Maricopa Mayor Nancy Smith didn’t reach her current role through an election, but she didn’t face a big learning curve. Once the City Council unanimously voted to tap Smith, who had been a Council member since 2014, to take the mayor’s gavel in August following the resignation of Christian Price, she jumped to the forefront of the battle to get state Route 347 widened to six lanes for the 13 miles it spans between the city and Interstate 10.
She didn’t miss a beat when voters rejected Pinal County’s Proposition 469, which would have funded that and other road projects, and she’s excited that the road’s design is expected to start this year. “Once the design is done, we will be all ready to go so that when we do find that $300 million to $400 million, everything’s ready to go, put the bids out, let’s get started,” she said. “So I think it’s encouraging for us to know we have some irons in the fire and we’re making small improvements.”
Those could include changing some intersections to improve traffic flow and increased safety enforcement from the state Department of Public Safety, which could release a report about its recommendations in April or May. Maricopa is more than just the sum of how many lanes the highway has to ferry residents to and from jobs. Smith is overseeing the city’s expansion into being more than a bedroom community as construction starts on a new emergency room/hospital. Other uses on what had been part of Copper Sky Regional Park are being considered, as well as how to market municipally owned land on Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway with the goal of attracting a major employer.
She said S3 Biotech is moving quickly on the first phase of its medical campus, with an innovation center and sports academy to follow. “I like the fact that this hospital is so closely linked to sports, because it’s definitely an element that we don’t have here in the City of Maricopa,” she said. As for physicians and other medical personnel living in or interested in coming to the community, “All I see is jobs.”
The Exceptional Community Hospital Maricopa, which opened at the end of 2021, is doing brisk business, Smith said, but Dignity Health has not made any more movement to date toward developing its property on Route 347 at Smith-Enke Road. Maricopa’s 230-acre land purchase for industrial development will go through a master-planning process to prepare it for development, she said.
“It’s something that we desperately need because, going back to high-paying jobs, I want as many of the residents that live in the city of Maricopa working in the City of Maricopa, so they don’t have to venture out onto 347.” She is hopeful that at some point the city will eventually have enough jobs to keep a majority of residents in town, but said she doesn’t think it will happen in the near future.
Smith and her husband Tony moved into their Maricopa home in July 2003 with absolutely no intention of getting into local politics. “But once we moved out here, we got so engaged with the community in a variety of different ways that it almost became this strong desire to just help wherever we could,” she said. Her husband spent four years as mayor and eight years as county supervisor, and Smith’s already getting comfortable in the mayor’s job and planning to run for election in 2024.
“It is a lot more work, but it’s fun work. I’ve had just awesome discussions in trying to really procure what’s best for the City of Maricopa. And to me, I find that just fascinating and fun,” she said.