October 5, 2015

Legislator Profile: Frank Pratt represents Arizona’s 8th Legislative District including parts of Pinal and Gila counties

 (Editor’s Note: The questions and answers have been paraphrased for brevity and clarity.)

I know your roots run deep in Arizona, give us your family background.

My grandfather on my mother’s side came to territorial Arizona during the 1880s Silver Rush.  He settled in Florence where he was a grocer and a baker.  My father came out here in 1914 from Ohio.  He went back to Ohio and served in World War II before coming out for good, and also settled in Florence.

My dad was a jack of all trades, working on ranches as a builder and a carpenter.

I was born in 1942 and grew up in Florence in Pinal County, which is halfway between Phoenix and Tucson.  It was an old town and in an era when there were lots of pioneers around.  I grew up as a kid in the 1940s and ‘50s prior to television.  It was a time when you sat around telling stories for entertainment.

It was an average childhood.  I played a lot of baseball and lived a whole different life than people live today.

After a couple of years in high school, I went and worked on my brother’s farm.


Farming was your first career.  Was that by accident or a goal of yours?

Growing up I always thought I’d be a farmer.  From the time I was 12, I was working on farms.  That’s something you could do back then.  I could drive a tractor and a pick-up at a very early age, and as a teenager I could pull a shift driving those vehicles as well as any adult.

I started my farming operation and farmed for a while in both Marciopa and Yuma counties.  In Yuma, I farmed a variety of seed crops, including everything from peas and onions to safflower and a Bermuda crop.  I also grew alfalfa.  In Maricopa, I was primarily a cotton grower, but I grew other crops as well, including broccoli and carrots.

Along the way I did get married and had two sons.  One died in adulthood, so I have just one surviving son.

In the 1980s, I started a business building pools in Casa Grande with my son and did that for a number of years.


What got you involved in politics?

I always had an interest in politics, but I was too busy making a living for most of my life to get too involved.  I did have the opportunity to meet and get to know some very impressive people in the Legislature.  I idolized what they did and the impact they had on policy, and it was something I thought I’d like to do.

The time came when I either had to make a move or stop talking about it.  I first started running for the Legislature in 2004 and got elected in 2008.  There was a bit of learning curve in getting elected that I came to understand.


Did you go into office with a specific agenda?

I did not have a signature issue, but I was pro-business.  I had always been self-employed and I wanted government to help business, commerce and agriculture and not be a hindrance.

I came into office as part of the first Republicans elected in Pinal County.  Those districts always elected Democrats, but we changed that.


Was the immigration issue an important one during your election and how do you stand on that issue?

It was a bit of an issue in 2008, but it reached its pinnacle a little bit later.  Of course, the issue has been around for a long time, especially in southern and central Arizona.  Some people see it as a crime issue and others talk about it as it relates to a guest worker program.  There are a lot of different areas involved in the immigration issue.  Of course, another important factor is that Mexico is our number one trading partner.  That has to be taken into account.

It really hasn’t been one of my big issues.  Crime and public safety are important issues, but I don’t see them as part of the immigration debate.

I think we all agree that we want to live safely and get a good education and have a good economy that creates a lot of jobs.  That’s my focus.


When you came into office, Arizona was in a fiscal crisis.  Has the Legislature righted that ship?

In a lot of ways we have.  We have taken some good steps.  What’s a little troubling to me is that sometimes ideology trumps common sense.

I am an advocate for business and making sure we don’t pass laws and regulations that get in the way of businesses.  The energy area is a big concern of mine.  I am concerned over the rules that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) puts on states in areas such as water rights and air quality.  For example, in Arizona, air conditioning is what makes our economy run.  We live in a very hot area and you need it.  I am against regulations that make it more expensive to live here or run a business here.  I find those regulations a bit problematic.

Agriculture is a big consumer of energy and water and has done a lot to evolve and progress over the years.  I remember when we use to have to make multiple passes in a field to harvest a crop and now they have developments that make that much more efficient.  And the advances in food safety are fascinating.  It fascinates me how they can pinpoint exactly when and where a product was grown.

Labor is another big issue.  We need a good labor force.  I’ve been at the border at 1 and 2 in the morning watching the day laborers cross so they can make a living that day.

This is all part of commerce and I’m very interested in doing what we can to help this continue rather than to stop it.  I am willing to do whatever has to be done to help commerce thrive.  Government should be an aid to commerce.


Arizona is noted for its business-friendly Legislature.  Do you think that is an accurate description?

I think we do a good job, especially when you compare us to the federal bureaucrats like the EPA.  There is such a gridlock in Washington that a lot of the agencies have an incredible amount of power to do things without going through the legislature.

When I came into office we were in the middle of a $3.5 billion revenue vs. spending problem.  It wasn’t a fun time to be a legislator.  It wasn’t if we were going to cut but how much and where.  It got ugly at times.


Where do you put yourself on the political spectrum?

I didn’t make this up so I won’t take credit for it, but I drive on the right side of the road but not so far right that I go off the road.  I am driven by my pragmatism.


What is in your political future?

I term out of the House in 2016 and I have formed a committee to run for the Senate seat in this district.  It is my intention to switch to the Senate and run for the seat in District 8 held by Barbara McGuire.  This is one of three districts with split representation.  Most districts are either very heavy toward Democrat registration or solidly Republican.  This district has split registration.

That does make you more pragmatic.  I have to represent people from both parties.  When someone from your district calls you with a problem, you don’t ask them what party they are, you ask how can you help.


Our members and many of your constituents produce the best fruits, vegetables and nuts in the world.  Do you eat our products?

Fruits and vegetables… I love both.  I love fresh corn on the cob and I have a gizmo that then takes the kernels off the cob.  There is nothing better than fresh vine-ripened tomatoes.

I do like to cook and do it often.  I like salads and have been known to have a kale salad.  When I cook, I usually serve two vegetables.  I love a green vegetable and then another one.  I love broccoli in season and zucchini and crookneck squash.  I love to steam them and use a little butter and salt and pepper.  That’s very good.

When I make salads I like to mix a lot of things together like mangos and apples and a little peach.  I love the spring mixes.