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Youth, safety, and transportation are key priorities for Florence Mayor Tara Walter.

Small Town. Big Future.
Regional Profile: Mayor Tara Walter

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As an assistant principal, educator, truancy officer, religious education instructor, Little League coach, and mother, Tara Walter has long focused on youth. That focus didn’t change much when Walter was elected as mayor of the town of Florence in Pinal County. 

“We implemented a youth council to engage and interact with the local youth in our community,” says Walter. “I really believe our youth are our future. I want them to have every opportunity to be involved in their local governments and understand the process. This way, when it is time for them to take over, they’re ready.”

The desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others is a passion that fuels her public service, which was jumpstarted by a personal experience.

“It was 2012. Our home was broken into while we were at home. Our oldest son was having a sleepover in the front room. We woke up in the early hours of the morning to an open door and an alarm sounding.” Walter called police, but the response took 36-minutes. Walter soon learned that the town had a shortage of police and fire officers assigned to her area.

“Because this event happened, I started going to (Town) Council meetings and communicating concerns,” relates Walter. “Through that experience, I realized that I really enjoyed participating in the public process.” Through her experiences, she proclaimed her “passion to work hard, in an effort to make a positive difference and impact.” She advocates for and enjoys when the public is actively involved.

Walter, who had earlier enjoyed making a difference as president of her homeowner’s association, ran for Town Council and won. After her first term, she was selected by her peers to serve as vice mayor. At the end of her second term her constituents encouraged her to run for mayor. She was elected in 2016.

She recalled when she first was elected to the town council in 2012, “The newspaper announced it as ‘the first Anthem resident elected to Florence Town Council,’” recalls Walter. “The town has always been segmented based geographic locations where people reside. One of my first goals was to unify all of those areas and provide equal services throughout Florence.” 

Situated directly between Phoenix and Tucson, Florence has a population of just over 26,000, but it continues to grow rapidly.

“What I enjoy most about my job is being able to bring that positive growth into the community while maintaining our ‘Number One Safe Town in Arizona’ rating,” says Walter. “There are a lot of exciting projects in the planning stages for the upcoming year.”

Among her highest priorities: improving transportation infrastructure. Walter noted the infrastructure needs are diverse and complex and highlighted that we “need a plan that builds for 2050, not just one that fixes 1950.” Walter has been deeply engaged with MAG in the Regional Commuter Rail System Study update. 

“We are really looking forward to the outcomes of the study, because that will help guide those informed decisions regarding future regional high capacity transit investments.”

She also is a proponent of the proposed North/South freeway, a 36-mile high capacity facility extending off the US-60, passing near downtown Florence and connecting to I-10 near Eloy.

“And that traffic, that flow of transportation, will greatly benefit our citizens, as well as visitors, and people who are traveling.”

Walter, the mother of three children and the assistant principal of a school with approximately 800 kids, finds herself juggling a lot of priorities. However, she clearly has a passion for all that she does and appears to maintain a good balance.

“I always say if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, go find something else to do,” says Walter. “To me it means I’m living life to the fullest. When I do have any free time, I like to go out to the woods to go camping and hiking with my husband and children.” Another priority is “balancing out school and sports; we always have fun as a family.”

She finds being a mayor makes for a good role model.

“My 8-year old daughter came with me last night and we were doing a presentation on our permanent base expenditure, so she definitely engages in the public process at a young age. She thinks that it is really cool and she likes to know what is going on. I think at that age it is important to understand the world around you and that when you grow up, you can make a difference.” 

Published August 1, 2018

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The Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) is a Council of Governments (COG) that serves as the regional planning agency for the metropolitan Phoenix area.

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