SIERRA VISTA — “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” was a common theme Tuesday evening as the county’s Redistricting Advisory Commission held the last public hearing for residents of Sierra Vista and Huachuca City about changing the boundaries of the Board of Supervisors’ Districts 1, 2 and 3.
There is no requirement to change the boundaries due to a population shift as reflected in the 2020 Census. The current boundaries still meet the population thresholds.
Currently, D1 has a population of 43,384, D2 has 40,864 and D3 has 41,099 which are within the 10% deviation range, said Sharon Gilman, associate county administrator.
When talks began last month, Redistricting Advisory Commission (RAC) member Rachel Gray, the Sierra Vista city council mayor pro tem, asked the commission to change the boundaries of D1 so Fort Huachuca could be added in as the city and the fort have a common interest, one of the guiding principles of redistricting. Her idea was to add the fort and the west end of the city to D1, while dropping the east side of the city to District 3.
Currently, D3 runs across the northern part of the county from Bowie to Benson and down to Huachuca City and then heads south to include Fort Huachuca. D2 now extends from the New Mexico border west to Hereford and the eastern outskirts of Sierra Vista.
If the scenario to redraw the boundaries to accommodate Gray’s request comes to fruition, D2 and D3 would see significant changes. D2 in particular would stretch from the border with New Mexico west along the Mexican border to the border with Santa Cruz County. D3 would take in the forsaken eastern outskirts of Sierra Vista.
But, it has not been favored by county residents, and over the past three weeks residents from all three districts including Bisbee, Douglas, Benson and Willcox opposed any change. Now, Sierra Vista and Hereford are added to the list of those who want the status quo to remain.
Gilman explained, “Redistricting principles ensures equal voter representation, and electoral districts that reflect each area’s diverse population. The district must be geographically contiguous, compact and maintain integrity of a city, community of interest. How and where district lines are drawn can shape a community’s ability to elect the representative of their choice. A.R.S. § 11-212 requires county supervisorial districts to have equal population with no more than 10% difference in population.”
Any changes to D2 has to take into account the higher Hispanic population, which makes it a majority minority district and must be maintained as such.
Another consideration of the change is the need to add new precincts as the new boundary lines would split existing precincts, said Gilman.
Adding precincts means additional costs as well as finding more poll workers, as was pointed out by Steven Scheumann. He also stated Hereford does not have much in common with Willcox and San Simon, and he preferred remaining in D2.
Johann Wallace, Huachuca City resident, said, “You’re belittling people on the east side of Sierra Vista. And what happens in San Simon or Bowie is of no benefit to Huachuca City.”
Patricia Smith stated, “It doesn’t make a lot of sense. The county has little impact on the fort. There’s no reason to make these changes.”
Sierra Vista resident Tricia Gerrodette agreed with the speakers and added, “I think it’s insulting to the east side of Sierra Vista. Herford doesn’t have a lot in common with Bowie. Keep things the way they are.”
Also speaking out about being included in D3 under the new proposed boundaries was Jo Ann Caruthers, a resident of Hereford, who said, “I don’t want to get thrown in to Willcox, San Simon and Bowie. It’s insulting throwing us into a new district. And, my precinct will be split. No change.”
Carolyn Umphrey said she did not feel the west end of the city was properly represented and approved the new boundaries.
Jean Guiffrida, Hereford, pointed out Fort Huachuca “is a big economic engine” and did not see how adding the fort to D1 would be a problem.
For Sierra Vista Mayor Rick Mueller, he would rather see the west end of the city added to make the district whole as a “community of interest,” while keeping the east side area within the district.
A community of interest refers to a group of people with a common set of concerns that may be affected by legislation, explained Gilman.
Mueller also thanked the current Board of Supervisors and the RAC for having the public meetings to receive comment.
“We didn’t have this process last time,” he continued. “We weren’t consulted when the west end of the city was taken out of D1. And the west end needs to be in D1. It needs to be part of our city.”
Now that all the comments from the public have been taken, RAC members will decide whether or not to add Fort Huachuca to D1. In early meetings, members of the more rural areas saw no reason to change the boundaries.
RAC members will be voting on the proposed change in boundaries on Friday, Nov. 19 at 9 a.m. in the meeting room of the Board of Supervisors on Melody Lane in Bisbee.