Another northern Arizona leader is looking to the future with the intent to run for office in 2020.
Art Babbott, current chairman of the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, announced Thursday he will be running as an independent for the Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 6 to replace Bob Thorpe, who will reach his term limit after the current term. Legislative District 6 includes parts of Coconino, Navajo, Gila and Yavapai Counties.
Although Babbott said he formed his committee more than two years ago and considered running in 2018, 2020 felt like the right time to do so.
“People are hungry for a different way to do politics. As an independent and as someone who has worked hard with people all over the county, this is the right time for me to do something in Arizona that will help improve governance and responsiveness of government to people’s challenges,” he said.
Babbott has operated the Flagstaff Community Markets for nearly 20 years. He was also a managing partner in the renovation and operation of the Orpheum Theater from 2002 to 2009.
In local government, he has represented District 1 for the county for two terms and previously served on the Flagstaff City Council. He is the current co-chair of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) and has also served on a variety of commissions including the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona (ECONA) and the Coconino Plateau Water Advisory Council.
“What initially drew me to local government was the importance of building relationships and collaborating with diverse groups of people to solve really tough challenges and create opportunities for the generations that come behind us," he said. "My career has been not about party affiliation or party identification on either party, but about keeping my eyes and ears open for opportunities to change lives and impact our communities and neighborhoods."
Babbott says he will use the experience he has gathered locally in the state legislature -- especially in the areas of transportation, education, criminal justice and economic development -- to bring together people who would not normally be in the same room.
His county biography explains that he has created such partnerships previously by aligning the county with the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course, the Pepsi Amphitheater and North Pole Experience at Ft. Tuthill County Park, therefore linking the public and private sectors.
Local control and perspective will also be an important piece of his campaign and his work with the legislature.
“One of the things that is really important to me is that the Arizona legislature and the House of Representatives understand the impacts of their decisions on local governments and local communities. … Having that experience, being a recipient of the legislature’s work, will allow me to be really effective in crafting legislation,” he said.
By running as an independent, Babbott hopes to serve as an alternative to the “rigid partisanship” that has caused frustration to constituents.
“I looked at my skill set and how I go about doing my work in a collaborative manner and talked with a lot of folks for many, many months and felt this is the right time to build an independent bridge across that partisan divide,” he said. “I know this is not the easy way to run as an independent. But for me it is an important way and the only way that I would run.”