SIERRA VISTA — After his arrival in Sierra Vista in 1978, it didn’t take long for Joe Kraps to become synonymous with community outreach efforts, especially when it comes to cars and kids.
In addition to serving on Sierra Vista’s Planning and Zoning Commission for a number of years, as well as a four-year stint on the city council, Kraps also is the founding president of the Sierra Vista Car Club and founding president of the Sierra Vista Boys & Girls Club, back in 1996.
Today, his focus is on the annual Kars for Kids car show, a project he and Sheriff Mark Dannels work on together in conjunction with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). He also sits on the Sierra Vista Unified School District bond oversight committee, where he chairs the construction subcommittee.
In the following question and answer series, Kraps talks about his arrival in Sierra Vista, his passion for cars and how his desire to help the community’s youth sparked the evolution of the community’s Boys & Girls Club. He also touches on some of the challenges the bond oversight committee faces.
Herald Review: When did you arrive in Sierra Vista and what brought you here?
Joe Kraps: I arrived in Sierra Vista in December of 1978 to start teaching at Buena High School in January of 1979. My wife, Gale, was finishing her degree at NAU (Northern Arizona University) and we both moved down here August 1979, 40 years ago. My wife and I are both NAU grads.
I taught at Buena for two-and-a-half years, from 1979 to 1981, until the infamous strike in 1981. They lost a lot of teachers, and I was one of them. They became too political and forgot what they were supposed to be doing.
I’ve had four main places that I worked for in Sierra Vista. I worked for Bella Vista Ranches for a few years, then worked for KE&G who was doing all the underground installation for the water company. I worked for them for a little over 12 years, and my main role was doing all the commercial buildings. We built a lot of buildings during that time, from 1982 until 1994.
Sometime around 1998 I started Zephyr Construction with a gentleman named Larry Henson, until Larry bought me out in 2004. He continued the company until he passed away.
HR: How far back does your passion for cars go?
JK: My dad was a master mechanic. He went to trade school like most guys did after the army, and studied to be a mechanic. We moved from Ohio to Yuma, he worked for the Yuma Proving Grounds for 17 years as a mechanic.
Because he was a mechanic, I grew up working on cars. I followed in my father’s footsteps, tinkering with cars. My first car was a 1946 Ford sedan that I shared with my brother, Jon.
I never was a mechanic like my father, but grew up tinkering with cars.
HR: Why do so many people in the community associate you with cars and kids?
JK: It’s because cars and the Boys & Girls Club are two things I’ve been involved with in Sierra Vista. I’m the founding president of the Sierra Vista Car Club, which got its start in 1988, and the founding president of the Boys & Girls Club. We started the Boys & Girls Club in 1996, and after serving as president, I was on the board for 12 years. I’m still involved with the club, but have faded into the background. We need new blood, new thinking and new ideas.
Eight years ago, Mark Dannels called me and asked that I help him put on a car show — Kars for Kids — in conjunction with the FOP to benefit the Boys & Girls Club. The majority of the proceeds go to the Boys & Girls Club, and a smaller percentage of the money goes to the FOP.
Kars for Kids is currently the club’s biggest fundraiser, and well attended every year.
In June 2021, the club will be celebrating its 25th birthday. We’re already planning something really big for that celebration.
HR: You have been involved with a number of community service projects through the years. How did your commitment to public service start, and what are examples of some of the organizations you’ve served on?
JK: My community service started while I was in Flagstaff before I came to Sierra Vista when I decided to be a Big Brother to a Navajo junior high school student. After a period of time, I was approached by board members and asked if I would serve on the board for the Big Brothers of Flagstaff. I accepted their invitation, and that’s how my public service got started.
After moving to Sierra Vista, I was asked to join the Sierra Vista Beautification Commission, which no longer exists. We went around and looked at businesses and houses and awarded “Business of the Month” and “House of the Month” and we helped with beautification projects in and around Sierra Vista.
I applied for and was appointed to the Sierra Vista Planning and Zoning Commission and in 1991, I was elected to the Sierra Vista City Council. I served from 1991 to 1995.
Sometime in late 1994, I announced that I would not seek re-election to the city council because I wanted to do something for the youth of the community.
At that time, there were two groups in Sierra Vista — one wanted a Boys & Girls Club and the other was pushing for a YMCA. We knew that Sierra Vista could not support the start of two organizations like this, and the Boys & Girls Club was chosen by a vote of two-to-one. In June of 1996 we opened the doors below the Beverage House in the old Bayless Shopping Center.
During that time, I got re-appointed to the P&Z Commission because of my background in construction. I also served on the Sierra Vista Economic Development Foundation for five years. I served as chair of the P&Z through some of my tenure.
When I learned that the Sierra Vista School District wanted a bond oversight committee, I submitted a letter of interest to serve on that committee. Seventeen people submitted letters of interest and all 17 were accepted to the oversight committee. Since then, some of the people have stepped off the committee. Because of my expertise and knowledge in construction, I wanted to serve on the construction sub-committee, and I now chair that subcommittee.
HR: What is the oversight committee’s greatest challenge?
JK: The SFB (School Facilities Board) is our greatest challenge. It’s because they work at their pace.
The bond oversight committee has been in existence for three years now, and the only SFB project that has been approved and funded is the roof at the Rothery Center. With our responsibility to get certain projects on the bond list done, which include roofing and HVAC throughout the district, we’re concerned that we’re not going to get these projects completed within the required timelines if we wait for SFB funding.
We’re trying to wait and use SFB money to help extend the bond funding, but there is a true concern about getting projects completed on the bond list and how long we wait before we pull the trigger. The bond oversight committee has submitted a letter to the school board requesting a work session so we can discuss these projects and the timelines. All of these things have to be taken into consideration.