After a full term on the Oro Valley Town Council and stints on the Development Review Board and Historic Preservation Committee, Councilman Al Kunisch has decided to take down his shingle.
Kunisch decided not to run for re-election so he can devote more time to his wife Pamela, who is undergoing experimental cancer treatment weekly in Phoenix. She's responding well to the treatment, he added.
Despite a perhaps earlier than planned departure from the council, Kunisch said he has a lot to look back upon with pride, especially the acquisition of Steam Pump Ranch and Hohokam Village.
"Those areas have historic significance and had to be saved," Kunisch said.
The Hohokam Village in Rancho Vistoso has been made into a historic preserve, safeguarding thousand-year-old relics left behind by the area's earliest inhabitants.
As for Steam Pump Ranch, the 1870s-era property founded by George Pusch, the town acquired the property through eminent domain from the Proctor family, descendants of Pusch.
Even before he won a council seat, Kunisch recognized the significance of the historic properties and lobbied to help the town preserve them.
He and a group of residents, including a town founder, the late James Kriegh, banded together to pressure the town into using Pima County bonds to purchase the property.
"Steam Pump Ranch, that was really the very first thing I got involved in," Kunisch said. "I felt that was really a great thing that we did."
The 71-year-old Chicago-area native moved to Oro Valley in 1994. He and his wife have two grown sons, one who lives in Prescott and the other in Chicago.
Kunisch earned an associate's degree from Illinois Benedictine College. He spent 36 years with the former Northern Illinois Gas Company before retiring.
While on the Oro Valley Town Council, Kunisch was present during a seminal period of town growth and development.
In 2006, the town was still growing by thousands of residents annually, and the construction boom was in full force.
At the time, the town was issuing hundreds of home-building permits each year. Today, that's all but ceased, with less than 50 new homes planned for the current budget year.
Kunisch also was a part of the council that cemented tax-sharing deals with retail developers, a legacy he's proud of despite the controversies.
"I'm a firm believer in economic development," Kunisch said. "I felt that the Oro Valley Marketplace was something that was needed."
For him it's a simple equation: Sales tax receipts make up nearly half the town's local source of income.
"If you get people to shop here, then that's the longer you don't need a property tax," Kunisch said.
What goes hand-in-hand with retail, at least for Kunisch, is public safety, an area he's championed for years.
"Who wants to come to your community and shop if it's not safe?" he asked.
He was a stalwart defender of the police department during the heated budget debates in early 2009, fighting against proposed officer layoffs and budget cuts.
Since about 2000, Kunisch also has served on the police volunteer units. The units drive police cars, marked with volunteer emblems, doing dark-house checks, helping with traffic control and working special events.
Kunisch estimates the work not only saves taxpayer money, but helps to keep the town safer by doing less important work so officers can spend more time on the street.
An end to Kunisch's public service is "definitely a loss to Oro Valley," said former councilman Terry Parish, who served on the council with Kunisch from 2006 to 2008.
Parish said he always respected how Kunisch stood by his belief system and always tried to what was best for residents.
"Al always had that ability to let personal issues go and do what's right for the town," Parish said.
With at least two new council members coming in after the election in March — Councilwoman Paula Abbott stepped down from the council in November — Kunisch had this advice.
"When they vote, they need to consider what's best for the entire community, not just a certain group," Kunisch said.
He also had this admonition for those new council members who will have to make budget decisions in a time of nearly zero growth, shrinking sales tax revenue and diminished financial support from the state.
"This budget year was the worst I've seen," he said. "Next year is going to be even worse."
Kunisch speaks in Sun City on Monday, Jan. 11
Oro Valley Town Council member Al Kunisch is the next speaker at Sun City Vistoso's "Our Town" town hall meetings on Monday, Jan. 11.
Kunisch is discussing economic development, public safety, home rule, the Census and other topics of interest at the event, set from 1 to 2 p.m. Jan. 11 in the Apache Room at the Vistoso Center, 1565 E. Rancho Vistoso Blvd.
Sun City Vistoso's town hall meetings are a continuing series that provides a public forum for residents to ask questions of their local government representatives, a release said. Sun City Town Halls are free and open to the public.