“There’s a season for everything; this is a season to move forward.”
That’s what Thatcher Mayor Bob Rivera, 72, said after announcing he plans to retire next month.
It has been 28 years since Rivera began his journey as a member of the council, and he has spent 17 of them as mayor of Thatcher. Now, Rivera has decided to move on with his life, letting the responsibility fall to the younger council members, he said.
He has always been a person to see the glass half full, he said. One of the upcoming projects he is excited to see finished for Thatcher is the recreation complex located on the corner of 8th Street and Reay Lane. Although the project will not be completed for four or five years, Rivera is especially excited about the amphitheater in the complex.
“It will have a stage with the latest sound system, and people can sit there on Sunday evenings and watch movies or listen to bands play or the EAC orchestra perform,” Rivera said.
In the future, Rivera said he hopes Independence Day celebrations will be held at the complex. In essence, he hopes the complex will be a gathering place for the community.
He has faith in the remaining council members, Rivera said. He believes they should focus on fixing roads, ensuring the safety of the citizens and seeing to the citizens’ wants.
“The new council is a young council. They’re educated, they’re intelligent, they get along and it’s all about where we’re headed,” Rivera said.
Although Rivera is retiring from the council he will not be disappearing from the community scene. He’s a member of the Safford Lions Club, the Graham County Substance Abuse Coalition’s board of directors, the Knights of Columbus and St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church.
At the intersection of 20th Avenue and 8th Street in Thatcher there is now a traffic light and four lanes along with a turning lane. Before the Town of Thatcher began the project to install the lanes and traffic light, Rivera said there were wrecks and fatalities at that intersection. The completion of this project is what Rivera calls his greatest achievement while working on the council. The project was a combination of efforts from the City of Safford, Arizona Department of Transportation as well as funding from SEAGO, he said.
“We saved lives,” he said. “ And we made people’s lives better.”
Of course, there were plenty of other projects Rivera said he is proud of, including the completion of the Thatcher Splash Pad and the ballparks, but making what was a deadly intersection safer for Thatcher citizens is at the top of his list.
Rivera said he remembered one instance he felt particularly bad. A miscommunication error resulted in the hiring and then subsequent firing of 14 people.
A road maintenance project on Raey Lane was dragging on and the council wished the project would speed up. An engineer thought the council had agreed to the hiring of more people to assist in finishing the road faster.
“We didn’t have the money. We had to let them go,” Rivera said.
This incident happened roughly 20 years ago, he said. During that time, jobs were not readily available in the Gila Valley. The Safford Mine had not moved into the area and the Morenci mine was not hiring as much as they are now.
Following this miscommunication, Rivera said the council was very careful to communicate clearly in order to avoid anything like it from happening again.
“I remember that; I’m still embarrassed,” Rivera said. “These were full-time jobs, but temporary until we got the road done.”
What makes a good mayor?
In his experience, Rivera said it is important for a mayor to listen to the people. After the people have been given the chance to voice opinions or problems, a mayor has to seek to solve the issue and then personally follow up with the citizen.
“You can’t be a person that doesn’t smile or talk to the people. You have to integrate yourself and have a dialogue, and a smile doesn’t hurt,” he said.
Being a good listener is important, he said. Being knowledgeable about the community is also critical.
A great experience
Rivera calls his time working with the Town of Thatcher a blessing. Just being able to interact with the people of the town on a daily basis was a great experience.
“All the years to interact with all these good people in our valley, all these pillars in the community,” Rivera said. “You get to know these people, they’re all givers. They have a passion for community and they give back.”
When leaving the council next month he said he envisions himself walking out of the front lobby of the Thatcher Town Hall. With his coat over his shoulder, he can see himself going into the sunset with a smile from ear to ear.
“I’m glad,” Rivera said. “It’s time to move on.”