By Richard Urban / NewsBreak Maricopa, AZ
When Maricopa Mayor Christian Price’s wife sends him off to get a few items at the store, he said it could be several hours before she sees him again.
“I’ll see someone in one aisle who wants to talk, and then someone else in the next aisle will come up to me with a question,” he said. The next thing he knows, he has spent the afternoon there. And that is how it has been since he became mayor in 2012.
“When you take this gig, you know you get paid part time, but it ain't part time. You’re working full time and a half,” Price said. “I've never met a constituent … that said, ‘Oh, you know, I see that you're only getting me part-time results.’ So, I found myself working 40, 50, 60 hours a week as mayor” in addition to his job as a financial advisor for Sierra Wealth Group.
“While my family is supposed to come first, I also have an agreement with the people of the city that I was going to serve them. And so, for me, that meant I serve them first,” he said.
As a consequence, however, he could not devote as much time to growing his business as a financial advisor, helping as much as he would like in helping to raise his four children or planning for his own financial future.
“I took care of all my existing clients. But I did not go out and generate a lot of new business, simply because I didn't have the time,” he said.
That is likely to change on July 1, when the 47-year-old four-term mayor resigns to become president and CEO of the Maricopa Economic Development Alliance.
“Now that I'm going to a more structured job where I'll have weekends and evenings and probably a ton more hours per day, the reality is I can do more financial planning than I ever did as mayor. I literally will have two full-time jobs, but I can completely run them. No problem,” he said.
While the offer from the development agency was unexpected, he said, he viewed it as something that came at the right time in his life while allowing him to continue to serve Maricopa and do many of the things he enjoyed most as mayor.
Most important, he said, he will be able to focus on the next step in Maricopa’s economic evolution from a rural community of cotton and cattle farms with barely 1,000 people to a 19-year-old city with 42 square miles of housing, retail businesses, and recreational facilities that about 62,000 people call home.
That next step is starting to happen outside the city limits in central Pinal County as the electric vehicle maker Lucid Motors, the electric truck manufacturer Nikola, and the recently announced LG Energy Solutions battery factory bring jobs closer to home.
To bring those kinds of jobs to Maricopa, he said he hopes to leverage the connections he has made as mayor through the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, where he served on the executive board and as president for two years.
“They know me, they trust me, they like me, they understand me, and they get what I'm doing,” he said. “Our job is to compete in that space, specifically for Maricopa, to attract those large-scale, high-wage-paying jobs to this area. And who can sell Maricopa better than its former mayor?”
Looking back on his time as mayor, he said he is particularly proud of four accomplishments.
Copper Sky Recreation Complex: Voters approved a bond to create a sports and recreation complex in 2008 but it would take six years before it opened. When Price was elected mayor in 2012, he started asking what the community wanted, and later oversaw development of the 120-acre multigenerational facility and a regional park.
State Route 347 overpass: Price said he spent months building relationships with Arizona Department of Transportation officials before pitching what became known as the Maricopa Method to accelerate the project. He leveraged the city’s capital budget, federal transportation funds, and private funding to bring down the state’s contribution to $25 million of the $55 million total.
City Hall: While the decision to build a city hall to replace the 28 trailers that housed government offices after Maricopa’s 2003 incorporation was made before he was elected, he is pleased by way he was able to see it through. “It gave us credibility and a place for people to do business and to gather,” he said.
Partnerships with the Ak-Chin and Gila River Native American communities: “One of the things that I'm most proud about is the relationship that I have helped cultivate and develop between the two Indian nations that we sit directly between,” Price said. Those relationships had practical results, too, including an $8 million contribution over five years from the Ak-Chin Nation to cover operating costs at Copper Sky.