By Mila Besich Lira
The year 2013 definitely flew by in the blink of an eye. The odd numbered year brought much attention to Superior as local leaders and community groups rallied for their causes. New businesses opened and the community saw construction begin on the Magma Hotel. Residents got involved in local governance and many new faces in leadership have come to be, all in 2013.
The Superior Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual events. Despite bad weather for the Home Tour and Apache Leap Days, the events still generated revenue and helped them push forward in their goal to purchase a building for the Chamber. The group expects to be moved into their new building on Main St. in early 2014. The second annual Prickly Pear festival was once again a success. This year, the Chamber recognized Manny Ruiz for his ranching contributions to the area and state at the Noche de Vaquero event. Mike McKee another one of Superior’s legendary residents served as the Grand Marshall of the 25th Annual Apache Leap Mining Festival Parade.
The Superior Unified School District swore in a new school board member, Tony Donlin, along with returning members Mila Besich Lira and Cyndi Benson. The board embarked on a visioning and planning process for the district “Superior Vision 20/20” has become an important planning tool for the district. The Elementary and High School saw an increase in their state letter grade. Thousands of dollars in scholarships were awarded at the honors assembly, many of those dollars were given by local groups and businesses. In June, the district said goodbye to Pete Guzman, who had been the superintendent for over a decade. After conducting an extensive interview process, the board welcomed Patrick O’Donnell in July. The SHS student council hosted what was one of the biggest homecoming events in recent history. New community events and traditions were added to the school including the DECA Fill the Bowl Event to benefit the Superior Food Bank and the Community Thanksgiving Dinner.
The Superior Optimist Club and Rotary Clubs rang in the 2013 by hosting the annual New Year’s Dance. Both clubs continued to serve the community with their individual programs and activities. The Rotary Club handed out dictionaries, and thesauruses to third graders and hosted students of the month from the High School and Junior High at their monthly meetings.
The Superior Optimist Club hosted its annual Honor Roll Banquet and awarded five graduating Seniors with laptop computers to assist them with starting their college careers. The Optimist also helped to co-sponsor the annual Superior Substance Abuse Events including the Win to Swim and Halloween Parade. The Superior Optimist Club recognized the Red Bear Outfitters for their ongoing contributions to the community. This year the Red Bear also hosted a community Christmas party and assisted with the Town of Superior, Fourth of July events along with their other community contributions.
The Town of Superior hired a new manager Kane Graves in early 2013. Under his direction, the town reversed their position of support for the Resolution Copper Project. These actions created much controversy in the community and residents opposed to those decisions founded the Superior Copper Alliance. The Town Code was also revamped to meet today’s needs. Mayor Jayme Valenzuela ran unopposed for his position as mayor. Councilmembers Chris Tomerlin and Irene Hansen lost their election bids to incoming Michael Alonzo and Steve Estatico who took office in June.
The town leadership continued to face many financial challenges. Resolution Copper paid for the town to hire municipal financial consultant Pat Walker. Walker proposed several adjustments which the council adopted to help get the town back on a positive financial path.
After almost a year of discussion and community input, the town council voted not to contract with Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and keep the local police department. By the end of the summer, the Town hired Margaret Gaston to be the interim Town Manager and hired Steve Cooper to be the new town attorney, following Graves’ resignation. In August, Councilmember Soyla “Kiki” Peralta was recalled; Mila Besich Lira won the recall election with a two to one margin.
Other groups in the community continued to serve in their various capacities. The Little League hosted another successful season with multiple teams that represented the league at state tournaments. The SHS Hall of Fame inducted 10 new individual members and the 1972 State Championship Baseball team. The VFW hosted its annual Memorial and Veterans Day ceremonies; both remain an important tradition in Superior. Local churches and the Superior Food Bank continue to serve those in need.
The largest car show in Superior history was hosted by the St. Francis Catholic Church. The car show was held in conjunction with the Fiesta’s Patrias, another important community event. The show was dedicated to the memory of Joe Castaneda who was one of the main coordinators of the event. Joe passed unexpectedly right before the annual event. Marissa Estatico was crowned Fiesta Queen and her court was comprised of the other three queen candidates, Keana Torres, Malaya Martinez and Alessya Green.
While there was much to celebrate and commemorate, our headlines in the papers reported on plenty of meetings and town hall forums regarding Resolution Copper, including a visit from Representatives Gosar and Kirkpatrick. The congressional duo worked throughout the year to move the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act through Congress. The Concerned Citizens and Retired Miners also kept up their cause to oppose the Land Exchange. They hosted an informative meeting to explain their reasons for opposition as well as a picnic at Oak Flats. In November, Resolution Copper submitted the much anticipated Mine Plan of Operations. The land exchange remains stalled in Congress.
There is no telling what Superior will see in 2014. Based on recent articles, the Magma Hotel should be complete in August, construction on the expansion of US 60 should begin, and our local groups will continue to support our community. Events are already being coordinated and planned.