The Hispanic/Latino population of Arizona makes up 24 percent of registered voters. They are a rising political force in the state. Their activism and voting bloc helped rid Arizona of racist politicians like Joe Arpaio and Russell Pearce. They will be influential in November’s Presidential election. Hispanics as a political force have come a long way from the early days of United States history.
Many Latinos now serve in the national and state legislatures. They are mayors of major cities and governors of states. This is true in the Copper Corridor where some of our local Latino politicians have been successful and have made positive impacts on state and county government. One of our local Latino politicians who has been successful is Pete Rios.
Pete Rios is the Pinal County Supervisor for District 1. He grew up in the copper mining area of Hayden-Winkelman. He attended Arizona State University, working his way through school while supporting his family. He has a B.A. degree in Sociology and a Master’s degree in Social Service Administration from ASU. Following graduation, he went to work in social services with an emphasis in providing services for children and families. He was Children’s Adoption Coordinator for the State of Arizona from 1978 to 1980. While at ASU, Pete became interested in politics. He was selected and served an internship in the State Senate. It gave him an inside view of what senators do and how they do it. Pete felt he could do it also.
Two of his mentors in politics also came from the Copper Corridor area. One was Alfredo Gutierrez. Alfredo came from the mining town of Miami. He served 14 years in the Arizona Senate. He is an immigration activist and fought for justice against Senate Bill 1070 when it was being enforced in Arizona. Pete said he learned a lot from Alfredo. Another mentor was the late Joe Ruiz, who was a Justice of the Peace for many years in Mammoth.
“Joe knew a lot of people around the county,” Pete said. “He told me who to talk to and said if they like you, they can help you. I guess a lot of people liked me because they helped me.”
Supervisor Rios served 20 years in the State Senate and four years as a State Representative. In 1991, he was elected President of the Arizona State Senate, the first and only Latino Senate President in the history of Arizona. He has served 12 years as Supervisor of District 1 in Pinal County and is up for re-election.
Congratulations on a great career in politics and for the good work you are doing in making Pinal County a better place to live.
Author: John Hernandez