Republican Joe Higgins is running against Republican District 1 Supervisor Ann Day in the Sept. 2 Republican primary. He talks to ScrambleWatch about why he’s in this race.
You’ve been in Tucson for more than 10 years. When do you arrive?
We moved from Wisconsin in 1976 from a small farming community. I was in second grade and went to school at Saints Peter and Paul. I’m 39 now. I graduated from high school at Salpointe and got a degree in Political Science at the UA.
There’s not a lot of jobs right out of the UA, so I started my own businesses. I moved to San Diego for a little while and then Pennsylvania. I was gone for just two years.
I got married 11 years ago and have two children, 10-year-old Halley and 6-year-old Jack. I’m really involved in their lives.
What was your first successful start in business?
First the cell phone business. Started off with a $5,000 investment and within two years we were doing $2.5 million in sales and I had 75 employees. I was everywhere from Albuquerque to Nogales and Sierra Vista—all the small markets.
I gave it five years and in the fourth year, I started a chain of haircut stores called Sports Buzz. That business, I picked it because it’s consumable. I could build a brand and everyone needs a haircut no matter what the economy is doing. Been doing that a little over three years now with nine stores. I own three and I licensed six.
Then I opened a trash company. We pick up residential trash for home owner associations in the county. We have a large part of the Green Valley market. Very expensive to get into it, but once you cover your expenses it can be very lucrative. We’re in those beginning stages right now. We have seven trucks and 12 guys.
I also have an assortment of rental houses and commercial property trying to make a living and continue to build a business, but mainly small businesses.
When did you move from business to getting more political?
In 2002 and 2003, I got involved in local politics and local government because I tried to put up an A-frame (sandwich board sign) in front of my store. Well the process was so hard it took me three sign companies and $1,500 to get this thing permitted, which you think would be easy.
When you look at the way they did the legislation it just wasn’t right. Twenty-eight were permitted in the whole city. I got appointed to the sign-code committee, and I took that one on. We got a 7-0 vote from the city council and we had a new A-frame law. I think there are 280 permitted now. From a small business point of view it’s pretty important. You don’t have a lot of money for advertising so that involves catching the attention of drive-bys. So that’s why I took it on.
From there I got appointed to the small business commission for the city, and then a small business commission for TREO. I’m on the garbage commission now, using it to learn what goes on on a bigger level. I rose up to be the chairman of the small business commission, which I still am right now. I worked with the county small business commission on the RTA assistance for business. When road construction opens business drops, so we worked on getting a budget in there. It’s called Mainstreet Tucson and Mainstreet Pima County to help businesses stay open during construction.
So truly I’m just someone who sees a problem, gets in there and fixes it. I’m not a rabble-rouser.
What is motivating you to solve problems within Pima County now?
It seems that I’ve gone as far as I can go, and then some of the friends in the business community tapped me on the shoulder a few months ago. They told me, “We would like to bring some candidates together who have done payroll and built things, done things. Are you interested in running?” So I called the Republican Party, and some said you need to look at running now and you need to look at this race. There isn’t a real machine in the Republican Party that recruits candidates or helps candidates. But I went around and interviewed different people, like Bob McMahon. He said he saw what we were particularly up against in District 1, and told me “I think we need to make a change. You have my support.”
Two weeks later I decided to get into the race. Party support wasn’t really there in the beginning because I was up against an incumbent, but even that’s begun to change. Then we had a conversation with the party asking who is going to bring the energy to the table, who is going to bring in the votes of the business community.