Managing growth is the biggest challenge facing Apache Junction residents, according to candidates in Tuesday’s primary for mayor or City Council.
Yet mudslinging and conspiracy theories in recent months have dominated discussions at City Hall. Allegations of ethical missteps, campaign finance violations and even bribery seem to have taken the focus away from larger city issues.
This year, the election cycle marks the end of Mayor Doug Coleman’s long tenure as Apache Junction’s top elected official. Coleman served as councilman from 1991 to 1995 and was then elected mayor six times.
Coleman said at a City Council meeting last week that he was disappointed by the way this year’s campaign season unfolded.
“I just felt that in the 16 years that I’ve been on the council, we’ve kind of moved past this,” Coleman said. “I was hoping this election was not going to go this route, with accusations being made. I was hoping people would run on their own merits.”
Coleman’s agitated remarks came after a resident addressed city leaders, accusing one of the candidates of accepting a bribe.
Two active City Council members will vie for the open mayor’s seat. Ten other candidates are running for three open seats on the City Council.
If any of the political hopefuls receive a majority of ballots cast they would assume their seat without having to run in the May 15 general election. There are 17,000 registered voters in Apache Junction, but only 1,091 ballots were cast in the 2005 city election.
The remaining offices will be filled by candidates who receive the most votes in the general election.
Vice Mayor R.E. Eck said the next group of city leaders will have to guide Apache Junction past a series of landmarks critical to growth in the city. Once elected, the new mayor and council members should be prepared to shape the future of Apache Junction, he said.
“They’re very critical,” Eck said of the next two years. “Whoever does get the seats better be prepared. Right now, there’s huge development issues, and it’s not going to stop.
“Development has finally hit Apache Junction.”
The next City Council might choose to entice a developer to resume work on a project to revitalize downtown Apache Junction, Eck said.
A deal recently fell apart that would’ve redeveloped a 100-acre parcel of land around the Grand Hotel. The sole landowner last month walked away from negotiations, and city leaders earlier this month decided not to pursue further work on the project.
Eck said city leaders will have to be prepared to help plan development on 12 square miles of state trust land within the city limits.
The acreage, dubbed Lost Dutchman Heights, was purchased in December for $58.6 million by Las Vegas-based developer Desert Communities.
The developer indicated it will create a master-planned community on the land, which stretches a mile south of Baseline Avenue to U.S. 60 and roughly two miles west of Goldfield Road to Meridian Road.
Polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Voters should review identification requirements at the polls. Voter information is available through the Maricopa and Pinal county elections departments: Maricopa County voters can call (602) 506-3535 or log onto http://recorder.maricopa.gov. Pinal County voters can call (520) 866-6830 or log onto www.co.pinal.az.us/recorder.
Apache Junction polling places
Pinal County precincts 40, 42, 43 and Maricopa County precinct 23:
Superstition Mountain Elementary School, 550 S. Ironwood Drive.
Pinal County precincts 44, 46, 47 and 59:
Desert Shadows Middle School, 801 W. Southern Ave.
Pinal County precincts 45, 56, 57 and 58:
Four Peaks Elementary School, 1755 N. Idaho Road.