May 1, 2015

Tony Rivero: representing Arizona’s 21st House District, including Peoria

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


(Arizona House Representative Tony Rivero, a Republican, won in his first run for the state Legislature in November 2014.  Previously he was on the Peoria City Council.)


Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Phoenix and grew up in Peoria which is a suburb of Phoenix.  I went to Peoria Elementary from Kindergarten through eighth grade and then on to Peoria High School.  And then I graduated from Glendale Community College before moving on to Arizona State University.  At ASU, I received my undergraduate degree in Education and my graduate degree in Public Administration.

My mom was a stay-at-home mom while my dad was a grounds keeper in the Peoria School District.


What were your career goals?

When I was in college I wanted to be a teacher at the high school level.  But while in college I served an internship in Sen. Jon Kyl’s office, and that exposed me to government and public service.  After college I got a job with the City of Peoria, where I ended up doing a variety of jobs in several different departments.  I worked in human resources and public works and in the office of the city manager.

After I left that position and was out of city government for about a year, a position on the City Council came up and I ended up running for the seat and winning it.


Did you ever expect you would run for office?  Did the internship at Sen. Kyl’s pique your interest in a political career?

No it really didn’t.  When I was working for Sen. Kyl it opened my eyes to public service but I wasn’t thinking I’d run for office.  I liked the idea of working in government and helping people like I did with the City of Peoria.  I figured I would be a government employee and in that way give back to my community.  But when the City Council spot came up I decided to run.


You are a Republican.  Did you come from a political family?  When did you decide to register Republican?

My family was not political at all.  I do not remember when I decided that I was a Republican.  I suppose it was in college.  When I first learned about the two-party system and studied each party, I felt more aligned with the Republican Party and the values it stands for.  I believe in a good work ethic and that you should work for what you get.  I want to take government out of our lives as much as I can.  I believe in strong family values, life and low taxes.  All of my family members are also Republican.


Did you have a particular issue of interest when you ran for City Council or the Arizona House of Representatives?

When I ran for the City Council, I ran as an outsider who would come in and change the way we conducted business.  And I believe I was successful in doing that.

For the House of Representatives, there were many more issues on which I had a position, but I also ran as an outsider.  Specifically I advocated for no new taxes, decreased regulations and fiscal responsibility.  I also said I would not support any bills that worsen our immigration situation.  I am opposed to SB1070 (Arizona’s restrictive anti-immigration legislation).


Immigration reform is a very important issue to agriculture.  Where do you stand on this issue?

I believe we need real solutions to our immigration problem.  For this reason I am in favor of doing three things:  First, we need to deal with the people that are already here in a humane way.  Second, we need to establish some type of guest worker program that is an effective way to give us the workers we need, and third, we need to need to have help with border security.  But I believe if we establish a good guest worker program, that will greatly help the border security problem.


What is your view of agriculture and its importance to Arizona?

Agriculture is very important to the state of Arizona.  As you may know, our cities are going through a housing boom right now, but we must continue to protect agriculture.  Our caucus is very supportive of agriculture on all of its issues.


You have now been in the Arizona Legislature for several months.  Any surprises?  What are your goals for your first term?

I guess the only real surprise is how many bills we are considering.  There are many more than I expected.

I think the top priorities for this session are to make sure that we pass a budget that is fiscally responsible.  We also have some very important issues especially dealing with education—both K–12 and higher education.  We need to start a dialog within the Legislature about the budget ratio that goes to education.  We need to determine how much should go to higher education and we also need to figure out a way to reduce the cost of higher education.  It is getting much too expensive.

Another important issue is water.  It continues to be a big issue especially because of lack of rain (in the West).  It is difficult to continue to grow and build without new water sources.


I know you are a freshman legislator, but do you have your political future mapped out?

I do not.  The most important thing for me to do is concentrate on the job that I have.  I am not ruling out that I may engage in another profession while being a legislator, but for the time being I am concentrating on this job, and I have made it my full-time occupation.  I have no political plans beyond doing the best job that I can do while I am here.


Our members, who include many growers in Arizona, produce the best fruits, vegetables and nuts in the world.  Are you a consumer of our products?

Absolutely.  Especially on the fruit side.  I love mangos, avocados, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries.  I really go for healthy eating and the new varieties that are extra healthy.  On the vegetable side, zucchini is one of my favorites.  And I also love sweet potatoes.