My family goes back four generations in Northern Arizona. Originally from Louisiana, they came to Flagstaff by way of McNary, Arizona, because my grandfather found out he could make 3 cents more an hour at one of the sawmills here. My daughter Destiney and I still live in the family home he built.
I ran for city council when the city tried to sell our community center. It’s an important space with a deep history in the community, but the local government didn’t seem to care. We held forums, packed council meetings, and did everything we could think of to make them listen. It wasn’t working. I expressed my frustration to a friend and asked who their boss was—if city council wouldn’t listen to us we’d go to their boss. My friend laughed and told me we were their bosses, that they work for the people. The next day he brought me the paperwork to run for office. What was once the historic Dunbar elementary school became the Murdoch Community Center and remains so to this day.
For over a decade I have had the pleasure of serving the Flagstaff area, first in the council and then as Mayor. I have seen people come together to support each other, to support our schools, churches, and institutions, and to create home grown solutions to local issues. Since 2008 I’ve held monthly public meetings where I’ve had the opportunity to hear from thousands of Arizonans. We’ve worked together to bring a Veteran’s Home to Flagstaff, to incubate small businesses, to help fund after school care and expand library hours.
But I’ve also seen the economy collapse and education funding decimated. We’ve passed bonds and overrides—over and over—to help our kids. Despite wide agreement that we should prioritize education, and the largest state budget ever passed, we’re nowhere near the funding levels of 2008.
We’ve seen small business owners work and work to bring their dreams to fruition, to create the community they want for their families. I think we could make it a little easier for them.
I’ve talked to other mayors from all over, and we all want to be able to create local solutions to problems we identify, but are so often preempted by the legislature. Whether it be vacation rentals, plastic pollution, or vaping regulations, whenever a corporation feels threatened by rural initiatives, they run to their friends in Phoenix and the politicians promptly pass a law taking away local power. We know what’s best for our communities, Phoenix politicians don’t.