, the Klepflers had coached junior high volleyball. More than two pages long, Heidi Klepfler’s resignation letter cited the disagreements over management of the volleyball program, disengagement of administrators and “inconsistency of communication” as reasons for departing the school.

Roadifer described “being railroaded by a spineless upper administration” in her letter to EdKey Inc. She hinted students were not held accountable for their actions and said the school was now as overcrowded as other public Maricopa schools.

EdKey’s response to overcrowding was to announce plans to construct a new building. At the end of the 2018-19 school year, Sequoia Pathway’s enrollment in K-12 was 1,146, with 300 in the high school grades, according to the Arizona Department of Education.

Culinary teacher Rhonda Print resigned Sept. 11 without citing a reason, but she later told a Facebook parent group it was because of the administration.

Resignations weren’t the only problem. EdKey administration would not say how many staff members had been terminated.

But Kevin Struble’s departure drew the most publicity in October as students protested outside the school in an effort to bring him back. It was a reminder of the 2015 student protests that ultimately led EdKey to re-hire two fired administrators, one of whom was Silvia.

This time, the results were different, and Oosthuizen resigned the next day.

Teachers and families complained about a variety of issues, some even formally to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools. After InMaricopa requested copies of those records and the charter board office had its legal counsel review the “numerous pages,” EdKey filed a complaint in court against the charter board to have the request withheld.

“Pending direction from the court, the Board is unable to release those records,” ASBCS Executive Director Ashley Berg said.

For its part, MUSD had three teachers resign during the summer break, middle school teacher Evan Drake, high school teacher Carol Mandell and Exceptional Student Services teacher Herman Edelson.

After the start of school in late July through December, resigning staff included high school teachers Yadira Fierro and Lori Bates, middle school teacher Eric Drake, elementary technology teacher Morgan Davis and kindergarten teacher Taylor Kinnard.

Of the eight who sent in letters of resignation, five reflected positive experiences, citing personal or family reasons for leaving. Mandell and Fierro expressed frustrations with re-assignments, and Mandell was also irritated with campus disruptions, including “perceived active shooter events,” and an aggravating relationship with another teacher.

“I think you and your district need to use this as a visionary letter of sorts to regroup and take teacher/peer entitlement and school threats/violence seriously,” she wrote.

MUSD tries to keep its hiring on pace with its resignations and retirements as there is monthly turnover in certified and classified employees.

According to Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, there are 2,000 unfilled teaching positions statewide.

“The truth is, there are already thousands of qualified, passionate teachers in our state who could fill these positions,” Hoffman said in her address to the Legislature. “But years of cuts to education funding have built a system where inequities thrive – be it teacher pay, student resources or community supports.”

Special Education, in particular, has a “severe shortage,” Hoffman said. Both MUSD and Pathway lost special education teachers in the human-resources process last semester.

“Contributing to the shortage is the fact that special education teachers face higher rates of burnout as they balance teaching among high caseloads, mandatory paperwork, limited resources and high turnover of support staff,” Hoffman said.

In February, 11 more certified teachers announced their resignations from MUSD effective at year’s end or sooner, including another ESS teacher.

The district issued nine letters of intent for certified teachers during a Jan. 25 job fair.

“We offered more letters of intent to teachers this year than any of the prior years. We are very early in the hiring season, but this was a great first step,” said MUSD Human Resources Director Tom Beckett, who planned to issue contracts to current employees by the end of February. “At that time, we will see staff committing to the district for the 2020-21 school year. Informally and formally we have heard of some departures, but we are optimistic our teacher retention rate will rise from last year’s 85% rate.”

Sequoia Pathway had to work even faster to fill spots at its secondary school.

At the beginning of December, English Language Arts teacher and soccer coach Juan Garavito resigned from the charter school. At the end of December, Elementary Principal Rachael Lay announced her departure. Neither cited negative experiences.

Nearly as surprising as Lay’s resignation was that of history teacher Trecia Koozer, who had been with the charter school 11 years. She announced her decision on a Facebook parent-group page Jan. 4 without rancor. Like many of those who left before her, she thanked all for great memories.

Some of the teachers, including Garavito and Koozer, have since been hired at other schools in Maricopa.

While long-term substitutes plugged the holes for the fall semester at Sequoia Pathway, most of the emptied positions had been filled with full-time teachers by the start of the new semester.

This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

Alezet Valerio won a Silver Gloves belt for junior boxers this year. Photo by Victor Moreno


When 14-year-old Alezet Valerio won her division in the national Silver Gloves boxing tournament, it was just another step in her plan to become a professional fighter.

Boxing in the intermediate bracket (95 pounds, age 13-14), she was part of a crowd of boys and girls punching it out in Independence, Missouri, after winning state and region titles. Alezet (aka Chomina) defeated Malaya Wohosky Jan. 31 in a split decision. The next day, she defeated Araceli Gudino unanimously to win the championship belt.

Then she shared a hug with Araceli, a competitor she had never seen before facing her in the ring.

The Maricopa Wells Middle School eighth grader has been training as a boxer since she was 6 years old. She started competing at 10.

“I’d see my brother doing it and I went and tried it out myself,” Alezet said. “Ever since I first sparred, I loved the sport and just fighting, being in the ring, it’s just a good feeling.”

She is closing in on 40 bouts, only six of them losses. Alezet is ranked second in the nation in her bracket.

“At school I can’t get in fights, so to hit someone else feels good,” she said. “And when I win, it feels good because of all the hard work I did, it all paid off at the end.”

Her mother Abby Garcia said she was not just representing the western region or just Arizona but Maricopa, their new home.

The Valerios moved from Phoenix to Maricopa in October. Taking in nephews, they needed a bigger house. They qualified for a loan and found a five-bedroom house in Maricopa Meadows.

USA Boxing on youth safety

  • Teach boxers ways to lower the chances of getting a concussion.
  • Enforce the rules of the sport for fair play, safety and sportsmanship.
  • Ensure boxers avoid unsafe actions such as:
    > Using their head or headgear to contact another boxer
    > Making illegal blows or colliding with an unprotected opponent
    > Trying to injure or put another boxer at risk for injury
  •  Tell boxers you expect good sportsmanship at all times, both in and out of the ring.

“It’s different from where we grew up, way different,” Alezet’s father and coach Thomas Valerio said. “She went for a run the first day and when she came back, she said, ‘It’s so clean out here, the grass is green, it smells so good, the roads are nice.’”

By contrast, he grew up in a tough area of Phoenix where he and his brother fell into gang culture.

“Growing up, we were always fighting in the streets,” Valerio said.

That is how his brother died at age 20, already the father of three. Valerio himself was a father by 17. While starting to think what kind of life he wanted for his own family, the streets were still calling.

Submitted photo

“I didn’t want my kids to live how we lived,” he said.

Suburban pastimes like softball were hardly available. The closest athletic complex was a boxing gym. Valerio remembered his father, a former boxer in Mexico, taking him to the gym starting when he was 8 and thought it would be a good way to focus his kids’ energy.

“So, I took them every day out of the streets and into the gym. And they had school and homework,” he said. “I just tried to keep them off the streets as much as possible.”

Soon he was teaching them what he remembered from his father. The group of his own kids and nephews became Big Bro Gym. He trains the youngsters in his garage.

While building up his older sons, he got an earful from Alezet, who told him to pay attention to her, too. And for good reason.

“Actually, the girls are way tougher,” he said. “She’d get a bloody nose, and she’d have drops of blood coming down and she’d keep going.”

Alezet said the Maricopa kids are “soft” compared to those she knew from the Phoenix neighborhood. She attended Kuban Elementary School. Though seemingly slight of build, she is strong and intimidating when necessary.

Thomas Valerio is learning how to be an amateur boxing coach as he coaches his children, including Alezet. Photo by Victor Moreno

“The first time I sparred it was against another girl. She was known at the gym we were at,” she said. “And they were like, ‘Oh, you’re gonna get beat up. You’re not gonna do good against her.’ When I sparred, I was punching her and punching her. And when she started crying, that’s when I knew I could do it.”

American Academy of Pediatrics frequently condemns youth boxing for its concussion dangers, saying the risks outweigh the health benefits. A joint statement from AAP and Canadian Paediatric Society reads, “Participants in boxing are at risk of head, face and neck injuries, including chronic and even fatal neurological injuries.”

Valerio said he teaches his young boxers to fight defensively.

“I teach them how to be smart fighters, not brutal fighters,” he said. “I teach them a lot of defense. She’ll wear you down. She runs five miles a day. Her cardio is off the roof. She’ll wear the girls down in the first round and then in the second round she just takes them apart.”

Alezet trains every day with her father and her uncle Hector Valerio.

“There are like no days off at all,” she said. “We hit the bags, we run. Some days we work on cardio and strength. Other days we work on legs and stuff. It’s like my life. I love it. I don’t do any other sports. I’ve never done any other sports besides boxing.”

She said she is good in math, reading and physical education but considers school boring. Boxing gives her motivation to make straight A’s.

“If I get anything lower than a B, I can’t compete at all.”

Her dad talks about her wicked hook, but Alezet said her strength is her focus. “Keeping my mind focused on the fight. That’s why some kids quit, because they don’t have their mind focused on it. They quit because they want to have fun and they don’t have the discipline.”

Thomas Valerio Jr. wants to turn pro when he turns 17, while little brother Moses wants to start competing when he is 7. Alezet wants to make the Junior Olympic squad. Photo by Victor Moreno

While her oldest brother wants to turn professional at 17 and her youngest brother wants to start competing at 8, Alezet’s immediate focus is joining Junior Olympics. That could get her closer to her long-range goal of making the U.S. Olympic boxing team, preferably in 2024 when she is 18. That entails traveling long distances, even internationally, to fight in qualifying bouts.

That is expensive, and they have to carefully choose competitions and engage in fundraisers to keep the dream alive and keep hanging championship belts on the garage walls.

Alezet enjoyed the camaraderie of the Silver Gloves competition. She noticed it expanded from the Arizona boxers all cheering for each other to all the Region 8 boxers representing Arizona, Nevada, California, Hawaii and Utah cheering each other on.

“At the end, we all do it to get the same thing.”

Photo by Victor Moreno

This story appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

A car flipped on its roof after a collision on SR 347 at Cobblestone North.

What police describe as a two-vehicle, non-injury accident knocked out traffic lights on State Route 347 at Lakeview Drive/Cobblestone North.

The collision of the two cars was in the southbound lanes. Speed and impairment are factors, according to Maricopa Police Department spokesman Ricardo Alvarado.

On vehicle rolled over in the incident and landed on its roof. Both vehicles suffered heavy damage.

Police blocked approaches to the intersection from Cobblestone Farms and Rancho El Dorado while officers directed traffic through the intersection on SR 347.

The traffic light control box was damaged in the collision.

Ronald Bragonier (PCSO)

The sentencing of convicted child molester Ronald Bragonier was delayed until May 22.

After the reset date was announced in court Friday, Bragonier told Judge Jason Holmberg his attorney, Vicki Lopez, had not defended him the way he had wanted. Continually wiping his eyes, he again protested his innocence and said the teenage victim was lying.

Deputy County Attorney Kristen Sharifi said the family was frustrated with another delay.

“They were really hopeful that today would be the end of it for them,” Sharifi said.

Bragonier was convicted in a jury trial in January of five counts of sexually abusing a minor. While warning him anything he might say would be on the record, the judge listened as Bragonier offered a packet of documents the defendant said were “very, very, very important to me defending myself.”

Bragonier requested Mesa attorney Todd Nolan be present for his sentencing in May, which Holmberg granted.

Holmberg reminded him of his right to appeal if he thought the judge had made a legal error during the trial or if he thought his counsel was inadequate. However, he also told him the jury believed the victim’s testimony.

“I’m not acting as the 13th juror in your case,” Holmberg said as Bragonier became more and more agitated. “Their verdict shows that they believed him and they did not believe you,” Holmberg said.

He said there was no legal reason to throw out the verdict, but Bragonier’s insistence on his innocence would not weigh against him when it did come time for his sentencing. At that time, he will be given a chance to present any mitigating information.

“My family paid a lot of money for an attorney that didn’t do most of what she said she was going to do,” Bragonier said. “She spent three hours with me on a case that’s going to send me to prison for the rest of my life for something I didn’t do.”

Lopez, for her part, said many of the things Bragonier was complaining about were strategy decisions made for specific reasons, “and there were other things that were prohibited from being admitted into evidence before the court.”

Holmberg promised Bragonier that he will read through whatever documents he presents to him before sentencing. He encouraged him to have Nolan look at it beforehand.

The victim was in court surrounded by family and friends.


Bungalows on Bowlin, planned near the northwest corner of John Wayne Parkway and Bowlin Road, includes single-family and multifamily units.

Bungalows and “man caves” are scheduled to go before Maricopa Planning & Zoning Committee on Monday.

A housing developer seeks to create single-family and multi-family housing units on 17 empty acres near Maricopa Elementary School that are zoned commercial. At the same time, a local commercial developer wants to put in RV garage storage units and a clubhouse on a property off Farrell Road that is currently zoned residential.

The P&Z Committee has public hearings for both projects on its March 9 agenda.

The Bungalows on Bowlin plan is for 196 housing units near the northwest corner of John Wayne Parkway and Bowlin Road. The property is zoned commercial and has not been rezoned since Maricopa became a municipality, according to city staff analysis.

The housing units include single-family detached homes and “duplex gated residential community with one-story rental homes designed in a cluster configuration on a single lot.” It would include one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units.

The Bungalows on Bowlin property is part of an undeveloped, 30-acre lot in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Zone X, which means moderate flood hazard. Attached to the project proposal is information from a recent drainage study showing only one small area would actually be in a FEMA floodplain. It is anticipated the project will require a floodplain use permit.

Owners of are asking for a General Plan amendment, a zoning map amendment and a major development review.

Planned elevation of a clubhouse at MC Estates on Farrell Road.

Also on Monday’s P&Z agenda is a project called MC Estates for “high-end condominium recreation vehicle storage.” That property is on four acres at 42326 W. Farrell Road.

According to the architect’s narrative, each unit will be a “man cave” with a roll-up garage door and a “man door.” The intention is to create a space to store an RV out of the sun and “a gathering place of relaxation and the company of fellow RV’ers.”

MC Estates plans to include a small clubhouse on the property. All buildings will be a maximum of 30 feet tall. Four of the large condos will have rooftop access. The plan includes 32 units in a 54,395-square-foot building.

The property is described as abandoned residential.

The owner is asking for a General Plan amendment, a zoning map amendment and a major development review.

The Planning & Zoning Committee meets at 6 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall.

MC Estates (in red) is currently zoned residential.

If you live in Maricopa and for the first time received notice on your vehicle registration that an emissions test is required, you are not alone.

Since January, social media posts from worried Maricopans on the issue have become common: “I could not renew my registration on line like I normally do because of the emissions test… I had to fill out a form and take it to the MVD… I had to get an emissions test for the first time ever as well. I couldn’t renew my registration unless I got it done… first time in 11 years… It’s confusing and leads to the majority of people paying for emissions testing unnecessarily.”

You also may not have to get an emissions test. Arizona Department of Transportation sends out the notices as a condition of registering vehicles in Zone A or Zone B, which are primarily Phoenix and Tucson metro areas. It’s a two-department effort, as emissions standards are determined by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

“These are nonattainment areas for emissions related pollutants and include parts of Maricopa, Pinal and Pima Counties,” Erin Jordan, spokesperson for ADEQ. “ADOT says vehicle owners may be receiving these messages since part of Pinal County is in Zone A.”

“Nonattainment areas” are where air pollution levels have not met the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

ADEQ expanded Zone A in the Phoenix metro area into northeast Pinal County, but not Maricopa.

“ADOT is currently improving their notification system to reduce the chance of vehicle owners outside Zone A, such as those in the City of Maricopa, from receiving a message,” Jordan said.

Vehicles registered outside area A and B are not required to have an Arizona vehicle emissions inspection, according to ADOT. However, ADEQ’s exemption application states, “If you live within either of the mandatory vehicle emissions test areas in Arizona, or if you commute into these areas on a regular basis for work or school, you must have your vehicle emission tested.”

While ADOT fixes its notification system, residents can check whether they are in Zone A and need emissions testing on their vehicle by visiting ADEQ performs the emissions testing.
“If a vehicle does not need emissions testing based on where they live, ADOT can place an SC52 on the vehicle record so that future renewal notices will not require emissions,” Jordan said.

Make that request at

An inspector exits the old Walgreens building on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.


Walmart is converting the former McDonald’s restaurant space inside its store at 41840 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy. into a Dickey’s BBQ. The tenant improvement is $105,000.

The Pinal County complex received its permits for new commercial construction at 20025 N. Wilson Ave. and commercial addition construction at 19955 N. Wilson Ave. in February after breaking ground in January. The 2,400-square-foot addition is valued at $6.1 million. The construction of an 8,314-square-foot admin building at the site has a value of $2.1 million.

Horizon Retail Construction received its commercial tenant improvement permit to work on the unoccupied Walgreens building at 41840 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy. The project is worth $500,000 and owned by Maricopa 7 LLC.

In touting the development of Copper Sky Commercial, Estrella Gin Business Park and Sonoran Creek Marketplace on social media, Mayor Christian Price related the anticipated economic impact: 1.5 million square feet of new construction; 1,273 jobs created; $223 million in capital investment; $4.67 million annual sales tax and property tax collected; and $1.42 billion in economic output.

A+ Charter Schools received permits for a foundation as well as grading and draining for its construction location at 41735 W. Alan Stephens Parkway. Both permits are defined as “at risk,” or late in the application process.

This item appears in the March issue of InMaricopa.

Photos by Kyle Norby

Showing off the theatrical, dance and musical talents of nearly 100 students, Maricopa High School Theatre Company won in its opening-night performance of “Newsies.”

The cast and crew were joined by a dance troupe from the school’s Performing Company as well as MHS orchestra members in a robust production that continues Friday and Saturday. The addition of full-length dance numbers that involved most of the cast was particularly invigorating in its choreography by junior Taya Johnson and its execution.

With songs by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, MHS Theatre Company is tackling a Broadway hit inspired by real-life events in 1899 New York. The show demands high energy, and the performers deliver.

Emma Schrader as the central character Jack doesn’t have to carry the entire production, being surrounded by so many gifted performers, but she could. While she has to act, sing and dance, she must cross genders and affect the New York accent of a street tough, all at the same time. She has to pull that off for the show to work, and she definitely does.

As the softer-spoken Davey, Joey Russoniello has some occasion to expose his superior singing voice, as does Haley Raffaele, who plays the spunky reporter Katherine and does a fine job manufacturing chemistry with Schrader. Speaking of vocals, Lindsey Coms has a great solo as Medda Larkin.

Derek Blakely is a weasely Joseph Pulitzer, the bad guy of the piece, who isn’t seen much but leaves an impression. The company’s many reliable character actors like Julie Goodrum, Jae Luna and Princess Jimenez bring a lot of life and color to the production.

Riley Bell and the dance crew shine every time they are on stage, and what’s more remarkable is the level of dance performance by the actors to allow them to meld seamlessly as one performing unit.

A tip of the hat to music conductor Ivan Pour and the MHS orchestra keeping it real under the stage.

Showtimes are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday as well.

Jeffrey McClure

A Saddlebrooke resident is now the only Republican nominee for the District 4 seat on the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.

Jeffrey McClure, a member of the Oracle School District Governing Board, was the first to declare his candidacy for the post, which will be vacated at the end of this year when Anthony Smith’s term ends. Living in an area just north of the Pima County line, he’s had a lot of miles to cover to campaign in District 4.

He said he has a heavy base in Saddlebrooke because of his five years as president of the school board. He’s built a support network in the eastern portion of the district and done outreach in the most populous area of the west side, which is Maricopa.

The school board was his first foray into elected office, though he had been president of the local Republican precinct in Saddlebrooke, an unincorporated community that comprises two large retirement communities and is heavily GOP. McClure said he considered running four years ago.

“I’m not sure that all decisions are as fiscally responsible as they should be,” McClure said of the current board. “I see a lot of rush to movement.”

In particular, he felt the push to build county annexes in communities like Maricopa were fast-tracked. “It seemed to be awfully fast,” he said, “like a rush to judgment.”

Watching county budget hearings, he also noted duplicate requests for vehicles from departments and from fleet management. Unnecessary expense was one of the reasons he ran for school board when asked by fiscal conservatives. He said there were similar issues at the school district.

“It’s efficiency of operation that makes it work well. If it’s inefficient it burns money,” he said. “I’m all for spending money, but I want to spend it efficiently. I don’t want to keep taxing people more and more and more. I want to keep the tax rate low.”

He said he’s the best person for the job on the Board of Supervisors because he’s a uniter.

“I am a good team-builder, a consensus-builder,” he said. “I’m willing to see different sides to the same story.”

McClure said that has helped him succeed on a school board that is nonpartisan but where political leanings are known and play a factor in issues.

“I also have a lot of Dems that will vote for me because I support education,” he said. “They say, ‘You’re a Republican and you like education?’ ‘Yeah, I want smart kids.’ I’m not here to destroy it; I’m here to fix it.”

McClure is an early retiree. He sold his manufacturing company of tools for the wallpaper trade and retired at age 50 before he and his wife Barbara turned into RVers. He said they saw friends working toward retirement suddenly having serious health issues and older friends who had retired but could not do what they planned to do because of physical ailments.

After 29 years of self-employment, he dropped it all and hit the road. The McClures saw 43 states in 11 months, seeking to answer the question, “What’s the weirdest thing in this state?” They knew they would ultimately settle in Arizona once they were RV’d out. They looked at several communities before settling in Saddlebrooke in 2008. Barbara was the first to be publicly political. She had already been on a precinct committee in Seattle, Washington.

They have been married almost 38 years and have three sons and a grandchild.

McClure’s approach to government is very similar to his approach to business. When the Oracle School Board presented students as clients who deserved all the money they could get for them, McClure said the students were instead the product of the school.

“I’d say, ‘We’re a manufacturing company. We are putting out a product.’ They’d say, ‘The kids are our clients.’ I’d say, ‘What are they paying for? Your clients are the taxpayers.'”

He touts the fact the school passed a bond and an override in 2019 with a 20% margin in an area that is 43% Republican and receives 76% of its property tax revenue from retirees. He said it was about honest communication and talking directly to people about the issues.

Oracle gained a tech academy, robotics and Chromebooks. It brought in music education and restored the art program. McClure said that happened with “a different way of spending money. It’s about being very, very careful with how you spend money and the way you use the carryover budget.”

Though a conservative Republican, he’s not starry-eyed over the current economy.

“Right now we’re in this great catbird seat where we’re bringing in more than we’re spending. That’s really cool,” he said. “What happens when your balloon goes up and pops? I’m all for the Trump economy, but you can only go so high and something is going to happen. It doesn’t take a lot to trigger a recession.”

He said the county’s hot-button issues of water, employment and roads are really all the same issue. As the county works to bring in commercial development, it is bringing in more people to work at new businesses. That leads to troubles with infrastructure like water and roads, he said.

“You can’t build a city on houses and small retail,” McClure said. “You’ve got to have the roadways to attract the larger companies.”

He said he doesn’t have the answer but knows increasing fixed costs is not it.

The main municipality in the district, the City of Maricopa, is doing fine promoting its own causes with Mayor Christian Price at the helm, McClure said, and as county supervisor he would likely just stay out of the way.

McClure was unhappy with how the county’s justice courts were redistricted and also felt the legal wrangling over Prop 417 was not handled well. He was on the committee to redistrict the courts to account for growth while being more efficient. He complained that one plan they presented would have had all county residents within 45 minutes of a JP court, but it was shot down by the board because it did not align with the supervisors’ districts.

“Now some old people have to travel an hour and 15 minutes to go to court,” he said.

As for Prop 417, the funding mechanism for Prop 416, which created the Regional Transportation Authority to improve road around the county (including the Pinal portion of State Route 347), McClure said the county approach wasted taxpayer money. He said when the Goldwater Institute first complained about the ballot language of the issue, the county should have pulled it off the ballot, rewritten the offending language and then taken it back to the voters.

“They said removing it from the ballot would cost money,” he said. “Well, so does a lawsuit.”

The county lost Goldwater’s lawsuit, Harold Vangilder et al. vs. ADOR/Pinal County et al., in tax court but then won in the Arizona Court of Appeals. Now Goldwater is trying to get it before the state’s Supreme Court, which granted its attorneys an extra month to file its petitions. If Goldwater does not file before March 19, the suit could be dismissed.

Dan Frank withdrew from the Republican primary for District 4 supervisor. McClure and independent Marlene Pearce of Maricopa are the only candidates to file statements of interest. District 4, as of Jan. 6, is 33% Republican, 25% Democrat and 34% other or independent.

Maricopa City Councilmember Henry Wade. Photo by Kyle Norby

Henry Wade Jr. has been a member of Maricopa City Council six years and is also the director of housing counseling services for the nonprofit Chicanos por la Causa. He just spent one year as vice mayor. A native of South-Central Los Angeles, he spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force before retiring to become a real estate broker. He spoke with InMaricopa about development and issues the city is experiencing.

Henry Wade Jr.
City of Maricopa councilmember
Age: 65
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Maricopan since: 2008
Family: Wife Gayle, three sons, two grandsons
Politics: Former chairman of Pinal County Democrats
Military: U.S. Air Force 20 years
Worst-kept secret: Was the grand marshal of the 2019 Arizona Black Rodeo

Remind us of your background.
I’m Henry Wade, city councilmember for the City of Maricopa. That is my most cherished job. I enjoy doing that above everything. I also am actually the director of housing counseling services for the nonprofit Chicanos por la Causa (CPLC). CPLC is celebrating its 50th year of community service. It is a community development fund. My portion of it is a HUD-approved housing counseling agency. So what we do is first-time homebuyer education. We do loss mitigation to help people stay in their homes if they’re facing foreclosure. We do financial literacy education as well. We have an office in Phoenix, one in Tucson and then one in Las Vegas, Nevada, that I manage. I’ve been working with Chicanos por la Causa now, my eighth year with them, and thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere as a nonprofit. Its one of the largest Hispanic nonprofits in the United States. The No. 1 supplier of health and human services in Maricopa

See more Q&A’s from InMaricopa
MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman
Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee
County Attorney Kent Volkmer
Pinal County Manager Louis Andersen
Fire Chief Brady Leffler
County Supervisor Anthony Smith
Police Chief Steve Stahl
County Superintendent of Schools Jill Broussard

County. A lot of people don’t know anything about it. They way I came about working for Chicanos por la Causa was through my real-estate background. Before I retired from the Air Force I spent time learning real estate, going to school, what have you. So, I was first licensed in 1980 here in Arizona. I was a licensed appraiser, Realtor, broker. Started a company called Northstar Homes. I chose the North Star because that’s what Harriet Tubman used to help guide slaves into freedom. My schtick was I helped guide people into home ownership. Thoroughly enjoyed doing that.

I’m married. We are a blended family. I have three sons, two that live here now and one in Colorado. I am currently raising my two grandsons. One’s 18, he’ll be graduating this year from Maricopa High School. And then one is 11. He’s over at Saddleback Elementary. He’s kind of gotten the political bug – he is the sergeant-at-arms for the Saddleback Student Council. We went through the process, did his flyers, did his speech and the whole bit. We’re real proud he got elected and so it was fun watching that. Lived in Maricopa since 2008. My wife Gayle Randolph and I were looking for somewhere to live. We went back and forth between Maricopa, Laveen, Chandler, all over the place. We wanted to settle down and have some roots. We settled on Maricopa actually for two reasons. One was that it was actually faster, believe it or not, to travel on the 347 to the 10 than it was on Baseline Road to come from Laveen over to the 10. Less traffic actually. And houses were $60,000 cheaper. That had a lot to do with our decision. Love Maricopa. Truly, thoroughly love Maricopa. At the point that I am here in Maricopa now, being on council, this will be my sixth year on council, I can’t think of anything better to do in a community that has embraced me and my family the way that they have than to be able to give back to the community is our joy. Both of us. I’m very fortunate to have a partner like Gayle, because not only is she helping me raise kids that are not her kids and not her grandchildren, but she’s also been engaged as my campaign manager when I run for office, and she’s been very successful helping me get elected twice. And didn’t know anything about politics before becoming engaged in the process, so, pretty smart lady.

Why did you first run for council?
I ran for council because I ran into a councilmember who was – I went to a council meeting and so he had mentioned to me about Planning & Zoning Commission. So, I put in the application for it and, of course, I was rejected. Nobody knew who I was, because they didn’t know my background. I tried it again and got selected. Served Planning & Zoning for four year, two years as vice-chair. Then actually ran for county supervisor for the fourth district when the five districts were first established. Ran against former Mayor Anthony Smith. It was a good contest, I would say. I think I did pretty well, particularly considering he certainly had name recognition and experience and whatever. Eventually I ran for city council and was successful the first time.

What can the council do better than it has been doing?
We have a good council. We really do. We have a sincere level of respect for each other. I say, for the most part. Of course, there are different personalities and dynamics and people have different motivations in what they’re trying to do what they think they should do. But having watched councils since 2008, I think we have a very good council. I think the majority of us, all of us, I would say, want Maricopa to prosper, want Maricopa to be a thriving community, want people of Maricopa to feel they are engaged, that they’re a part of what’s going on, that the City listens to them and satisfies their needs. As an African American on council, I have to say, and I don’t think I’m speaking out of school, that the African American community looks to myself as a leader and someone to speak for their concerns and on their behalf, and I don’t have a problem with doing that at all. I think the relationship I have with my fellow councilmembers allows me to be able to do that and feel comfortable about doing that. I don’t feel like I’m stepping on anybody’s toes or that someone’s going to get upset with me. Because we can talk. At any given time we can sit down and have a conversation if they want to. I’ve come to respect members of the council, very much so. Everybody is trying their best to make Maricopa a better place to live. They live here. City manager – I think that was one of our best hires since I’ve been on council. We have a city manager that is engaged, that’s intelligent, that’s creative and lives here. When you look at that, you look at the council and the kind of people that are involved in running the City, we’re vested in this community. I think that’s important.

What are you proudest of that has been achieved on council?
That the council could work together to get things done. The overpass is an example. I’m hopeful that the city is observing and paying attention to the beautification of Maricopa through the cleanup. The city manager has been an advocate, a staunch advocate, to make sure that the community looks good when people come through, and I like that. As we did the overpass, the little things that were discovered, the little junk places where people were hiding things, all came out. Here you are, from hundreds of feet in the air, people can see all those things. We just completed our strategic planning session, a briefing from the city manager on our financial position, and we’re doing pretty good for a little bitty city like this. I remember a time when it was kind of desert, nobody was looking at Maricopa. We weren’t getting developers and investors looking at Maricopa. We were going to trade shows trying to encourage people to come out and see Maricopa. And it’s come to pass, and we’re prospering from it.

The hospital companies have not been really excited about moving here …
That’s always a concern of mine. They said we needed to 45,000 [population]. So then we had 45. Then they say, “You need 50,000.” OK, so we did 50. “Well, maybe you need 55.” We’re pushing toward 55. Let’s stop making the excuses and let’s go ahead and get this done, because we need a hospital here, right? Gayle’s dad lives here. He’s 83 years old. He still lives by himself. He’s still ambulatory; he’s in great shape. He’s slow, he’ll tell you that. Having an emergency clinic here is important to us, as well, and something we need to be concerned with, particularly with Dad. I’m hopeful we can continue to push forward in that direction.

What was the most difficult decision you’ve had to make on council?
When we were deciding on whether you could carry guns in public places. That was the most difficult decision for me. I was very distraught with the decision that was the eventual outcome because I felt that people didn’t come out and express their views well enough to be able to give council a little more room to make that decision. So, it was kind of a slam dunk on the other side. I was disappointed in that. Just because people didn’t come out and say anything on it.

Why do you think that was?
I don’t know. We live in a fairly conservative area. I would say that a lion’s share of people would be in favor of allowing that to happen. I think it’s the minority that feels they don’t have the power to push it away, and so they don’t come. As it turns out, and as I came to understand from going through the issue and talking to people afterwards, there were a couple of councilmembers that were really on the fence about it. Had the people come out and shown more support, I think, for council in that regard, those of us who were wanting to vote against that, they would have had a little more fire power.

There were a couple of city employees who were kind of scared about it, saying they were in the line of fire, not the council.
That’s exactly right. That’s one of the reasons I was concerned about it. I still don’t quite get it. I’m retired military. I don’t have a problem with weapons and carrying them around if necessary, but I have a difficult time understanding why you need a 9mm in the library with a bunch of kids.

How would you describe your time as vice mayor?
Exhilarating. People would, of course, always ask you, “What’s the vice mayor do? What does that mean?” I’d say, well, when the mayor is too busy to go here or go there, he calls up and says, “Hey, can you take care of this for me?” By the same token, too, there is a little bit of a bump among the community when you’re vice mayor versus a councilmember. What was most amusing to me, though, was that when I came off of being vice mayor, people thought I was leaving the council as well. No I’m not going anywhere. It’s great the way the system is established because you get an opportunity to serve as vice mayor for a year and then we among our peers make the selection, which is very encouraging and very supportive. It was a unanimous decision when I was elected vice mayor. I was very humbled and respected that decision.

So far have you achieved the goals you wanted to achieve on council?
No. There’s so many things to do. There’s always something else coming up. We’ve got challenges with the 347. It was nice that the overpass came in. It was one of the special parts of being on council, knowing that you had something to do with that. I traveled to D.C. a couple of times with the mayor and put my two cents in wherever I was given the opportunity to talk about how important the overpass was. I’ll do the same thing with the 347 and others. The fact that we were able to see Propositions 416 and 417 pushed forward, still in the throes of decisions of other people who inflict their ideas on our community. There are many, many things to do, and I want to be a part of making sure those things get done.

What have you personally gotten out of being on council?
To be able to satisfy my public-service bug. My commitment. Most people know I’m retired Air Force. I spent 20 years – actually 20 years, 27 days – in the Air Force, and throughout that time I learned and honed those skills of public service and supporting the community and being involved and engaged. I think that’s what it is. It gives me the opportunity to give back, to do something. I grew up in Los Angeles, south-central Los Angeles, a very famous corner, Florence and Normandy, was one block from where I grew up and graduated from Crenshaw High School in south-central. I graduated from high school in 1973, so the things that I experienced with the Watts Riots in ’68 and then watch things happen throughout. The Rodney King thing, I was not there. Actually, I was here watching it on CNN, and my mother, who was a block away from all the activities, I was talking to her on the phone. So, when she was hearing the glass breaking and the sirens and the helicopters and all that, she was with a block of where these things were taking place. That’s my background. I don’t shy away from it. I’m very proud of where I grew up and where I came from, but I also want to be able to contribute in a positive way to the community I live in. Growing up in south-central, I got some skills out of there. Sometimes folks don’t even know. Sometimes people will say something, and they don’t have a clue as to how I got honed to be the person that I am, both growing up in L.A. to be part of the Air Force, starting my own business when I retired from the Air Force, starting a real estate company that was an appraisal company. People don’t know.

That could have gone a completely different direction.
Absolutely. I have a friend that we were going into the buddy program. We went to testing together, did physicals together, we did everything together as we were moving towards actually leaving to go in the Air Force. And the day it was time to go, he was a no-show. We’re still friends and still in contact with each other. He says, “The biggest mistake I ever made was not getting out of bed and going with you.”

How are race relations in Maricopa?
It’s just respect. Just respect that fact we’re all in this together. We’re all Maricopians. We’re all Arizonans. But I’m going to say something. Gayle’s going to kill me, but I’m going to say it. We live in a fairly conservative city, but there are people in this community that still use the term “colored” when referring to black people. That insults me. I love you, but don’t use that term to describe black people. That is something that is abrasive and is insulting to black people. I think that maybe no one’s ever said that and shared that, so I’m sharing that.

When you think about the residents and the amenities they’re demanding, are the plans in place to make that happen?
Yeah, I think they are. One thing that’s been a little controversial here of late, of course, is the multi-family housing. The apartments we’re moving toward. From a commercial perspective, a hotel is scheduled to be available to us in November of this year, so that’s pretty good. And there are many developmental projects on the horizon. The way the city has aligned itself with development in terms of connecting economic development with those pieces as well, so we can see the benefit from the growth of it as well as the benefit from the revenue that comes from it. I like the way the city manager operates. His idea is if it’s not profitable, it doesn’t make much sense to do it. He’s taken that position, and I think that’s a smart position to take.

In using your background, when the council gets projects like multi-family housing, what are you looking at specifically to make sure that’s going to be what Maricopa needs?
A credible developer, somebody that we can trust, somebody that’s going to be there through entire project, from start to finish, somebody that if there are things that don’t go the way that we would like them to go, that we can work it out, we can negotiate and improve whatever the situation might be. We are going to get apartments in the city of Maricopa. Now I’ve been saying that for two years. At one of my Councilmember on the Corner events, the largest event we had was about housing, and we had a really good turnout for that. And I said then, “We will have multi-family housing. Get used to that fact.” Sometimes people can be a little upset, and I appreciate that. I wouldn’t necessarily want to have a three- or four-floor apartment as my view outside of my backyard when I’ve been having mountains and everything for eight years. I get that. At the same time, there’s a need. And they are not HUD houses. They are not Section 8 houses. That’s the other thing. When we talk about the subsidy, people think we’re going to have inferior, Section 8 residents moving into Maricopa. We have firefighters, we have teachers, we have young people who have graduated from college and want to be around their parents but don’t want to live with their parents. We have people here that would be able to utilize those, that we don’t have to worry about the stigma of having apartments that have been subsidized that will bring in people that are less than whatever they might want to consider them. I call them constituents and citizens, and that’s what they are. They need space, just like I need my space, they need their space.

This story appears in part in the March issue of InMaricopa.


Heritage players watch San Tan receive the first-place trophy.

The Heritage Academy boys’ basketball team ended its debut season with a 16-4 record and a second-place trophy in the state tournament.

The Heroes’ season finished the same way it started, with a blowout loss to top-ranked San Tan Charter.

Playing in Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, San Tan ran rough-shod over Heritage for the 97-56 final in the Canyon Athletic Association Division 3 championship game Tuesday. The Roadrunners took off with a 35-19 lead in the first quarter and never looked back.

When Heritage’s shots wouldn’t fall, San Tan started beating the Heroes at their own run-and-gun game. Heritage was visibly gassed and forlorn before the second quarter.

It was the Heroes’ third time losing to the quick and deft Roadrunners this year. The second-place trophy was little consolation directly after the game as they had to stand on court and watch San Tan celebrate, but the experience was already changing perspectives.

“We got a hunger. We have that want now,” said sophomore Logan Porter. “Before, we wanted the trophy, but we didn’t really want it. Now we really want it.”

While the result was just one game off-mark for coach Jim Deakyne’s goal of winning state in the first year of the program, Heritage was formidable much of the season. The title game was a snapshot of their challenge, with a team comprised mostly of sophomores going up against mostly juniors and seniors.

“We were a lot better than we were at the beginning of the year,” Porter said. “We’ve come a long way. We’ve got the brotherhood, and not even a loss like that could separate us.”

Sequoia Pathway girls' basketball team won the CAA D3 title. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

With clutch play from senior Che’Leez Smith-Ralph, Sequoia Pathway fended off East Valley Athletes for Christ to win the Canyon Athletic Association’s Division 3 girls’ basketball state championship Tuesday.

The win capped off an undefeated season, but it didn’t come easy.

EVAC ran off with an 11-0 lead before the Pathway sorted itself out and caught up. The teams battled for the lead throughout the game. EVAC pulled ahead in the fourth quarter, but Pathway tied it at 40-40 with just 1:11 left and went on to win 46-43.

Head coach Dee Estrada said her team came out “really, really nervous,” and she had to remind them it was going to be the last time they played together as a group.

“We did not work this hard this entire season to get this far to shut down now,” she said. “I said, ‘I don’t care if we win or lose at this point. I want you to go out there and show them what Puma basketball is all about.’”

Smith-Ralph became a steady force under the basket to allow Pathway to get back into the game. Senior Aleina Estrada started hitting shots as well and guided the team with a calm hand. Dee Estrada called Aleina Estrada the team strategy for her leadership and shot-making.

Free throws by Aleina and eighth-grader Iniko Burton down the stretch moved Pathway out of reach of EVAC.

Aleina, the team captain who has been on the varsity team since fifth grade (as allowed by CAA), said she didn’t really feel pressure when the team was down.

“Doing the pick-and-roll with Che’Leez and her rebounding, we all did really well boxing out,” Aleina Estrada said. “I just think we did really good with our ball movement and getting our shots to go in.”

“My team worked hard every day at practice, and we deserve this,” Smith-Ralph said.

Smith-Ralph, who had been in California and Phoenix before coming to Maricopa, said it was a dramatic adjustment for her to enter Pathway’s program under Estrada. She walked away from Tuesday’s championship with the Player of the Game award.

“I can show this to everyone in my family, kids when I grow up, and say, ‘I did this, and I worked hard for it.’”

Dee Estrada recalled coming into the gym at the start of season practice and seeing a 5-foot-11 newcomer standing there, in contrast to Aleina’s compact 5-foot-2. Smith-Ralph, Estrada said, was a key component to this year’s team, which had an uncertain beginning. During fall semester, Pathway saw students being withdrawn from the school as a series of teachers resigned amid administrative upheaval.

“Our school has had a little bit of a struggle, and we weren’t really sure we would have enough girls to come out and have a varsity team this year,” coach Estrada said. “I have two eighth graders that I moved up, and Che’Leez came from Phoenix. That was just the work of God, because he sent her my way. She’s the most coachable athlete that I ever had to deal with.”

Returning to the CAA state bracket was a big goal, and the Pumas worked at it. Besides regular two-hour practices, members of the team were also with coach Estrada at Copper Sky for 1.5-hour conditioning sessions, including Sundays.

“I knew that if we came out here today and we lost this game, it wasn’t because of a lack of effort,” said Dee Estrada, who has coached the team eight years. “We have been competing against EVAC the past six-seven years, and they always seem to be one of our toughest opponents. I have the utmost respect for them. If anybody deserved to be in this championship game, it was EVAC and Pathway.”

The win is apparently Pathway basketball’s final appearance in CAA competition as the school moves to Arizona Interscholastic Association next year. Dee Estrada said that was out of her hands.

“I don’t know what the future’s going to hold, but does anybody?” she said. “We’re just going to keep representing our school, continue to represent Maricopa, our families, our businesses. We’re a small community, so we have to knit together.

“I’m just so blessed to have this pack of girls to finish the season with,” Estrada said.

Important decisions for its second high school come before the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board this week.

The board could hire an architect and construction manager as well as a project manager for the construction of another school to alleviate an over-capacity situation at Maricopa High School. Those items are on Wednesday’s consent agenda.

Also on the agenda, albeit under executive session, is the selection of a school site. District spokesperson Mishell Terry said that information is “not quite ready” to be made public.

MUSD created a selection committee of qualified people to make the recommendation for construction manager at risk and architect/engineer. By policy, at least one member was a senior management employee of a licensed contractor and one was an architect or engineer.

The committee reviewed the proposals that resulted from the request for qualifications and made a short list of finalists before forwarding a final recommendation to the board. While those recommendations are not yet public, the administration is asking the board to approve Facilities Management Group as the project manager.

FMG has been a guiding force for the district on its expansion for more than a year.

The construction personnel and the site are to be paid for with state School Facilities Board funds. The MUSD board is to consider the recommendation from its Land Selection Committee regarding an appropriate site for another high school and then authorize the negotiation with the owner of the property.

Last year, SFB earmarked $22.3 million plus funds for up to 40 acres for the project.

The board meets at 6:30 p.m.

Chris Taylor, a firefighter in Safford, was running for U.S. Congress D1 at the time of the nearly fatal heroin overdose.

Congressional candidate Chris Taylor has suspended his campaign for the District 1 seat after a near-fatal overdose.

Taylor was one of three running for the Republican nomination. He is an Army veteran and member of the Safford City Council. He has been open about his struggles with PTSD and past addiction to opioids, but apparently relapsed last week. According to the Gila Herald, he had a heroin overdose Feb. 19, and was found by his wife Sarah, who administered chest compressions before the arrival of paramedics. He was revived with a dose of Narcan.

“Today, I have suspended my campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives and am seeking treatment for substance abuse disorder,” Taylor announced in social media. “I will fully cooperate with local authorities on any matters arising from my recent relapse and overdose. Please respect the privacy of my wife and children as we deal with this situation.”

By his own account Taylor had been sober seven years after completing a treatment program for his addiction. While in the Army, he served the Special Operations Forces in psychological warfare.

“I’m not going to hide from this. I’m not ashamed of what happened,” he said in his statement. “I wish to sincerely apologize to the amazing people who have supported me. I don’t know what went wrong. I recently relapsed after having so many solid years in sobriety. I have to figure out where I went wrong. Thankfully I have every resource available to me through the Veterans Affairs Administration and I have the strongest support system one could dream of. My family stands behind me 100% and I feel the love and prayers of our amazing Gila Valley Community. I haven’t been able to respond to each of you yet but I have been overwhelmed by the amount of people who have reached out to me in love and understanding.

“The only thing I can do is face this head on in complete humility and put one foot in front of the other so that I can get the help needed to be the father and husband that my family deserves. I’m human and I have never pretended to be anything but. I know that through the Grace of my loving savior Jesus Christ I will be restored to full health and bounce back from this and be stronger than ever.”

The Taylors have two young children.

The Heritage Academy boys’ basketball team defeated BASIS-Scottsdale, 79-68, on Saturday to advance to the Central Arizona Association’s Division 3 championship game.

The Heroes, who were 15-3 during the regular season, had a tight battle with the Bulldogs until pulling away in the second half.

“They didn’t let them slowing the game down bother them,” coach Jim Deakyne said of his team. “They maintained their composure. They moved the ball. There were a lot of guys getting the ball offensively. That’s what we want to do.”

Heritage fielded a starting five of sophomores against a team primarily of seniors. It was a challenge of both size and experience until 6-foot-3 Malik Charles arrived in time for the fourth quarter.

Phenomenal play from our boys,” Deakyne said.

Josh Deakyn scored 34 points, and Logan Porter had 18. Ahmari Moody added 10.

In its first year of existence, the team goal all season was to win state, so Coach Deakyne said he was not surprised to reach the final but he was pleased. He said facing either San Tan Charter or Imagine Prep-Surprise would a tough matchup for the Heroes. The final is Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Talking Stick Resort Arena.