While lawmakers are tasked with serving the interests of their constituents, they also tackle issues like business tax reform and affordable group health insurance as small business owners.
Small business entrepreneurs who double as legislators have some pretty definite views on what could help their bottom line.
Issues include tax reform, making health insurance more affordable, immigration, the ban on smoking and holding the line on governmental regulations.
Of course, time management is always there as they tend to their lawmaking responsibilities while keeping an eye on their private sector moneymaking interests.
Rep. Cloves Campbell
‘So far it hasn’t affected my politics in any way, but being associated with the paper, I do get a lot of information every day that has made it easier for me to be a
— Rep. Cloves Campbell Jr.
Rep. Cloves Campbell Jr., finds that being in the Legislature enables him to keep up with current events — an indirect benefit for him in his business.
A freshman lawmaker, Campbell, D-16, is co-publisher of the Arizona Informant, a weekly newspaper that targets African-American readers throughout the state. The paper has been in his family for 36 years, having been started by his father and uncle, both who died in recent years.
Campbell, who shares ownership with his cousin Roland Campbell, has been working at the paper for 20 years. The Informant at 1746 E. Madison St., has about 15,000 subscribers, Campbell says, and is available by mail and in barber shops, beauty parlors, convenience stores and some restaurants in the Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff areas.
Now that he’s a legislator, Campbell still tends to his small business, which has a staff of 25, mostly part timers. He usually goes to the paper early in the morning, spends most of the day at the Capitol, and then stops at the newspaper office at the end of the day.
“Fortunately, I have a competent staff that can take care of things,” Campbell says. “I don’t have to have hands-on all the time. It’s a fairly easy adjustment for me so far. We haven’t had any really late-night sessions, but I’m sure they’re coming.
“So far it hasn’t affected my politics in any way, but being associated with the paper, I do get a lot of information every day that has made it easier for me to be a legislator.”
Crandall Corporate Dieticians
Rep. Rich Crandall
‘We try to pretend we’re one of the big boys, but we’re not.’
— Rep Rich Crandall
Rep. Rich Crandall, R-19, says splitting his time between his three businesses and the Legislature “is so worth it.”
Crandall is CFO of Crandall Corporate Dieticians, which he says is the oldest and largest dietician company for nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living facilities, with a focus on geriatric care. A companion company, CN Resource, deals with children, providing nutritional programs, oversight, auditing, analysis and training primarily for schools. A third firm, Delos Development, has built an office building.
“We try to pretend we’re one of the big boys, but we’re not,” Crandall says.
Having small business owners at the Legislature is important, he says. “You need people who have a different perspective — a mix of teachers and others,” Crandall says. “Of the five new Republicans here, I think we all own companies. We’re not interested in any more red tape.”
But Crandall regrets having spent so much time at the Legislature on “little things that don’t move Arizona forward.” He adds: “If we give up working at our job, we want to work on big issues.”
He is quick to thank Speaker Jim Weiers for allowing him to work on legislation that would correct inequities in the ladder program for teachers, a pay benefit that is not available to all school districts.
Crandall says he dedicates Monday mornings, Fridays and Saturdays to his companies, and has hired a couple of employees “who maybe do a better job than I do.” He also outsourced a great deal of the business’ accounting, which freed his staff to take over some of his duties.
The Adams Agency
Rep. Kirk Adams
‘I’m in politics because of small business and it does affect how I view policy.’
— Rep. Kirk Adams
Rep. Kirk Adams says he’s been immersed in insurance almost since the day he could talk.
Adams, R-19, is managing partner of The Adams Agency, a property and casualty firm with offices in Mesa, Apache Junction and Yuma. He describes the company as a second-generation agency, founded by his father, Dave, who has not been active in the company since the late 1990s.
“That’s what we would talk about around the dinner table, business and insurance issues,” Adams says.
He joined the company full time in 1994, became active in management in 1998, and in 2001 completed the purchase of the agency along with two partners.
While Adams is legislating, his partners, Wayne Syrek and Scott Adams, his brother, keep the business running smoothly. “It’s in very good hands,” he says. “They are very competent managers and are fully supportive of my legislative duties. But I can’t wait to get back there. It’s nice to be your own boss, strategizing and making it grow.”
But is it worth it – trying to do two jobs at once≠ “The jury is still out,” Adams says with a laugh.
“I’m in politics because of small business and it does affect how I view policy,” he says. Adams has first-hand experience on how small businesses are affected by taxes and regulations.
He sees the rising cost of health insurance as the biggest issue facing small businesses.
Adams says his company, which has 19 employees, pays “more than six figures a year” for health insurance.
Rep. David Schapira
‘I’d love to give my full attention to the Legislature, but I can’t survive financially.’
— Rep. David Schapira
Rep. David Schapira, D-17, who runs a small consulting firm, Democracy Online, says he would give up the business “in a heart-beat” and become a full-time politician if the legislative pay were better.
But Schapira, who at 27 is the youngest member of the Legislature, says he’d probably keep the business going “to keep my head above water.” His company designs Web sites, manages campaigns and consults on political issues.
“It definitely distracts from my legislative responsibilities,” Schapira says. “I’d love to give my full attention to the Legislature, but I can’t survive financially.” Right now his business is on “auto pilot.”
Schapira started his business in 2003 and has two contract employees who handle sales and Web design. Despite the firm’s name (Democracy), Schapira says, “We’ve had no stipulation on the parties we work for, but they are predominantly Democratic candidates.”
It’s a constant struggle, he says, to maintain a good business climate for small business. “The average small business owner likes state government to stay out of their industry on regulatory issues. But in reality, we have competitors who are abusing the system, and at that point government at any level needs to make sure there is a level playing field. Balance and counter balance. You don’t want to be over regulated.”
Schapira gained insight from his father who owns a scaffolding company. He says two bills that died would have benefited subcontractors. One targeted general contractors who are slow to pay subcontractors and another would have prevented general contractors from passing liability onto subcontractors, Schapira says.
Hidden House Cocktail Lounge,
Bruno Mali’s Café
Rep. Mark DeSimone
‘When you live as a small business owner for 17 years, it has to color your views. We’re the sum of our experience and environment.’
— Rep. Mark DeSimone
Being a small business owner definitely affects Rep. Mark DeSimone’s political outlook.
DeSimone, D-11, has owned and operated the Hidden House Cocktail Lounge, 607 W. Osborn, and the adjacent Bruno Mali’s Café for 17 years.
“I think it’s inevitable,” DeSimone says. “When you live as a small business owner for 17 years, it has to color your views. We’re the sum of our experience and environment.”
The freshman Democrat takes a somewhat conservative view of government regulations. “When government comes in and makes rules, it can affect your life adversely,” he says. “The smoking ban (May 1) will have a big impact on my business. It’s not a level playing field. The American Legion down the street from me is exempt. My daytime business is predominantly older vets who hop back and forth between the two, but I expect my daytime business to suffer for certain.”
DeSimone laments that small businesses don’t get the tax breaks that “big business can lobby for — and get. It’s a shame.”
How does he cope with two jobs now that he’s an elected official≠ “My new job is definitely more interesting, and the bathroom is cleaner,” he says with a laugh. DeSimone, who also has a real estate license, relies on his wife Mali to keep the bar and café going while he’s at the Capitol.
If legislative salaries were higher, would DeSimone consider giving up his businesses≠ “The equation would be different,” he says, recalling sage advice: “Don’t quit your day job, or in my case, my night job.”
Rep. Michele Reagan
‘We seem to concentrate on a lot of bills that sound good, but we don’t vote for them because of the unintended consequences for small business…’
— Rep. Michele Reagan
Rep. Michele Reagan, R-8, loves being in the private sector.
“I love the feeling of, the harder you work and the more you contribute, the more you see financially,” she says.
That’s the way it was in her sign company, Fast Signs, from 1991 to 2001. Now she’s with Reagan Properties, which was started by her parents, Michael and Donna Reagan, and is run by her husband, David Gulino. The company provides land development services and has some projects in Scottsdale and Eloy. Reagan handles the books — the accounting, billing and invoicing.
“The private sector rewards you for the amount of work you do,” the lawmaker says. “You do miss the energy of the private sector.”
Reagan says the overriding reason she ran for the Legislature was that so few people understand small business. “The big difference is who signs the front or the back of the check — the owners or the employees,” she says. “We seem to concentrate on a lot of bills that sound good, but we don’t vote for them because of the unintended consequences for small business. Maybe there’s another form that actually costs small businesses money. It’s frustrating when people don’t see that.”
She’s busiest at the beginning of the month when there is a lot of billing to do. “You have to manage your time,” she says.
Reagan says small business could benefit from tax reform and an elimination of government mandates. “I want to be part of keeping Arizona’s business-friendly environment,” she says.