May 10, 2006 - On May 16, Oro Valley voters will choose three town council candidates from a field of six who will sit on the council for the next four years. On a council of seven, these three councilmembers will have an enormous impact on the town's future.
Oro Valley has increased in population from 30,000 to 40,000 since 2000. In that time, the town re-evaluated the way it's funded, weighed development against preservation, and expanded the town's road and park system to support its population boom.
In the next four years, those candidates elected or re-elected to the town council will take Oro Valley into its future. They will face problems old and new, from deciding on pay raises for town staff in the next budget cycle to supplying the town's growing need for water over the next several decades.
KC Carter, a councilmember since 2004 when the council expanded from five to seven members, sees himself as more of an individualist than the other candidates.
"I believe I represent the people better than the other candidates. The others are more business oriented - I'm more of a people person," Carter said.
Because of his background as an engineer, he has focused much of his attention on solving the town water supply problem.
"I'll be working diligently on the water crisis. I go to all the the town's water meetings, and I understand it all because that's what I used to do for years," Carter said.
He said the town staff should be granted a pay raise so turnover in the town government can be reduced.
"If I'm re-elected, I'm not going to change much," Carter said. "I'm a stable, honest person doing as much as I can for the town. I am very involved, and I don't owe any favors to anyone."
Carter finished in second place in the primary election.
Oro Valley realtor Don Cox said he believes his business background and volunteerism in the town government have prepared him for the town council.
"I think my experience in real estate sets me apart," Cox said. "I see myself as someone who will be a leader in Oro Valley."
A firm believer in long-range planning, Cox said the town must start work now to prepare for rapid growth in Pinal County.
Although Cox isn't sure yet if he supports raises for the Oro Valley staff, he believes conservation is the key to Oro Valley's water problems.
"Projects like Vestar's water reclamation are what we need to look at. If it works well, we should look at mandating those for commercial developments," "Projects like Vestar's water reclamation are what we need to look at. If it works well, we should look at mandating those for commercial developments," Cox said.
Vestar, the developer of Oro Valley Marketplace, a large outdoor shopping plaza planned for Tangerine and Oracle roads, has incorporated water harvesting into its site plan. The plaza will capture rain runoff to augment watering of the plaza's landscaping.
A five-year member of the planning and zoning commission, Cox said the town should be able to support itself on sales tax revenue as the town's retail sector expands.
Cox finished in third place in the primary election.
Conny Culver, who like Carter was elected to a two-year term in 2004, said she sees herself as a proactive problem-solver who can also build a consensus on the town council.
"I'm good at getting the job done," Culver said. "I'm also very responsive to staff and other councilmembers, and I answer all the e-mails sent to me by the public."
She said she saw a problem in Arizona's health care system and brought together 89 city governments to send a reform bill to the state legislature. Additionally, she says she initiated the foundation of the Historic Preservation Commission and actively promoted water conservation in Oro Valley.
"I arranged water audits for people's homes that reached a lot of people. I've haven't seen the other incumbents do much in that area," Culver said.
Culver said she was surprised to come in last place in March's primary election, though she believes that will change in the next election. She also said she supports raises for the town staff.
"I want to see them fairly compensated. It's important we pay the market rates," Culver said.
Al Kunisch, who moved to Oro Valley to retire in 1995, said he is a well-rounded candidate who has put in more volunteer time than the other town council candidates.
"I've put in more than 2,000 hours with the police department, the Development Review Board, and the Historic Preservation Commission," Kunisch said. "I'm a strong supporter of police and firefighters - that's the number one issue in any community."
Kunisch said he supports raises for town staff members who deserve them. Although he raised more campaign funds than any of the other candidates, Kunisch said he got support from developers and realtors because they have the same vision for Oro Valley's future as he does.
"The people that gave me money have an interest in the town. I took their contributions because they believe what I believe," Kunisch said.
Kunisch finished in fifth place in the primary election.
Kathy Pastryk, an Oro Valley resident since 2000, is happy to make the environment an issue in the 2006 election.
"I was questioned by some for emphasizing the environment. But I don't say that's all that's important, and it's not my only issue," Pastryk said.
Pastryk said she believes an elected official should have the courage to vote with his or her conscience on controversial issues.
"I'll be a representative of the people based on what I hear from people but also from my own experience. You have to do what's right, and not be a flag in the wind," Pastryk said.
Pastryk said she supports raises for the town staff but opposes tax incentives that have been offered to developers that build in Oro Valley.
"I wouldn't give away those big incentives. We have a beautiful town with good schools, and that's all the incentive we need," Pastryk said.
Pastryk also supports looking at creative solutions to the town's water supply problem.
"I hope we can drill farther and find another aquifer. Far in the future, we will be able to turn saltwater into freshwater," Pastryk said. "We also need more harvesting of rainwater. That's been around since I lived in the Phillipeans 40 years ago."
Pastryk finished in fourth place in the primary election.
Councilwoman Paula Abbott could not be reached for comment on this story. Abbott finished in first place in the primary election.