Rich Vitiello, with his wife, announced his intention to withdraw from the city council race and run for county supervisor during Tuesday's council meeting. Submitted photo

Rich Vitiello is running for office, but he’s changed his mind about which office he is seeking.

The businessman had pulled a packet to run for a seat on the Maricopa City Council. Sheriff Paul Babeu was instrumental in his decision to instead run for the District 4 county supervisor seat against incumbent Anthony Smith.

“Public safety has always been No. 1 for me,” Vitiello said. “I was endorsed by fire and police when I ran two years ago.”

Vitiello ran for an abbreviated term on the council in 2014, but lost to Nancy Smith, the wife of Anthony Smith

As supervisor, Tony Smith got crosswise with Babeu over the county budget. The sheriff felt the supervisors have not given public safety the priority it deserves. He singled out Smith for going beyond the county manager’s request of a 3-percent budget cut and suggesting a 4.5-percent cut. Though Babeu will not be the sheriff next year, instead running for Congress, he reached out to Vitiello to run against Smith primarily because of that issue.

“It’s important to have leaders that understand that, to have leaders who will make that a priority,” Babeu said Tuesday. “I thought Rich would make a good candidate, he’s offered himself as a candidate before, so I thought he should consider it.”

Vitiello said he consulted his family and friends before making the decision.

Rich Vitiello in council chambers Tuesday night. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Rich Vitiello in council chambers Tuesday night. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

He said he disagreed with the supervisors on their handling of the budget. “No businessman cuts straight across the board,” he said. “It’s impossible.”

Vitiello has worked in what he describes as the international cycling business for 27 years. He is employed at Autonation Honda.

He said things should have been moved around in the county budget to make sure public safety remained a more of a priority.

“Here in Maricopa, 51 percent of the budget is public safety. I’m 100 percent behind that,” he said. “A safe city brings CEOs and businesses. It’s public safety that brings economic development. I’m all about economic development. I’m all about public safety.”

Though he said he is passionate about Maricopa, Vitiello said he still needed to learn about the rest of District 4, which includes Hidden Valley, Stanfield, Saddlebrooke and Oracle.