Even though voters won’t get their say until March 11, the race for Queen Creek mayor is ramping up with three people vying for the seat.
This year, incumbent Mayor Art Sanders faces political newcomer Chris Clark and former Town Councilman Gary Holloway.
This is the kind of race often seen in growing communities, said Jim Haynes, president of the Phoenix-based Behavior Research Center, a marketing and public opinion research firm.
“We’ve seen a lot of the same kind of thing in fast-growing suburbs,” he said. “Surprise has been up to its ears in political battles. It seems like in communities that are going through very fast transformations like sleepy little Queen Creek to bustling Queen Creek, there are a lot of people who liked it better when it was sleepy Queen Creek. It could be any number of isolated single issues that motivate people to run.”
Already a major theme emerging with all three candidates is finding ways to keep Queen Creek unique. Clark, Holloway and Sanders have expressed interest in keeping strong ties to Queen Creek’s rural heritage and have ideas for improving the quality of life in the town.
Not knowing specifics about Queen Creek’s political landscape, Haynes said the fact that two people are challenging the mayor isn’t an indictment of his popularity or performance in office.
“It’s just that others want his job,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a cause and effect. You’ve got the desire for political office on the part of other people. One of the things any politician has to learn to live with is that not everyone is going to agree with you.”
Chris Clark, 41, has lived in Queen Creek for three years with his wife and two young children. He is a financial adviser specializing in mortgage, tax and insurance plans.
He has participated in the town’s Citizen Leadership Institute and the Citizen Emergency Rescue Training, and has been president of the Queenland Manor homeowners association for two years.
Clark said he wants to be mayor because he thinks there are issues, such as economic development and infrastructure needs, facing the town that haven’t been adequately addressed — something he plans to do.
“We need a dynamic leader to lobby and build consensus,” he said. “The current administration has done an adequate job of maintaining the status quo. I haven’t seen a great deal of innovation.”
Clark said he would focus on funding the town’s capital improvement projects, such as roads and town facilities.
“Our current needs outstrip our ability to fund them,” he said.
“We need to create a broad base for the community in terms of economics and housing. We need to make sure all voices are represented.”
Gary Holloway, 53, served one term on the Queen Creek Town Council and unsuccessfully sought re-election in 2006.
He has lived in Queen Creek for 18 years where he and his wife raised two sons and a daughter. Holloway is a structural superintendent for a construction firm.
He is running for mayor because “the current administration and their policies are stripping the uniqueness out of this community,” he said.
Holloway said he would work to maintain the rural feel and flavor of Queen Creek while also attracting businesses and making the town a manufacturing hub.
“We can take care of everything,” he said.
Outside of his time on the council, Holloway has served on numerous town committees including the budget committee, the economic development committee, the library committee and a committee on the town’s redevelopment district.
“Traffic and growth are tough issues,” he said. “To manage them you need a good council and good direction for staff. I don’t think staff is getting good direction.”
Art Sanders, a father of nine, has lived in Queen Creek almost 15 years with his wife. Sanders, 53, owns a digital video business, a ranch and is a student at Arizona State University.
Sanders is seeking a second term as mayor. He counts the purchase of the water company, improving transportation, hiring John Kross as the town manager and moving ahead with the plan for the new Queen Creek Fire Department among the most important things that happened during his term. Sanders is also clear about crediting previous administrations for their work on the foundation of many of those projects.
“I feel strongly that we need to do things sooner rather than later and push things up,” Sanders said. “We also need to keep an eye on the budget so we’re spending the right amount.”
Sanders is pleased with the recent passage of a 1,100-acre general plan amendment that will bring commercial development and jobs to the town and further diversify the economy.
He also said he wants Queen Creek’s rural roots considered in planning for its future.
“I want to be careful that we don’t lose the history,” Sanders said, noting that projects such as the Horseshoe Park and Equestrian Centre — under construction on Riggs Road — help preserve that history.
“There’s a lot happening, a lot going on in Queen Creek and I thrive on that,” he said. “If re-elected that will tell me I’m doing something right and then I can step on the gas and move ahead.”