Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Guest View-Jim Williams: Celebrating 50 Years: How Oro Valley Happened

Oro Valley almost never happened
Oro Valley celebrates its 50th anniversary as an incorporated town in 2024. From a population of 1,200 and 2.5 square miles in size, Oro Valley has grown to 49,000 residents and 36 square miles! How and why did incorporation happen?

Defying odds and overcoming opposition
A small group of determined residents worked tirelessly to establish the municipality between 1970 and 1974. They had to overcome opposition from Pima County and Tucson political leaders, the two daily newspapers, and the area business community. The proponents also had to convince a significant portion of local residents who did not favor incorporation.

A battle for local autonomy
The pro-incorporation group championed the cause for local citizens to wield authority over land use and development decisions, rejecting the dominance of Tucson or Pima County. Their vision extended beyond administrative changes; they aspired to establish a local police force, replacing the distant Sheriff's Office.

At the forefront of this struggle were town founders Jim Kriegh, Steve Engel, and a dedicated cadre of individuals. Their tenacious efforts included filing petitions, offering compelling testimonies at public meetings, and disseminating informative newsletters. Undeterred by challenges, they pursued legal avenues, filing lawsuits in county and state courts. The pinnacle of their persistence came in January 1974 when the Arizona State Supreme Court granted their petition, officially establishing Oro Valley

Building consensus
The inaugural town council, appointed by the Pima Board of Supervisors, convened in a public meeting on April 24, 1974. Despite overcoming the initial opposition from Pima County and Tucson, a new challenge emerged as Oro Valley residents found themselves embroiled in internal disputes over the town's fate—whether to maintain its status or pursue disincorporation. 

In the aftermath of these internal conflicts, the community underwent a period of soul-searching. It wasn't until late 1975 that a pivotal turning point occurred. All factions, having weathered disagreements, ultimately united and reached a consensus: Oro Valley should exist as a town. This marked a significant moment of unity and determination among the residents, solidifying the town's commitment to its continued existence.
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Jim Williams new book, Oro Valley: The First Fifty Years is available from, as well as the Oro Valley Historical Society on Saturdays at Steam Pump Ranch, 9:00 to noon.