Just prior to stepping into the role of Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor on Tuesday, Jan. 3, Randy Garrison said it would be some time before he understood the full extent of his responsibilities.
“I’m constantly learning what abilities I have,” Garrison said. “I still don’t know what the job pays.”
Garrison said his role as supervisor representing the Cottonwood and Sedona areas is to act as a facilitator of community needs, making requests of county staff along the way as opposed to dictating what anyone should or shouldn’t do.
Garrison said that transportation and economic development are the top priorities to address on behalf of his constituents.
According to Garrison, everyone was concerned with transportation in the communities he visited during his election campaign. Congestion and safety are major concerns.
Economic development in District 3 is a difficult problem to address, he said. The area he represents is the third-oldest demographic in the state. In 20 years,
it will have Arizona’s oldest population.
“We’re growing, but we’re growing in age,” Garrison said, adding that most of the employment supported in an older population are support service jobs, the type that do not pay well, making it difficult for workers to live in the areas they serve.
“Our problem here is it’s a beautiful place to grow old,” Garrison said.
To combat the effects of an aging demographic on the local economy, Garrison suggested an investment in bringing in good, sustainable jobs. In addition, he called for a much stronger stand to provide educational opportunities to children.
On the campaign trail, he pointed out deficiencies of his opponent’s credentials and repeatedly criticized Yavapai College’s performance in the Verde Valley. Though Yavapai College is a government body independent of the county, the two often work together.
Garrison, a former member of the Yavapai College Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee — which was suspended in the latter half of 2016 by the Yavapai College District Governing Board — placed much of the blame for the lack of educational opportunities at Yavapai College’s feet.
“I know it can do better,” Garrison said of the college, where he has taken courses for three decades. “I know what it can do when it works.”
According to Garrison, in order for the college to address the educational needs of his constituents, it will need new leadership, beginning with a new president. In his view, Yavapai College President Penny Wills’ tenure has been marked by declining enrollment and a near-obsession with building unneeded facilities in Prescott. “Somebody has to step up and say something.”
Garrison praised his predecessor Chip Davis for, among other things, decentralizing county resources from Prescott — without seeking praise.
He said Davis made it look effortless.
“He’ll be a tough act to follow,” Garrison said, adding that he wants to emulate the way in which Davis’ efforts kept the rural nature of his district’s communities in mind. “When people walk into [my office], I want them to know they’re in the Verde Valley.”
Asked what had inspired him to seek to become a county supervisor after stints with Mingus Union High School District, Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District and the Cottonwood City Council, Garrison spread out a variety of family photos taken in Cottonwood and dating from 1950s.
One shows Garrison’s grandfather, a politician and the owner of the first private airplane in the Verde Valley, before the Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott.
“The family was always involved in politics somehow,” he said.
Garrison said he doesn’t consider himself a politician — and that, as a businessman, he won’t have to rely on a politician’s wage.
“It’s going to be either my pillar or my downfall, that I’m not a politician,” Garrison said. “I’ll put my foot in my mouth, I’m certain.”
After winning the seat in the August primary election, Garrison has made it his duty to visit each Yavapai County department, getting to know the operations and staff. He said he has refused to stand on strict decorum.
“It’s like they think I’m their boss,” Garrison said, shaking his head. “More than anything, I want to be seen as a member of the team .... I’m going out of my way to say, ‘Don’t call me sir, don’t call me supervisor — just call me Randy.’”