Democrat Donna Branch-Gilby talks about why she thinks new leadership is needed on the Pima County Board of Supervisors and addresses rumors that she was recruited to run by Republican Supervisor Ray Carroll. Branch-Gilby is challenging Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson in the Sept. 2 Democratic primary. Find out more about the race here or pick up this week’s print edition of the Tucson Weekly.
Some county critics complain that County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry is in charge of the county, not the elected officials. What do you see happening?
The thing is he needs to be under the direction of the board, not vice versa, and they have to put themselves in a position where it is hard to be prepared for his advice, because they don’t meet together. The only time they meet together is when Huckelberry is there, Chris Straub and all of the public.
The Board of Supervisors is often scheduled to have these study session, but they frequently get canceled. Would you bring back study sessions?
By state law they are required to hold a study session. I said to one of the staff, “How do you ever communicate?” because it’s against the open meeting law for three supervisors to meet, let alone five, because it has to be open to the public. They said, “Well someone will write a message to Huckelberry, and he replies and sends it out to all five.”
That’s not a discussion, that’s not problem solving. That’s not getting together and sharing ideas and challenges and inspirations. It boggles my mind that the study sessions were canceled and have been for years.
But maybe somebody like Richard Elias wants someone like you to come on board?
I hope so.
You have someone like Elias, a Democrat, active in the party and then throw in this election integrity stuff—does the party leadership feel he has some explaining to do? Does he have to ingratiate himself to make nice?
Richard has occasionally voted no. Sharon makes the motion no that the database files are confidential, Ramon Valadez seconds it, and there’s some discussion, then there’s the vote, and Richard votes against Sharon’s motion and sometimes Ray Carroll does, too.
And I think for me, and for the other party activists, Richard is doing what he can do given the make-up of the board. He and I get along very well and have a good communication style. He can call me anytime. He has my cell phone. I can call him about anything.
I spoke with him before I declared.
But you didn’t speak to Ray Carroll as was reported?
Oh, right: “That Ray Carroll is the one that recruited you.”
The person who best recruited me was Sharon. If she had not been an obstructionist on her votes against releasing the voting records I wouldn’t have thought about it.
I kept thinking, “Oh, someone will run. They’ll find someone in the party. Vince Rabago has his ears opens. Bill Risner is talking to lots of people. I’m sure they’ll find somebody.”
Then that meeting on January 8 when Sharon made some comment that it seemed reasonable that the county appeal (Judge Michael Miller’s first) decision. Oh, no. It was like that whole fantasy of the convention just evaporated from my imagination. As the state party’s first vice chair I was going to the convention and I was a Super Delegate.
What motivated you to attend the January 8 supervisors’ meeting?
The trial ended the first week of December. Then on Dec. 18, Judge Miller had issued his decision. I read about it in the newspaper and it said the board will likely be appealing this decision. They’re not quoting Richard Elias; they’re not quoting some emergency meeting agenda that went out, who in the heck were they quoting?
They were quoting Chuck Huckelberry. Excuse me. He is not an elected official. If he’s so curious about what they’re going to do he needs to suggest to Richard Elias that they call a special meeting. Fine. That incensed me, and I thought I could not wait to see what they’re response was the first meeting in January.
It had been a year and a half of being before them and trying to request things respectfully and working with Brad Nelson. He has staff members who are very professional and committed to serving the public and giving straight information. If they don’t know they will tell you and try to find out. They don’t make it up, but that is not true of Brad Nelson.