February 8, 2006 - Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis knows he has an enormous responsibility to make the right decisions. Although town business can sometimes seem bureaucratic and routine, every decision the Oro Valley Town Council makes affects someone's hopes and dreams, he said.
"Somebody has a dream to build a shopping center. Somebody has a dream to build a restaurant. Somebody has a dream to be able to watch the sunset from their yard. Those dreams are what Oro Valley is all about," said Loomis, who is currently running for his third four-year term as mayor.
Because he understands the effect some decisions have on the lives of Oro Valley residents, his philosophy as mayor has been to attempt to strike a balance between competing interests whenever possible, he said.
"The compromise solution is sometimes the best solution," Loomis said.
To be mayor of a town as dynamic as Oro Valley can be a daunting task, even if it's only supposed to be a part-time job. Like most municipalities other than major cities, Oro Valley's day-to-day operations are handled by the town manager, leaving Loomis the primary function of presiding over the town council meetings. Yet the mayor is also typically expected to serve as the town's chief figurehead, cheerleader, and diplomat, and Oro Valley is no exception. Loomis, a full-time defense contract manager at Raytheon in his day job, usually puts in an additional 30 hours a week taking care of town business, he said.
"This job will take as much time as you can give it. Had I not had another job, there may be more I could put into it. It's up to the individual not to be overwhelmed," Loomis said. "Do I sometimes wish I had more time? Yes, but that's what I'm elected to do."
Loomis, 55, believes his biggest accomplishment as mayor has been to prepare the town for future growth.
"The widening and extension of roadways is probably the most visible improvement," Loomis said. "We're moving to a position of planning our future rather than reacting to growth."
Loomis said the town's water system capacity has increased greatly since he's been in office, and steps have been taken to head off a future water crisis.
"Our water system is more reliable and will be able to support future growth," Loomis said. "We took a major step by taking the golf courses off groundwater. We've talked about bringing in reclaimed water for 12 years, but we only brought it here this year. These things take time."
Although Oro Valley isn't expected to run out of water until 2025, he has already taken steps toward building a pipeline that will import Central Arizona Project water into town, Loomis said.
"Bringing in CAP water takes a lot of time and money," Loomis said. "We are planning for those challenges today."
Loomis moved to Oro Valley in 1994 after starting work at Raytheon as a design engineer and contract manager with the Defense Contract Management Agency. His job there is to oversee missile production and design to ensure Raytheon is meeting the terms and conditions of its contracts with the federal government. He bought a house in Oro Valley because it offered access to the mountains, a sunset view and a great quality of life, Loomis said.
The son of a sailor, Loomis grew up all over the world. As a child he lived in the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay not long after the Cuban Revolution, and later lived in the Philippines before graduating high school in Taiwan. He attended Florida Atlantic University and graduated with a degree in Ocean Engineering. Before moving to Oro Valley, Loomis lived in Northern California where he designed and tested deep-diving submersibles for the U.S. Navy.
Loomis, a self-described fiscal and social conservative, first got involved in Oro Valley politics when he found out an apartment complex of 424 units was going to be built next to his subdivision.
"I got involved in trying to prevent them from being built," Loomis said. "Apartments don't fit into a community of single-family homes."
Although he admits he opposed the apartment complex out of concern the new lower-income neighbors would commit crimes in the area, he also recognized that Oro Valley needed more recreational opportunities, and he advocated the property be turned into a town park instead, Loomis said.
Loomis said he and his neighbors gathered enough signatures from Oro Valley residents to bring approval of the apartment complex to a referendum vote. Yet, much like was the case later for opponents of the Oro Valley Marketplace sales tax incentives, the town argued that the town council's approval of the apartment complex was an administrative action rather than a legislative action and therefore not subject to a referendum. Loomis' group took the town to court over the matter, and, unlike the tax incentive opponents, eventually lost the case. Nevertheless, the court battle caused a delay in construction that outlasted the developer's desire to build the apartment complex, and the Riverfront Park was eventually built on the site, Loomis said.
Loomis first ran for council in 1996, but lost in the general election. When the election of town mayor became a direct election in1998 (previously the mayor was elected by the council from among its member), he ran for mayor and won. He said the town government at the time was torn apart between different visions of Oro Valley's future.
"The town was going through growing pains, and I felt I could create the community envisioned when we did the general plan," Loomis said. "There was a lot of unhappy people, but I was able to turn the town's image around and bring civility back to town government."
Loomis' time as mayor also coincided with the current age of retail growth, which Loomis said he has encouraged.
"We need to increase our sales tax revenue," Loomis said. "We need to retain our community character, but continue to partner with neighbors."
Loomis said he is not opposed to incentives to attract businesses to Oro Valley and has voted for incentives on several occasions. Still, he voted against $23.2 million in sales tax incentives for Vestar Development Co. to build the Oro Valley Marketplace.
"I felt we could have negotiated a better deal, but the council accepted the agreement," Loomis said.
However, he said he believes the deal that was made with Vestar is still better than no deal at all.
"I've watched three different developments be proposed there in eight years, and none have broken ground yet. It wasn't the greatest deal, but it requires them to do something. One percent of something is better than two percent of nothing," said Loomis, referring to Oro Valley's cut of the sales tax revenue at Oro Valley Marketplace for its first 10 years of operation.
Loomis said he thinks his opponent in the mayor's race, Nancy Young Wright, can't match the experience he has gained in the last eight years as mayor.
"Being a town mayor is different that being on a school board. I think I've demonstrated the leadership necessary for the town's future," Loomis said.
In his spare time, Loomis, who is unmarried, enjoys reading historical novels, working on computers, and doing yard work. He also likes adventure and science fiction movies, and is a big fan of the "Lord of the Rings" in particular. Despite his hectic schedule, he once managed to put aside enough time to view the 12-hour Middle Earth trilogy at one sitting.
He says his favorite part of being mayor is the interaction he gets to have with Oro Valley residents.
"They are willing to volunteer, speak up and provide their point of view. They also make an effort to listen and understand the issues. They are a very well-educated and well-informed public," Loomis said.
Greg Holt is a staff writer covering Oro Valley. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 797-4384, ext. 116.
Paul H. Loomis bio:
Education: BS oceanic engineering, Florida Atlantic University
Profession/Employer: Systems engineer, Defense Contract Management Agency - Raytheon
How long have you lived in Arizona/Oro Valley? Arizona 12 years, Oro Valley 12 years
Previous elected office: Oro Valley Mayor 1998 to present
Other biographical data: Member and past chairman, Pima Association of Governments Regional Council; member, Regional Transportation Authority; Board member, Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, Inc.; Executive Committee Member, League of Arizona Cities and Towns.
Why did you decide to run? Oro Valley is well on the way to being a "Community of Excellence." We have come a long way in the past eight years and still have a long way to go. I can help get us there. We still have issues: long term water, continuing road capacity; regional cooperation and development. I can still contribute to successful solutions to the issues.
Major campaign themes: Go to www.MayorLoomis.com