After a five-year hiatus from Oro Valley civic affairs, Barry Gillaspie is back. The former county planner is running for a four-year council term to preserve and further a quality of life he sees as threatened by an unresponsive town bureaucracy.
"The town still has some small-town parochialism to overcome," he said. "I feel sometimes that the town bureaucracy is running the town. I want to make sure that (the people) are the ones running the town and that we're going where we want to go."
Gillaspie, 49, who directs administrative computer information systems at Pima Community College, is a veteran of the town's Planning and Zoning Commission and numerous other town committees during his 18 years in Oro Valley.
Besides more responsive town government, the candidate would like to resolve thorny police and fire department issues and adopt a General Plan that better reflects the vision of town citizens.
"We need a change in philosophy in how the town is being run and a more professional approach to handling the concerns of citizens," he said. "Citizens are not the enemy. I'll work hard to defend their right to be heard."
Tucson native Gillaspie favors action to bring the town under a single fire department instead of the two currently serving the town.
"I'm for professional firemen and moving decisively to have the same level of service for all of Oro Valley," he said. In that effort, "I support Golder Ranch Fire Department."
The candidate also supports town police efforts to unionize for wage and benefit negotiations with the town. "I think it's their right," he said. "It makes no sense for the town to try to negotiate with umpteen different entities.
"Oro Valley was founded on a strong community police concept," he said. "We're more threatened by not settling these issues. It's time to take some action."
On the General Plan, rejected by two-thirds of voters in a November special election, the candidate said it must be revisited and a new plan adopted as per state law.
"The citizens of Oro Valley have always been explicitly clear they want the highest development standards, but that's not what happened," he said. "I hope to raise the bar of service in terms of the attention and level of responsiveness that I give to the citizens. I serve them. I don't serve the council."
Gillaspie knows planning and zoning. He spent 15 years as a planner for Pima County, working his way up to become principal planner. He led efforts to integrate the county and city permitting systems and helped the county pioneer the use of computerized geographic mapping, or Geographic Information Systems.
"I was one of the first in a group of planners with more of an environmental background," he said. "I co-wrote the first site analysis ordinance, which became the basis for the one used in Oro Valley." A site analysis includes examination of land use, soils, views, topography, vegetation and wildlife.
During his service on Oro Valley's Planning and Zoning Commission from 1986 to 1994, Gillaspie estimates he probably gave thousands of hours to the town, helping to improve the quality, depth and comprehensiveness of the town's zoning processes.
"I have a tremendous background in government service. I know what's involved. I know how to read the zoning code and write ordinances," he said. "Land use and growth issues - those are the bulk of the council's work."
Gillaspie said he's prepared to give the job "all the time I can give to it," including evenings and weekends.
"I do have a demanding professional job and I'm aware of how much work it will be," he said. "I won't deny it's tougher for people who need to work. But I'm prepared to make the commitment I need to make."
Because of his decision to run, the candidate has recently started to attend more council and board meetings and study sessions.
He gives the current town council a grade of D for its performance over the past two years.
"There are some areas where they're trying to do a good job and others where they've been terrible," he said. "The bottom line is the public perception that they are not listening to citizens and not doing a good job."
Gillaspie is a registered Independent. "It's not easy to find answers by political platform anymore," he said. "The reason I am Independent is that it helps my ability to view things objectively." Fiscally, the candidate considers himself moderate, even conservative.
The candidate recently appealed a staff zoning interpretation favoring a proposed Eckerd's drug store near his home at Oracle Road and Hardy, paying $600 to take the matter to the town's Board of Adjustment Jan. 27.
"They're not adhering to development standards or paying enough attention to detail," he said. "And it's not just in my case.
"The council is approving development at all costs because they want the revenue," he said. "What's wrong with Oro Valley taking a deep breath and reassessing where we are?
"I believe in quality of life issues such as the arts and preserving the Sonoran Desert," he said. "We can't be a great city unless we work for those things."
Gillaspie came to Tucson as an infant from Waverly, Iowa. "My older brother had asthma and in those days they thought the dry air would be good for asthma."
His father was a salesman for United Van Lines and his mother taught school in the Amphitheater Public Schools District.
He attended Catalina High School and then the University of Arizona, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture, specializing in natural resource planning.
As young man, he spent several summers in the Catalinas as a Hotshot Firefighter and trail foreman for the U.S. Forest Service in the Coronado National Forest. He also spent a year conducting water quality research at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
Gillaspie worked for three years in the nuclear waste division at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where he met Jennifer, his wife of 23 years.
"She was a radiation technician," he said. "I accidentally set off an alarm and she came running down" to see what had happened.
They married in 1980 and had a son the same year. The couple returned to Tucson and in 1983, Gillaspie began a career as a planner with the county. His wife finished her schooling and went to work for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as a civil engineer. She is now an administrator for the city of Tucson. In 1986, they moved to Oro Valley and the candidate was soon appointed to the town's planning commission.
He resigned in 1994. "The town was going through an acrimonious period," he said. "I fought for standards but some people thought I was antigrowth. I thought it was a good time to step down and let others have a say."
He moved on to become a member of the Honeybee Canyon Blue Ribbon Committee in 1995; liaison to the Amphi School District and vice chairman of the Oro Valley Development Impact Fee Committee from 1996 to 1997; member of the Oro Valley Citizens for Schools and Community Development from 1996 to 1998; and a member and chair of the Canyon del Oro High School Governance Council from 1995 to 1999.
In the late 1990s, he pulled back on volunteer activities to focus on his current position as director of development services in the information technology department at Pima Community College.
"The time is right to re-commit," he said. "I believe I can hit the ground running in a positive and effective manner, set strategic policy and expect town administration to carry that out," he said. "That's pretty fundamental."
With their grown son out of the house, the Gillaspies care for three rescued greyhounds and study Argentine tango.
Family: Married 23 years, 1 adult son
Education: B.S. Agriculture, University of Arizona (Natural Resource Planning)
Profession/Employer: Director of Development Services for Information Technology, Pima Community College
Lived in Arizona: 49 years
Lived in Oro Valley: 18 years
Came to Arizona from: N/A, Native
Public offices held: none
Other biographical data:
Member, Chairman Canyon del Oro High School Governance Council
Member, Oro Valley Citizens for School and Community Development
Oro Valley Liaison to the Amphi School District
Vice chairman Oro Valley Development Impact Fee Committee
Member, Oro Valley Planning and Zoning Commission
Member, Oro Valley Honey Bee Canyon Blue Ribbon Committee
Member, Oro Valley Zoning Ordinance Review Committee
Coach and Manager CDO Little League, ASYO soccer
Staff, Pima County Planning and Development Services, worked as Principal Planner, Information Systems and GIS Administrator, lead efforts to integrate the County/City permitting systems
Hotshot Firefighter USFS Coronado National Forest
Why he's running for council:
It is a good time for me to recommit my energy in the service of Oro Valley. Oro Valley is at its crossroads, we face many challenges in regards to its growth and quality of life. I have been an influential player in our town's maturation process and I have a wealth of experience with Oro Valley and local government. I am highly committed to the town of Oro Valley and I will make a positive impact on its future.
My campaign platform is to preserve and further develop Oro Valley's quality of life. I am offering experienced, responsive and accountable leadership that includes a willingness to take a hard look at the many issues of growth and development that are impacting our quality of life. I am committed to enforcement and consistent application of the town's Zoning Ordinance. Oro Valley citizens have been clear in their plea for quality life style. It is time to evaluate our progress and set a course that meets the expectations of our citizens.