Yavapai County District 2 Supervisor Thomas Thurman knows how few people understand what a supervisor does.
“County supervisor is a pseudo-mayor to the unincorporated communities,” the recently reelected Thurman said, adding that his and other four supervisors’ duties include maintaining a multitude of roads, approving new subdivision development, managing liquor license applications, evaluating and adopting ordinances and overseeing the county’s criminal justice system, among others.
Thurman, who is serving as chairman of the board for the third time in his decade-long tenure, said that making sure the criminal justice system — including not only facilities but the framework that supports the process from arrest, to response, to jails and adjudication — is among the most important duties the supervisors are mandated to undertake.
“With over 50 percent of your property taxes going to the criminal justice system, it’s a huge undertaking,” Thurman said, adding that having a jail in Camp Verde places strain upon Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office transportation resources. The majority of county crimes occur in the Prescott area, meaning that transporting incarcerated individuals to an already crowded jail is a tricky proposition.
Soon, with pressure of a sales tax that sunsets in 2020, Thurman said that the county will have to evaluate increasing the sales tax — an option rejected twice by voters — or property tax to assist the Yavapai County Detention Center. “One solution would be to add more bed space to the Camp Verde jail, but that doesn’t help the transportation problem.”
Thurman, who described himself as a conservative Republican, said that he would prefer to see legislators embrace economic development opportunities rather than spend a “dime unless absolutely needed.” According to him, the board of supervisors has done an excellent job of managing resources, but the county cannot rely on sustainable growth opportunities from an influx of retirees.
“People from large communities don’t want their small communities to change,” Thurman said, but added that growth need not come at the expense of the identities of rural communities. Thurman said the realignment of State Route 260 along Camp Verde’s commercial corridor presents a perfect opportunity for economic development that would not change the character or physical composition of neighborhoods. He urged the centralization of retail development along the realigned 260 corridor, leaving other areas intact and available for homes and agriculture.
Thurman expressed uncertainty over how the presidency of Donald Trump would affect rural Arizona, saying that, “I’m optimistic about the future .... [but] what trickles down from Washington is philosophy. If people believe what they see is good, it makes people locally spend money and do things.”
Local matters, Thurman insisted, is what he is concerned about as a county supervisor. Being so far from the urban centers of central and southern Arizona often means that lawmakers place less emphasis — and thus fewer resources — on areas like the Verde Valley. Thurman called efforts to make sure his constituents receive what is due them “true grassroots politics” a level removed from the state legislature.
“Rural Arizona sometimes gets the short end of the stick because of the population being so heavy down there,” Thurman said. “It’s my job to try to protect and serve those folks who elected me .... So far, we’ve held our own.”