Native Tucsonan Jon Robson has lived in Oro Valley only a year, but he has a pretty good idea of how he'd run things if elected to a four-year term to the Oro Valley Town Council.
"Based on my background and experience, I thought I could be more responsive and more representative of the community's desires" than the current council, he said. "I've had experience in those areas with which the town is now confronted - housing, transportation, medical support and generating revenue."
In a military career spanning 33 years, the 69-year-old retired colonel has a resume that reads like a James Bond thriller. Decorated with the Silver Star for a helicopter gunship rescue of 22 marines during the Vietnam War, Robson went on to direct contingency plans for the U.S. Army in Europe in Heidelberg, Germany, run an air base in Okinawa, Japan, and become the No. 2 man in control of four air stations in the western United States.
If elected, Robson would like to resolve police and fire issues and tackle the problem of growth.
"There's a thread that runs through Oro Valley - no property taxes," he said. "I'd like to preserve that thread."
One of the ways to do it, he said, is by creating a fire district. In the mid-1990s, Robson - no relation to the SaddleBrooke developer - was part of a team that created the Heritage Hills Fire District, which serves an area between Ina and Hardy and Thornydale and Shannon roads.
"I figured if we could get everybody involved in forming a district our rates would go down," he said. "The more people involved, the lower the rate in the district." His rates dropped from about $300 per year to $100, or about 65 cents per $100 of the assessed value of his home.
He was elected to the fire district's five-member board, spending four years as chairman during his six years of service. On the board, he was instrumental in negotiating a contract with Rural/Metro Fire Department for services, creating a memorandum of understanding with the city of Tucson and Metro Water to purchase and install fire hydrants and annexing a portion of the adjacent area into the fire district.
In Oro Valley, residents who live north of Tangerine Road are now covered by Golder Ranch Fire District. Homeowners in a fire district pay a tax determined by the fire district based on the assessed value of their home. That tax is billed through the county's property tax statement to residents.
Residents south of Tangerine who elect to have fire coverage pay a subscription rate directly to Rural/Metro Fire Department based on square footage.
"Only 77 percent of residents in the Rural/Metro area are subscribers," said Robson. In the event of a fire, those uncovered residents are charged by the hour - up to $5,000 an hour in some cases.
Robson said he likes the idea of Oro Valley creating its own fire department, but believes it would probably be too costly. "It would require significant capital and service expenditures to build and man fire stations and purchase equipment," he said. "Either Golder Ranch should take over the whole thing or we should create a new district and bid out those services."
In October 2002, Robson resigned from the Heritage Hills Fire District Board when he and his wife, Cathy, left the district to move to Oro Valley.
Even though the couple has been part of the area's recent rapid growth, "I'd like to slow us down," he said. "I know we're going to grow. I just want to make sure we can handle that growth by taking care of what we have."
On the police issue, he favors allowing Oro Valley police to elect union representation. "I am not one to support 'we can't.' I want to find out how we can," he said. "If it's important to the police department, I don't know why the council cannot find a method to honor their request. It doesn't preclude individuals from coming forward and making their concerns known. The council can take those concerns under advisement, but a voice can still be heard."
Robson, a registered Democrat, said his parents were Democrats because of the party's traditional alliance with labor. "I think independently and vote my conscience," he said.
As a newcomer of only a year, he has not served on any town boards or committees or attended many council meetings, so he said it would be difficult for him to judge the current council's performance during the past two years. But if elected, he plans to devote "whatever time it takes" to do the job.
Robson was born in Chicago, Ill., but his family moved to Tucson when he was a boy. Both parents worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad, his father as a dispatcher and his mother as a secretary to the railroad superintendent. He attended Safford Elementary School and Tucson High School. "That was the only high school in the city limits at the time," he said. In the late 1940s, Amphitheater High School was still in the county. He attended the University of Arizona briefly in the early 1950s, but joined the Marine Corps in 1952.
After a two-year tour of Korea, he became a naval aviation cadet and went through flight training in Pensacola, Fla., and advanced training in Beeville, Texas. At the time, the military was transitioning from propeller planes to jets and selected him for jet training, he said. He graduated at the top of his class and went to Hawaii to join the Black Sheep Squadron VMF (AW) 214. There he married his first wife. The couple had three children, two still living.
After a stint as company commander training recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island, S.C., Robson was selected to train on the Marine Corps' new CH46 helicopters.
In the mid-1960s, he introduced the new gunships to combat troops in Vietnam, where he flew the rescue mission that earned him a Silver Star. A few years later, he was back in the United States assigned to a weapons development detail at the Naval Weapons Center, in China Lake, Calif.
In 1970, Robson did a second tour of duty in Vietnam. The next year he attended amphibious warfare school in Quantico, Va. In 1972, he was assigned to the U.S. Army in Heidelberg, Germany, and as the only marine on staff, became director of contingency plans for the U.S. Army in Europe.
Over the next few years he attended the Air War College at Air War University in Montgomery, Ala., and earned a bachelor's degree in economics and political science from Troy State University.
He went on to become a project manager with the Naval Air Systems Command in Washington, D.C., and in 1975 was asked to help develop a replacement for the helicopter he had introduced in Vietnam. The military plans to introduce that aircraft, the Osprey, in 2005, he said. By that time, Robson had reached the rank of colonel.
At Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Mount Clemens, Mich., he headed the Marine Wing Support Group 47 with Marine Reserves in four cities under his command.
In 1980, he went to Futenma, Okinawa as commanding officer of a Marine Corps Air Station for the next three years. "It was like running a city," he said. "We had four or five squadrons or about 2,500 men." He married Cathy that year.
In 1983, he received the Legion of Merit.
At the Marine Corp Air Station in El Toro, Calif., Robson became Chief of Staff of Marine Corp Air Bases Western Area. "I was the number two guy controlling four air stations in Yuma, Ariz., and El Toro, Tustin, and Camp Pendleton, Calif."
Robson retired in 1985 and he and Cathy came back to the Northwest side of Tucson, where his mother still lived.
Since his retirement from the military in 1985, the former naval aviator has volunteered his time to work with numerous charitable organizations, including four years with the Tucson chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, three as chairman. He spent seven years with the Pima Council on Aging, helping clients with Medicare appeals and other insurance issues. He has served in the "Baby Brigade," a special group of blood donors, for the American Red Cross, and he and Cathy have been "foster parents" to 46 kittens from the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.
Family: Married, 2 adult children
Education: B.S. in economics and political science,
Troy State University
Profession/Employer: Retired Colonel,
United States Marine Corps
Lived in Arizona: 60 years
Lived in Oro Valley: 1 year
Came to Arizona from: N/A, Native
Public offices held: Heritage Hills Fire District, six years
Other biographical data:
Awarded the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, and 16 Air Medals.
Human Resources consultant for The Environmental Company, Inc.
Volunteer/Chairman, Tucson Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Insurance Counselor for the Pima Council on Aging
Chairman Architectural Control Committee, Casas Adobes Country Club Estates
"Baby Brigade" blood donor for the American Red Cross
Foster parent for the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.
Why he's running for council:
As a result of my background, I want to continue to serve my community actively. In any endeavor which I have undertaken, I have been able to contribute positively to its success. In my limited time in Oro Valley, it has become apparent that a voice representing the members of this town is required. I intend to be that voice, to make a difference, and to assist in that beneficial decision making process.
To improve the General Plan to manage growth, to solve the police benefits negotiations in order to continue the town's fine record of law enforcement, and to establish standards for fire protection to ensure complete coverage for our community.