(Casa Grande, 2019)
Matt manages his family’s small RV dealership and repair shop in Casa Grande, where he works side by side with his parents daily. It is said that he is the oldest person in Pinal County to still get an allowance from his parents because his mom still signs the checks. Matt is the third, but hopefully not last, generation to run a business in Casa Grande for 57 years. It has evolved from an agricultural chemical company to an RV dealership today. As a lifelong Casa Grande resident and third generation Arizonan, he has seen the many changes and challenges in Casa Grande and Arizona. He started his career in local politics and public service as the Student Body president of Casa Grande Jr. High School and then Casa Grande Union High School. Matt is a proud third generation ASU Sun Devil and lives with his wife, Erica, an artist, who is also a Casa Grande native, their one Chihuahua and two Dachshunds.
1. Can you please describe your work and how public policy impacts how you manage your organization?
Public policy impacts me in a variety of ways, being on both sides of it. For my day job as a small business owner, I see how policy affects landowners, taxes, and customers alike. Decisions made at the local and state level can have significant impacts on property taxes and services for business owners. Sales tax rates have a direct impact on consumers’ buying decisions, while sales taxes provide most of the general funds for municipalities in our state. It is a delicate balance trying to provide services and a reasonable tax rate.
As a Casa Grande City Councilman, I also set public policy for our community. It is a great duty to ensure people are heard and treated fairly while providing for the greater good. Weighing the needs of all stakeholders is an important part of the process. Lately, we have been challenged with residential density changes and workforce housing needs. We have to make sure there is an adequate supply of housing while being respectful of our water situation. As a city we are always affected by state policies that we have no control over. Being in a more rural area we sometimes bear the brunt of policies set in the Arizona Legislature that have a bigger impact on us. The water cutbacks have hit us especially hard while the more urban areas are seeing no restrictions. Setting public policy at the city level allows you to see the immediate impacts on your community; we are the closest governing body to the citizens. People that are affected by decisions are the same ones you see around town and at the grocery store.
2. Do you have a favorite quote that is meaningful to you?
I have two that are meaningful to me, and they are simple. The first one is attributed to John Maxwell: “Teamwork makes the Dream work.” I use this often with the Casa Grande Youth Commission as their liaison. It just teaches them that nothing can be accomplished on their own. You need to include everyone and work together to get our projects done.
The second is attributed to Hannibal: “Either I will find a way, or I will make one.” I use this at work. As a small business owner, I use this on a daily basis. It means a lot because one of my key employees found this quote and wrote it down for me and said it reminded her of how I do things. We also paraphrase it sometimes like the great Southern Philosopher Larry the Cable Guy intones: “Git ‘er Done”!
3. Is there a book you would recommend to the Fellows?
I read a lot for pleasure and relaxation, I think it is a good way to unwind and take care of yourself. Right now, I am reading the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) series By George R.R. Martin. It is definitely an escape from reality.
4. How has the Fellows Network been useful to you?
The Network has been invaluable, especially for my public service. It has let me be part of a statewide Network that makes a large state a small community. I have been able to share ideas with members of other city councils, meet up with Fellows at state events and feel included. It means a lot to me since I am not in Maricopa County where most of the policy and decisions are made for the state. It makes this small-town guy feel like a part of it all and helps me to make a difference. Many times in Pinal County we feel disconnected, but being a Fellow helps us to participate in statewide conversations.
During my time in my cohort, I had a great opportunity to meet many different people with different views and beliefs. I loved our discussions and debates, learning from everyone and seeing things through different lenses. It truly was a place to share ideas, learn and listen to the other side of an issue.
5. What do you see as potential opportunities strengthening civic health in Arizona?
After the recent elections, I think we have a great opportunity for people to get educated and learn about the process. We need to take this time and bring people together to accomplish common goals. Statewide and local level emotions are running high. Both parties need to evaluate and see what worked and why some things did not. Being divisive and spouting vitriolic comments is not going to solve problems. Nothing is going to happen on one side or the other, it takes people working as a team to make meaningful changes to produce solid policy. The most important thing is to keep the great state of Arizona moving forward.
If you missed a Fellows Spotlight, you can view them on the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership website now.