February 1, 2006 - Paula Abbott considers herself the citizen's advocate of the Oro Valley town council, she said. Her goal has been to provide the people of Oro Valley an open government that welcomes input and participation from the public, she said.
"I consider myself to be an ordinary citizen trying to give a voice to other citizens," she said.
Abbott, a candidate for town council in the 2006 election, said she believes the next election will have a major effect in shaping Oro Valley's future.
"I feel we are at a crossroads in determining our future. If we want to continue growing, we need to protect the things we love about our town and make sure it doesn't turn into something we don't like," Abbott said. "I don't want us to say we had a beautiful place, but then we lost it."
Two things Abbott says she is particularly passionate about are building parks and protecting open space.
"Having planned parks and open space will draw in more people who want to live in a community with those values. That's what's drawing more people to Marana than Oro Valley. The increase in homes will bring more businesses. It all flows togaether," Abbott said.
When Abbott first ran for town council in 2002, she did so because it didn't appear like any of the other candidates were responding to the public's demands, she said.
The only reason I ran is because no one else was stepping up to the plate to protect citizens' best interests. I felt compelled and obligated," Abbott said.
Abbott, 45, grew up in Bisbee and later attended Cochise College on a tennis scholarship before graduating from the University of Arizona with a psychology degree. Abbott got a job with IBM right out of college, and later lived in Wichita, Kan., and San Diego before moving to Oro Valley with her husband Roger, a Raytheon Engineering Manager, in 1992. Her sister was already living in Oro Valley and raved to Abbott about its scenic beauty and quality schools. Abbott's two sons are currently students in Oro Valley schools - one attends Canyon del Oro High School, and the other attends Ironwood Ridge High School.
After moving to Oro Valley, Abbott became involved in local politics.
"Since I moved here, I've been in the background doing grunt work. I never had a desire to be in office myself," Abbott said.
She began to lobby the town for more parks (at the time the only park in Oro Valley was James D. Kriegh Park, known then as Dennis Weaver Park) and led campaigns to collect petitions demanding more park space, she said. Her efforts eventually led to the creation of Wildlife Ridge Park in Rancho Vistoso, she said. When the Amphitheater school district planned to build a middle school she believed to be dangerously close to La Cholla Airpark, she helped organize a picketing rally that successfully convinced the school district to choose another site, she said.
"It was really the 11th hour, it required extreme action," Abbott said.
Abbott also spearheaded the creation of Oro Valley's first holiday parade that took place in December and may become an annual event.
"We're a community that's supposed to be so playful, but we didn't have a parade," Abbott said. "I want to leave Oro Valley better than I found it and leave a legacy for my children."
Abbott considers herself a fiscal conservative and supports retail expansion in Oro Valley.
"You get economic sustainability from retail sales. In the past, too much of our focus has been on building homes," Abbott said, adding, "We should also put money back into existing businesses, small businesses that have charm and make Oro Valley what it is."
Abbott also said she believes Oro Valley should seek to expand the technology sector of its economy.
"We have one of the wealthiest, best educated populations in Arizona. We need to recruit technology companies and develop economic incentives to bring in jobs. It's sad when your kids have to move away just to get a good job," Abbott said.
Abbott said she would support rebates to companies that bring high-paying jobs to Oro Valley.
"For every job (with an annual salary) over $45,000, I would be willing to rebate perhaps $10,000. We need to show them we really want them here. It's investing in our future," Abbott said.
Abbott said she believes charging high impact fees on new developments is the best way to increase revenue to pay for projects such as the Naranja Town Site regional park.
"We should emulate Marana and increase our impacts fees so we can build what our community wants without more taxes for residents," Abbott said.
Abbott said she sometimes finds it difficult to get other councilmembers to support her ideas and opinions.
"It's disappointing, I thought I'd have more support on many issues," Abbott said. "I have not changed my voting habits. I've been very consistent."
Abbott is particularly concerned that many contentious issues that should be deliberated by the council are instead moved through the council without much of a public hearing.
"I don't try to lobby before council meetings. I think discussions should be in the public eye. Sometimes we don't have any discussion or debate on important issues, and it makes you wonder," Abbott said.
As the only councilmember other than Terry Parish whose children still live at home, Abbott said she feels particularly strong about many issues that affect the many families in Oro Valley.
"We don't have adequate parks for the number of families moving here. There is no place for teens to safely hang out," Abbott said. "As we build on Naranja (Town Site), the community center and performing arts center should be put in first."
Abbott said she believes she has proven she can fulfill the needs of Oro Valley citizens.
"I've achieved the things I've wanted," Abbott said. "I'm committed to the job and I've shown I can get things done."
Greg Holt covers Oro Valley and the Amphitheater School District. He can be reached at 797-4384 ext. 116 or email@example.com.
Paula Abbott Bio:
Family: married, two school-aged
Education: BA Psychology, University of Arizona; A.S. Mathematics,
Profession/Employer: former loan
How long have you lived in Arizona/Oro Valley? Arizona 43 years, Oro Valley 13 years
Previous elected office: Oro Valley Town Council 2002-present
Other biographical data:
Spearheaded Oro Valley's first holiday parade; helped establish Project Graduation; Initiated the development of Wildlife Ridge Park in Rancho Vistoso; volunteer, American Heart Association; United Way campaign 2000 associate; Comcast Cares Day volunteer; parent volunteer Copper Creek and Wilson schools; liaison to Amphitheater school district
Why did you decide to run? It has been a great honor for me to serve the citizens of Oro Valley for the past 3.5 years. I would like to continue to represent our citizens and work on issues that are important to our community. Family representation is important and I am a strong children's advocate and will continue to provide a much-needed voice for families on the council.
Major campaign themes: Protect town's natural/historic/cultural resources; identify alternative water sources and promote alternative energy; promote sound fiscal policies; support sound economic strategies; support the development of the Naranja Town Site and other parks; support our schools and help identify future school sites; honor open government; provide a safe community with a strong police department; support community and the arts; protect La Cholla Airpark and surrounding area.