Editor’s Note: Sine Kerr is a member of the Arizona State Senate, representing District 13, which covers northwest Maricopa County and northern Yuma County. She assumed office on Jan. 8, 2018. Her current term ends on Jan. 9, 2023. She is running unopposed for reelection in November.
Arizona State Sen. Sine Kerr (R-13) did not grow up in a politically charged environment and did not have a burning desire to become an Arizona legislator. Instead, it was her love for agriculture and her firm belief that the political arena needed more people from ag at the table when laws and regulations are being written that was the impetus for the political career.
Kerr moved to Buckeye, Ariz., when she was three years old. It is where she was raised, went to school, met her husband, started the family dairy farm, raised her children and it is also the area she has represented in the Arizona State Senate since 2018.
It was 1980, she explained, when she and Bill Kerr launched Bill Kerr Dairy Farm. Bill’s father was a dairyman and he helped each of his three sons launch their own operations. “We started with 15 cows and slowly began building our farm throughout the years,” said Kerr.
She noted that the couple engaged with the Farm Bureau and joined the local Dairymen’s Association as a way of keeping in touch with others in agriculture. “These groups advocated for us and kept us in business,” she said.
Both she and Bill got involved in the leadership of these groups and the advocacy work being done by these associations. “I learned to love the policy aspect of it,” she said. “I dug in, studied the issues, and focused on how these issues affected us in agriculture. I developed a passion for it.”
That passion led her into the political arena to meet with elected officials and articulate the needs of the ag community. It wasn’t long before Kerr was being asked by some of her dairy colleagues to run for office. In 2018, she was appointed to complete the term of a representative who resigned to seek higher office. She then won a full term in November of that year and was reelected in 2020. Sen. Kerr is running for re-election this November with no opponent.
She sees her mission as both helping the ag industry with beneficial legislation as well as stopping legislation that can do harm. “That’s just as important,” she said.
Kerr is not the only legislator with an agricultural background, but she notes she is one of only three Arizona legislators from production agriculture.
Recently, the water issue has been Kerr’s main focus. She was one of the champions of a recently passed bill that allocates $1 billion of state money to work on both long and short term projects to increase the arid state’s water supply. The State Senator is very proud of the work the Legislature did on Senate Bill 1740, on which she was the sponsor. She notes that instead of creating a new bureaucracy, the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona was expanded and reworked to allow it to oversee and manage this effort.
Kerr explained that the bill has two main components: one is to explore the options of securing new water from outside the state’s boundaries. The other is to fund state projects, especially in rural areas, that are designed to more efficiently use the water that the state already has at hand.
For the most part, the out-of-state projects are ambitious and are focused on long range solutions, while the in-state projects are expected to have payoffs in the short term designed to more efficiently utilize the state’s water.
On the long-term list are such projects as harvesting the flood waters of the Mississippi or Missouri rivers, building a desalination facility in Mexico or elsewhere, and looking at other types of technology that may have some utilization. “I like to think nothing is off the table,” said Kerr.
The in-state projects would be smaller in nature and are more focused on the immediate future. The projects on this list include new or updated water treatment facilities, improved rain harvesting and new paths to recharge aquifers.
While Arizona is often on the top or near the top of any discussion list about states with acute water needs, Kerr reminded that the state is large with many micro-climates and the need for different projects in different areas. “My husband and I actually farm in a waterlogged area,” she said, explaining that the Gila River has a very high water table resulting in the need to drain some fields.
Though this funding bill took a great deal of Sen. Kerr’s time this past year, she doesn’t think the issue is solved. “I do think there will always be water bills for us to discuss. This next session (2023), I think we might need some legislative fixes for SB 1740. I suspect there will be some hiccups we have to address.”
Of course, Kerr has other legislative interests, but she reiterated that water is clearly at the top of her list for the time being. She did note that she will term out of the State Senate after her next term expires. She does not yet have an expressed interest in another office but noted that the need for ag-minded and ag-influenced officials is ongoing. “I always encourage my ag colleagues to consider running for office,” she said.
Her other passions include family and children’s issues, caring for and serving our veterans (five consecutive generations in her family have served in the military), and education issues.