TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — There is a huge shake up in local government. Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry is retiring.
Think of how complex it can be to oversee all the things that make a government work—utilities, roads, land use, tight budgets —with the minefield of politics on top.
Huckelberry has survived and thrived in that environment but now something unrelated is leading him to retire.
On Wednesday, Huckelberry's family said he was in recovery and it is "going well" after he was seriously injured in a bicycle accident back in October, in which he suffered a 'serious head injury,' and broken ribs.
In a statement, the family says "By the grace of God, love and support of family and friends and Chuck's strength of character and determination he has made remarkable progress in his rehabilitation. There is nothing Chuck wishes more than that he be able to return to his desk at the County and resume his position as County Administrator."
They added, "Chuck and the family fully appreciate that with months of additional therapy ahead, he is unable to do the position justice at this time and out of respect for what is in the best interest of the County, which he has served so effectively and faithfully for over 40 years, it is time for him to officially resign his post. This will allow the County to continue moving forward no longer clouded by concern for his health and potential return."
Ted Schmidt says, “There’s nothing Chuck would rather do than get back downtown behind his desk and get back to work for the county. However, he and the family understand that the road to recovery is a long one. He has a lot of therapies ahead and he needs to concentrate on that.”
Ray Carroll is a Justice of the Peace now, but he spent 20 years as a Pima County Supervisor watching Huckelberry manage a sprawling county that grew to more than a million people.
“He was obviously a great mentor to those who are willing to understand the complexities of county government as large as a billion dollar budget could make it,” Carroll said.
Huckleberry was trained as an engineer. Carroll says he watched him apply an engineer’s sense of precision and still understand the human factors of serving an elected Board of Supervisors.
“I always kind of thought of Chuck as a school bus driver. In the back he had a bunch of kids fighting and playing, sometimes causing lot of disruption but he only had one eye on the road and one eye in the rearview mirror there to keep an eye on those four (Supervisors),” Carroll said.
Huckleberry worked 40 years with Pima County before Supervisors appointed him administrator 28 years ago. That time and his skills gave him a powerful hand in creating the Pima County of today—the roads, helping to attract major employers, enhancing parks and recreation, like the Huckelberry Loop Supervisors named after him.
Ray Carroll says Huckelberry could have retired long ago but wanted to stay on, caring for the County he loves. Now he says the people Huckelberry put in place will carry on for him.
He says, “You're in good hands. Pima County. Chuck has done a very good job of picking top drawer people to manage this government. And in his absence, as we've seen, it’s done very well.”
Word of Huckelberry’s plan to resign appeared as an agenda item in the Supervisors meeting for Tuesday. At that time, Supervisors will consider appointing Jan Lesher as Administrator. She has been one of Huckelberry’s Deputy Administrators. She’s served as acting administrator since shortly after his accident.
Pima County has a bright future with many opportunities and, after I have recovered, I will be available to assist the County in achieving those opportunities. ~ Chuck Huckleberry
Ted Schmidt of Schmidt, Sethi & Akmajian released the video statement below on behalf of Chuck and Maureen Huckelberry.
Huckelberry is a graduate of Flowing Wells High School and the University of Arizona.
He has served as County Administrator since 1993.
Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 30 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing email@example.com or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.
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