By Alex Conforti
Foothills Focus Staff Writer
The Cave Creek primary election will mirror the 2018 election with incumbent Mayor Ernie Bunch running against former Councilwoman Eileen Wright.
Ballots were mailed June 27 to voters who requested one. Election day is Tuesday, August 4.
A councilman since 2005, Bunch would start his third term if elected this year. Bunch has spent 44 years with his family’s B Bunch Company Inc., working on design, research and development, sales, machining and service.
Bunch said he’s been valuable to the town.
“Cave Creek was in terrible financial shape when the recession hit, as the only sales tax revenue we had was in the Town Core,” Bunch said about the area from Cave Creek Town Hall to the municipality’s eastern boundary. “As businesses came along that were beneficial, we changed the zoning.”
“First was Tractor Supply then AutoZone. Then we ended up with Firehouse Subs, Burger King, and now Chipotle, Sprouts, Dutch Bros all in that area. All of these businesses have helped to make Cave Creek more financially secure.”
According to Bunch, and the annual CFA report for Cave Creek, this growth allowed for a balance of over $20 million in the bank at the end of the last fiscal year; $13 million of it was unallocated. He said long-term planning has allowed for the Abrazo Micro Hospital, adding a 24-hour emergency room for Cave Creek residents.
Bunch’s goals include upgrades to the Central Arizona Project waterline pump stations and continuing with projects and programs that have already been initiated, “without getting in the way of the staff,” he said. He added that “very little government is done unilaterally” and most is done as a “team effort.”
“Another big one is seeing the issue with Carefree and its condemnation of our water customers in its jurisdiction to an equitable and less-damaging transaction to both towns,” he said.
Bunch does not intend on supporting zoning changes near Cave Creek Road and Carefree Highway.
Wright has lived in the Valley for more than 50 years and has served as planning commission vice chairwoman. Wright has attended CAP and Arizona Department of Water Resources workshops for eight years and owns her own small business, Desert Firearms Training Center. She is encouraging transparency within the city government.
“I will return transparency to town hall by eliminating unnecessary executive sessions, allowing public comment on all agenda items, writing monthly mayor newsletters to all residents, and reinstating residents’ Thursday morning mayor/vice mayor workshops,” Wright said.
She said she will hold the town to the standards of the “basic law of economics” and focus on needs rather than wants to further see reductions in the town budget, which has increased by $21 million since 2016.
The recent Ocotillo Fire demonstrated a “glaring lack of leadership,” according to Wright, and showed that there are no effective communications in place to alert residents of news and status of such occurrences; something she will change.
“Running for mayor of Cave Creek is an honor and a privilege. Treating the experience with integrity and respect is the primary obligation a mayoral candidate has to the voters, and one I take very seriously,” Wright said. “I will only make changes that improve our rural, low-density quality of life by eliminating up zoning, and by unremitting protection of Cave Creek’s unique western heritage, lifestyle and large-parcel residential zoning and land-use patterns.”