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Ex-Sheriff Napier returning to Pima County government, hired by Huckelberry

Mark Napier, the former sheriff of Pima County who lost a re-election bid last year, is returning to government work here with a top post overseeing emergency communications, elections and other departments.

Napier revealed the news in a Facebook post Monday morning, but quickly deleted his announcement — likely because his new boss, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, has yet to put out a memo to the Board of Supervisors about the hire of a new administrator.

"I'm happy to have the opportunity and love serving Pima County," he told TucsonSentinel.com.

Napier will fill the desk of Assistant County Administrator Wendy Petersen, who is retiring this week.

But Napier, a Republican who served a single term before being turned out of office by the sheriff he had previously ousted, Democrat Chris Nanos, will tackle a somewhat different portfolio of departments than Petersen, his announcement said and county sources confirmed.

As the head of Justice and Law Enforcement for the county, Petersen has overseen the Criminal Justice Reform unit and Public Defense Services department. Added to that slate for Napier will be the Office of Emergency Management and PCWIN (the county's emergency communications system), which has been the purview of Chief Deputy County Administrator Jan Lesher, and the Elections Department, which has been overseen directly by Huckelberry. Napier will also have Facilities Management fall under his watch in the new position.

He will begin working for the county in August. Napier had applied for the post of director of the Pima Animal Care Center, and when he didn't get that job, he and Huckelberry discussed other possibilities, sources said.

When he lost the November 2020 election, Napier took a post as the chief of staff of the Cochise County Sheriff's Office, working for Sheriff Mark Dannels, who is also a Republican.

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While Napier's social media post may have been seen as premature by Huckelberry and other Pima officials, he informed CCSO staff of the move in an email last week.

"This is a huge career advancement step for me," he wrote.

Of his four-decade career working directly in law enforcement coming to an end, Napier wrote that "it had to end sometime, and I am glad it ended with CCSO. I have very much enjoyed my time here and am ending my career with an agency I respect and admire."

Napier told the Sentinel that his new job "will most certainly be a shorter commute" than driving to Cochise County, but "I just love Pima County; it's home."

Nanos, who had a pair of highly contentious election contests with Napier, in 2016 when he lost his seat and again in 2020 when he regained the edge in votes for sheriff, said simply Monday that "I'm sure he'll do a fine job. I'll work with anyone; things will be fine."

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1 comment on this story

Jul 12, 2021, 3:20 pm
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The best part of being a politician in Arizona is that - regardless of whether you win, lose or draw at the polls - you can count on your friends to get you a government paycheck.

And the Pima County Board of Supervisors said what to this?

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Mark Napier speaks with supporters at the 2020 election night party for Pima County Republicans.