Interview by Bea Lueck
Nancy Smith was appointed to replace former Maricopa Mayor Christian Price in August 2022 after she’d served eight years on the City Council. She’s now preparing to run for election to that office as she and the City pursue several forward-looking projects.
Grande LIVING: So give us a quick overview of Nancy Smith. Where were you born and raised, and how did you end up in Maricopa?
Nancy Smith: I was born and raised in Joliet, Illinois, went to a local college and was the first female to receive their degree in electronic technology. I then interviewed with Motorola and was offered a position in either Schaumburg, Illinois or Phoenix, Arizona and chose Phoenix.
I spent 40 years with Motorola in the military division and worked project management on various projects including the space station project.
My husband Tony and I lived in Chandler and we had a friend who actually designed the Duke golf course. When discussing the possibility of moving, he said to us, “Well, you really ought to give Maricopa a chance. I think it’s going to be a great community.”
When we visited the unincorporated Maricopa, we fell in love with being able to see the stars and decided to move out here to Rancho El Dorado in 2003, right before the City incorporated.
Grande LIVING: First, Tony was involved with the city government, then county government and now he’s with the Pinal Partnership. And now you are in city government. So you guys are a glutton for punishment?
Nancy Smith: You would think so. And there can be some hard times, but at the same time if you know you’re doing the right thing for the residents who live here or live in the county you can endure all the tough times and enjoy helping make the decisions that are being made for the better of the community. It kind of goes hand in hand. But to me it’s just full of joy.
Grande LIVING: What’s new on the horizon for the City?
Nancy Smith: Well, definitely continuing on with economic development such as all the different variety of retail and restaurants that the city residents want. But even bigger and more important is our partnership with Maricopa Economic Development Alliance (MEDA) and bringing in high-paying jobs.
I’m getting ready to start my campaign for mayor and my platform has some very important things on it. One is finding the first industrial, high-paying employer that will come to Maricopa. One of the exciting things in this year’s budget and in partnership with MEDA, is creating a master plan for the industrial park planned on city-owned land on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.
My other critical element is getting a project on AZ-347 that breaks ground and that keeps us moving forward to complete expansion on that critical road. We have quite a few irons in the fire for this road. I attended the Arizona State Transportation Board meeting in May where they reviewed their preliminary five-year-plan, and I was delighted that AZ-347 shows up in many ways. The first is Riggs Road overpass. Not only is it fully funded, the state budget added $16 million to cover inflation. It’s currently in design, a survey was just sent out for public input, and if all goes well, they’ll be at the point where it’ll go to bid for construction in 2025.
The state budget also includes $18 million for the removal of the traffic signals at the Casa Blanca and Concrete Plant intersections. They will change the road so that it becomes a parkway concept. What this does is eliminate the stop-and-go for those traveling north and south and makes for a more constant flow.
Later this year the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), which still maintains the maintenance rights from Smith-Enke Road to the northern boundary, and the city will start a project that will improve AZ-347 from Smith-Enke/347 intersection to the northern city boundary. At Smith-Enke a continuous right turn, off Smith-Enke going north, will be added. For Lakeview Rd/AZ-347, which is out of Rancho El Dorado, a continuous right turn lane heading north will be added and an additional left turn lane into Rancho El Dorado coming south on SR347. After all that a third lane on the east side will be added. That’ll be a major project and require a lot of patience from our citizens. But it will help tremendously.
Grande LIVING: Let’s talk about what’s going on around Copper Sky.
Nancy Smith: The S3 Biotech medical campus will be exciting. They are moving dirt, and we look forward to them submitting their final plans and being able to see something go vertical.
Then at Copper Sky, at the park, we have added some elements in our capital improvement plan for next year to improve it by adding more family elements. We have
this beautiful green area around the lake and we don’t do much with it, so we’re looking to incorporate a partnership with a restaurant. And we’ll add some things like the giant game formations, checkers and chess you see in parks, and more ways for families to hang out and do things like listen to music
Grande LIVING: The City has been very proactive in elements like the art and beautification around town.
Nancy Smith: Just recently we had a competition for signal box art. I’ve seen some of the artwork that has been submitted and it is very, very beautiful. But the crux of art being added to our community is that a community that is diverse and has artistic offerings helps in economic development. There are companies that want to come and support a community that has art as one of their offerings. And we have a significant number of artists in the community who enjoy the idea that we support the arts.
One thing to note is that our new entry monument and landscaping has been noticed by other cities that have state routes through their cities, and they’re asking, “How did you get that approved? We need something like that.” Also for new businesses that considered coming to Maricopa, once that landscaping went up and that monument went up, they’ve indicated, “That is absolutely beautiful.” Art is in the eye of the beholder and I love it.
Grande LIVING: Has there been any talk of a performing arts center?
Nancy Smith: Yes, we have a new police department building going up right across the street from the current one. Once the current building is vacated, the concept is that half of it would be a very small performing arts center. It would have a stage that could be used for poetry slams, galleries, plays, concerts, even business presentations. We would start out small but it will be very valuable to our city.
Grande LIVING: What is your favorite event that the City hosts each year?
Nancy Smith: I would say the new Copa Cultural Night Market is my favorite, because it celebrates all diversity at one event. We had a lot of individual groups celebrating events such as Black History Month, Cinco de Mayo, and other cultures. Most made a request of the City to join in on those individual events. It just became clear that what we really need is to celebrate the diversity of our city all at one time. This event brings in dance, food, art and other elements from many different cultures and gives us the opportunity to celebrate everyone together.
We held our second one in March, and it was estimated that 5,000 people attended. The first year had 3,000 people. You get to see, hear, feel and taste cultures all at one event. To me, that’s a celebration of everything we have in common because we all have to eat. We all love art and music.
Grande LIVING: What else is there that you’d like to talk about?
Nancy Smith: I was asked recently at a town hall about one of the things that I’m most proud of for the City of Maricopa, and to me, there’s a lot of things to be proud of. But one thing that I’m proud of is that from incorporation of the city until today, we have always had a mayor and city council that has insisted on being conservative with the budgeting. Because of our conservatism, the City has a solid reserve account, which is critical for a new city, and we budget below our means to save for important capital projects in the future.
With this philosophy, the city is able to complete these projects without putting additional tax on our homeowners and our businesses. I love the financial stability. On top of that we (City Council) have, over the last five years, lowered our property tax rate every year, primary and secondary.
Grande LIVING: What do you see as the attraction for Maricopa from outsiders coming in? There are the housing permits. Maricopa has four, five, six times the number of permits issued as other communities. What’s the driving factor in the growth?
Nancy Smith: I think there are several things. Our median age is 35, so it’s a younger community, and I really do believe that the young people in the city love that aspect. When they go out to the parks, when they go to the events, they’re seeing a lot of young families and a lot of children. Another element is if you compare prices to homes here in the City of Maricopa to Chandler, Tempe, it’s a significant difference. When I talk to someone regarding how they feel about the City of Maricopa, outside of the traffic on 347, people love living here.
There’s a sense of community. This is due to the friends and/or family they knew before they arrived. Many families with children enjoy also having their grandparents in the same community. One of the big challenges is to always keep that community feel.
That’s something that we strive to do on a pretty regular basis by having events and bringing our community together and having a lot of fun together.