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For ex-legislators, moving on is not forgetting

Don’t expect to find former state legislators in their 60s and 70s sitting around watching saguaros grow. They don’t necessarily have a desire to return to the political wars, but their plates are full, and politics is still a part of their lives. Two Republicans who were defeated in primaries remain somewhat bitter. One of them has followed a time-tested rule of politics — don’t get mad, get even.
They still get back to 1700 W. Washington St. occasionally to see old friends and say they miss the camaraderie of earlier times.
Ask if they think about running for the Legislature again and the answer from some is a Shermanesque no, no, no. But former Rep. Jean McGrath, 70, a Glendale Republican who is running for a seat on the Central Arizona Water Conservation District this year, leaves the door slightly ajar with, “I don’t think so.”
Former Rep. Jim Carruthers, 65, a Yuma Republican, says he has finally “retired, retired — for the time being.”
And Marion Pickens, 74, figures the 10 years she spent in the House of Representatives is enough. “I’m not a spring chicken anymore,” says the Tucson Democrat, who remains active in politics and has accepted two new challenging roles.
Republican ex-Sen. Ed Cirillo, 72, of Sun City West, who serves on numerous charitable boards, including Catholic Charities and Interfaith Community Care that help the underprivileged, says he’s able to put the past behind him and move on to another phase. Even so, he still harbors resentment over his defeat in the 2002 GOP primary.
McGrath stays busy with water board; Maricopa County Republican Party
Ms. McGrath, who was on her way to a political meeting in Casa Grande when she was interviewed, says, “I’m way too busy.” She was planning to ask U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., why he didn’t support U.S. Rep. John Shaddeg for majority leader when that post in Congress became vacant. She’s active in the Republican Party in Maricopa County, volunteering one day a week at the headquarters and working on campaigns, is a member of the state Republican Committee, and is in two GOP groups, one in Wickenburg and the other is the Arizona African American Republican Committee.
She also mentions that she’s president of the Sun City West Republican Forum.
On top of all that, Ms. McGrath, who owns and operates a 10-acre farm in Glendale with 20 employees, is a board member of the Farm Bureau of Maricopa County, and is on the scholarship committee of the Arizona Nursery Association. She also serves on the government affairs committees of the Farm Bureau and Nursery Association.
About two years ago, the Department of Water Resources began a process to make rules governing wells permanent. Ms. McGrath has been part of that process, meeting every three weeks to develop new rules, replacing temporary ones that have been in effect since the 1980s. The final meeting was in December, with recommendations scheduled to go to the Governor’s Regulatory Review Committee shortly.
“That got me so interested in water that I’m running for the Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board, which controls CAP water decisions,” Ms. McGrath says. Five of the 10 Maricopa County seats are up this year, she says.
“I come down to the Legislature once in awhile, I lobby and testify periodically, and I’m still in the Arizona Lottery pool,” Ms. McGrath says. Last year the group had the winning ticket for $10,000. The bad news is, there are 35 people in the pool and Ms. McGrath wound up with about $200.
“I miss the nice employees — I absolutely love them,” she says. “But I am upset the way I lost. The old District 17 was a real solid Republican district. If you got past the primary, you were home free. Two Republicans ran against me. They sent out a hit piece that came out the Friday and Saturday before the primary. I didn’t have time to respond. You don’t expect that from fellow Republicans. So I did what every politician does. I didn’t get mad, I got even. Phil Hanson was one of those, and I got him unseated.”
Cirillo keeps interest in politics; doesn’t miss Legislature
Mr. Cirillo is another ex-lawmaker who isn’t happy about losing his legislative seat. But will he run again? “No, no, no,” he says, but he hasn’t lost interest in politics. “I keep track of things, read the papers and watch ‘Horizon.’ One of reasons I lost was I fought for repeal of anti-sodomy laws. They were on the books in only three states and the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional. The police said they would not run into people’s bedrooms, and I felt that we should not have laws that aren’t enforced. That might give people the impression that other laws aren’t being enforced either. It took me three years to get it passed and Jane Dee (then-Governor Hull) signed it.”
Mr. Cirillo is pleased to see that someone he favors, retired DPS officer Bill Whalen, is running against his replacement, Sen. Jack Harper, R-4. He calls Mr. Whalen “a good credible candidate.” Of Mr. Harper, Mr. Cirillo asks, “Has he ever had any of his bills signed? The governor has a special stamp for Harper bills. She automatically vetoes them.”
The former senator is chairman of the Historical Architectural Review Board, a role that gets him to the Capitol regularly for meetings. A recipient of the Polly Rosenbaum award, which is named for the late long-time lawmaker and recognizes individuals for efforts on behalf of historical records, Mr. Cirillo says he is delighted that construction of a new archives building has finally been approved. Showing the skepticism of a former legislator, he adds quickly, “I’ll feel better when it’s built.”
He clearly doesn’t miss life at the Legislature. “No,” he says, “I got used to that right away. When I’m finished with one phase of life, I move on. I’ve retired four times. Most of the people I was with [at the Legislature] are gone now.”
Mr. Cirillo says he is not happy with the split in state government, with Democrats controlling the Executive Branch and Republicans running the Legislature. They’re not accomplishing much, he says, just practicing one-upmanship, passing bills intended to embarrass the governor.
On the other hand, he’s not pleased with Governor Napolitano’s handling of the fourth bill the Legislature sent her on English language learners. “She let it become law without her signature and then wrote a strong letter to the judge opposing it,” Mr. Cirillo says. “The state needs to have just one face.”
He mentions his strong opposition to public funding of political campaigns, saying the system has facilitated the election of several who would not have won otherwise. It’s not the money issue that bothers him, though. “It’s that the person never accomplished anything,” he says. “They don’t know what they’re doing or worse, they go in with a fixed agenda, not willing to compromise. You’ve got to be willing to bend a little.” He concedes that some winners who relied on public funding have proved worthy of the office.
Mr. Cirillo would like to see the state assemble a strategic plan for creating the budget. “Not an 80-page document,” he says, “just an outline of what the problems are in each department, what they’re doing, and the dollars needed for the next five years.”
In the meantime, Mr. Cirillo is on an advisory board for ASU West, the endowment board for the Sun City West Rotary Club, is outgoing president of the Arizona chapter of the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, and is a board member of Sun Health, a nonprofit health care organization in the Sun City area. As a member of Sun Health’s public affairs committee, Mr. Cirillo and other members meet once a year with legislators during the session to state their position on various issues.
Pickens involved in civil service; university and women’s groups
Marion Pickens, who served in the House for 10 years, says of retirement, “You can’t retire from the Legislature without a lot of people saying, ‘How about doing this or how about doing that?’” Two roles she filled nominally while in the Legislature are taking up more of her time now — the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women. As political chair of the university group, she keeps up to speed on legislative issues, mostly via e-mail and phone calls.
“I get there, but not too often,” Ms. Pickens says. “I help lobby, but mostly I let the people who live in Maricopa County do that.” She’s still a member of the Arizona Education Association as a retiree, so certain pieces of legislation affecting teachers are of particular interest to her.
In so-called retirement, Ms. Pickens has taken on two new roles. She agreed to serve on the Civil Service Commission for the city of Tucson, which conducts hearings for city employees who have work-related complaints. “I’m amazed that the city of Tucson has a pretty stable employment record,” she says. “Maybe it’s management or conditions of employment.”
Her other new role is as a court appointed special advocate for children who have been removed by the state from their families. She gets an insider’s view of Child Protective Services and Juvenile Court.
“I take on one family at a time,” Ms. Pickens says. “My responsibility is to get to know the child or children and the family. As the hearings continue, there is an attempt by the court and CPS to look for stability, long-term placement, and that can come up in a number of ways. You can get the family together and the child goes home or if that’s not possible, you look for ways for the child to be adopted.”
She calls the job fascinating. “When I was in the Legislature I knew about what was happening in Juvenile Court and CPS, but never had the real inside information,” she says. “Those kids are being served as well as possible, at least in Pima County. I’m impressed with the kind of services offered to the child or the family to help them get their life back together.”
Yet she says it is “disturbing to see the number of families falling apart — and there is no end to that.”
On those rare occasions when she makes the trek from Tucson to the Capitol, Ms. Pickens says, “I can count on a lot of hugs.”
At a recent AEA gathering in Mesa, she enjoyed seeing old friends and finding out what’s new in their lives.
But I don’t miss the day-to-day activities,” Ms. Pickens says. “I’m just happy to turn that over to other legislative colleagues. Naturally I’m still involved in the Democratic Party, helping people get elected.” Her biggest disappointment as a member of the minority party at the Legislature was not getting any of her bills passed.
“I was asked if I enjoyed being a legislator, and I asked the person to define enjoy,” she says. “It’s a real puzzle. It was such a challenge, but it got so discouraging. Many times I wondered what it would be like to be in the majority, and get some of my bills through or even considered in committee.
“I‘m quite happy to have been there only ten years and let somebody else take over the good fight,” she says.
Carruthers involved in civic issues, figuring out what to do next
In Yuma, Mr. Carruthers remains involved in civic issues, including one close to his political heart. He serves on a committee to select a new executive director for the Northern Arizona University branch there. “Having NAU in Yuma is important for me,” he says. “I helped build it.”
He’s also on a Yuma committee to erect an Iraqi war memorial in Wesley Bolin Plaza at the state Capitol. “I’m kinda glad I’m not down there anymore,” Mr. Carruthers says. “We used to do battle, shake hands, be friends and go home. I’m not sure it’s the same atmosphere. I still have a lot of good friends there, and I miss the camaraderie. I always loved the challenges, like making chicken salad out of something else. I get down there two or three times a year to see some of the cronies who represent District 24. They’re some of my best friends, though we don’t agree on much politically. You have 90 people there who have an idea on how to make Arizona better, but they don’t always agree on how to do it. That’s what makes the world go around.”
His fondest memory was when some Republicans joined with Democrats to shut down the Legislature for a day in protest against something then-Speaker Jeff Groscost was doing. “We actively adjourned the Legislature for a day — end of battle,” he says.
Mr. Carruthers wants to build a summer home in New Mexico, which is where he plans to spend some time as the weather in Yuma heats up. He enjoys working on antique cars, including a 1950 Chevrolet that belongs to a friend. He calls it “a rust buggy.”
“I’m just trying to figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life,” Mr. Carruthers says. “But I’m not pining away.”

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