February 1, 2006 - Conny Culver said she believes a balance between preservation and growth is the key to Oro Valley's future. Her initiative and dedication during her two years on the Oro Valley town council have already made a real difference, she said.
"I feel I've accomplished a lot in my tenure," said Culver, an Ovo Valley council member currently running for re-election. "We have a limited amount of land to build on, so we have to make sure we do it right. I see the next few years as being very important."
Culver, 54, was one of two council members elected to a two-year term in 2004 when the town council was expanded from five to seven members. Now eligible for a four-year term, Culver says she wants the opportunity to follow her initiatives through and help mold Oro Valley's future.
"We're growing and deciding what we want to be. We need to firmly put in place where we want to be years from now," Culver said. "Oro Valley has high standards, and I believe in implementing those standards."
Culver said she initiated the creation of Oro Valley's Historic Preservation Commission, the body that will guide the town council through preserving historical sites such as Steam Pump Ranch, the town's origin, and Honeybee Village, a former Hohokam settlement.
"They have a lot on their plates," Culver said of the commission. "We have to preserve the little bit of history we have, and it will help bring in tourists."
Culver said she is also proud of creating a citizen advisory committee, which she credits as being key to ratifying a general plan for Oro Valley that addressed the public's concerns.
"We complied information about why the previous general plan failed and came up with a list of what areas needed revision," Culver said.
Culver was elected to the town council after living in Oro Valley for only four years, but was involved in Oro Valley public affairs even earlier. By the time of her election, she had already served on the Development Review Board and had graduated from the Oro Valley Citizen Planning Institute.
Culver grew up in Tucson, where her father was stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. After living in locations as far afield as Honolulu, London, and Washington, D.C., Culver returned to Arizona and made her home in Oro Valley.
"Everywhere I lived, nothing really compared to southern Arizona," Culver said.
Culver is married and, in addition to her duties as a council member, works part time as a pharmaceutical sales representative specializing in women's health. Her son Matt, 25, teaches tae kwon do in Washington, D.C.
Culver said she believes maintaining an adequate water supply is one of the most critical issues facing Oro Valley and has made efforts to stress water awareness and teach people the importance of water conservation. Culver said she contacted a water conservationist who has conducted free audits for Oro Valley residents on their water use, in many cases showing them how to cut their water bill in half. She has also supported rainwater harvesting plans for new developments such as Oro Valley Marketplace.
"We can't pretend there will be water for everyone forever, particularly with our current growth," Culver said. "You don't have to water your cactus everyday."
Although Culver believes it is best to let voters decide the $23.2 million in sales tax incentives for Oro Valley Marketplace, had she been on the town council at the time, she says she would have opposed the deal made with the developer, Vestar.
"I would never have agreed with the magnitude the prior council agreed to. Was that amount necessary?" Culver said.
Nevertheless, she said she feels comfortable building a shopping mall in the location since that is what the lot's zoning allows, and she is happy Vestar plans to build a movie theater and restaurant on the site.
Moreover, she advocates having a Costco move into the site, despite the possibility some Oro Valley residents may turn up their noses at the wholesaler.
"The average Costco shopper makes $74,000 a year … The average employee is paid $17 an hour - way above other retailers. I would have no problem with them moving in to the (Oro Valley) Marketplace," Culver said.
Culver said she is a registered member of the Republican Party and works to get Republicans elected to Congress. She believes sales tax revenue from retailers, rather than new taxes, will be the solution to Oro Valley's future financial problems.
"We need more revenue, period. With the right stores in the right places, we can meet more needs," Culver said.
Culver also advocates expanding the arts in Oro Valley with such projects as a new amphitheater near Steam Pump Village.
"It would be a place for piano concerts and classical music rather than rock. We won't have to go to Tucson for entertainment," Culver said. "A lot of people in our community value arts."
Culver said she has also taken the initiative to address issues that aren't specific to Oro Valley, such as health care. Arizona is rated a D in emergency care, she said, and because of staff losses at local hospitals, Tucson area residents may not have access to medical professionals such as neurological specialists and internal surgeons. Culver said she took the issue to the Arizona Association of Cities and Towns, and eventually the Arizona Legislature took action.
"This is a big issue in Oro Valley, because as you get older you need better care," Culver said.
Culver also believes Oro Valley residents should have access to adequate fire service, and since the Golder Ranch Fire District is one of the highest rated fire districts in the country, she advocates that all Oro Valley residents be covered by Golder Ranch. Part of her concern is that people covered by Rural/Metro may not have signed up for service, which can result in a tremendous bill in the event of an emergency.
"I don't have Golder Ranch service, but I contracted with them because they are the best," Culver said. "Everyone in a fire district has equal coverage, and their fees are tax subsidized."
In her spare time, Culver enjoys making stained glass windows, and she hopes one day to make one of the Oro Valley town seal. She also looks forward to attending Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene every Sunday.
Culver said being a parent taught her skills she uses as a council member.
"Parenting is the most life changing experience. It shows you its not about me, it's about them. It teaches you patience and communication," Culver said.
Greg Holt covers Oro Valley and the Amphitheater School District. He can be reached at 797-4384 ext. 116 or email@example.com.
Conny Culver Bio:
Family: Married, one son
Education: BS Business/Administration, Honolulu; AASPL Paralegal, Summa Cum Laude, Denver
Profession/Employer: Part-time pharmaceutical sales representative for a small company specializing in women's health
How long have you lived in Arizona/Oro Valley? Arizona six years, Oro Valley six years
Previous elected office: Oro Valley Town Council 2004-present
Other biographical data: Council Liaison to the Development Review Board, Historic Preservation Commission, and the OVPD; Community Emergency Response Team training graduate; certified mediator; past member of the DRB; past member of the American Diabetes Association Executive Committee; past volunteer for the Victim Witness project
Why did you decide to run? I welcome the chance to continue to serve the citizens of Oro Valley. We need to focus on the future, and plan for a safe and vibrant community. We must ensure the right balance of preservation and development so that our community will provide the quality of life that our citizens deserve.
Major campaign themes: Public Safety is one of my highest priorities. Our first responders must have the tools and community support they need. I believe all of Oro Valley deserves the opportunity to be a part of Golder Ranch Fire District. Attract and retain the necessary medical professionals needed for our community. Protecting neighborhoods integrity and character; Enhancing our parks and trail systems; Building relationships with other governments to work on regional issues