By Jason Stone, GSN Staff Writer
Maricopa County Supervisor Denny Barney is in his final days on the board, but he doesn’t plan on going anywhere.
The Gilbert resident is ending his second term as a supervisor two years early so he can fully concentrate on his job as president and CEO of the East Valley Partnership, a consortium of local business and community leaders that advocates for economic development, education, transportation, infrastructure, arts and healthcare.
“There was part of me who thought I might be able to do both,” said Barney, who is stepping down Feb. 1. “And the truth is I probably could.”
But with no plans to run for re-election in 2020 – and needing a little bit of a breather – Barney said now is a good time to step away from the Board of Supervisors.
Since 2012, the sixth-generation Arizona native has served District 1, which includes Gilbert, Chandler, Queen Creek, Tempe, Sun Lakes, west Mesa and Ahwatukee. He won re-election four years later by nearly 22,000 votes over Democrat challenger Matthew Cerra.
During his time as a supervisor, he served as chairman twice (2014 and 2017) and represented the board on the Greater Phoenix Economic Council Board of Directors and the Maricopa Association of Governments Regional Council.
He also serves on the Advisory Board for ASU’s Morrison Institute of Public Policy and on the Mesa United Way Board of Directors, where he acted as the chairman for its annual campaign.
In 2016, he was appointed as one of Arizona’s at-large delegates at the Republican National Convention, where he cast one of the party’s 58 delegate votes for now-President Donald Trump.
All that activity doesn’t even mention Barney’s regular day job as a principal in ARCUS Private Capital Solutions, a specialized realty investment and finance company.
“I still have a family and a vocation outside of public service,” Barney said. “At some point I need to focus in on a little bit.”
Before his first election to the Board of Supervisors, Barney was a member of the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission and served on the county’s Board of Health.
His public service credentials go back even further as he’s been a member of Greater Phoenix Leadership, served as president of the Mesa Baseline Rotary Club and sat on the boards of the United Food Bank, Arizona board of American Indian Services, Commission on Excellence in Education and various Banner Health Advisory boards.
Barney had already indicated early last year that he wouldn’t run for a supervisor seat for a third time. He made that decision even before he was picked to lead the East Valley Partnership last year. In late May, former CEO John Lewis, a one-time mayor of Gilbert, left on a Mormon mission in Cambodia and handed over the leadership reigns to Barney.
“It just kind of evolved,” Barney said after he agreed to fill in part-time without pay. “(Lewis) said, ‘I would love to have you. Have you considered stepping in?’ I told him I hadn’t thought about it, but I’d be happy to fill in on a part-time basis. I said at some point we would have to consider the ramifications on the Board (of Supervisors).”
For half of last year, Barney juggled both positions, which wasn’t as difficult as he thought it would be.
“There’s a tremendous amount of overlap,” Barney said. “The work with the partnership very closely resembles the area that I control on the board. The partnership is really about advocacy and bringing people together, and that’s significantly a component of what you do as a supervisor – bring people together.”
Barney, who lives with his wife Nichole and their four children, said transportation, jobs and education are the big issues the group will tackle in the near future.
The upcoming reauthorization of the transportation tax, or Prop 500, will be one fight to watch for East Valley cities and towns, he said.
“We have phenomenal transportation infrastructure, but only because 30 years ago a group got together and said we need to be thinking long-term,” Barney said. “If we don’t come together as a county now, 20 or 30 years from now the people who come after us are going to be behind. With transportation you have to think about it decades in advance.”
As for employment opportunities, Barney said we could be in the golden age of jobs in the East Valley.
“It’s a fair question: How can it get better?” Barney said. “We really are super, super, super lucky. We are well-positioned with infrastructure, well-positioned with job growth and well-positioned with economic development.”
Barney said job creators such as Intel in Chandler and the work ASU is doing with innovation in Mesa and Tempe are helping “rise the whole market.”
For his replacement on Board of Supervisors, Arizona law requires the current supervisors to appoint a District 1 resident of the same political party, in this case a Republican. If that person wants to keep the appointed seat, he or she will have to run in the next general election in 2020.
The clerk of the board is accepting applications through Jan. 25. After those are in, Barney said he expects the whole process to seat a new person to take a week to ten days.
“I’m sure the board will ask my opinion,” Barney said about his replacement choices. “It’s quite an evolving list, but I’m not going to publicly endorse one candidate. There are some good choices though.”
Whoever is picked will be charged with keeping things running smoothly in district.
“There are a lot of good things happening right now,” Barney said. “We want to make sure we don’t lose momentum.”