Q&A: Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor candidate Randy Garrison – Verde Independent

Randy Garrison Age: 57

Years in Arizona: 57

Party Affiliation: Republican

Government Elective and Advisory Experience: Yavapai County Board of Supervisors Vice-Chair, District 3 County Supervisor Association, Legislative Policy Committee member County Supervisor Association, Medium County Caucus Chair Northern Arizona Council of Governments Council member Workforce Arizona Council, Governor Appointed Council member Northern Arizona Healthcare Board member, City of Cottonwood Council member, Cottonwood-Oak Creek Governing Board president and member.

Verde Independent: What was the best decision made by the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors in the past four years? Give examples of how it benefited taxpayers.

Garrison: The best decision – we didn’t raise your property tax rates! In fact, your Board of Supervisors has lowered property tax rates for three out of the past four years even though our costs for providing services continue to increase year after year.

The tax rate in 2015 is your tax rate today.

That means we have worked extremely hard to continue to provide services and have actually increased them. I am proud of my leadership in assuring that we take a very conservative approach to tax rates and I will continue to stretch your dollars as far as possible.

 VI: What was the worst decision made by the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors in the past four years? Please explain. 

Garrison: Not bringing community visions back into our General Planning process has been the most negatively impactful decision our Board needs to address.

Communities across the Verde Valley are coming face-to-face with the importance of formulating community visions through their planning processes.

Our rural areas deserve to have a voice in maintaining community character.

By not bringing their opinions back into the decisions we make, it only increases the belief from our residents that they are being excluded from the process. I have been working hard to make this a Board priority, and together we are moving in the right direction.

VI: What is your opinion of the decision by the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors to not require face makes in the unincorporated areas of the county during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Garrison: The Chairman of the Board of Supervisors has been granted Executive unilateral authority in ALL matters COVID-related, which this decision falls under. Therefore, this decision was made by the Board Chairman under that authority.

As your County Supervisor, I am committed to ensuring that the people of the Verde Valley receive the most current and accurate information. Working hand in hand with our Health Department, I will continue to share information on how to protect yourselves, your families, your friends, and our jobs and businesses that provide employment, goods, and services that are so essential for a healthy community.

VI: In the “new normal” of COVID-19, how does county government ensure the public is fairly and adequately represented in public processes? 

Garrison: Until the medical community understands the extent of COVID infection potential and a vaccine is developed, we must continue to follow CDC guidelines on distancing, hand washing, and using personal protective equipment when necessary.

Audio and video conferencing, while allowing the business of government to proceed, can limit public participation.

As your County Supervisor I am committed to learning what models of public participation are being developed and may be potentially implemented right here. Meanwhile, we will continue to make our agendas and live video available, and receive your comments through email, text and video conferencing.

VI: In Arizona county elections, electors vote for every office from constable to county recorder to treasurer and assessor. The elective structure of county government in Arizona has seen little change since territorial days. Do you believe the elective structure of county government in Arizona needs to be modernized? If so, what steps would you personally take to effect such change? 

Garrison: The Arizona State Constitution requires that once the County’s population reaches 250,000 the Superior Court judges will be chosen through a merit selection process involving nominations and appointment by the Governor.

In my discussions with Legislators, they express no other changes for our elected officials are forthcoming. When taxpayer money or public records are at the heart of a position, I believe Citizens should have the final say as to the person responsible. While very few people fully understand the duties of many of these jobs, the ability to demand accountability and honesty is provided through the ballot process

VI: When weighing land-use regulations, neighboring property value impact and anti-growth opposition, what are your main priorities when deciding growth and development issues? 

Garrison: My family has been in the Verde Valley for five generations. No one wants to see its beauty and character preserved more than I. Community engagement is key to making decisions related to growth and development.

Understand there is only about 14% private land available to develop. The remaining 86% of the land is public open space. We must be thoughtful and intentional as we consider not just development for today, but looking 10 and 20 years down the road.

Our new Single Family Home program will be a significant step towards attainable housing for young families and our workforce.

VI: Should Yavapai County provide urbanized government services to unincorporated communities such as the Village of Oak Creek? 

Garrison: My role as County Supervisor is to provide services to all areas of our County, including those unincorporated. These services include Health and Public Safety, Courts, Permitting, Roads, Libraries, Education, and Development Services, and more.

Areas wishing to provide services through a higher degree of self-governance can do so by pursuing incorporation. Until that decision is made, I will continue to live up to our County’s motto of striving to “enhance the lives of our Citizens through the efficient management of resources”. I believe we have been successful in that pursuit while honoring the visions of all our Citizens.

VI: Should individual members of the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors take an official position on the incorporation of communities such as the Village of Oak Creek, Beaver Creek and Cornville? Is this a leadership responsibility? 

Garrison:I have always believed that the government closest to the people governs best, and should a community wish to explore incorporation, I would certainly support a thorough investigation addressing their interests.

As there is a possibility of taxation to support a new incorporated government, it would not be prudent for the Board of Supervisors to have an official position in support or opposition.

While I believe that Yavapai County does an excellent job in representing the interests of ALL our citizens, I also realize that there are communities that believe the price for local control is worth the additional costs. 

VI: Should individual members of the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors take an official position on the annexation of Verde Village into the City of Cottonwood? Is this a leadership responsibility? 

Garrison: Yavapai County has the responsibility of maintaining a rural lifestyle while protecting the health and safety of our Citizens with a responsible Government. When communities reach the size of Verde Village, and that community sits on the shoulder of an incorporated City like Cottonwood, there is always a blurred line between jurisdictions, leaving citizens confused.

I will not take an official position, but just as with Incorporation, if there is an interest by the residents of that area I would be more than happy to support their interest and assist them in working through the question.

VI: How much consideration should county supervisors give to recommendations provided by non-government organizations such as the Beaver Creek Community Association, Cornville Community Association and Big Park Community Coordinating Council? 

Garrison:Receiving input from non-governmental organizations such as those mentioned provide very valuable perspectives from locally committed citizens, especially pertaining to issues of our unincorporated areas of the County.

The Board of Supervisors strive to represent all citizens throughout this County, with equal and consistent support. To have input from organizations recognized by the Citizens of areas not represented by elected councils is invaluable.

I have fiercely advocated to the Board and we will once again include those community’s Vision Statements into our Comprehensive Plan, because those plans are developed by the people most closely in touch with their local concerns.

VI: Yavapai County currently has only one of five representatives on the board of supervisors that lives in the Verde Valley? How does that one supervisor make sure his/her Quad City colleagues fully understand the issues and challenges facing the Verde Valley? 

Garrison: This question speaks to a very important issue when deciding who to elect. I continuously encourage Board members to experience the vast offerings that make the Verde Valley so special, by inviting them to travel with me to see firsthand the challenges and opportunities, including our education resources, our employers, our tax paying industries, and more.

Spending hours on the road allows in-depth conversations that improves their perspectives.

This is why in my first four-year term, they have chosen me to be the Vice-Chairman twice, the Chairman once, and when re-elected I will be Chairman for a second time.

VI: Does the Verde Valley County Annex and Justice Center provide sufficient county services for residents on this side of the mountain? What are the deficiencies? What are the service areas that need most improvement? Explain why. 

Garrison: Yavapai has done an excellent job of resource distribution across this vast county. Approximately two thirds of the population is located on the Western side of Mingus Mountain, yet we have local access to Courts, Public Safety, Behavior and Mental Health services, Health clinics, and nearly every Department or service without leaving the Verde Valley.

The County Supervisors, Departments, and partners are constantly looking for ways to make our services more robust. As technology evolves, we will continue to improve accessibility and the services we provide our Citizens. Yes, we must be vigilant to both retain and increase those services.

VI: In 2019, Yavapai County repealed its well water code, claiming it was a duplication of services already administered by Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. Was that a wise decision? Should water quality and delivery issues fall under the purview of the county as a recommendation to the two state agencies and as a stipulation on development issues? 

Garrison:Throughout my time in office as your Yavapai County Supervisor, I have gone to great lengths to remove out of date or redundant regulation. By law, the State currently has full responsibility for water in pretty much any form, and this removes the voice closest to those being served.

I will continue to work with our Legislators, sharing the need to return more control and responsibility to our local authorities. Until then, I have no desire to continue placing unnecessary restrictions or another undue burden on those wishing to work or live in our county.

VI: Yavapai County’s primary tax rate dropped by 4% this year as opposed to a year ago. Secondary rates fell by 4% to 5% depending on the specific levy. At the same time, Yavapai County assessed valuation increased by 7% over last year. Please provide your opinion of the fiscal health, or lack thereof, of Yavapai County financial operations. 

Garrison: To say Yavapai County is conservative would be an understatement. We strive to manage our budgets in every manner with extreme fiscal responsibility, after all it is not our money but yours.

There are times that this approach places our County in a position of underfunding our needs, and adjustments are necessary. I am proud that today you have a tax rate that matches 2015, which could only be done through strong conservative management.

Despite current economic concerns, our County is financially strong, experiencing historically high cash reserves, while moving forward with long planned projects and improving public services.

VI: The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors already has committed $2.47 million toward the Prescott Jail/Justice Center complex. This project, at this site, has been discussed by previous county boards dating back to 2003. Do you believe the present Yavapai supervisors should go forward with the project? Why? Why not? 

Garrison: Our Sheriff has made the decision for this Justice Center, and I support bringing these services to the Prescott area.

Two-thirds of our population reside on the Western side of Mingus, which aligns with our required commitment for service. By working with our County Attorney, our Court system, our Mental and Behavior health professionals, as well as our Health Department, we will create a system that not only saves our County $2 million a year in transportation costs, but brings much needed service and resources to those who require our help.

It’s already budgeted, and construction has begun.

VI: Should the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors once again ask for voter approval to increase the Jail District sales tax to pay for construction of the Prescott Jail/Justice Center complex? Is that a preferable alternative to having the project financed exclusively from property tax revenue?

Garrison: The Board of Supervisors went to the public twice asking for support in raising the Jail District Sales Tax in expectation of this necessary project.

It was turned down both times, if only by a couple percentage points. The Board went back to the public and received support for continuing our current sales tax.

While it was important to secure the existing funding, it would have been more responsible to increase the sales tax, which is largely tourism supported, leaving property tax rates alone.

I support asking the voter to create a property tax decrease through a sales tax increase.

VI: Yavapai County already has spent $3.6 million on the design planning, environmental NEPA clearance and General Engineering Consultant for the Verde Connect project. This is a project that has been discussed by Yavapai County and Verde Valley leaders since 1990 and is included in the 2016 Verde Valley Master Transportation Plan. How do you respond to those who say this project has been poorly planned and should not be pursued?

Garrison: Nobody likes change, but ignoring challenges does not make them disappear. We have grown since our last county project, and will continue to see more people come into our Valley during the completion of this project.

To think that our increased traffic will somehow take care of itself is unrealistic, and ignoring over 30 years of planning and studies would be completely irresponsible.

Traffic problems are at the top of most Valley residents concerns, and while this project will not solve all of those challenges, it will go a long way to improving overcrowding of our already overburdened road system.

VI: Do you agree with Yavapai County’s plan to include a connector route from Verde Connect to Middle Verde Road. Should the Town of Camp Verde participate in the alignment for that connector?

Garrison: Thirty years of Camp Verde General Plans call for a link from the Middle Verde area back across the Verde River to Highway 260. 20 years of ADOT studies call for this new road to connect with Cornville Road.

This project is an important regional safety improvement, and increases secure access to the entire Middle Verde area, including the Yavapai Apache lands. Our Federal Government understood the importance of this visionary project, and we received important funding to make this dream a reality.

Camp Verde planted this seed. Thankfully, Yavapai County has the opportunity to bring it to life.

VI: What is your position on the Spring Creek Ranch property and the adjacent 11 square miles of Coconino National Forest land being annexed into the City of Cottonwood? 

Garrison: If annexation, in this example, means that Cottonwood will provide water and sewer to this development, then that guarantees the use of water will be regulated and the reuse of effluent assured.

Such measures on this and future development could actually reduce groundwater pumping, preserving Verde River base flows.

While I would prefer to avoid the start of land-grabs by other municipalities who are alarmed by this annexation, we need to find planning solutions for the anticipated development of large parcels that by right can subdivide larger lots with unregulated wells and septic systems, denying any reclamation or conservation.

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Author: HOCAdmin