Don H. Cox is running for a four-year seat on Oro Valley Town Council to do whatever he can "to continue to make Oro Valley a great place to live, play and work" and to protect the investment he and others have made in the town.
"I love this town, I really do. I don't want to see it pull the covers over itself and wither," he said. "We've got a great thing going. We need to properly help it grow."
If elected, one of the 59-year-old Realtor's top priorities will be to improve the town's revenue stream through annexation and promotion of a better business climate.
"Oro Valley is at a critical point in its maturation process. The town is still relatively young. It has grown tremendously in the past 10 years in a very good and responsible manner," he said. "But now we're faced with a pretty big dilemma. Our primary revenue up to this point has been building and building permits. Now we're running out of space. There's a lot of empty space around us. One of the ways the town can grow is by annexation."
That includes bringing in existing businesses.
The candidate envisions new town borders that include Ina Road east to First Avenue to bring in the Westward Look Resort, west to Shannon Road to bring in the Foothills Mall and north to bring in state lands.
He also believes that the town needs to do a better job of attracting businesses, so residents of Oracle, Catalina and Tucson will come to Oro Valley to spend their money to help pay for (town) infrastructure. "Otherwise, residents have to pay for everything," he said. "What people want from government has a pretty stiff price tag. If we don't get income from other sources then it comes out of our pockets."
Cox, a registered Republican, said "the route of last choice" would be a property tax. "If we properly plan and grow, I don't think we'll have to face that issue."
He'd like to see more amenities like restaurants and retail shopping and resorts that generate a bed tax.
"I'd like to be able to go to a restaurant in Oro Valley and sit and order bacon and eggs for breakfast. Now, if we want to go out to a nice restaurant, we have to go outside of town. People want to be able to shop here and not have to drive."
The candidate favors economic incentive packages that encourage retail development.
"The question is, does it pay for itself? Will the sales tax generated pay for that plus give us the cream on top of the milk?" he asked. "Government is a business. It has to generate income to pay for the essentials and have money left over."
He cited the Oro Valley Town Centre, a planned development across from Rooney Ranch Shopping Center, as a good investment for the town. "There are residents of La Reserve who will tell you today that the town didn't listen to them, but when you sit on council or Development Review Board you have to take the wider view," he said. "It's a good thing for the town. I think it will be beautiful and a great development once it gets going. There's no reason we couldn't have a La Encantada. I would venture to say that (it) will be very close to that."
One thing Cox wants to see is a change in the current "unfriendly business atmosphere."
The candidate said he's heard from too many builders who don't want to start projects in Oro Valley because of the "hassle" they have to go through.
"I've heard stories of businesses that have wanted to expand and submit plans and go through lengthy review process and then an inspector comes out and says now you need to do this. And then it's something else," he said. "That has got to stop. There's a hitch in the giddy-up somewhere."
Another high priority for the candidate is the preservation of sites such as Steam Pump Ranch, Kelly Ranch and the prehistoric Hohokam village at Rancho Vistoso.
"We need to make sure those areas are protected," he said. But he believes that an ad-hoc group, The Land Conservation Committee, is the group to do it, not the town. "It's a wonderful group of people. They're looking for resources to protect those sites. I think the town should do everything it can to support that group.
"Government is not savior and doesn't need to be. A private entity does a lot better job of doing those kinds of things than government," he said.
A seven-year resident of Oro Valley and a graduate of its Citizen Planning Institute, Cox has served on the town Planning and Zoning Commission for almost four years and as vice-chairman for the past year. He was also the planning and zoning representative on the town's two-year General Plan Steering Committee. He estimates that he currently spends 10 to 15 hours a month on the commission and will more than triple that time commitment on council. "My guess is that council will take about 60 hours a month," he said. "I don't see that as an issue."
Over the past year, he said he's probably attended four or five council meetings and a few Development Review Board meetings. "I take a look at the agenda because it may be an issue that's come through Planning and Zoning."
Cox believes that the current council has done a "very good job" over the past two years, noting that a recent town retreat summary ticked off pages of accomplishments. "That's a pretty doggone good track record," he said. "I would give it an A."
A former captain in the U.S. Army, Cox said he believes his military training helped him to develop leadership skills. His 29 years as a manager with a national service management company "gave me an acute business sense," he said. "I managed multimillion dollar budgets and learned ways to generate revenue."
Cox was born in Poplar Bluff, Mo., and raised in St. Louis, the son of a registered nurse and a civil engineer who designed and planned the city's streets.
In 1962, just out of high school, the candidate joined the U.S. Army and went to Manheim, Germany as a supply clerk. "I took a look at the officers and how they lived and applied to officer candidates school." He was accepted to Officer Candidates School in Fort Benning, Ga., graduating as a second lieutenant in 1964.
Cox served as a commanding officer training recruits at Fort Polk, La. and from there attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, Calif., where he took a short course in Vietnamese. "That was real good indication of my next assignment." In 1967, he went to Vietnam for nine months as an advisor to a South Vietnamese infantry battalion in the field.
Discharged that year, Cox returned to Monterrey and worked in restaurant management for a few years and then took a job as a hospital food service supervisor back in St. Louis. In 1970, he began a 29-year career as a manager with Aramark, a services management company for schools and hospitals and other institutions.
In 1971, he met and married Carolyn, now a clinical dietician at Northwest Hospital and Kino Community Hospital. The couple has no children.
In 1995, he earned a bachelor of science in business administration from Pacific Western University, a correspondence university based in Los Angeles.
Over the years, his job took him to Champaign, Ill., Lubbock, Texas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Tucson.
"I loved Arizona after living in Phoenix and when an opportunity came up in Tucson I grabbed it," he said. He started working with the University Medical Center, an Aramark client, in 1996.
Cox and his wife moved to Oro Valley in 1997. "We looked all around Tucson. I was impressed with the beauty of the area and the general layout, that it was farther out from town," he said. "Shortly after moving here my wife and I had a discussion and we decided that this was going to be our retirement area."
Once he made that decision, "I became more interested in the town and what makes it tick," he said. "I'd always been attracted to politics. I'd run for town council in Urbana, and later became friends with my opponent and helped him run for mayor."
The candidate left Aramark in 1999 and formed his own consulting firm, the Cox Group, which contracted with other businesses to supply customer service training.
Since 2000, he's worked as a Realtor with Long Realty.
The candidate served one year as vice-president of the Copper Creek Homeowners Association.
Education: B.S., Business Admin., Pacific Western University
Profession/Employer: Self Employed - Consultant, has an active state Real Estate sales license
Lived in Arizona: 14 years
Lived in Oro Valley: 7 years
Came to Arizona from: Worked in California, Texas and Illinois before being transferred to Phoenix from 1981-1988, assigned to Tucson in 1996. Born in Poplar Bluff, Mo. and raised in St. Louis.
Public offices held: None
Other biographical data:
Three years on the town Planning and Zoning Commission
Why he's running for council:
I, along with every citizen of this great town, have a vested interest in seeing Oro Valley continue to prosper. It would be nice to think that my three plus years of service on the Planning and Zoning Commission have played a small part in the success of our community. But it is time to look to the future. I believe I have knowledge and skills that can further contribute to the success of our town.
I want to do what I can to protect the investment I, and others, have made in Oro Valley. I want to preserve open space, our historic sites and the way of life we enjoy. I want to see our town prosper and thus enable us to have more parks, trails, recreational facilities, employment opportunities for the wide spectrum of our population and great places for families to shop and dine.