Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Reflecting on 25 Years: Oro Valley's Mayoral Roundtable

25 years of leadership on display
The Oro Valley Historical Society (OVHS) hosted a roundtable last week with three mayors: Paul Loomis, Satish Hiremath, and Joe Winfield. Collectively, their time in office spans the last 25 years of the town’s 50-year history. The roundtable was the third of four special events hosted by OVHS in celebration of Oro Valley’s 50th anniversary. Oro Valley historian Jim Williams moderated the event. Loomis served in office from 1998-2010; Hiremath from 2010-2018; and Winfield from 2018 to the present.

Accomplishments of which they are most proud
Asked about the things they are most proud of accomplishing during their term, Loomis spoke of infrastructure development, including roadways, bridges, and water systems, as well as fostering regional cooperation with neighboring towns. He also highlighted commercial developments and stabilizing town policies, notably transitioning the employee retirement system.

Hiremath highlighted his administration's focus on creating a holistic community environment conducive to living, working, and playing. Key achievements included attracting the state's first veterinary school, facilitating innovation park development, annexations, cultural investments like Tohono Chul, economic growth through private investments, and initiatives supporting veterans, education, and safety. He also mentioned community programs like the Dark House Program and various recreational and educational developments.

Winfield emphasized accomplishments achieved through collective efforts, including hiring key personnel like Chief Riley and Judge Hazel, addressing the police pension shortfall, investing in parks, creating the Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve, and facilitating mixed-use development.

Things they would have done differently
Loomis discussed two unfinished annexations, particularly one involving Arroyo Grande, land north of Oro Valley up to the Pima County line, which was put on hold due to changes in state administration. He also stressed the need for better public education regarding town regulations and processes, suggesting that increased awareness could lead to less controversy surrounding council decisions.

Hiremath admitted to shortcomings in messaging during his term, particularly regarding misconceptions about projects such as the community center. He acknowledged a failure to effectively defend these initiatives against public scrutiny, highlighting the importance of transparent communication to counteract misinformation and foster understanding among residents.

Winfield focussed on things he wished the town hand done differently. He felt that decisions early in the town's history, which placed responsibility for parks on homeowner associations, may not have been in the best interest of residents. That decision resulted in smaller parks and poor trail connectivity.

Citizen involvement matters
The three mayors characterized citizen involvement as helping to foster a vibrant and inclusive community.

Loomis noted that new ideas and alternatives are often presented by residents. He noted a common challenge: Public engagement tends to occur late in the decision-making process, making it difficult to incorporate changes. He lamented that negativity tends to overshadow positive accomplishments, urging for a more balanced perspective.

Hiremath emphasizes the importance of considering all residents' viewpoints, even if they are single-issue focused. He underscored the necessity for council members to prioritize the broader community's interests over individual preferences.

Winfield encourages continued engagement, particularly in the formulation of the general plan, which serves as a blueprint for the town's future. He urged residents to voice their opinions and contribute to shaping Oro Valley's trajectory through platforms like ovpathforward.com.

Three Mayors…. Three different impacts
The roundtable showcased 25 years of collective leadership in Oro Valley. Each put their mark on the community. Oro Valley expanded its infrastructure under Paul Loomis, bolstered its economic base under Satish Hiremath, and, under Winfield’s current leadership, has further developed its parks and recreational system.
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