Graham County Board of Supervisor Jim Palmer may be retiring at the end of the year, but he’s not ready to sit in the rocking chair.
“I’ve loved the opportunity to work here immensely. It’s a bittersweet thing to walk away from,” Palmer said. “Now I’m ready to find something new.”
Currently, Palmer, 67, is employed at his son’s dental practice part-time. However, he said he will devote all his energy to his job as a District 2 supervisor until his last day, Dec. 31.
During his time as supervisor Palmer said the county has completed multiple projects he is proud of. One project was the establishment of a jail district for Graham County and the completion of the new Graham County Jail.
The new jail was a necessity, Palmer said. The old jail wasn’t up to the state’s standards, and he's proud of the new building.
He's also pleased they were able to replace the 8th Avenue bridge across the Gila River; it was old and unsafe, he said.
During his tenure, there have been an endless number of road improvement projects, he said.
“I’m proud of all the transportation projects, transforming dirt into the pavement,” Palmer said.
One of the most monumental projects involved opening the Safford mine, Palmer said. The county had to work on the federal level with the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to pave the way for the mine to open, he said. He said he feels the new mine is greatly assisting the county’s economic growth.
Overall, he spent two decades with the county.
“What I’m the most proud of is the fact I’ve been here for 20 years and I’ve been doing my job,” he said.
Although he didn’t make everyone happy, Graham County has been represented all over the state, he said.
If anyone wants to run for district supervisor, Palmer said it’s important to be involved in the community and have a relationship with other government agencies.
“You can’t just come to the scene and decide to lead the county,” he said. “You have to have the relationships. Working relationships with the councils, state levels and watersheds. We’re a tiny county and if you can’t work together with others you won’t be able to accomplish what Graham County needs.”
Inevitably, it is impossible to make everyone happy, he said. This is especially true during zoning meetings. Half of the room will be supportive of the zoning change while the other half opposes it, Palmer said.
Consistency is key, Palmer said.
“I just weigh the issue and vote my conscience. What is the overall good? What’s the principal? You have to be consistent,” he said. "You also have to have a thick hide because you’re probably going to have to lose some friends over it, and that’s the unfortunate part.”
Aside from his work for the county, Palmer has volunteered for Thatcher Unified School District. Most recently, he volunteered for Eastern Arizona College, raising money for new bleachers. He is still the secretary-treasurer of the EAC booster club.
“It’s been a profound privilege and honor to be able to serve here for this long,” he said. “It’s been one of the greatest experiences of my life."
He has a great appreciation for the citizens who elected him and supported him, as well as the ones who didn’t. He said he deeply appreciates the Graham County community.
“It has been one of the greatest honors of my life, and walking away from this is a very surreal, very bittersweet thing,” Palmer said.
John Howard won the primary election and will be replacing Palmer in January.