Newsroom | From Outer Space to the City of Maricopa: Mayor Nancy Smith Solves Problems Big and Small

MAG News

She’s worked on projects ranging from the International Space Station to classified military defense systems. But today, Maricopa Mayor Nancy Smith is focused on leading the fast-growing community of Maricopa in northern Pinal County.

Regional Profile, Regional Council

She’s worked on projects ranging from the International Space Station to classified military defense systems. But today, Maricopa Mayor Nancy Smith is focused on leading the fast-growing community of Maricopa in northern Pinal County.

Smith graduated at the top of her class with a degree in electronic technology — the first woman from her college to graduate with that degree. She was immediately hired by Motorola and later General Dynamics. She moved from working in a technology center to the finance department and eventually into project management.

“I worked on many fun projects, such as the International Space Station and many military projects that I’m not able to share for confidential reasons,” she says. “But anything you can think of in terms of missiles, in terms of rockets, in terms of military defense mechanisms. But the space station was really fun, because everyone understands what that one is.” 

Mayor Smith, a founder of the youth Rocket ChallengeA Move to Maricopa

When Smith and her husband, Anthony, moved to the city of Maricopa prior to its incorporation, they immediately became active in the community. Nancy became involved in a number of nonprofit organizations, while Anthony became active in planning and zoning. He was later elected mayor and then a county supervisor. 

Smith continued her nonprofit work, becoming a co-founder of FOR Maricopa Food Bank (see photo above), founder of the seniors Lunch & Learn program, co-founder of Maricopa Friends of the Arts, founder of a youth Rocket Challenge (right), and much more. The prospect of serving her community in an elected role was solidified when Nancy began corresponding with a city council member, and he invited her to meet.

“I think he was actually shocked when I went to his place of business and met with him, and we became friends quickly. And from that point, I was even more intrigued with the process of creating a city. It’s kind of like ‘Builder Bob,’ you get to create a city from almost nothing. When we moved here it was 15-hundred people, and now we’re nearing 70,000, so you really, truly, are creating a city.”

Transportation a Top Priority

Among her most significant priorities is improving transportation in the area.

“Stare Route 347 is our most significant challenge. Our city has grown so quickly that two lanes in each direction is not sufficient to accommodate rush-hour traffic for our residents,” says Smith. 

But funding improvements remains a challenge. Smith’s hopes for the passage of a proposition backed by the Pinal Regional Transportation Authority were dashed recently when voters narrowly rejected the measure. Now, her hopes turn toward the passage of an extension of Proposition 400 in Maricopa County.
“It definitely becomes not only an issue in regard to moving people along, but also a safety issue. This past two weeks, we’ve had five days where the road was shut down for many hours, so now we’re looking at ways to work with all the other government entities to help with safety and keeping the traffic moving.”

MAG recently completed a study along the SR 347 corridor that recommended several improvements, including adding a lane in each direction, a grade-separated interchange at Riggs Road/SR 347, and other improvements. While the interchange may be constructed in the near term, MAG, ADOT, and regional stakeholders are still in the process of identifying funding for the lane widening. 

Better Budget News 

Funding is easier to find at the local level. 

“We have been conservative with our budget, and because of that we have a reserve that allows us to consider improvements in terms of adding facilities in our city without bonds and additional taxes to our residents, which is magnificent,” she says. Smith points to a recently constructed Library and Cultural Center. It was paid out of the reserve and development fees, with no additional costs to taxpayers. A soon-to-be-built new police department will be funded the same way. 

“I’m really, really proud of that, because a lot of cities have to have new facilities, but they have to go to bonds, which affects their property tax.” She adds that Maricopa has been able to reduce its primary property tax for the past five years.

Tougher Than She Looks

Of all her successes, Smith says the one that brings her most pride was galvanizing her community to gain support for a county redistricting map. Her goal was to create a district made up of like-minded communities. The originally proposed map linked Maricopa to a broad area with different priorities.

“I went into full force to going into Pinal County board meetings to ensure they were aware that the Maricopa residents were becoming very active…they were the community that wrote in the most significant requests, so it just had a wonderful influence in regard to bringing about change,” says Smith, who noted a total of four maps were introduced that were opposed by her community. 

“At the very last minute, they came through with a map that did exactly what the city of Maricopa wanted,” she says.

Nancy Smith took a motorcycle trip with college classmatesHer willingness to go to the mat on issues she is passionate about surprises many.

“I think it shocks people when I come forward with that kind of tenacity, because I’m usually smiling and generally just easygoing, but if I feel like something is important, that tenacity is going to come out and that can be shocking,” she says.

It’s the same adventurous spirit that propelled her on one of the best trips of her life — a motorcycle trip with her classmates right after graduating college. Her all-male classmates were planning a motorcycle trip. They joked with her about going along, knowing she didn’t own a motorcycle.

“And I’m like, ‘no, I don’t, but my dad does, and I know how to ride.’ So that was a great, great, three-week trip,” she laughs.

Mayor Smith shows her superpowerFilling the Gaps

Smith says she loves being a problem-solver. For example, she recently received a call from a resident whose dialysis center had just closed, meaning a 35-minute drive to the city of Casa Grande for treatment. Smith began making calls, reaching out to Maricopa’s new hospital to see if they had space to provide in partnership with the dialysis center. The two groups are now in talks to see if they can work it out.

“It’s part of my passion just to serve the community, find gaps, and fill that gap,” she says.

Mayor Smith hopes to continue serving her community as mayor.

“I have served eight years so far and have two more to go,” she says. “I love serving, so there is a good chance I’ll run again.”

Published November 22, 2022