Speakers’ Corner: Paradise Valley Town Council Member Anna Thomasson

This is a place where free speech and public debate are welcomed and encouraged. The Speakers’ Corner originated in the mid-19th century at London’s Hyde Park. The concept spread worldwide both physically and now virtually. Here at the Arizona Progress & Gazette, we are presenting this platform in the form of question-and-answer style interviews with people who have had a meaningful impact on the community.

Anna Thomasson has been serving on the Paradise Valley Town Council since 2019. She recently announced she is running for Mayor. She moved to Paradise valley in 1994 and married her husband Gary in 2002. Most of her 35-year business career has been spent as a principal with global consultancy and pension actuarial firm, Towers Perrin/Towers Watson serving Fortune 500 companies. Thomasson is a public member of the Arizona Supreme Court Judicial Council and previously served seven years as a public member of the Arizona State Bar Board of Governors. Anna and her husband Gary also volunteer their time raising German shepherd guide dogs for the blind.

You have lived in Paradise Valley for nearly 30 years. What, in your opinion, is its most positive change in the past three decades?

Thanks to the foresight and hard work of past mayors and councils, the Town is in great financial condition, and we have made appropriate investments in our infrastructure, technology, and public safety. We have retired almost all municipal debt, fully funded our police pension fund, and built a healthy cash reserve.  We have continued to improve the quality of our Town staff and improved many services to our residents. Thanks also to many Town volunteers, we established the Paradise Mountain Preserve Trust that helped gather 260 acres for conservation, preserving our iconic mountains.

What change causes you the most concern?

As people from around the country discover our unique Paradise Valley, the financial pressure on our land, views and open spaces increases. We know our residents cherish those qualities that make us special, and I fight every day to make sure we stay compliant with our codes and ordinances while respecting property owners’ rights.  There is only one Paradise Valley, and we have to keep it Paradise Valley.

What prompted you to run for Mayor?

I was inspired by Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner and past mayors to continue the tradition of hard work and service to our Town. For 30 years, including seven years of volunteer service on the Board of Adjustment and Town Council, Paradise Valley has been my home. Since retiring from the corporate world, I am now able to devote as much time as needed in service to the Town. It will be my first priority.

We have a beautiful, peaceful, and safe community and we need fresh, current energy leading us in the future to Keep Paradise Valley, Paradise Valley. I’m an experienced leader, working on current issues and I’m ready to serve as the next Mayor of Paradise Valley.

Your biography on the Town website describes you as “a militant fiscal conservative who is passionate about keeping the tranquil, residential environment that attracts so many to Paradise Valley.”
How do you define militant fiscal conservative?

In my personal and professional life, when it comes to spending, I often start with no and look for a solid ROI before getting to yes. Living in a wealthy community with a strong financial condition provides an easy temptation to spend money, but I know the reason we are in a good financial condition is because past councils were very careful with Town spending and made careful investments. As Mayor I would make leaving the Town in an even healthier financial condition a priority. I believe people and organizations should be financially responsible for themselves while making thoughtful, appropriate investments for the future.

What is the most effective way to preserve Paradise Valley’s tranquil, residential environment?

Electing leaders who truly love the Town and understand our values is central to preserving our environment. Our elected officials should also have the time and skills to work with each other, our staff, our Planning Commission and our legislators to manage the threats to our quiet, residential lifestyle. As a current councilmember and retired business leader with plenty of time and passion, I know I have the experience and current knowledge to keep our Town special.

Given your business background, how would you grade the Town government’s fiscal health and why?

Excellent. Our police pension is among the highest funded police pension plans in the state, funded at over 90% and we also have very little debt left on our courthouse building. Most notably, we have over 3 years of annual operating expenses in our reserve fund, allowing us to weather financial challenges like a pandemic decimating 40% of our tourism revenue stream, a state legislative change in construction sales tax revenue, or elimination of our efficient photo enforcement tools. Our Chicago-based municipal bond consultant said he wanted to move to PV for our financial condition alone!

What motivated you to volunteer so much of your time with the Arizona State Bar?

After 35 years in the Fortune 500 corporate world, I was used to working hard with really smart people solving problems. The Arizona judicial system, from the State Bar to the Supreme Court has a strong tradition of involving non-lawyer, public members in all aspects of the justice system. Serving on the Arizona State Bar Board of Governors gave me a chance to give voice to the public’s concerns and enhance access to justice. I also served on a Judicial Performance Review Panel and the Lawyer Discipline System Oversight committee and was a founding member of the  Alternative Business Structure review board. I am now honored to serve on the Arizona Judicial Council providing operational oversight to Arizona’s 10,000-employee court system.

How did you come to be a volunteer raising guide dogs for the blind?

I began volunteering at age 16 teaching American Red Cross first aid courses and have volunteered my entire life for many non-profit organizations. It is part of my being.  After Gary and I married in 2002, we combined our love of German Shepherds with a desire to help the blind and began puppy-raising “Cabo,” a 10-week old, fluffy puppy.  After puppy-raising 5 guide dogs for the blind for 18 months each and getting to know their new blind partners and the life-changing impact these dogs provide, we have been forever changed and are so grateful for the experience.

Outside of Paradise Valley, what is your favorite vacation destination in Arizona?

“The Bug” is the nick name Gary and I give our cabin on Big Bug Mesa Road in the mountains above Prescott. Perched at 7,000 feet elevation, our cabin hangs off the side of the mountain in the cool air surrounded by miles of national forest that we explore with our three German Shepherds (Elsa, Echo, and Layla). Like many vacation spots, we don’t get there often enough as work keeps us in Paradise Valley much of the summer, but we love it when we can get away.

Tell us a little about your husband’s baseball career.

I’m very proud of Gary’s career starting with Camp Pendleton little league, through Topps Rookie of the Year when he was with the San Francisco Giants, all the way to the 1978 World Champion New York Yankees. He is a humble and quiet guy but has plenty of great stories and we love to watch every pitch of the playoff games each season. I’m lucky that such an accomplished man is so supportive of his wife’s passion for serving our town.

What is your favorite local restaurant?

Does Costco count? Seriously, Gary and I live and eat very casually, and we love to sit outside at Oreganos and enjoy their Bar-be-que chicken pizza! Otherwise, I’m all in for our PV resorts. For meetings, you will find me at the Camelback Inn, Andaz or Mountain Shadows, and for a special occasion, we head to Elements at Sanctuary or Lon’s at The Hermosa. I try to never leave 85253!