Newsroom | Mayor Robert Morris Has Firm Hold of Reins in Cave Creek

MAG News

Mayor Morris is an avid horseman and water conservation advocate who has served his North Valley community of nearly 5,000 residents for more than 10 years.

Water issues top the bucket list for Arizona native

Regional Profile, Regional Council

Cave Creek LogoDescended from Arizona Territory pioneers who homesteaded in Oak Creek, Cave Creek Mayor Robert Morris embodies the town’s official motto, “Where the Wild West lives.” He is an avid horseman and water conservation advocate who has served his North Valley community of nearly 5,000 residents for more than 10 years.

“I enjoy hard tasks. I enjoy bringing order out of chaos,” says Mayor Morris. “I feel like I'm contributing, and it's fun for me. I never think about how much time I'm putting in or what I'm doing, it is just a lot of fun. I enjoy the people, and I enjoy the work.”

Arizona Native Traveled the World

Born in Phoenix and a graduate of Alhambra High School, Morris received a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from Arizona State University. He embarked on a career in chemical engineering that carried him through many positions across the U.S., including general management of a multibillion-dollar petrochemical facility. He moved into marketing where he was executive manager of marketing businesses across the West. His highly complex responsibilities required technical, personnel, financial, construction, and legal expertise – along with personal accountability.

“No matter what it was, I was responsible for the legal, the financial, everything. If somebody made a mistake, that was my mistake.”

He now brings that ethic to the Town of Cave Creek.

Water Issues Top His Agenda

With a passion for water conservation and a deep knowledge of finance, water, pumps, pipes, and chemistry, Morris says his first town service was as a member of the Water Advisory Committee. 

“I think water in Arizona is mispriced, misallocated, and frankly, wasted. We just have to have a comprehensive policy not only in the towns, but in the state. The state needs a comprehensive water policy. We haven't done anything with that since (Bruce) Babbitt was governor many years ago,” he says.

Mayor Morris conducts a meeting in Cave Creek.

Mayor Morris notes that water issues in Arizona are not new.

“My grandparents homesteaded on Oak Creek in what is Cornville today. They lost that (property) mainly because they could not get water to water their crops,” he says. “The family story – I have no idea if it's true – was that the copper mines had all of the water rights, and they couldn't get water for their fruit trees. So, they left Cornville and moved to Phoenix. And here I am today.”

Greatest Accomplishment

In addition to improvements in improving the maintenance, operational and financial aspects of the town’s water utility, Morris is proud of his role in creating the first town fire department to Cave Creek. It is part of the Greater Phoenix Automatic Aid system. In May 2020, the town was hit hard by two separate wildland fires, and the private company that provided emergency services was “inadequate.” Morris helped establish the town’s own fire department, with the town investing in additional fire engines and contracting with the Daisy Mountain fire department to run it. 

“We did all that, which is probably 40 percent of our general fund, without any new taxes, because I'm an unabashed financial conservative and I believe in doing things right but doing them at the lowest possible cost.” Ironically, the funding for the fire department was made possible from improvements to the water utility. 

“Dunny’s Daddy”

Before entering politics, Morris discovered a love of horses after being introduced to riding by his wife, Jana. He laughs over his first riding lessons at the age of 50 with a barrel racer instructor in Glendale.

“She had a barn with a lot of different horses in it. And there were all these little teenage girls learning to ride. And then there was me. My horse was named Dunny, and the teenagers always called me ‘Dunny's Daddy.’”

Bob and Jana soon went “full cowboy” by competing nationwide in Cowboy Mounted Shooting – a timed event involving shooting blanks at balloons. In 2007, he won the Men’s Class 2 World Championship while Jana won the Ladies Class 3 World Championship at the South Point Hotel and Arena in Las Vegas. 

Mayor Morris and his wife Jana (left). Morris riding and shooting (right).

“Being around the horses, wearing real cowboy hats and pretending like you're a cowboy riding out there, it just was a hoot, and probably the most fun I ever had in my life,” says Morris. “We traveled the country. One of the highlights was I got to ride on Custer's battlefield and take the same trail that the cavalry did in 1876. And the Little Big Horn River is wide. It's deep and it's really, really cold.”

Morris also conceived and created an organization which funded, built, and then donated to the Arizona Game and Fish Department the Ben Avery Mounted Shooting Center in north Phoenix. 

While he no longer rides competitively, Morris still enjoys horses, along with playing pickleball three times a week and spending time with his large family.

A Gift to the Region

When asked if he had one gift for the region what it would be, Morris turns reflective. 

“I'm struck by how much faster business works and gets things done. Which is surprising, because the same high-quality people are on both sides. And I've concluded that the reason that happens is that there is an alignment of objectives in business that does not exist in government. And so, if there was one gift, it would be to get an alignment between the objectives we're looking for and the results we're looking for. With that alignment, success is fast and success is complete. And I don't see that in politics.”

Green waste drop off day in Cave CreekMayor Morris greets workers during green waste drop-off day in Cave Creek.

Not Riding Into the Sunset Anytime Soon

Elected mayor in 2022, Morris is halfway through his first term. 

“We're on two-year terms, so it seems like we're always running for office, and on my bucket list is to see if I can get to four-year staggered terms in our town. But yes, I plan to run again,” says Morris. 

In short, he’s not ready to leave the arena.

“I think there are some management process improvements that are still out there in front of us. There's finishing up the water. There's growth issues out here. We have traffic safety issues. Well, there's issues everywhere. And I'm enjoying it. I enjoy the problems. I enjoy the people.”

 

Published December 28, 2023