by Robert “Bob” Jackson, Mayor, Casa Grande
In early December I will end my 9-1/2 years as mayor of Casa Grande. Many people have asked what I am most proud of during my tenure. I honestly cannot pick just one item. When I ran for office in 2007, I wanted to improve our relationships with our neighboring communities, work to bring new jobs to the area and raise our image in the Metro-Phoenix area.
Shortly after taking office, Byron Jackson, the mayor of Eloy at the time and I started an informal, regular meeting of the western Pinal mayors. Today, the group meets for lunch every other month, rotating our location so each city gets a chance to host the group. I am the only mayor still attending from the original group but the mayors of Florence, Eloy, Marana, Maricopa and Coolidge are committed to continuing the informal meeting. Our new mayor, Craig McFarland, has been attending as well and I am confident the group will continue. The meeting allows us to talk about common problems and we have become friends outside of our official capacity.
Certainly I didn’t expect to have the economy collapse shortly after taking office but with our dedicated staff and a council that worked together for a common goal, we were able to survive the downturn. We never cut service, laid off staff, reduced work weeks or raised taxes while at the same time investing almost $200 million in new infrastructure. The timing for the work allowed us to get great value for our dollars. Because of our financial position we raised our bond rating three times, reducing the interest rates on our bonds and lowering the annual payments by an estimated $300,000.
Of the projects completed, the one that has probably meant the most to the city is the expansion of our Wastewater Plant. Creating additional capacity has made the difference in bringing several new businesses to town, most notably Ehrmann Dairy and Franklin Foods. These new businesses have put us on the economic development map as a good place to do business with a professional staff, stable mayor and council and a fiscally-sound community. Over the next few months, I expect several new businesses to announce Casa Grande as their new home.
During the past nine years, between business expansions and new business locates, we have created more than 2,000 jobs. More importantly, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and the Arizona Commerce Commission regularly send us leads for new businesses looking to relocate or expand into Arizona.
I am also very proud of all our citizens that helped make the Casa Grande Mountain Park trail system a reality. This had been a community vision for over 20 years. The dedicated volunteers started by working on the construction of trails every weekend. The City was lucky enough to receive help from a series of Americorp volunteers over several years. The end result is two trail heads and 14 miles of trails completed at no local taxpayer cost.
I am not sure what the future holds for me but I know the City will be in good hands with the new mayor and council. I would like to thank all of our City staff for the great job they do, my fellow council members, both current and past, and a special thank-you to Jim Thompson and Larry Rains for all they have done to keep the City running efficiently and smoothly.
Thanks to all of you for allowing me to be your mayor, it has been an honor and privilege to lead our City.