Meet your Acacia Council District candidates

By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Staff Writer
Seven candidates are running for Peoria City Council, along with Cathy Carlat running unopposed for mayor.
Brittany Burback, Jason Dragon and incumbent Vicki Hunt will run in the Acacia District; incumbent Michael Finn is running unopposed in the Palo Verde District; and Denette Dunn, incumbent Carlo Leone and Randal Rains will battle for the Pine District.
The primary election is Aug. 28. Any candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the votes will win outright. If no candidate reaches that number, a runoff will be held on Election Day, Nov. 6.
Early voting for the primary begins Aug. 1. The deadline to mail back early ballots is Aug. 22, and early voting ends Aug. 24.
To register to vote, go to www.arizona.vote/ or servicearizona.com/voterRegistration.
To request an early ballot, go to https://recorder.maricopa.gov/earlyvotingballot/earlyvotingballotrequest.aspx.
To find out which City Council district you live in, visit https://www.peoriaaz.gov/government/mayor-and-city-council.
To find your polling location, visit https://voter.azsos.gov/VoterView/PollingPlaceSearch.do.
The Peoria Times recently sent questionnaires to all candidates running for Peoria City Council. This week, candidates in the Acacia District race are featured. Next week, we will run Carlat’s and Finn’s responses.
 

What is your age, marital status and children, if any?

Burback: I am 33 years old and married for six years with two daughters, Regan (2 years old) and Rowan (6 months).
Dragon: 43 and married with three children.
Hunt: 75 and married 24 years.
 

What is your educational and career background?

Burback: Peoria High School, Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law, Arizona State University - Highest Pro Bono Distinction, editor of Law Journal for Social Justice.
Dragon: Bachelor of Science in business management from Northern Arizona University. I am a small business owner of one of the largest computer stores in the state. I am also a Realtor.
Hunt: Education: Bachelor’s degree in English at Grand Canyon College, and then graduated from Chapman University summa cum laude with a master’s in curriculum and instruction.
Career background: After a long career in education with our local Peoria High School, I have proudly served 11 total years on the Peoria City Council. I also have a background in small business, formerly owning and operating the Old Town Bed and Breakfast.
 

How long have you lived in Peoria?

Burback: I have lived in the Peoria area for more than 25 years.
Dragon: Lived in the West Valley my whole life; moved to Peoria in 2004.
Hunt: My roots run deep in the West Valley. My mother was an Arizona native and my father was an airman at Luke Field. I was born in Glendale and spent my entire career teaching at Peoria High School. I have lived in Peoria for the past 20 years.
 

Why are you running for City Council?

Burback: I want to see our city continue to thrive while preserving and restoring our historic Old Town Peoria. I want to represent the entire community, not just a select few. Communication between elected officials and constituents is essential in creating a community everyone is proud of. I will bring more constituent outreach in the Acacia District.
Dragon: Because I think I can do a better job than the current person, because I see so many small details that can make the city much better, but no one is looking at.
Hunt: It has been a privilege to call Peoria home for the past 20 years. I truly love this city. It has been my honor to work with the people of the Acacia District to build a stronger community – together. Alongside many others who believe in south Peoria’s potential, we have worked hard to revitalize our Old Town and improve public safety. We have also made great strides in building a unique arts district and enhancing our neighborhoods. Our downtown is bursting with potential — on the cusp of celebrating its past by bringing exciting shops, restaurants and open common spaces. But my work here isn’t done. I want to serve another four years because while we have accomplished a lot, there is still more to be done.
 

Why do you believe you are better qualified than your opponent?

Burback: I bring a fresh perspective on the issues facing our community and value Peoria’s unique history and culture. I will host monthly district meetings throughout the Acacia District where we can address the needs of our community. As an attorney, I will ensure that city contracts are fair and taxpayer efficient. I live, work, and am raising my family in Peoria, I am invested in Peoria’s future.
Dragon: Because I want to create positive change and I have the management experience to actually do it.
Hunt: Peoria is heading in the right direction and has a council that works well together. I am proud to be part of a team that functions so effectively. In addition, I have an unparalleled track record of increasing public safety, promoting community engagement, supporting neighborhood revitalization, and helping achieve big things for Old Town. I have been actively engaged in our community for a long time.


How many City Council meetings have you attended (or watched) in the last year?

Burback: I have attended or watched all 14 meetings this year.
Dragon: About four online.  I do subscribe to the Peoria Times and read it each week.
Hunt: As a member of the council, I have attended most, if not all of the council meetings in the past year. I have also attended countless neighborhood meetings as well as meetings of the Peoria Historical Society, Friends of Peoria Public Library, Theater Works, and the Arizona Commission on the Arts — all of which I am actively involved. I am a regular attendee at the Woman’s Club and I am a guest speaker regularly at church and civic gatherings.
 

Have you served on any city boards or commissions and if so, which ones?

Burback: While I have not served on city boards or commissions due to work obligations, I have stepped away from corporate law to start my own law practice in Peoria with running for City Council as my primary focus.
Dragon: None of the current boards, but I am on the Peoria Chamber board for government relations. I also spent a few years serving on the Peoria Unified School District Career and Technical Education Board.
Hunt: I am actively involved in the Peoria Historical Society, Friends of Peoria Public Library, Theater Works and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.
 

Do you have any other political history other than city boards and commissions? If so what?

Burback: I completed an internship my senior year of high school with the Peoria City Council that sparked my continued interest in local government.
Dragon: I am currently a precinct committeeman in the Republican Party. I ran for this office in 2010, and I have helped others run for office.
Hunt: I served two terms on the Peoria City Council starting in 2004. I was encouraged by many neighborhood leaders, friends and civic leaders to return to the council in 2014.
 

What do you believe is the No. 1 problem facing Peoria and what will you do to fix it, if elected?

Burback: What one person sees as a problem, a forward-thinking person sees as an opportunity. Peoria has the opportunity to create a comprehensive plan for all its growth and complementing it with public services and essential infrastructure. My feeling, and many of those I have spoken with, is the city needs to consider all the vacant office buildings, empty storefronts, and deserted lots in and around Old Town Peoria. Those of us in the Acacia District, our neighborhoods and our business community, must be included in a comprehensive plan for growth in Peoria. I will facilitate those opportunities.
Dragon: Managing growth correctly. Do a much better job revitalizing the parts of town that are running down, also directing growth to be smarter, looking at the long term.
Hunt: We have made great strides in promoting a fiscally responsible city and promoting public safety. Those will remain a key focus for me, but one of my top passions is the revitalization of Old Town Peoria. We have made great strides attracting new and unique developments. We need to continue to build on that momentum and help realize the vision of building a unique destination for families and friends to gather and enjoy all that our area has to offer.
 

What grade would you give the current council and why?

Burback: I would give the current council a B overall. I would give the Acacia District representative a D. There is little to no communication with constituents, no regular district meetings, no district newsletter and no district updates. When decisions are being made about the Acacia District and Old Town Peoria, only the opinion of a select few is solicited. The general feeling by most who live in the Acacia District is the incumbent only fights for special projects she supports instead of fighting for all residents and their concerns.
Dragon: I would give them a B, they do fairly well but could do better; mostly, they just rubber stamp every staff recommendation.
Hunt: I would give the current mayor and council an A. It is an honor to be a part of a group of such caring individuals who definitely put Peoria first. We have accomplished a lot when it comes to public safety, fiscal responsibility and attracting quality development. The amount of effort, commitment and innovative ideas brought forward by this group of leaders has brought success to our communities. I am proud to be endorsed by Mayor Carlat as well as Councilmembers Binsbacher and Edwards.
 

If elected, what would you do to address Peoria’s growing homeless population?

Burback: I believe providing access and resources around subsidized housing and housing assistance programs are essential in addressing homelessness. We as the city can implement more effective programs along with existing county and federal housing programs without additional costs to the city. There are a number of public-private partnership programs to tap into, including one that helps teach money management skills with the goal of purchasing a home. Community assistance programs need to demonstrate upward mobility where people can become more independent and thrive.
Dragon: There is plenty of housing, it is just not deployed correctly.  I would have the city work with WeMar and local Realtors to find solutions, including having home-sharing programs that work great in other locations.
Hunt: So many of our residents and local organizations open their hearts and their pocketbooks in the name of goodwill toward all. It’s not seasonal in Peoria — it’s who we are. I plan to continue my work with volunteer groups that lend a helping hand and also work to ensure they have the community support they need to continue their much-needed services. The Peoria Police Department currently operates a wonderful homeless outreach program, I would like to see this program continue on, and hope to be of assistance in substantiating it as a long-term solution for Peoria’s homeless.
 

Do you think the city is a good or bad steward of its residents’ tax dollars and why?

Burback: I believe the city is doing an adequate job with taxpayer dollars but there is always room for improvement. This is also why a comprehensive growth plan with services and infrastructure outlined is crucial in protecting our tax dollars.
Dragon: The city does a better job than most other cities, but not as good as most businesses with budgets this large. There are places that need more money, and other places where money is wasted. I would look at it like a business and find the waste.
Hunt: I think the city of Peoria is headed in the right direction and Mayor Carlat has been a strong champion for fiscal responsibility. Under the leadership of Mayor Carlat and current councilmembers, we advocate for ultimate fiscal responsibility and government accountability. We have found ways to do more with less and ensure that we continue to live within our means. Innovative programs, such as the revenue-producing recycling services, protected residents from development pressures and successfully provided services to underserved areas. I am proud to be part of a council that works well together and is supporting responsible and strategic growth as Peoria charts a path for the second half of the city.
 

What would you say to disillusioned and undecided voters?

Burback: Every voter’s voice is important. Voters should do their research and ask candidates about the issues that are important to them. That will help undecided voters make their mind up. Disillusioned voters should try to remember that unless they are engaged, the status quo will continue. Disillusioned voters should find candidates that care about the issues that are important to them, that will stand up against the status quo and help advocate for change.
Dragon: Two different groups. For disillusioned voters, I define as people who vote but are unhappy with the current leadership, I would say, I don’t blame you. For years the current leaders have done very little other than help their friends; they don’t give attention to what needs it. I know most people don’t really focus on this race but it actually is really important, and can change what your city will look like. This position affects your life as much or more than any other office you will vote for. For the undecided voter, defined as people who are engaged and are deciding between my opponents and myself, I would say that please do your research on Vicki, look into what people say about her, and if you still want to vote for her, ask yourself “What has she done for me?” I am fairly sure you will see that the answers are not very flattering. As for the other contender, I have been told often that she is only running to take revenge on Vicki, and has no real plan as to what to do if she wins. I have been a business leader for years, I deal with complex things and make solutions for my clients. I have the endorsement of all of our local Republican leaders, Debbie Lesko, Rick Gray, Tony Rivero and Kevin Payne, as well as many other elected officials, including sitting councilmembers.
Hunt: I maintain an open-door policy for all residents and make a point of listening to resident concerns and making sure City Hall responds. When a resident calls my office with a concern, his/her call is answered within one working day. To anyone who has questions or concerns, I would love to meet with you. I am active on social media and you can contact me at my council office or any time you see me out in the community. My motto is “Building Community — Together.” I don’t do any of this alone; we need everyone to work together to build a stronger community.
 

If elected, how will you make yourself available to you constituents?

Burback: I look forward to hosting monthly community meetings throughout the Acacia District. I will create a monthly newsletter with city updates to be emailed or mailed. I believe using multiple methods of communication will help with making sure everyone in the district receives the information in the best format for them.
Dragon: I am always available; people call me all the time, I have had the same phone number for more than 20 years, and it is on my website for everyone to call.  I also respond to texts and Facebook. I would have an official Facebook page and be very active on it. Of course, I would also have email and a city phone number if I won. In addition to all of this, I would hold forums to meet with my constituents.
Hunt: As I mentioned previously, I have always prided myself on maintaining an “open door policy” and responding to constituents. I am active in the community attending neighborhood meetings, talking to neighbors and walking neighborhoods. I will continue to do so in my next term.
 

How are you campaigning?

Burback: I am on the ground, walking and talking to constituents door to door. I am finding out what is important to residents in the Acacia District and how I can help them when I take office. I believe in working hard and I know that my work ethic propels me to engage with as many voters as possible before Election Day Aug. 28.
Dragon: Well that is the secret sauce … not really going to tip my hand just yet.
Hunt: I am actively in the community meeting voters, knocking on doors, talking to business owners and talking directly to constituents. I will also be reaching out to voters with direct mail and phone calls to help get the message out. As I mentioned before, I am also active on social media and love to engage with voters online as well.

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