CLIFTON — This month, the county bids farewell to its longtime administrator Deborah K. Gale as she settles into a well-earned retirement.
In 1976, Gale began her career with the county in the Information Technology Department doing data processing.
“That was in the days before any laptops or personal computers on tables or desks. In all the offices, we had one major mainframe in the basement that took up about the size of this room,” she said in an interview with the Copper Era.
Using what she had been taught in college, Gale wrote programs and recorded data for all the county’s departments.
“For me, I learned how to assess property by examining the data they were giving to us,” she said.
It was through working with departmental data that Gale became familiar with the workings of all the other departments and transitioned into her position as the county clerk.
“Understanding all those offices, having a good working relationship and understanding their needs — that really, for me was probably the best thing that could have ever happened. Having that background and moving into the clerk’s office and being able to work with the board of supervisors,” she said.
She had the job for two days before discovering that she also had the onerous task of being the elections director, during the infamous 1983 strike, with two recalls filed.
“That one turned into a very, very contentious election. We had over 50 people running for all of the offices. I think we had 20 people running for the three supervisor seats, and seven running for sheriff,” Gale said.
During her long and distinguished career in the administration, Gale had a high opinion of the various supervisors she worked for over the years. In particular, she highlighted the current administration and praised the work it does for Greenlee County.
She fondly recalled Supervisor Ron Campbell’s first days in office as being a literal trial by fire as he was thrust into the middle of Arizona wildfire season.
In a press release issued by the county last week, all the supervisors praised Gale for her guidance and experience. It was clearly visible to the supervisors in 2001 when Gale found herself appointed as the county administrator succeeding Rob Stokes.
“That was also an honor. I never went into the job thinking I was going to be the administrator,” she said.
She was one of the first women in Arizona to serve as a county CEO and has served on numerous boards and committees, cementing Greenlee County’s place at the table in state and federal politics — all while raising three accomplished daughters of her own with her husband, Larry.
She talked about projects she was especially proud of.
“A couple of the other things I think I’m most proud of, I was part of the original team that set up the health trust that we’re part of, A sound, very financially stable trust that provides wonderful health-care coverage for our employees,” she said.
Even now, Gale acts as the chairwoman of that health trust.
Looking back on her career, she has few regrets. There are a number of currently running projects she’d love to see finished but will now entrust to her successor (Even as she spoke, her desk was piled high with paperwork).
Of all her accomplishments, however, the one she wasn’t quite able to do was make time for herself. In an anecdote, Gale shared a family vacation photo in Hawaii to celebrate the wedding of one of her daughters, and Gale can be seen on the phone working hard for Greenlee County.
Now there’s time at last for rest and relaxation, but when she needs something to fill her time, she said she’s interested in doing some lobbying, perhaps for education.
“There’s always something new; that was the thing about this job, There was something different every day, which is very good. It keeps you young and it keeps your mind going,” she said,
Gale will serve her final day as Greenlee County administrator on Aug. 5, 2019.