Newsroom | Apache Junction Mayor Follows Unique Trail to Leadership

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It was a love for horses that brought Chip Wilson to City Hall and eventually all the way to the mayor’s office.

Regional Profile, Regional Council

Above: Mayor Wilson waves to the crowd during the Apache Junction Veterans Day parade in 2021. Photo courtesy of Arianna Grainey/Independent Newspapers

Apache Junction logoIt was a love for horses that brought Chip Wilson to City Hall and eventually all the way to the mayor’s office.

The journey began at a meeting 15 years ago where a group of equestrian supporters were discussing the need for advocates. As president of the Superstition Horsemen’s Association and president of the Arizona Horse Council, it was a role that Wilson found to be a good fit. 

“I represent the equestrian community. We felt that there was need for a voice on the city council representing not only the horse owners, but also the trail users of all of the wonderful trails in and around the area,” relates Wilson, who also serves on the board of the East Valley Back Country Horsemen. “We have been successful in finding ways to work together in this urban area and make our community overall welcome to everybody.”

History of Managing GrowthApache Junction Mayor Chip Wilson

Wilson spent nine years on the city council, followed by four years as vice mayor of Apache Junction. He was elected mayor in 2020, and began his two-year term in January 2021. He has been a key player in the city’s recent annexation of four-square miles of land south of the city, which will be developed into nearly 11,000 new homes over the next decade. The planning took years, and the Superstition Vistas project is the single biggest project in the city’s history.

“One of the things we are very concerned about is uncontrolled growth,” says Mayor Wilson. “That is why (this development) is critical to overall evolution of the East Valley. Growth has been managed to make sure the infrastructure is in place. That means roads, utilities and services, as well as a transitioning economy, tech corridors. The industrial development around the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is great. More jobs, and now we will have places for them to live.”

Mayor Wilson credits the close collaboration with Mesa, Queen Creek and Pinal County in planning for anticipated growth.

His Wish for the Valley

Achieving collaboration is not always easy. Mayor Wilson prides himself on exploring all sides of an issue before coming to a decision. In fact, if he could grant one wish to the region, it would be the ability for everybody to listen to every side of an issue or concern.

“We face some problems in our lives and our community, and so many times people don’t listen to the whole thing and take into account other sides and other views. I wish that I could get that as something that people would take forward and actually grab ahold of and use.” 

Prepared for Public Service

Mayor Wilson says his background helped him prepare for public service. An Air Force veteran of 22 years who also worked with a large private military contractor, he says he learned a lot about the protocols and processes of government, including municipal government. 

“That is the aspect of my job I enjoy most, working with the public and helping them understand the reasons for the process,” he says.

Asked what his fellow Regional Council members might be surprised to learn about him, Mayor Wilson recalls his service during the Vietnam War. He relates one story involving an SR-71 Blackbird, the “black plane that flies real fast and real high and takes some fantastic pictures.” The plane had run into some major mechanical issues.

“I was working on a KC-135 and we did three attempts to try to give him some fuel, and then he went out from there and ended up bailing out. And the plane turned and went down. And then there was a bunch of fighter aircraft that came in that had to totally destroy the remainder of the plane sitting on the ground. We had to refuel the fighter aircraft so they could get in and out,” he recalls. “It was a unique experience.” The pilot survived the incident.

Mayor Wilson packs in supplies with horses to crews working on the Apache Trail near Superior.Travel, Horses, and Traveling With Horses

During his Air Force career, Mayor Wilson traveled extensively, including visiting every U.S. state except Florida and Louisiana, which he still hopes to visit someday. In the meantime, his advocacy and work with horses continues to fill his free time. He often takes his miniature horse, a certified service animal, to events across the state to serve as an equine ambassador. He also assists the Back Country Horsemen with trail maintenance and improvements, removing overgrowth and fixing areas of erosion. 

“I’ve also been involved in packing in supplies for different groups that are back there working on them, because the Forest Service gets in some assistance from different groups and they need to have the supplies for them — to set up their meals and their equipment and everything. We’ve packed it in there for them so they get it. We then turn around and pack everything back out.”

What’s Next

Wilson is currently seeking a second term as mayor. He says he loves representing the community.

“We are growing, and soon will be a very huge voice for the entire East Valley,” he says. “I’m very proud of the fact that I am the mayor of the city of Apache Junction and represent Apache Junction.”

Mayor Wilson has two sons and four grandchildren and recently celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary to his wife, Peggy.

Published February 18, 2022