After 12 years, Oro Valley's mayor is saying "goodbye" this week.
Paul Loomis is the town's first popularly elected mayor. After Wednesday, he no longer will occupy the center seat on the dais, having lost his bid for a fourth term in the March primary vote.
Political newcomer Satish Hiremath takes office this Wednesday, starting a four-year term.
During his tenure, Loomis presided over a period of unprecedented growth, watching Oro Valley swell from 20,000 residents to more than 40,000 today. The town annexed at least 10 tracts during that time, expanding in area as well as population.
"He deserves the recognition that he served for 12 years during a period of growth," said Councilman Bill Garner. "I would consider it the good times."
It's something of an ironic twist that a man who would become most associated with the town's rapid rise was propelled into politics by his opposition to an apartment complex developers intended to build near his house.
Loomis bridled at a developer's plans in the mid-1990s to build a sprawling apartment complex, some 400 units with expansion plans for another 300, on Lambert Lane. The proposed development stood directly next to Loomis' home.
So Loomis, then still working as an engineer with Raytheon, began to regularly attend town council meetings. He spearheaded the opposition to the apartment proposal, collected signatures and filed a petition to stop the project.
Today, that property next to Loomis' house is called Riverfront Park, through the efforts of Loomis and many others.
Along the way, he also ran for council, losing his first bid in 1996. But he returned and won in a race for mayor in 1998.
Loomis leaves behind a legacy much larger than opposition to an apartment block.
In addition to growth and annexation, with Loomis at the helm the town cemented a deal with the City of Tucson for thousands of acre feet of Central Arizona Project water, laid the groundwork for a 14-square-mile annexation of state land, and purchased the more than 200 acres designated for a municipal park at the Naranja Town Site.
"Loomis has done a lot of things for this town," said outgoing Councilman K.C. Carter. "He fought for the park on Lambert Lane from day one."
Carter also acknowledged Loomis' work in public transportation, as a Regional Transportation Authority board member, where he's advocated for increased transit options for the town and region.
"He got the buses to haul people back and forth to Raytheon with his work for the RTA," Carter said in reference to Sun Tran routes that service the town and bring workers to the defense giant on Tucson's south side.
Even a former adversary who challenged him in the 2006 election had praise for Loomis.
"Anyone who puts their name out there and works for the community deserves recognition," said State Rep. Nancy Young Wright.
Young Wright said she opposed Loomis on numerous matters in the past, particularly the sales-tax incentive deals the town has penned with developers.
In the early 2000s, Loomis and other council members approved deals that give developers a share of the local sales taxes that their shopping centers generate over a period of time. One of those deals was the controversial plan to incentivize the Oracle Crossings shopping center at Oracle and Magee roads. The deal prompted a lawsuit from residents angered that the town would not accept signatures gathered in a petition drive seeking to force the sales tax question to a public vote.
Loomis himself sued the town in the 1990s over the apartment deal that propelled his involvement in local politics. Town officials had rejected the signatures he gathered in opposition the Lambert Lane apartment proposal and their call for a referendum. A judge upheld the town's decision.
Perhaps learning from the uproar over Oracle Crossings, Loomis later opposed a similar deal for a sales tax rebate at the Oro Valley Marketplace, the massive shopping center at Oracle and Tangerine roads.
Late last year, the pressured resignation of Town Manager David Andrews in an emotional council meeting may have been pivotal for Loomis. Many people viewed Loomis as the driving force behind Andrews' departure, and public outcry ensued. Whatever the cause, Loomis received the fewest votes in the three-way March primary election.
Even in losing re-election, Loomis said he thinks the town remains on the right track. He said the proposal for a northward annexation bodes well for the town's long-term future.
"I think the master plan for Arroyo Grande is great to start with," Loomis said. "It's creating another Rancho Vistoso, plus."
He applauds the visions of the council and Arizona State Land Department for the now-stalled annexation, which includes a wide southern swath of natural open space intended for a wildlife corridor. In addition, the RTA approved a pair of tunnels and a bridge for wildlife, connecting the Santa Catalinas with the Tortolita mountains and running into the corridor.
For his own future, Loomis said he's offered his service to the council and incoming Mayor Hiremath, should they want it.
Although he doesn't anticipate being a fixture in the audience at council meetings, at least not yet, he's not going to disappear, either.
"I'm not going anywhere," Loomis said.
Mayor put OV above all else, dinner crowd agrees
By Dave Perry, The Explorer
Elected and appointed officials from Marana, Sahuarita, Tucson and Pima County were among those who paid tribute to Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis and his years of service at a Thursday no-host dinner at the Oro Valley Country Club.
"I'm moved that all of you are here" to "celebrate 12 years of fun," Loomis told the gathering. "It has been fun. We do it because we love to serve. We do it for love of our community."
Bob Kovitz, the evening's master of ceremonies and a former Oro Valley employee, took a playful jab by insisting money was hidden "inside the mayor's mustache." He praised the mayor's tenacity. "I don't think there was an event in Oro Valley that you haven't attended the last 12 years," Kovitz said.
Interim town manager Jerene Watson and longtime Town Clerk Kathy Cuvelier presented Loomis with a large aerial town map signed by town employees at a recent picnic. "We want you to know, mayor, how loved you are by the employees," Cuvelier said.
"When we had the employee picnic, I talked about how wonderful our staff is, and how they make my job easy," Loomis said.
Cuvelier said Loomis stayed after every council meeting to help the clerk's staff clean up, and to walk people to their vehicles in the dark. Cuvelier, who is retiring at year's end, said her "first favorite mayor is Steve Engle," Oro Valley's first mayor. "My second favorite is Paul Loomis."
Police Chief Danny Sharp presented Loomis with a plaque from the department. "It truly is a better community because of you," he said.
Councilwoman Pat Spoerl gave Loomis a certificate for lifetime membership in the Oro Valley Historical Society, as well as a hold-harmless agreement so Loomis could volunteer on behalf of the organization.
Watson described Loomis as "unassuming." He is "respectful," and "lets everyone be heard," even those who criticize him. Former Councilman Al Kunisch said it was "an honor and a pleasure" to serve with Loomis. He always wanted Loomis to respond to his critics, but Loomis resisted.
Sahuarita Mayor Lynne Skelton and Marana Mayor Ed Honea each identified Loomis as a mentor. Loomis is "one of the most meticulous people I've ever known in my life," Honea said.
"He is such a gracious person, and he represented Oro Valley so well."
"Our meetings just got cut in half," quipped Regional Transportation Authority executive Gary Hayes. Loomis has sat on the RTA board.
Former Councilman Dick Johnson said Loomis has guided Oro Valley from "a small town to a full-blown community. Serving with you was an honor."
"I didn't think I was going to say anything tonight," Councilman Barry Gillaspie said. "Paul's a very good man. Paul has never had anything on his mind in this town more than caring for the community of Oro Valley. I've always looked up to Paul. I want to make sure I say 'thank you.'"
A former councilman, Fran LaSala, thanked Loomis "for what you gave me. We were different, to say the least. … He opened my eyes to a lot of things in Oro Valley. Everything you've done for this community has always been done with the right attitude. You never had an agenda, other than the community's best interest."
A representative of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords office read remarks from the congresswoman, who called Loomis "a relentless and highly successful advocate for Oro Valley." Loomis always made it known "the betterment of Oro Valley was your top priority. At a time when public service has turned into a rough and tumble contact sport, you have always been a gentleman."
Loomis, known for giving Oro Valley lapel pins, presented pins to the new council members. "I need another bag of pins to give away," he said.
The mayor called Oro Valley is a "great community," one "we all need to be proud of. We have done wonderful things the past 12 years, and you all are going to do wonderful things the next 12 years."