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Adelita Grijalva poised to take Pima County Board of Supervisors gavel

Adelita Grijalva poised to take Pima County Board of Supervisors gavel

  • Supervisor Adelita Grijalva at a March 2022 meeting of the county board.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comSupervisor Adelita Grijalva at a March 2022 meeting of the county board.
  • Supervisor Sharon Bronson at a March 2022 meeting of the county board.
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comSupervisor Sharon Bronson at a March 2022 meeting of the county board.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors is set to choose its officers next week, and Supervisor Adelita Grijalva looks set to be the first to count to three, taking up the gavel from Chair Sharon Bronson.

The chair needs a simple majority of three votes from the five-member board dominated by Democrats — a seemingly much simpler task than the laborious balloting for the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives this week.

The wrinkle for Grijalva — currently the vice chair of the board — would be if any other potential candidate can count to three, first. The supervisors will meet Tuesday morning, and the initial order of business on the agenda may create some testy discussion.

Grijalva, first elected to the board in 2020, said simply "I would like to" when asked by the Sentinel if she is making plans to be the next chair. She wouldn't comment further.

The other supervisors and top county staffers declined to comment on the record.

Grijalva has not been a county supervisor for long, but just wrapped up a two-decade stint on the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board. She was first elected to that body in 2002, and is familiar with taking the helm of public meetings, having several times served as board president before deciding to not seek a sixth term.

It's not clear if Bronson, a centrist Democrat first elected to the board in 1996, is quite ready to hand off the gavel to start the year.

Bronson, who has been the chair since 2021, has periodically held the position in the past. Prior to her current stint, she was most recently chair for four years through January 2018, when she said she was "tired of herding cats" and that it was "time for someone else to take the reins."

She apologetically but adamantly refused to discuss the issue of the choice of chair with the Sentinel on Friday.

Arizona's open meeting law bars the supervisors from hashing out a deal to determine the chair outside of the scheduled meeting. Each cannot discuss the matter with more than a single other member of the board (and supervisors are barred from holding "serial meetings" that convey information to a quorum outside of a public meeting), although they're free to speak publicly and with the press.

Prior to the current lineup of supervisors, the top three Democrats on the board — for years Bronson, Sup. Richard Elías and former Sup. Ramon Valadez — would periodically rotate the office, with the other two taking the vice-chair and acting chair positions. Valadez took over the post following the death in office of Elías in 2020, but lost his bid for re-election later that year.

The board now has four Democrats, and has not filled the acting chair slot since Elías' death, when Bronson moved up to vice chair.

Taking office after that race, in addition to Grijalva, were Sups. Rex Scott and Matt Heinz. The fifth member of the board is Sup. Steve Christy, the sole Republican.

Sources who've tracked the issue as political circles have buzzed over the holidays, who requested anonymity because of their positions within the county, indicated that the key vote will likely be Scott's.

But the Northwest Side Democrat may have ambitions of his own, sources said — although he may support Grijalva being chair this year if he can take over the running of board meetings in 2024.

Christy is not likely to vote for the liberal Grijalva — the GOP supervisor often abstains from votes for Democratic appointees. But he could support Bronson hanging on, if there were a third vote. If Scott were to pursue the chairmanship this year, Christy and Bronson could potentially be supporters, in a move to keep Grijalva out of the chair's seat on the dais.

Heinz, also among the liberals on the board, voted against electing Bronson and Grijalva to their positions in board leadership in January 2022. But a year later, he appears to be set to back Grijalva for chair, after several public clashes with Bronson.

The Board of Supervisors chair presides over meetings, but the job comes with limited extra powers. "The additional power is mostly just ceremonial," Valadez told the Sentinel in 2018. "We're both a legislative body but also executives who are co-equal. We're each the 'strong mayors' in our districts."

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