ROX Interview: Micah Powell: From Hometown Boy to Eloy City Council

Interview by Bea Lueck

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Micah several years. His kind heart and sense of humor set him apart. Micah is an open book. He doesn’t sugar-coat his thoughts, he says what he means. He entered politics to make a difference in his community. Eloy is his home. His pride and love for the community is apparent, whether it is at a local ribbon cutting or representing Eloy at a state-level function. At the end of the interview, Micah surprised me when he announced his candidacy for mayor of the city of Eloy.

GC LIVING: I’ll start with the question, because I know it is a common one. Are you related to Casa Grande City Councilman Dick Powell?

Micah Powell: No. We joke around and say we are. I went to school with his son, Todd, and we’d always said we were cousins, but no. We’re the Eloy Powell’s and he’s a Casa Grande Powell.

GC LIVING: When did you move to Pinal county?

Micah Powell: I was born in Casa Grande in 1975 at Hoemako Hospital. I was raised in Casa Grande, went to school here, Cottonwood Elementary, Casa Grande Middle School, Casa Grande Union High School. I moved around a couple of times, but I always came back to this area.
GC LIVING: What do you remember growing up here in Casa Grande? What are your fondest memories?

Micah Powell: I remember when the community was smaller, the population was around 30,000. You knew everyone, you went to school with everyone. The O’odham Tash parade was something you went to and Florence Boulevard was packed. I sold event programs for the Dispatch. You didn’t have to worry about things. You’d go to Peter Piper Pizza and hang out with your friends. And the movie theater was in the old Casa Grande Mall.

GC LIVING: Do you remember going to the drive-in movie?

Micah Powell: I do. I was very young at the time, but I do remember. It was right there on the corner of Pinal and Cottonwood Lane where the DMV is now. I remember the Otter Slide on Thorton Rd.

GC LIVING: Sounds like Mayberry USA.

Micah Powell: Yes, a Main Street town, growing up where kids didn’t have cell phones. You knew if you got in trouble your parents were going to find out, because everyone knew everyone’s kids. It was the same when my family lived in Eloy. You would cruise down Main Street in Eloy and it was packed. It was a vibrant town. This was in the 80s and early 90s.

I remember Tanger Outlet and when both outlet malls opened in Casa Grande. (laughs) You’d go shopping at Bugle Boy for your school clothes.

Everyone had Guess jeans, because they went to Guess in the outlet stores. Back then, Coolidge and Eloy seemed so far away, and it would take days to get there. Now as an adult, both are just down the street.

GC LIVING: Growing up here, I bet you still have a lot of friends in the area. Who were some of your friends growing up?

Micah Powell: Oh gosh, put me on the spot. Let’s see Ryan Swigart, Brian McDonald, Ricky McCreery, Brian Serna, Tim Wakefield. I was so cool with everyone. Christian Vasquez. Who else? Did I say Andy Mitchell? Eric Rivera, oh how can I forget Eric?
We had so many good times. Many are still in this area. Now my kids are their kids’ friends. I’m still in close contact with a lot of my old neighbors in Palm Park. It’s amazing what social media has done. Even though we’re so far apart, we’re still close together.
I remember my old principals, Mr. McCuster at Cottonwood and Mr. Trotter at the Jr. High (laughs) Mr. McCuster gave me my first of two swats in junior high.

GC LIVING: What did you do?

Micah Powell: The first time I was in seventh grade. I spit sunflower seeds on the ground, and I got in trouble. The second time, Miss Robbins said I said something in math class, and there it went. Still good times, good memories, you know.

GC LIVING: What did you do after high school?

Micah Powell: Little jobs here and there. Bought my first house at 20, got married and started a family at a young age. I slipped and slided a bit and wasn’t the best, but I learned a lot from it. I was a truck driver, worked at the juvenile detention center, worked on airplane parts. When you’re 20 years old you don’t really understand life.

GC LIVING: Do you have a do-over life moment?

Micah Powell: If I didn’t live that life, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I’m glad I went through my trials and tribulations growing up because I look at things differently now.

GC LIVING: What was your most rebellious moment?

Micah Powell: I did a lot of crazy things I learned from, drugs, drinking, just life. There are things I shouldn’t have done, but I didn’t get in trouble for (laughs) or didn’t get caught. I didn’t go to prison or I on probation or things like that.
I know what it’s like to be homeless. I stayed in a men’s shelter in Prescott. And then came back here, sleeping in my truck beneath the Petro sign in Eloy. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I have a real big, strong family backing, and my mom never gave up. She may have backed up a few steps, but she never gave up.

GC LIVING: You publicly struggled with your weight. How did the weight gain begin, and what was your ah-ha moment when you said, ‘this can’t continue’?

Micah Powell: It began when my oldest son’s mom got pregnant. I got pregnant with her, I started eating everything. I am 5’11” and was at 220 pounds for the longest time. The next thing you know, I’m over 300 pounds and I couldn’t shake it. Diabetes runs in my family. Thankfully I didn’t have that or high blood pressure. I had gastric sleeve surgery almost five years ago. I tried every fad diet you could possibly think of, and finally I just woke up one day and said, “I’m going to try this surgery.” I had a couple friends do it and they were successful. I said, “Well shoot. If they can do it, I can do it.”  I got down to 197 and I looked like I was on crack. I wanted to look healthy, so I gained a little bit of weight back. I was a healthy fat guy. That’s what the doctor said, “You’re a health fat guy. You just need to lose the weight. Be just a healthy guy.” So here I am today about a hundred pounds less.

GC LIVING: What kind of advice would you give to someone facing that question, “Should I do this?”

Micah Powell: Make sure your mind is right. Make sure this is something you want to do because this is only a tool. You still have to learn how to eat right. I have to regularly remind myself, “Dude, your stomach’s going to start expanding if you eat too much. You’ll start gaining weight and you don’t want that.”

GC LIVING: So, when did you move back to Eloy?

Micah Powell: I worked at a local funeral home. The owners moved out of their house and asked me if I would want to move there. I grew up in Eloy. They said get involved in the community. So, I did.

GC LIVING: How did you go from truck driver to the funeral industry?

Micah Powell: As a truck driver you’re away from your family for such a long time. Even when you’re a local truck driver it’s long hours. I worked for a local farm and got an overweight ticket, a very expensive $22,000 ticket. So, I separated myself from the company and fought the ticket. I actually almost won.

GC LIVING: Almost?

Micah Powell: It was reduced to two grand and the company paid half, I paid the other half. That’s a victory in my eyes. I just wanted to get away and be with my kids. My youngest daughter was just a newborn.
Someone said to my mom, “Hey, your son drives. The funeral home is looking for a driver. Tell him to go apply.” So, I did. I didn’t know what to do or what to expect. I’d seen funerals and caskets and all, but nothing hands on. I was nervous and couldn’t sleep that first weekend. On Monday they got a call. The first call and it was a baby. I remember going home and just crying, thinking, “I can’t do this.” They told me, “You can do this.” I was there for eight years. I started as a driver and worked my way up.

GC LIVING: Now you’re with the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s office. Is it different?

Micah Powell: When it comes to death, you’re always expecting that next breath. Even when we know our loved one is passing, when the time comes, you’re never prepared for it. My job deals mostly with the unexpected passing, the unnatural versus the natural. It’s anyone and everyone in probably the worst situations. When the death is unexpected, car accidents, homicide, suicides, anything accidental … I think it’s totally different.

GC LIVING: Is the job the way shown by Hollywood in the various CSI-type programs?

Micah Powell: No, it’s totally different. Pinal County started their own medical examiner’s office about three years ago. Hollywood and real life don’t mix. We don’t have those high-tech gadgets and stuff. And we don’t solve the crime in an hour.

GC LIVING: Do you still go home and cry?

Micah Powell: No, I have me time on the 35-minute drive home. I learned working at the funeral home to separate myself and understand work is work and home is home. But there are some cases that do stick with you. Prayer and meditation always help me out.

GC LIVING: Have you taken elements of your work experiences to preach to your children and other community members, “Don’t do drugs. Don’t text and drive,”?

Micah Powell: I try to educate people around me as much as I can by experiences and what I see on an almost daily basis. I tell my kids I don’t want you to do this because this is how it affects a family. You can’t prevent everything, but you can control aspects such as put the phone down, don’t text, don’t read Facebook – concentrate on driving, don’t have one too many and then get behind the wheel. You can control that part of your life. And nowadays with the Fentanyl situation, you don’t know what you’re taking. It’s everywhere and there’s no age group that opioids and Fentanyl is targeting. It can hit anyone. You never know what’s on the streets. As little as one gram of Fentanyl can kill someone. That’s why we must be cautious at these scenes. It’s a scary time right now.

GC LIVING: How did you end up running for City Council? What made you decide to get into politics?

Micah Powell: When I was in elementary school, we toured the Casa Grande City Hall. I remember seeing a plaque with a Powell last name on the dais. (editor’s note: Dewey Powell was city councilman at that time) And I thought, ‘wow, that would be cool’. When I moved to Eloy, I got involved. I was on the cemetery board, in the Lion’s Club, and involved going to meetings. I thought, “I can do this”. I talked to family and friends and decided to try. I never thought I would get elected in the first election in 2012. Now my name will always be connected with the city one way or another, either on a ballot or as member of the council. That’s my legacy.

GC LIVING: Was Byron Jackson the mayor at that time?

Micah Powell: It was his last year, he was stepping down, so we had a new mayor and new council. I had to go out and present myself, gain a lot of trust from the community. They knew the Powell last name from being in Eloy, but they didn’t know me. I was a stranger to them. I put my signs up, shook a lot of hands and lots of door knocking. There I was marching down the streets, wearing my shirts and pins, and having my personality out there.

GC LIVING: Who talked you in to running for office?

Micah Powell: Myself. I remember when Matt Herman was selected then elected to the council in Casa Grande. I thought, ‘Man, if Matt can do it, I can do it’. Nowadays people are getting more involved, they’re engaged in their community. As long as you have love and interest and dedication for your community, you can do it. I had that. And family support, you need family support. I have an awesome family, from my fiancée Lydia, our kids, to my mom, Doria, and my stepdad Bob Huddleston, who’s on the Casa Grande city council and dad. I can’t forget my friends. DJ Johnson, Andrew Rodriguez, Rigo Diaz, Carlos Garcia, Paul Rodriguez and others who have had my back since the beginning.

GC LIVING: Do you two have some heated political discussions at family dinners?

Micah Powell: No, we don’t. Bob is such an awesome guy. I’ve been blessed and learned a lot being in a blended family.

GC LIVING: What did you feel at the end of the election night? The results weren’t close.

Micah Powell: We had a little get together for family and friends at my house. When the first numbers came out, I was in fourth. After they tallied all the votes at each precinct, they would post them on the window or door. So we’re scrambling the different precincts in Eloy and I’m in fourth. Then you get online, and the early ballots kick in and I’m moving to third, then second. And next thing you know, I’m leading the votes. It was crazy, I’m thinking I’m an elected official now. Then I get the call from our city clerk and she says, “Congratulations Councilman-elect Powell”. I’m thinking, “I gained their trust and got their vote. Now I have to talk the talk.” You can do a lot of good in a small community and that’s what I want to do. My first term was pretty crazy. We had a new city manager and some new department heads. We had to raise the water rates.

GC LIVING: The 2012-13 economy was still not the strongest. Was the city in a financial crunch?

Micah Powell: Eloy has always been financially stable with the prisons built there. The city was okay. They’ve been very frugal with the budget and that’s what’s helped us not need to lay people off. We have been able to plan big projects, redo water lines, redo roads, and build a new city hall. In my opinion, 2012 was the complete turnaround for the City of Eloy as a whole. You start to gain respect outside the community and are no longer passed over on ideas, projects, or even a seat at the regional or statewide table. Eloy is being involved. We’ve done a lot of self-promoting to change the culture starting within.

GC LIVING: So you’ve gone from your youth when Main Street was vibrant and lined with shops to the early 2000s where the doors were boarded over and looking a little tired to the current day and the city just opened a new City Hall and is working on the plans to remodel the old building to a modern police department and justice court. The city and community are also working on the facades of the Main Street buildings to make it vibrant again.

Micah Powell: We’re changing the culture, changing the vision of the community. We need to show interest in our community like other communities. If we don’t do it as a city, then who will? We have some amazing plans. We’re not going to have a Grand Prix on our Main Street, but we are going to have the FAI Parachuting World Cup at Skydive Arizona in October. Eloy is known worldwide for skydiving.

GC LIVING: What do you see as some of the wish list items, not as a city councilman but as a resident of Eloy? If you could wave your magic wand, what would you make happen?

Micah Powell: It’s hard to say. On one hand you want the commerce and big box retail, you want the new housing developments, you want all the community amenities for a young family. But is that what we need and the best for Eloy? Eloy isn’t Casa Grande. The same way Casa Grande isn’t Phoenix. Eloy does need retail, but not necessarily the big box type retail. At least not right now, you know? Hmmm, the magic wand, what would I change? You know what? Honestly … nothing. Eloy wouldn’t be Eloy without its history. It’s coming full circle. The Santa Cruz football team won state championships in the past and they’re winning again. The same with residents. People moved out and houses were empty. Now you can’t find a rental as new people move to Eloy.

GC LIVING: Is housing a critical need? I hear this in many communities, the need for housing that is affordable to the residents.

Micah Powell: Yes. Eloy is located between two pending major manufacturing companies, Lucid Motors and Nikola Motors. We have the perfect location for distribution centers. We need housing. Robson Ranch is here, and they’ve done an amazing job – it’s a beautiful area as an active adult community. I wish a builder would come and build family homes. Eloy Proper and the Toltec area is a nice area. Eloy has plenty of land to build. Hopefully one day soon Eloy will attract builder interest.

GC LIVING: What are some of the items the council and staff are looking at for the future?

Micah Powell: We need to capitalize off everything going on around us. We’re very big on economic development. Hotels, housing, local retail – we don’t need one really big thing, we need a lot of little stuff, the things that will keep us going for a long time.

GC LIVING: Eloy has been very active in annexing land and is larger in land mass than Casa Grande.

Micah Powell: Yes, we really are. Former city manager, Evelyn Casuga, is the one who pushed to annex I-10. Now we have all that retail, all that prime location, and all the sales tax generated at the truck stops. I give her a lot of credit. She really helped solidify Eloy financially. There’s still some prime land we need to annex.

GC LIVING: What’s your proudest moment in office? I’m going to assume the opening of the new city hall?

Micah Powell: That’s one of the best projects. My proudest moment is representing the city at outside events and conferences and sharing the good things we’re doing.

GC LIVING: Developers know where Eloy is. You’re not this secret community anymore. You’re on the map and on their radar.

Micah Powell: We’re getting there. Eloy is getting calls. We’ve got a lot more to do, we’re not done, by any means. We’ve just scratched the surface of our potential. I’m glad I’m part of that and part of the role in changing the culture of the city of Eloy.

GC LIVING: What’s the future hold for Micah Powell? What are you looking at for your future goals?

Micah Powell: I want to continue being the best person I can possibly be, either on or off the council.

GC LIVING: The elections are coming up. Do you have any aspirations for mayor?

Micah Powell: I’ve been talking with friends and family for a while now. I have a young family and a full-time job. It’s a huge commitment. But I am confident I can do it. So yes, I am officially announcing my candidacy for mayor of Eloy.
I’ve spoken to Mayor Belloc and the other council members about my plans. I love representing the City of Eloy. I love what we have accomplished so far and we are just beginning. I know we can continue the momentum. Eloy is destined for great things and I want to help make it happen. Eloy has my heart. I hope everyone in Eloy is proud of me and will consider allowing me to continue serve the residents of Eloy as their mayor.