Penzone, Fontes head new crop of Maricopa County officials sworn in amid levity

Updated 10:18 am MST Jan. 5, 2017 Originally published 11:42 am MST Jan. 4, 2017

Other newcomers include county Supervisor Bill Gates, Treasurer Royce Flora, and schools Superintendent Steve Watson.

Paul Penzone

Judge Mary Murguia swears in Paul Penzone as the new Maricopa County sheriff. Next to Penzone is his wife, Veronica, and son, Austin, in Phoenix on Jan. 4, 2017.

Nick Oza/The Republic

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Maricopa County officials are sworn in at the Board of Supervisors auditorium in Phoenix on Jan. 4, 2017. Tom Tingle/azcentral.com

A new crop of Maricopa County officials was sworn in Wednesday during packed ceremonies in downtown Phoenix.

Among the new faces taking office were Sheriff Paul Penzone, who defeated longtime incumbent Joe Arpaio, and Recorder Adrian Fontes, who will be taking control of county elections from another longtime incumbent, Helen Purcell.

Penzone took the oath of office flanked by his pastor, his hand on a family Bible held by his wife. The oath was administered by a federal judge from the 9th U.S. Circuit, the court that placed the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office under federal monitoring and found Arpaio in civil contempt in a racial-profiling case that was a factor in his loss.

MORE:  Penzone will have 2 swearing-in ceremonies Wednesday

The festive occasion featured beaming families, a media scrum and dozens of county employees and political notables.

There was also plenty of humor.

Steve Watson, the new Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools, choked up as he introduced his wife, six children and other relatives before taking the oath.

Then he turned away from the audience, held aloft his cellphone and, prompting giggles from the crowd, declared, “Selfie time!”

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Paul Penzone is sworn in as Maricopa County sheriff at the Board of Supervisors auditorium in Phoenix on Jan. 4, 2017. Tom Tingle/azcentral.com

Also entering office were County Attorney Bill Montgomery, Treasurer Royce Flora, Assessor Paul Petersen and several justices of the peace.

Five members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors also took the oath. Four are returning: Clint Hickman, Steve Chucri, Steve Gallardo and Denny Barney, who takes over the yearlong board chairmanship.

The new arrival on the board is Supervisor Bill Gates, a former Phoenix city councilman who replaced retiring Supervisor Andy Kunasek.

Leadership of the board has completely turned over with the retirement of Kunasek, Barney noted.

“In the period of a couple of years, it was just Andy — Supervisor Long-in-the-tooth as we called him — and four new faces,” Barney said. “Andy was incredible … He helped us make sense of it all. We’re grateful to him.”

In 2017, the board will focus on conservative budgeting, limiting regulations and improving transparency, Barney said.

The county will launch a new website, increase workforce development efforts and focus on a program to reduce crime recidivism.

“One-hundred thousand people come through the doors of our jail every year … and 50 percent come back. That’s a lot,” Barney said. “We’re bringing great minds together with evidence-based strategies to reduce the likelihood of people coming back into jail.”

In addition, renovations will occur to the Durango Jail, while the old Madison Street Jail will be redeveloped into new office space for county attorney's employees.

“It’s kind of funny — the county attorney is going to be in jail across the street,” Barney joked.

A priority for the Board of Supervisors also will be to resolve a conflict with the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team over repairs at Chase Field.

Barney said he was disappointed in a lawsuit the team filed Tuesday seeking to break its lease and pursue options such as building a new stadium elsewhere.

“The Diamondbacks are a great asset to the downtown community, the county and the state, and we need to find a way to keep them playing at Chase Field through the end of the original term” in 2028, Barney said. “It’s the best for the community, for the taxpayer, and we believe it’s the best for the Diamondbacks.”

Originally published 11:42 am MST Jan. 4, 2017 Updated 10:18 am MST Jan. 5, 2017
Rebekah Sanders
Reporter
The Republic | azcentral.com
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