Sharon Bronson, suffering from broken ribs, resigns from Pima County Board of Supervisors after 27 years

Sharon Bronson, in office for nearly three decades, is resigning as a member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. The 77-year-old Democrat broke three ribs in a fall about a week ago.

Bronson will step down on Nov. 27, she announced Monday morning.

Bronson, first elected in a 1996 three-way race that had her ousting longtime Republican Supervisor Ed Moore in her first run for office, had filed last month to seek an eighth term on the board.

She has been the longest-serving supervisor in Pima County history, the third woman elected to the board, and in 1999 became the first woman elected as chair by the other supervisors.

What the Devil won’t tell you: Over decades, Democratic stalwart Bronson helped make Pima County what it is

“Last week I took a fall in my house, ambushed by one of my favorite cats, and fracturing three ribs. I am fine and will fully recover,” she wrote in a letter to her fellow supervisors and constituents. “However, I am going to be recovering for a few months and cannot adequately discharge my duties to the residents of Pima County and District 3. Therefore, I am resigning from the Pima County Board of Supervisors effective November 27th.”

“It has been the pleasure of my life to represent and work with all of you over the last 27 years and most especially to represent all the residents of this great county,” she wrote.

“Over the last few months, I have been considering whether to run for an additional term, and while my heart is and always will be with the residents of Pima County, I have decided at this time to not seek an additional term,” she wrote.

Bronson tripped over her cat on Nov. 5, and was treated for several days at an area hospital while her broken ribs were monitored.

On Oct. 24, she had filed a statement of interest to again be a candidate for the District 3 seat next year.

Bronson, a centrist Democrat, served as chair of the county board for several stints, most recently from 2021-22.

She has represented District 3, which includes much of central and
western Tucson and stretches south to Sahuarita and west across the
Tohono O’odham Nation to Ajo.

Under state law, Bronson’s position will be filled by an appointee determined by the other members of the Board of Supervisors, once she leaves office. The new supervisor will serve out the remainder of her term, until January 2025. The regular election of 2024 will determine who holds the seat after that.

The District 3 seat had already attracted two Democratic primary opponents: Jennifer Allen, a former executive director of the ACLU of Arizona and the founder of the Border Action Network who is associated with the Grijalva wing of local Democrats; and Kathryn Mikronis, who was elected to the Governing Board of the Marana Unified School District last year. Kristen Randall, a former Pima County constable who now works for the Green Valley Justice Court and has been an ally of Bronson, told the Sentinel she will apply for the appointment and would run in next year’s election if she were in office.

No Republican candidates have yet filed for the election.

First elected in 1996

Bronson took office following a three-way race in 1996, in which she beat incumbent independent Ed Moore (who mostly voted with the Republicans) and GOP candidate Vicki Cox-Golder.

Running on a platform of limiting growth and establishing impact fees, Bronson put her experience as an accountant to work as a critic of what she then called the “Board of Stupervisors.”

“Growth
is a Ponzi scheme,” she told reporter Jim Nintzel. “You have the next wave of growth pay for the
current wave of growth. And that’s what’s making government collapse.”

The election of the University of Arizona graduate, 51 years old at the time, swung the board to a 3-2 Democratic majority.

Bronson was the third woman ever elected to the board. In 1976, Katie Dusenberry was the first woman to take office on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, while Iris Dewhirst served on the board from 1984 to 1988.

Reactions

News of Bronson’s injuries and pending resignation attracted accolades from fellow politicians and other community leaders.

Bronson’s “time on the Pima County Board of Supervisors is a historic one,” said Supervisor Adelita Grijavla, the chair of the board. 

“Sharon has served on the Pima County Board for 27 years, making her the longest serving supervisor in Pima County’s history,” Grijalva wrote. “She also broke the glass ceiling… being the first woman ever appointed as chair of the board. As the first Latina elected to serve on the board in 2020, I was proud to share leadership with a fellow Democratic woman as vice chair in 2021-2022 with then-chair Bronson.”

“Her impact on our community is long-lasting, as a strong advocate for the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plana and for Pima Animal Care Center. The residents of Pima County are grateful for her service and wish her a speedy recovery. Thank you, Sharon,” wrote the Democratic supervisor.

Tucson’s mayor also wished her a “speedy recovery and good health into the future.”

“Thank you for opening doors for more women to run for office,” said Mayor Regina Romero.

“Sharon has served Pima County with distinction and pride,” said fellow Democratic Supervisor Rex Scott. “She was the first woman in our history to serve as board chair. All of us are grateful for and can learn from her selflessness and commitment to service.”

Bronson “has been a strong advocate for the residents of Pima County and an important champion for environmental protection and other issues during her 27 years on the Board of Supervisors. I thank her for her dedication to Pima County and wish her a speedy recovery,” said Supervisor Matt Heinz, another member of the Democratic majority on the board.

Supervisor Steve Christy, the lone Republican on the elected board, said he had a “nice long conversation” with Bronson on Sunday, and was informed of her decision.

“From the offset, I told her I’m sorry you’re resigning. We’ve forged a great relationship and direction for the board, and I’m going to miss you very much,” he told the Sentinel.

He added that after 27 years in the saddle, Bronson deserved a “respite from that body.”

“I expressed to her my appreciation for her wise counsel and for numerous conversations. For her grace and her willingness to share her beliefs and experiences,” she said. “I am grateful and indebted to her – and the county is as well — for her decades of service to the board.”

On the future of the board, Christy said the Democrats on the board “have the driver’s seat” and he’ll wait to see who they nominate to replace Bronson. “I’m cautious to see who is being presented, but it’s difficult for me to think there’s someone to fill Sharon’s shoes.”

Tucson City Councilmember Steve Kozachik said “I have nothing but respect for Sharon and her willingness to serve in this role for so long. I also fully understand and restpect her decision to step aside and prioritize her health. I wish her only the best in her recovery.”

Chuck Huckelberry, the former Pima County administrator who worked for Bronson and her fellow supervisors for much of his three-decade tenure, described her as a “great supervisor.”

Bronson “had a good handle on what was going on and responded to every action with the correct solution for her constituents,” Huckelberry told the Tucson Sentinel.

Carolyn Campbell, executive director of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, called Bronson’s resignation “the end of an era, for sure.”

Campbell credited Bronson for being a supporter of the county’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan from the start.

“Sharon has been a champion for the conservation plan along with Raul (Grijalva) at the beginning,” Campbell said. “That’s been my whole work for the last 25 years. And Sharon has helped us get there. She really helped push a lot of things through.”

Pima County Justice of the Peace Ray Carroll, a Republican who served along Bronson until his retirement from the Board of Supervisors in 2017, said that the Sonoran Desert plan was one of her legacies, but Bronson also worked hard on economic development issues.

“She had a very well deserved reputation for wanting to do business for the county,” Carroll told the Sentinel. “She really believed in the principles of economic development and growth that raises the tide that raises all boats”

While Carroll tangled with Bronson many times, he said she was a “gracious and capable politician.”

Metro Tucson Chamber President and CEO Michael Guymon echoed Carroll’s comments.

“Sharon is an economic development stalwart for our community,” Guymon said. “She was instrumental in working with (former Pima County Administrator Chuck) Huckleberry to establish the Aerospace Research Campus and I will miss her leadership on business issues.”

Former Supervisor Ramon Valadez said her “retirement is significant for Pima County.”

“Her leadership in the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, economic development, and other key county initiatives has been crucial. I will fondly remember our many shared professional, and personal moments, but I will always cherish memories at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum dinners, which showcased her blend of professional commitment and personal warmth,” said the ex-supervisor, who served with Bronson for nearly two decades.

Check back for updates.