CASA GRANDE- The wall near Supervisor Jimmie Kerr's desk is filled with accolades and plaques commemorating his service on various boards and committees. Soon the outgoing District 3 Supervisor will be taking those numerous awards off the wall, leaving it for his successor David Snider to fill.
A total of five terms of service on the Pinal County Board of Supervisors is enough for the lifelong Casa Grande resident. He will hang up his gavel on January 1, 2005 to concentrate on his two personal businesses, travel and life at home.
"I haven't made a game plan," Kerr said about his upcoming retirement, "perhaps I'll get the chance to sleep in a little more," he said with a laugh.
This isn't the first time Supervisor Kerr is leaving the County. Before his three terms he recently served as the District 3 Supervisor, Kerr served two terms from 1977 until 1985.
"It was a part-time job back then," Kerr recalled. "You'd put in 15 to 20 hours a week and that was in addition to running my own dry cleaning business."
Before constructing the County Administration building on Cottonwood Lane, Kerr made do with what he was given and used his office in the dry cleaners as his base of operations.
"I remember having the road foreman coming over to the dry cleaners every day to meet with me and go over the schedule," the Supervisor said. "If calls came in I would handle them or one of my dry cleaning staff would take them."
During his first two terms, the County built the office on Cottonwood which gave Kerr a place to conduct County business. Although the Supervisor adds, "I would still meet people over at the cleaners to hear their concerns, even though I had office hours at the new complex."
With two children in college and one nearing graduation from high school and headed for higher education; the $15,000 salary being paid for a part-time job which became more and more like a full-time position forced Kerr to make a decision to leave Pinal County after two successful terms to focus on his business so he could afford to send his kids to college.
Before long, Kerr admitted he was "climbing the walls," looking to serve his community. He was asked to run for Mayor of Casa Grande.
No stranger to the city government structure, Supervisor Kerr served one term as a Councilman and four two-year terms as Mayor before he became a Pinal County Official in 1977.
Tired of climbing the walls, Kerr ran and won another term as Casa Grande Mayor. In fact, he served four more two-year terms as Mayor before he could not run again for the position. A clause in the Casa Grande City Charter limits a Mayor to serve only four successive two-year terms. "It was kind of ironic that I help to pass this clause in the Charter when I was in my first go-around as Mayor," Supervisor Kerr said. "It came back to bite me, so to speak. I was having the time of my life and probably would have run again."
So in 1992, having sold his cleaning business, Kerr turned his focus again on the District 3 Supervisor's position.
"The guy who was serving as the Supervisor said that he was thinking about running for another elected position which would leave the Supervisor's seat open," Kerr recalled. "I announced my candidacy and the current Supervisor at the time decided he was going to run for another term. The race became a little nasty in the end, but I ended up winning in the primary."
In 14 elections, Kerr never had an opponent in a General Election. In all of his races, from City Council to the Board of Supervisors, he won in the Primary Election. Not a bad statistic, considering the Supervisor didn't have designs to hold elected office for four decades.
"It probably sounds funny now after forty years," Kerr said with a grin, "some people probably thought we had it planned to serve this long, but actually it just was a matter of circumstances."
Looking back at his 20 years of service on the Board of Supervisors, he cannot point out just one accomplishment that stands out, but Kerr is proud to mention several improvements that have happened in within his tenure.
"The County is solvent and running a surplus now," the District 3 Supervisor pointed out. "I think another accomplishment is the railroad bridge over the Santa Rosa which will improve drainage near Maricopa. We've been working on this since 1983 and we did it without taxpayer dollars.
"There are a lot of positives. We've paved a lot of roads, getting them out of the dirt and lowering the dust in the air. But in the end I think we left the County better off than when we first arrived."
Now comes the time of transition.
On January 1, 2005, David Snider will occupy the Supervisor office on Cottonwood Lane. The transitional experience has been good for both Kerr and Snider. There have been a lot of lessons learned in 40 years and passing them on will be next to impossible. But the outgoing Supervisor has passed some words of wisdom to his successor.
"Before you commit, check the legality of what you are going to do," Kerr said earnestly. "Be able to tell people why you can or cannot do something. The easiest thing to do is to say 'yes' and that sometimes can get you in a lot of trouble."
Fourteen elections ago, Jimmie Kerr was a young business man who was asked to run for office. Today over forty years and countless meetings later, the man who took on a task to serve his community is now taking time for himself, his wife and children. A public servant of principle and intellect, Jimmie Kerr will always be a part of Casa Grande and Pinal County.