Fountain Hills voters will choose a mayor and three Town Council members in the Aug. 2 election.
Early voting began on July 6.
Only one incumbent, Mayor Ginny Dickey, is running for reelection. She’s up against former Maricopa County Sherriff Joe Arpaio, who was previously convicted of criminal contempt of court for ignoring orders to stop racial profiling at MCSO, but was later pardoned by then-President Donald Trump. Arpaio lost his bids for sheriff in 2016, for U.S. Senate in 2018 and for sheriff again in 2020.
Each of the four Town Council candidates are newcomers vying for the three open positions.
Early voters should return their ballot in the mail by July 26 or place it in a ballot drop-off location or voting location by 7 p.m. on Aug. 2.
The Arizona Republic asked the candidates to share their views on key topics facing the town. Here are their responses.
2022 elections:Here’s who wants to be your next city council member in metro Phoenix
Why are you the most qualified candidate? What can you offer Fountain Hills residents that your competitor can’t?
Dickey: “As a resident since 1983, I offer years of experience and proven commitment to the community. Involved in civic affairs since day one, I served on the Fountain Hills Unified School District School Board for eight years, Town Council from 2006-2014 and mayor since 2018. I have a deep understanding of my role as part of a policy-making body, working with staff on budgets, infrastructure, development and amenities while preserving our natural desert environment.
“My overall voluntary contributions in several areas, including local and regional organizations, have been recognized with, among others, the Theater’s Founders Award, Hall of Fame, and 48 Women of the decade by the AZ Historical Society, a Centennial Project. Both my husband Jim and I retired from the state and see great value in public service.
“Raising my sons here, my parents moved to Fountain Hills in the ’70s, and some siblings. FH is home to three generations of my family.”
Arpaio: “Was the longest serving sheriff in Maricopa County history (24 years), the third largest office in the U.S. with 7,000 employees and $350 million budget including serving the town of Fountain Hills as the top law enforcement official for 30 years.
“Was also the head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in foreign and domestic offices and worked with presidents and other high officials. As the top drug law enforcement official while living in Mexico and Latin America and sheriff of 24 years having concentrated and caused the arrest of thousands of illegal immigrants and drug traffickers at the border and the United States.
“Will continue these policies as mayor. I’ve resided with my late wife Ava, of 63 years, in Fountain Hills for over 23 years. Will be the only veteran and law enforcement official serving on the Town Council/mayor.”
Cindy Couture: “I like to compare a large group of people to a locomotive train. There is the engine which leads, provides energy and makes sure the locomotive is reaching its destination and completing its job. There are boxcars, those who follow the leaders, who carry the load and create the economic success of the locomotive. Finally, there are the caboose cars, those who are willing to follow, but not necessarily be highly involved in the venture.
“In every aspect of my career and my life, I have always performed as an engine. My town’s residents can count on me to lead in the right direction, to provide energy and to complete the job. And my two decades of being highly involved in the civic life of Fountain Hills as well as teaching in our high school, ensure that I have the background to know my constituents and to fulfill their needs.”
Brenda Kalivianakis: “I graduated law school in 1988, was an associate editor of the school’s law journal and graduated top 18th in my class. I earned the Lawyers CO-OP publishing award for outstanding work in contracts. I was prosecutor in the Assistant State’s Attorney’s Office. Upon leaving, I formed a criminal defense practice and thereafter founded and was president of a successful marketing company in the suburbs of Chicago.
“I currently serve in the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, was a divisional staff officer, serve on the distinguished color guard and play saxophone in the USCG Arizona Auxiliary Band.
“I am a principled constitutional attorney. My promise to the residents of Fountain Hills includes maximizing economic opportunities consistent with our small-town charm, ending wasteful spending and pet projects, ensuring the roads and infrastructure are well-maintained and safe, supporting a stable and sustainable financial future and (I’m) committed to open, transparent/responsive citizen driven government.”
Allen Skillicorn: “My background, perspective as a newer resident and zeal will help protect the values and traditions of our industrious town.
“I served in public office before. I was the vice chairman of the Kane County IL Young Republicans, I was on my previous town council, and I authored over 100 bills in the Illinois legislature.
“I did not move to Fountain Hills to run for office though. I chose Fountain Hills because of the beauty and Mayberry like small-town feel. I choose Fountain Hills over Scottsdale or Tempe. I am only running because the current liberal majority does not represent the values of our conservative town. I will not let our town slowly slide into California!”
Hannah Toth: “I provide the unique perspective of someone who grew up in Fountain Hills. On top of this, I represent a group of people that have not had representation on the council before, a group that residents often ask how we can attract more young people.
“As the youngest person to ever run for Fountain Hills Town Council, a business owner, as well as a lifelong resident, I believe my vote will help the council to better reflect, and plan for, the future of Fountain Hills while remaining true to our unique community atmosphere.”
How would you ensure the town remains financially secure?
Dickey: “We began with two district taxes for roads and fire. Longtime residents paid for public safety and streets utilized today. Each was discontinued, leaving Fountain Hills without a stable revenue source since 2003.
“Shared revenue, sales tax and growth sustained us, but it became apparent that streets … our largest asset … couldn’t be adequately maintained with existing funding.
“Several attempts to pass a property tax supplementing our biggest expenses — police, fire and infrastructure — failed at the ballot. After a street bond also failed, we successfully passed a smaller effort for Saguaro Boulevard.
“Staff has secured many grants for operations and capital projects. We’ve actively participated with (Maricopa Association of Governments) and other regional partners … for funding. Council raised local sales tax.
“We’ve budgeted conservatively for decades. COVID-relief funding has been almost exclusively aimed toward facility reserves and streets. We appointed a roads citizen committee to guide us to long-term solutions.”
Arpaio: “Will obtain government contracts and grants and utilizing the bond route to reject any suggestions to raise taxes. Received numerous management and fiscal awards during my law enforcement career. As sheriff, returned millions of dollars each year (for 24 years) to the county/taxpayers. This is unprecedented in government circles. Will continue this trend as mayor.
“Every effort will be made to protect and support property rights and small businesses within the law and fight for these rights through enforcement, legal action, and the news media. Will use the bully pulpit if necessary.
“Will also make every effort to increase tourism in town, taking advantage of the casino close by. I’ve owned a travel agency in the vicinity of Fountain Hills for 43 years (still in operation) and will use this experience to bring more tourists to Fountain Hills. Also, I own several businesses and properties in the town.”
Editor’s note: The Arizona Republic reported in March that the county has paid more than $188 million since 2013 to defend Arpaio in court and to reform the Sheriff’s Office after a federal judge found MCSO had racially profiled Latinos in the county. The ongoing costs are expected to top $200 million by the end of the year.
Couture: “One of Fountain Hills’ problems is that our needs are expanding but we have a relatively fixed income. We have no town property tax and are funded mainly through sales tax. How do we reconcile our needs and yet stay financially secure?
“Our residents have made it clear to all the candidates as well as the current Council that right now we need to budget every spare dime for our roads. The residents elect the council to figure out how to balance needs versus perks. It’s often difficult to live within our budget, but we currently have a road infrastructure problem we must solve before we can once again fund the perks, the amenities, the ‘nice to haves.’
“Having run a company department budget, an HOA budget, and an English department budget, as well as my personal one, I am well acquainted with living within a fixed amount.”
Kalivianakis: “I recognize that Fountain Hills has revenue needs but there are two sides to that equation. … Both revenue and expenses must be scrutinized. The town creates a great deal of revenue through the sale tax … grants and other income streams.
“We should manage our town like an average American household. Although we want a nicer car, a bigger house, and other luxury items, our spending should align with our budget. Raising taxes (is like) running up a credit card. You … keep taxing for things you deem important today, and suddenly your neck deep in debt.
“We need to live within our means and … only fund ‘must have’ projects and eliminate, on a temporary basis, ‘want to’ have projects. Times are tough, leadership is all about making the tough choices. We need leadership that understands money, is familiar with a balance sheet and able to make the tough calls.”
Skillicorn: “Fountain Hills has plenty of revenue. The current mayor and liberal members of the current council have repeatedly pushed for a massive property tax that would hurt residents’ pocketbooks. Fountain Hills already has the nicest parks and amenities in the Valley, without any property tax.
“We need to prioritize spending on infrastructure, police, and public safety. We must say no to pet projects like a grand staircase and further crosswalks to nowhere. I do propose across the board spending cuts for everything but police and public safety. I want to apply the savings for more sheriff deputies on our residential streets and repairing our neighborhood streets.”
Toth: “The Town of Fountain Hills depends nearly solely on sales tax. First and foremost, building a better relationship with local business owners is a mutually beneficial decision for the town, having the potential of increasing revenue.
“Fountain Hills also offers incredible community events. Increasing marketing for these events, such as our biannual Art Festival, the greening of the Fountain, and our Thanksgiving Day Parade has a direct effect on sales tax as we attract tourists to visit our incredible fountain and enjoy our unique community.
“Lastly but also most importantly, aligning our budget to the Strategic Plan while also properly balancing needs over wants ensures that we do not face maintenance backlogs down the line, creating a more financially secure Fountain Hills.”
What are the two biggest issues you believe Fountain Hills is facing, and what would you do to address them?
Dickey: “Maintenance and replacement of infrastructure, primarily streets, is the focus for the future. We recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of our iconic fountain. While we were able to upgrade the pumps and lighting, and improve parks, the lake liner will likely need replacement in the next five years. We reserve funds for facilities every year, but as noted above, streets remain a challenge. We look forward to reaching a solution together that will be acceptable to our citizens.
“Fountain Hills fared pretty well economically throughout COVID-19, with the town, residents and businesses partnering to navigate the unchartered waters. Now we are ready to really take off, embarking on a new professional branding effort including tourism and business attraction, retention and growth. It has been exciting to welcome our first hospital, many new establishments, events, activities and several residential developments to mitigate the housing inventory shortage. We will continue on this path.”
Arpaio: “An important issue facing Fountain Hills is the current hostile business climate. Town leaders should constantly support the business community. As mayor I will … audit … physical and management policies and make … changes if needed.
“The first role of government is to ensure public safety, protecting people and neighborhoods from the criminal element. Was responsible for law enforcement in Fountain Hills utilizing my volunteer posse to fight crime at no cost to the taxpayers. The posse was disbanded under the current mayor and law enforcement agency after I left office. I’ll now bring back the posse concept by forming an auxiliary law enforcement volunteer unit at no cost. …
“The violence and chaos facing our nation and communities is out of control. After 55 years of law enforcement experience, it’s time to ensure that the people of Fountain Hills will be protected from the criminal element that does exist.”
Couture: “The aforementioned roads will remain our biggest issue for the next few years. Unless our residents decide to fund a bond for road repair, budgeting to keep our autos on their tracks, will be a huge financial issue to address. We currently have an experienced streets committee focusing on the problem and I’m confident they will direct the council toward viable solutions in the next year.
“Another major issue is working to assist business success in Fountain Hills. As a town which recedes in population each summer, our businesses struggle to stay afloat. However, the town’s new economic development director has been collaborating with our local Chamber of Commerce (ranked one of the state’s best) to increase business success. As a council member, I will continue to support the progress they have already made to improve our economic environment.
Kalivianakis: “Fountain Hills needs to regain a good reputation as a business-friendly town, we need to improve the issuing of licenses and permits, work with the Chamber of Commerce, the business community and strive for a robust and vibrant downtown. Attracting and retaining businesses is not accidental, it is achieved by visionary leadership, an experienced business development team and by creating an inviting atmosphere to draw the attention of and attract new businesses.
“The current administration has a listening problem. My promise to residents … would be to listen, first and foremost. By understanding the desires of the citizens, I could advocate the desires of all the people. For example, if you want to regulate sober living homes for the safety of the residents of those homes and the neighborhoods surrounding them, I would be your voice. Many candidates seek office to rule, my greatest desire is to serve the people.”
Skillicorn: “Safe neighborhoods and protecting our mountainous views will be my top priorities. Shifting finances to roads, infrastructure and police will keep our neighborhoods safe. Demanding only smart development, which does not change the character of our town nor block our views is necessary to protect the Mayberry small-town feel we all love.”
Toth: “Fountain Hills is facing a backlog of approximately $60 million worth of road maintenance because of past councils not allocating enough money to roads in our budget. Certain roads in Fountain Hills have not been maintained since the town’s incorporation in 1989. We must first identify roads that need urgent help, adjust the fiscal year 2023 budget to address them, and then create a plan to catch back up within the next 8-10 years.
“The second biggest issue in town is one I know all too well as a lifelong resident. Fountain Hills is not currently a business-friendly community. From our sign ordinance, to barriers for developments/renovations for commercial land, we have not fostered an atmosphere that allows businesses to succeed in town. Stripping the red tape, while encouraging more community input, is how we keep Fountain Hills beautiful while setting businesses up for success!”
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