The City’s Most Interesting
By Scottsdale Pinetop
Teacher. Preacher. Author. Activist. It’s quite an impressive title for one of Scottsdale’s most interesting residents. And a title that fits Paula Sturgeon perfectly. A long-term resident of Scottsdale, Paula has become one of the city’s leading advocates impacting some of Scottsdale’s key decisions.
Born in Kansas City, her family moved to Arizona in 1957 due to her diagnosed juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. After living a short-time in Tucson, she moved to Scottsdale and has lived here for over 56 years.
And she is no stranger when entering the political arena and has been a vocal advocate on recent issues before the City Council. She served as co-chair of For The Best Scottsdale PAC, the campaign that spearheaded the landslide passage of three city questions last year. She supported efforts surrounding the controversial Desert Discovery Center and lobbied against Prop. 420. She’s advocated for issues such as legalization, affordable housing, development and supported programs that assist seniors and the disabled.
We had a chance to catch up with Paula Sturgeon who reflected on her involvement in city politics, the importance of faith and her hopes for Scottsdale’s future.
What have you learned about the community since getting involved?
I grew up in a constantly changing and growing Scottsdale. And while we continued to grow, we always have been able to maintain a neighborhood vibe. Unfortunately, and sadly, this has been changing in recent years. Many residents want to keep the “old” Scottsdale. But which version of Scottsdale? The one of the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s – and so on. There is a division in our community that needs great leadership to overcome. I have high hopes for Scottsdale, because we had a common victory in the bond election. I believe we can do it again.
Last year you served as one of the leaders and co—chairs of the successful 2019 Scottsdale Bond campaign. What was that experience like? How was it working with previous foes who also served on the committee?
That’s an interesting question. To put it simple, the bond committee was “Scottsdale at its best.” Serving on the bond committee was an absolute delight and honor. When I was asked to co-chair the campaign along with a vociferous critic like Mike Norton, I laughed out loud. I think God may have laughed too. So, for me, it was the opportunity to be in a new moment, make new choices and expect the best from others. And that’s exactly what happened. Old foes became friends. Individual gifts and talents were highlighted.
It was highly invigorating for me. I was inspired to see so many people rally together to support different component of the bond package. It took all of us to make it work, regardless of perspective or opinions. We had so many people that were willing to talk to groups, large or small, in-favor or against, and spread the word. And that’s why I believe we were so successful.
You are a Republican who support legalization of marijuana. Why is that?
I first heard of legalization of certain drugs from the late William F. Buckley, Jr. on his program Firing Line. Buckley, a strong Roman Catholic and Conservative spoke of removing the criminal element from “business of drugs.” We now have the benefit of research showing the true nature of marijuana. For many there are medical benefits. For other adults, there is very little evidence of addiction; clearly less addictive than alcohol. For me, it aligns perfectly with my politics and my faith.
Religion is a very important aspect in your life. What is your religious background and how have your religious beliefs impacted your life?
I was raised in a Presbyterian home and became a Lutheran as an adult. The Lutheran church appealed to me because of the focus on the grace of God. I am a “lay minister” or preacher. And my message has always been “You are not alone.” Whether that’s with God, friends, or family – there is more love in this world than not. Faith has been my companion since I was a child. I try to glorify God in all I do, but honestly, I more often than not fall short of that goal.
What is your best advice for others who haven’t been involved in Scottsdale, but want to make a difference?
Scottsdale needs you in so many areas. Think of something that speaks to you, which you have cause or concern for. Make sure to take the time to educate yourself on the issues. Don’t rely solely on opinion pieces (even mine) but constantly ask questions and formulate your own opinion. In doing so, you will find your place in this wonderfully messy political life.
You are a passionate advocate for Scottsdale seniors and for the disabled. What are some actions that you have done to help these communities?
I’m not as big an advocate as I should be. But through my efforts to help seniors, I’ve continued to investigate affordable housing and how it can work in Scottsdale. I believe affordable housing is the #1 issue facing Scottsdale. While I was on the bond committee, I had a chance to talk with firefighters, seniors and young professionals about what concerns them. So many of our firefighters live outside of city in the East and West parts of the valley. These are experienced firefighters than just can’t afford to live here. This applies to our teachers, nurses and young families. It didn’t used to be that way!
I’ve been working with a contractor and looking at viable, energy efficient options in Scottsdale to develop affordable housing locations that can benefit the city. The problem is, there’s just a lack of land. It’s amazing what we can build, if we just have the land available. But I’m continuing to work to find solutions.
What don’t people know about Paula Sturgeon that they should?
One day, I would like to be a stand-up (or in my case – sit down) comedian. If I had a healthy body, I would have been a dare devil and spend most of my time outdoors. I love adventure and am a huge fan of river rafting.