Former State Mine Inspector Joe Hart dead at 78; Gov. Ducey orders flags at half-staff
Joe Hart, a former Arizona legislator and state mine inspector, died Sunday, said Gov. Doug Ducey, who ordered flags be flown at half-staff across Arizona on Tuesday in Hart's honor.
Hart, 78, was a member of the Arizona House of Representatives for nine years from 1992 to 2001. A Republican, Hart served as speaker pro-tem and chairman of several committees. He lost a state Senate race in 2000, but won a House seat again in 2002, serving another two-year term. After losing a Senate race in 2004, Hart was was elected as Arizona's state mine inspector in 2006 — a role in which he served for 15 years, spanning three governors.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of former Arizona representative and State Mine Inspector Joe Hart," Ducey said in a statement. "A pillar of state government, he was a dedicated advocate for the mining industry and played a critical role in overseeing the safety at Arizona’s mines."
Hart was a fourth-generation Arizonan and a lifelong resident of Kingman. In a blog post, Hart once noted his family owned and operated mines in Arizona since the late 1800. As part of this experience, Hart spent 20 years at the Duval Mining Company, where he worked as a safety inspector.
"Inspector Hart proudly served the people of Arizona for decades," Ducey said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones during this time."
Arizona is the only state that elects a statewide mine inspector. The position dates back to Arizona's Constitution, passed in 1912, as it became a state.
During his tenure, Hart moved to close and remediate thousands of abandoned mines. Arizona has an estimated 100,000 abandoned mines, according to the State Mine Inspector’s Office. However, officials have only identified about 19,000 of them, and they’ve secured even fewer.
Hart served in the role until October 2021 when he resigned, writing in a letter he was doing so "with a heavy heart."
"As a fourth-generation Arizona miner, the profession of mining has long been a personal passion. It is an industry so fundamental to the success and progress of Arizona’s past, present and future," Hart wrote, the Associated Press reported. "However, the time has come for my wife Rhonda and I to focus our undivided attention on our health and our family."
Ducey appointed Paul Marsh, a former operations manager for a concrete company, to finish Hart's four-year term.
When announcing Marsh's appointment, Ducey called Hart "a stalwart of state government."
"He’s played an important role in overseeing the safety and regulations of Arizona’s mines — and I thank him for his many years of service," Ducey wrote last year.
The GOP incumbent is the only candidate on the ballot for November's election. Arizona Democrats did not field a candidate.