Maricopa CPA eyes state House from neighboring district

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Jim Chaston might be one of the most well-known politicians in Maricopa running for office.

But no one in Maricopa can vote for him.

The former Maricopa resident is seeking election to the Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 12 (south Tempe, west Chandler and Ahwatukee) after moving to Ahwatukee about four years ago. Maricopa is in adjoining Legislative District 16.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Chaston said of his political aspirations. “I was looking at 2018 and 2020 and some of the things that happened, particularly at the State Legislature. And then when COVID hit, the government mandates and government overreach. I’d had enough. It’s time for good people to step up, and that’s why I decided (to run).”

While he’s moved 30 minutes north, Chaston has a long history with Maricopa. He’s served in a variety of public and private sector roles over the years to facilitate Maricopa’s growth. He was the city’s first finance director and opened its first accounting practice.

He seems to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

A keen eye on Maricopa
Chaston’s family moved a great deal when he was young, and he primarily grew up in Utah and Arizona. When it came time for him to determine where he wanted to study and live in the early 1990s, he returned to Arizona — and has been here ever since.

Chaston earned his undergraduate degree in accounting from Arizona State University in 1994. A CPA certification came three years later, followed by a master’s in taxation in 2001. He moved to Maricopa in 2003, a pivotal time in the community’s history.

“I was the first CPA. There wasn’t a whole lot here,” he recalled. “The city was incorporated in October 2003, and I was the first city finance director.”

He served on the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board from 2004-2008, including a stint as president. The common theme at the time — in the city and schools — was growth.

“Back then, I actually thought Maricopa would be bigger at this point,” Chaston said. “I thought we would have the second high school (set to open in July) by 2012 or 2013. When we had the recession, everything slowed down. It was not quite a standstill, but growth really shut down for five to six years.”

CHASTON’S PLATFORM

ECONOMY AND JOBS
• Keep taxes low
• Reduce burdensome regulations on businesses
• Restrain the bureaucratic state
PUBLIC SAFETY
• Secure the border
• Stand with law enforcement
• Prosecute violent criminals
EDUCATION
• Promote school choice
• Oppose racially divisive curriculum
• Invest in community colleges and trade schools
“Education continues to be a big deal,” he said. “The funding system essentially hasn’t changed in almost 50 years, since the 1970s. Today’s economy is not the same as it was in the ’70s. At the state level, we have to change the funding formula for schools. We’ve got to change that and have it a little more equitable.”
“We’ve got to go back to kids coming out of high school having practical skills,” he continued, citing the need for more vocational schools and further incorporating such lessons and training into high schools.
“We need parent choice, school choice. We’ve got to have competition. Then, parent-decided curriculum, not federal government curriculum. Education is a states issue, not a federal issue. It’s a local issue.”

In the work column, Chaston has been focused from Day One on partnering with local, small business owners to help them save money and be successful. It’s a perfect tie with the city’s objectives.

“I think locally owned, small businesses are massively important for a community,” he said, noting the importance of bringing and supporting local businesses, and not sending dollars out of town to Chandler or Phoenix.

“If we had more locally owned businesses and people were buying from local business owners, they could hire more people because they have more business — and that means more jobs in the economy,” he pointed out. “Those dollars duplicate themselves.”

“Ak-Chin has some entertainment,” he added, “but maybe some more entertainment options and some more professional buildings. I know the city is working on it.”

While the mission remains relatively the same as when he moved here, so do several of the challenges, according to Chaston.

“Infrastructure is still one of the big issues, especially for small business owners. It’s location. Do they have to build their own building? And transportation. Getting in and out of Maricopa is still a big issue.

“There’s more opportunity now. There are more people living here, more services are needed. There’s more opportunity for businesses out here. It’s just making sure we’ve got the infrastructure to support small business owners.”

Chaston is optimistic that Maricopa will remain on the right path, noting the city will continue to attract more residents.

Fiscal priorities
Chaston’s community leadership also includes working with the Chamber of Commerce, Boys and Girls Club, Boy Scouts, Little League and various nonprofit boards.

“It’s all about organizations that help people. For me, that’s what it’s about — effecting change that makes people’s lives better. The city has done a great job, in my opinion, in a lot of ways. Especially fiscally. It has not let the budget get out of control. They don’t get into debt or allow debt to handcuff them.”

And while the state has been operating with a budget surplus, there is room for improvement.

“There’s not a single CPA in the state legislature and there hasn’t been for 20 years,” Chaston said. “There’s still a lot of spending you can curtail. Wasteful spending. Having a CPA who has worked at city, county, tribal, school board levels, then also the small business level that I do all the time, I am uniquely qualified, having worked with both government and business.”

Jim Chaston in his office at CS CPA Group. [Brian Petersheim Jr.]
Chaston is a CPA at CS CPA Group, a firm that assists more than 300 companies with accounting and related business services. The menu includes payroll, bookkeeping, tax preparation, tax optimization and more.

His already-hectic schedule became even busier with the decision to seek state office.

“It’s a matter of bringing in the right staff here to take care of our clients. I have taken a smaller role, but I’ll continue to be here,” he said. “It’s setting client expectations. Here’s what I am doing, and we have good staff here to take care of you. (I tell clients) I’m taking a bigger role so I can support you at the state level, not just for your business and your taxes.”

Chaston will face off against Terry Roe in the Aug. 2 Republican primary. Five Democrats — Patricia Contreras, Sam Huang, Ajlan Kurdoglu, Anastasia Travers and Paul Weich — are on the primary ballot. The top two Republicans and top two Democrats in the primary will face off for two seats in the Nov. 8 general election.

On the run
Chaston and his wife Pamela have three children in their 20s. All live in the Phoenix area.
His hobbies revolve around the outdoors. They enjoy hiking — South Mountain is a local favorite — and made a backpacking trip to Bryce Canyon last year. They want to hike some other trails in northern Arizona and southern Utah.

In the last few years, Chaston has taken on new challenges — triathlons and Spartan races.
A Spartan race is a series of obstacle races of varying distances and difficulty, which could range from three miles to the length of a marathon.

“As a kid, I ran 10Ks with my dad all the time. I swam as a younger kid and also did some biking,” he recalled. “When I was 45, I put it all together and started doing some triathlons (eight of them in 2021).”

Two years ago, Chaston broadened his horizons while supporting a friend recovering from a heart attack.

“He wanted to run a Spartan race but was afraid. I said I would go with him. We got some friends together, enjoyed it and we have done seven or eight since.”

The Spartan Trifecta involves completing 5K, 10K and 21K (half-marathon) races in a calendar year. Chaston accomplished the feat in 2021 and will do so again this year. The final event, the half-marathon, will take place in August in Hawaii. The trip will also be a birthday celebration for Pamela.

Whether it’s running his business, seeking public office, serving his community or enjoying the outdoors, Chaston has a similar approach.

“I challenge myself all the time. I’m always working to improve myself,” he said. “If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling back — period. Bodies don’t stay stagnant; they’re going forward or they’re going back. The same with our minds.”