Editorial: Yes, Greenlee has its shortcomings

Walt Mares File Photo/Gila Herald

Critics should learn about them first-hand

Column By Walt Mares

Walt Mares: Walt Mares has been in journalism since 1976 and has covered Greenlee County since 1983.

Among the most beautiful things in life are family, home and democracy. Say what?

Indeed, imagine living a nation ruled by a dictatorship or someone who wants to turn a democratic system into a dictatorship. Imagine living under a system in which one person feels the world revolves around him or herself. 

Democracy allows us to elect our leaders. At times those leaders turn out to be nothing like we had expected or hoped. Then there are those who accuse others of being what the accusers actually are themselves.  

Tactics that can too often work are instilling needless fear and anger. Get people riled up enough and there are the desired results. So what if anger is built on misinformation and outright lies?

Yup, get people angry enough and the mud, and more, will fly. 

Is that what Becky Nutt’s purpose in writing a rage-filled letter to the editor? She makes accusations of Greenlee County being run by the “good ole boy system.”  Such mean-spirited tactics and personal attacks have been unfamiliar in Greenlee County politics – until now.  

Nutt is a state representative representing Legislative District 14, which includes Greenlee County. She twice in her letter refers to Greenlee County as being run by the ‘good ole boy’ system. She does not note that the same system exists very much in the Arizona State Legislature. 

Nutt is running for re-election for a third term. In various spots around the county, her campaign signs are right next to that of representative David Gowan. If you are not familiar with the name it should come as no surprise. Rarely does he appear in Greenlee, except maybe for the county fair during which he dons a cowboy hat, apparently to make him look like he fits in with the populace.

Gowan was formerly the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives. He was disciplined for ethics violations and removed as speaker. Yet he continues to be elected by the ‘good ole boy’ system, primarily in Graham and Cochise counties.

Nutt makes some good points in her letter telling about how the Greenlee Board of Supervisors was not issuing meeting minutes in a time as prescribed by state law. Well done, Becky. But since you spend so little time in Greenlee, certainly not at supervisors’ meetings, I have to assume someone informed you of the problem.

Where a major problem would exist in violation of Arizona’s Open Meeting law would be if a government entity, state, county, or local, did not post a meeting agenda and not having an agenda available to the public at least 24 hours before a public meeting. Not meeting that legal requirement would be a very big no-no. In all my years of covering local and county government, I have never seen such a violation.

In the matter of a write-in candidate not having paperwork to run as a candidate, County Manager Derek Rapier readily admits the county did make a mistake in not making the paperwork available. However, that error was corrected and the candidate will be allowed for office.

 A factor no doubt is that the county elections director is new at the job and has much to learn. No excuses, that is just a fact. No one was trying to deny anybody the right to run for office.

Nutt also informs us of how she was responsible for obtaining a large grant for Duncan Schools. Again, well done, Becky.

It will be appreciated if you will point out your other accomplishments on Greenlee County’s behalf.

Is there anything you can do to help Duncan and Clifton with some street repair? Both towns need help, especially Duncan with its awful Chaparral road that leads to the elementary and middle schools. 

Clifton’s Riverside Drive is in dire need of repair. The road sees more use than ever before as many living in FMI housing in Copper Verde drive through Shannon Hill and on to Riverside.

Becky Nutt

Perhaps if you spent more time in Greenlee, Becky, you would have been aware that our now-former county superintendent of schools Tom Powers had put the word at least a couple of years ago that he was planning to retire and hoped that someone qualified to do the job would raise a hand and apply. There was nothing shady about his retirement or its timing. Anyone could have put in his/her papers during the designated time period and gathered signatures to run for the office.

Your comment involving the situation involving the county school superintendent’s office: You say it is an atrocity when in fact your comment is atrocious in itself.

As for economic and housing development, having formerly headed the county chamber of commerce, you should know what tremendous challenges those are for Greenlee. Any such thing has been nearly impossible during the 37 years I have lived in Greenlee.

Saying that voters in Greenlee do not have choices in electing county officials is an insult to the electorate. We do, after all, have tight-knit communities in Duncan and the rest of southern Greenlee and further north in Clifton-Morenci, Verde Lee, and Loma Linda. People know each other and what they are all about.

As you list your favored candidates for public office, be aware that as a journalist and private citizen I have found it quite difficult to obtain what is public information from Sheriff Tim Sumner’s office. I have left telephone messages for him at the dispatch center and they have never been answered. 

A more recent incident involved a bear being killed on my property. I asked that Sheriff Tim return my call so I could find out exactly what happened. I am still waiting.

As for the selection of a Greenlee County Manager, I must ask how you learned that only one person was interviewed. Could it possibly be that other candidates did not have the qualifications sought by supervisors? 

The manager who was selected, Derek Rapier, was born and raised in Greenlee and served as its county attorney. His knowledge and experience no doubt are great assets to the county. How could they not be? He has not had to start at square one because he already intimately knows Greenlee.

We should find pride in the fact that one of our own – someone homegrown – is up to the task. His hometown of Duncan is a very proud community and no doubt Rapier fits the bill.

Regarding the $1.8 million Freeport McMoran gave the county, there is no secret where the money is going or what it will be used for. All one has to do is check out the county’s website. Its 2020-21 budget is included there for all of the world to see. The money was placed in the county’s general fund. That means it may be used for a variety of things, such as improvements at the county fairground.

Please, Becky, spend more time in Greenlee so you can learn about things first-hand. Attend supervisors’ meetings, Duncan and Clifton town council meetings. 

There is a great deal to be learned by showing up at the meetings. 

Come to these meetings when it is not an election year.

Having arrived here in 1983, I have seen Greenlee on its knees via floods, a copper strike, and when the assessed value on railroads and mines was lowered. It was a major hit to the county.

I have seen a one-ambulance service grow into a state-of-the-art ambulance service and we now have tremendously improved health facilities via Canyonlands and Gila Health Resources.

For what it’s worth, I recall vividly when the Arizona Department of Transportation was considering closing its office at Three-Way, somebody stepped in to prevent it. Supervisor Richard Lunt was that person. I am not sure to whom he spoke or what buttons he was able to push, but he did save Greenlee residents from having to travel all the way to Safford to deal with the ADOT office there.

Greenlee has, in fact, risen from the mud. There was despair all around when I first came here. I often was told how I should have been here prior to the copper strike and the Clifton flood of 1983. Everybody got along very well and times things were pretty darn good. 

My response was and remains that I am glad I arrived when I did. It is not difficult to get along when times are good. It is when people are flat on their backs and butts that you see their true character.

Yes, Greenlee, its elected officials, and agencies have their faults and shortcomings. What county or government does not?  But I stand fast when I say I am grateful, very grateful, to live in Greenlee.

Editor’s Note: Walt Mares’ opinion piece incorrectly claimed that David Gowan was disciplined for ethics violations and removed as speaker.  Neither of these events ever happened and we apologize to Senator Gowan for allowing these errors into print.