(Editor’s Note: Tim Dunn was appointed to the Arizona House of Representatives to represent Arizona’s 13th Legislative District. After earning his Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture from the University of Arizona, Rep. Dunn started his own grain company alongside his father. As a proud Yuma native, he understands the agricultural needs of his city.)
Being born and raised in Yuma, how would you describe Yuma to an outsider who has never visited?
Yuma is what I would consider a big little town. Everyone who has grown up here knows each other. The people who gradually moved into Yuma still uphold the same core values which transcend to the bigger community. I believe that is why people like to come back and move here, especially military, who tend to come here to complete their duties. They generally want to come back and retire here because we have small town rural values, but yet we’re an up and coming progressive town.
What personal accomplishments are you most proud of and why?
Among my proudest personal accomplishments is raising my two sons alongside my wife, Eileen. We’re also helping to establish a church within our community. We’ve built the church from the ground up and are continuing to help it grow. Over the last 15 years, I’ve also been involved in the Arizona Farm Bureau. I was the vice president for 12 years, so that experience helped lay the groundwork for my appointment to the [Arizona House of Representatives].
You have two sons, Kirk and Timothy. What are you most proud of about your sons?
My oldest son, Kirk, is recently married and returning to work on [our] farm and grain company. I am very proud of his drive. He’s forward-thinking, always questioning what we can do next with a “the world is at your fingertips” mindset. My youngest son just graduated and is in the Air Force. In September, he enrolled in a linguist school in Monterey to learn Farsi. As a fresh recruit out of the Air Force’s basic training, he found something that he was passionate about, which also makes me very proud.
Tell us a little about your business and how your experiences in business and agriculture have shaped your political views.
I own Dunn Grain Company, which is a company my dad and I started when I graduated from college. Over the last 20 years we’ve tried to create contracts that complement the produce industry in Yuma; for example, our black eyed pea contract. We used to grow produce, but 20 years ago we decided to stop—which may or may not have been a good decision. We grow our own seed crops so we can be in-house from beginning to end on a project.
Being in agriculture has definitely shaped me politically. In agriculture, we are constantly being introduced to regulations that we have to respond to. This is something we’ve had to deal with for years and by default has made me aware of these situations. What can be done to limit and reduce these regulation burdens? As [part of the Arizona Farm Bureau], we have always had to work on regulations, and now as a representative, I try to minimize that impact if I can, or at least do my best to make sure there is no increase. Lower taxes and fewer regulations is the goal. Anything we can do to be an advocate for labor and for helping our area of labor and immigration is important.
How were you appointed to replace Don Shooter?
The Legislature was completing their investigation and their initial plan was to censor Shooter, but at the last minute, the Legislature decided they were going to expel him. Following that decision, I received the phone call from a member of a group that loves the political agriculture community. Due to the way the process works, once a person is expelled, the committee has five days to submit names to the supervisors. The supervisors then appoint the person to replace them. It was very quick considering there were only five days. I received the phone call saying they wanted me to go forward and put my name up. At the time, we were in the middle of spring crops which meant I could not walk out on my responsibilities at our grain company. My father came out of retirement to tend to our seed and wheat crops so I could transition into this position.
What are your legislative priorities in the house?
One of my top priorities is water. We’re in the middle of working on the Drought Contingency Plan, drafting contingency plans for Arizona to work with the seven states on the lower basin. There are ongoing meetings happening in order to get stakeholders to come together and consider ways to prevent the water levels [in Lake Mead] from going below 1075. When the water level drops to a surface elevation below 1075 feet, there will be mandatory cuts for the Central Arizona Project and central Arizona. When you take mandatory cuts for central Arizona agriculture, there’s a big part of the economy at stake, so how can we do some things to keep that agriculture going?
For the state of Arizona, one thing to note is that we are one of only a few states that charges a tax on fertilizer. That puts us at a disadvantage. We addressed this with the committee last year, though we didn’t have a bill in place, talking and discussing to try to get to some level playing field. It was in statute before, but the Department of Revenue has a different version on what should and should not be taxed, so that will help all of agriculture if we could get that out.
There are also a few bills we’ve been working on; nothing major as far as revamping things. The department is moving our agriculture lab so we’re having a discussion on what that is going to look like because we need to make sure we don’t do anything that’s going to hurt our economy in Arizona.
Sometimes our agenda needs to be keeping people from messing up what is going right. I believe we should not pass bills just to pass bills, which is something I’ve said before and will continue to say.
Any last remarks?
I encourage everyone to make sure they are engaged, not only with their association but creating their personal relationships with their representatives. Although as representatives we believe we understand the needs of our constituents, I would encourage people to make sure they build those relationships because you’re not always going to agree on everything, and often we just don’t understand where you’re coming from. But this is a great opportunity for me to represent agriculture at the state Legislature and I appreciate the support.
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