Coconino County Treasurer Sarah Benatar plays key role in fiscal health of schools, hospitals, public safety

July 30, 2021

By Matt Ellsworth

Sarah Benatar

Sarah Benatar (Flagstaff, 2015)
Coconino County Treasurer
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1. Can you please describe your work and how public policy impacts how you manage your organization?

I often am asked this question as county treasurer. It is a unique and interesting public office. Although we are most known as property tax collectors, county treasurers also serve as the custodian of public monies for all taxing entities located within the county. From managing investment portfolios, ensuring tax dollars are safe and accounted for, and providing financial guidance to public entities, our work every day has significant impacts in the overall fiscal health of our schools, public safety, hospitals, water districts, fire districts, and so much more. Taxation is also fertile ground for frequent legislative change and intense political discourse, necessitating keen understanding and skill in building alliances, lobbying, and providing technical assistance to numerous other elected officials.

2. How has the Fellows Network been useful to you?

Being a part of the Fellows Network has allowed me to connect with colleagues across the state to work on public policy issues. For example, several legislators and governors’ office staff are fellow Flinn-Brown alumni, and the shared experience has enhanced my ability to connect and work with them.

3. What suggestions would you have for Fellows running for elected office?

Never forget about why you are running and the passion and values that drive you. Serving in elected office has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, and it will be for you too, if you run as yourself and let your values dictate whether you are elected, as opposed to allowing perceived electability to dictate your values.

4. What do you see as potential opportunities strengthening civic health in Arizona?

Civic health is all about citizens and their governments working together, and while there are many measures of this, of particular importance right now is confidence in institutions, which, according to the Center for the Future of Arizona, was as low as 33% nationally in 2018—and that was pre-pandemic. Regardless of political affiliation, citizen engagement is a universal value for any democracy. The opportunity lies in recognizing the data-driven nature of both defining civic health and improving it, and the greatest opportunity for public officials is being aware of this data and using it to improve constituent engagement and confidence. By building up confidence and trust, we can all work better together to create lasting positive changes in our communities and for our future.

If you missed a Fellows’ Spotlight, you can view them on the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership website now.