By Joan Fudala
Summoned for jury duty? Paying your property taxes? Voting? Getting a COVID-19 vaccine? These are the activities that prompt us to think about Maricopa County, but so many other essential and quality-of-life activities are the purview of our county government. On the occasion of Maricopa County’s 150th anniversary, it is a good time to look at just some of the historic ties between Scottsdale and the county.
ν Maricopa County was established on February 14, 1871, with its county seat in Phoenix. It was created out of land from Yavapai County, then one of only four counties in the Arizona Territory. Like other counties in the territory/state, Maricopa was named in honor of an Indigenous tribe living here.
ν Today there are 15 counties in Arizona, with Maricopa being the largest in size and population. Maricopa County’s boundaries, established in 1881, still encompass 9,224 square miles. The current population is about 4.4 million, making it the fourth most populous county in the United States. For county information and access to services, see maricopa.gov.
ν From Scottsdale’s founding in 1888 until incorporation in 1951, Maricopa County was the town’s primary governing body.
ν During the first draft registration, held June 5, 1917, to populate the U.S. Army for World War I service, many voting precincts in Arizona ran out of registration cards because the response was so overwhelming. In Maricopa County, 5,964 men registered (of the 10 million nationwide). Many Scottsdale men were among those who registered and served.
ν Due to the 1918 influenza epidemic, the Scottsdale Grammar School (now home to the Scottsdale Historical Museum) was closed for nearly three months, reopening on December 30 under the direction of Principal M.A. Crouse. According to The Arizona Republican, “most, but not all, of the other schools of the (Maricopa) county will be reopened that day.”
ν Car travel in Maricopa Country increased significantly during the decade 1910 to 1920. According to historian Bradford Luckingham, there were 646 cars registered in 1913; 11,539 in 1920. One in 3 residents had a motor vehicle.
ν In 1922, Maricopa County established a voting precinct and justice court in Scottsdale, giving the area official recognition. The first justice of the peace was William Kimsey (father of the town’s second mayor, Mort Kimsey); the first constable was Al Frederick.
ν During Scottsdale’s early decades as a farming and ranching community the county extension agent provided education and assistance to Scottsdale’s agricultural community. When a lending library opened in 1921 in the back of the Farmer’s Bank on Main Street, the county extension service provided brochures on subjects like gardening and canning.
ν In 1943, a federally funded wartime housing project, Thunderbird Homes, opened in Downtown Scottsdale at Marshall Way between First and Second streets (now the site of Scottsdale’s Museum of the West). It was overseen by the newly created Maricopa County Housing Authority. The county continued to serve as “landlord” until Scottsdale incorporated and took over in 1951. The apartments were razed in 1960, and the site became a parking lot.
ν During the late 1940s/early 1950s, volunteers operated a public library at various locations in Scottsdale — the Methodist Church, at Thunderbird Homes, at Scottsdale High School — with books loaned from the Maricopa County Library System. Today’s public library system was created by volunteers from the Scottsdale Woman’s Club in 1955.
ν Culminating nearly four years of study, artist Wes Segner and Dr. Phil Schneider led a Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce committee in circulating incorporation petitions throughout Scottsdale property owners. Due to the high percentage of signatures, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors declared Scottsdale incorporated without the need or expense of an election.
ν Scottsdale was officially incorporated as a town on June 25, 1951. Its incorporated area had a population of 2,032 living in a 0.34-square-mile area. The county board of supervisors appointed Malcolm White, Mort Kimsey, E.G. Scott, Jack Sweeney and Bill Miller to the first town council. In March 1952, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors added two more positions to the Scottsdale Town Council, appointing V.D. “Jim” Frederick and John Shoeman.
ν Scottsdale conducted civil defense training at Scottsdale High and other district schools. An article in the March 8, 1958, Arizonian stated, “Atomic-age survival is to be taught interested residents of the Scottsdale area in a one-day civil defense course. … The course includes lectures, films and discussion on the basic conditions relating to atomic, biological and chemical warfare; there is material on fire fighting and rescue and on evacuation and the survival area. A supplemental course … dealing on panic prevention and control. … Mrs. Pat Walker, training and education deputy of the Maricopa County Civil Defense, will preside at each session.”
ν In 1951, the state surveyed farm and other heavy vehicles that could be used in case of a mass evacuation — a photograph in the April 1951 issue of the Scottsdale Progress showed Scottsdale farmers demonstrating their farm equipment for the Maricopa County Civilian Defense Director Dan Wisner. In 1955, volunteers were recruited from throughout Maricopa County for the Group Observation Corps to serve in local observation posts. Housewives and homeowners were continuously urged to create a bomb, or fallout, shelter within their homes (in basementless homes in Scottsdale that would have been an interior bathroom or comparable space) and stock it with emergency supplies.
ν An 18,273-acre area for Maricopa County’s McDowell Mountain Regional Park was first leased in 1958 and patented in 1964. Through further land acquisition, this was expanded to encompass 21,099 acres. Much of the park was impacted by the July 1995 Rio fire. It adjoins Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
ν The Flood Control District of Maricopa County, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was involved with the city of Scottsdale in planning and developing the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt Flood Control Project throughout the 1960s until it was completed in 1985.
ν The Scottsdale Town Council, Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce and Maricopa County Board of Supervisors/Planning Commission formulated Scottsdale’s first comprehensive plan in 1960, covering a 15-square-mile area.
ν In April 1963, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors signed a 16-year lease for the top of Thompson Peak in the McDowell Mountains as a site for radio tower and transmitters. This area had recently been annexed into the municipal boundaries of Scottsdale. The county leased the land for $1 a year from E.E. Brown, of Browns and D.C. Ranch. The Thompson Peak location replaced the county’s former radio tower site in the White Tank Mountains.
ν In 1963, the Desert Foothills Scenic Drive was protected by a new Maricopa County zoning ordinance. In 1966/’67, the city of Scottsdale joined the newly formed Maricopa Association of Governments to work on regional issues.
ν In January 1966, residents of Vista del Camino/Penjamo neighborhood established the Organization for Improvement of Vista del Camino, governed by an eight-member board. The following year, this group was replaced by a neighborhood council when residents brought their project under the Maricopa County Community Action Agency.
ν On February 24, 1967, B.W. Burns, a member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, dedicated a 9-mile extension of Shea Boulevard that connected Scottsdale to the Beeline Highway. The million-dollar highway stretched Shea Boulevard from then-Scottsdale city limits at Shea and Alma School, east to the Beeline Highway. It was planned and built as a scenic highway, connecting Valley residents to recreational area and lakes to the east of Scottsdale.
ν In February 1971, a mobile unit of the Maricopa County Health Department began regular visits to Scottsdale’s Vista del Camino neighborhood.
ν Maricopa County paved Dynamite Road in 1978.
ν Maricopa County published its Desert Foothills Policy and Development Guide in 1979, covering 323 square miles of county land, including land north of Scottsdale’s municipal boundary that would be annexed into the city in 1981, 1982 and 1984. The guide served as a land development guide for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission as well as landowners, land developers, area residents and other governmental units, and was designed to guide development to the year 2000.
ν Maricopa County paved Lone Mountain Road in 1981.
ν On January 5, 1982, the city of Scottsdale annexed Maricopa County land that included the area east of Pinnacle Peak and the northwest portion of the McDowell Mountains, adding 10.3 square miles to the city and about 600 new residents. The area was then rezoned, and a general plan was ratified. On October 6, 1983, the Scottsdale City Council approved annexation of a large area that included the northeast portion of the McDowell Mountains, as well as the Browns Ranch area, later made part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. On July 2, 1984, the Scottsdale City Council approved the final large land annexation of 36 square miles, north of Scottsdale. This action put Scottsdale’s square mileage at 185. Municipal boundary extended north to the border of the town of Carefree, the Continental Mountains and the Tonto National Forest. Historic Browns Ranch and land that became part of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve was included in this large annexation. Zoning for the newly annexed land was “inherited” from Maricopa County until Scottsdale could amend it.
ν Maricopa County dedicated a $1.1 million, 6-mile section of Pima Road between Jomax and Stagecoach Pass (in Carefree) in 1983.
ν In 1985, Maricopa County voters approved a 20-year half-cent sales tax increase to fund a multibillion-dollar Valley freeway system.
ν In 2005, Scottsdale Charros, city of Scottsdale and San Francisco Giants announced an agreement to upgrade Scottsdale Stadium and training facilities at a cost of $23.1 million. According to the East Valley Tribune on March 16, 2005, “approximately $20 million will come from Municipal Property Corporation bonds, with $13.3 million funded by the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority and $6.7 million through the Maricopa County Stadium District. The remaining $3.1 million will be from Scottsdale.”
ν In January 2008, a Maricopa County Superior Court jury decided Scottsdale had to pay Toll Brothers $81.9 million for a 383-acre parcel that was long planned as the site for the Gateway to the Preserve and a Desert Discovery Center. The Scottsdale City Council opted not to appeal the years-old dispute (begun in 2002), and paid the settlement. The Gateway to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve was dedicated in May 2009.
ν At least three Scottsdale residents have been elected to represent District 2 on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, each serving terms as board chair: Eldon Rudd, George Campbell and Jim Bruner. Scottsdale resident Rick Romley served as the elected county attorney. Former Scottsdale City Manager Roy Pederson went on to serve as Maricopa County manager.
ν Scottsdalians have served on the volunteer sheriff’s posse, the Maricopa County Stadium District board and many other county boards and commissions that directly impact Scottsdale.
ν From human services needs to property assessments, flood and mosquito control, the country court system and so much more, Scottsdale and its residents depend on and have a close working relationship with their county. Certainly, during the COVID-19 pandemic era, the county health department is an essential part of our lives.
Happy 150th anniversary, Maricopa County! ν