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.