Former county supervisor and development consultant Ron Asta plans to file paperwork today to jump into the race for mayor, a day after Bob Walkup announced he won't run again.
Asta, who served one term on the Pima County Board of Supervisors in the early 1970s, is a vice president of CPE Consultants.
Those two areas - elected office and experience in urban planning - give him the edge against other candidates in the race, he said, which currently includes Republican businessman Shaun McClusky and Democratic attorney Jonathan Rothschild.
Asta's stint in office came when he was a Democrat who spearheaded policies to restrict growth - a policy that likely contributed to his defeat in 1976 to a candidate backed heavily by business interests. Now, he's running as a conservative Republican who is concerned about the hoops the business community has to jump through.
His own company has had to struggle to get through the real-estate downturn, he said, noting there have been layoffs and salary rollbacks over the past few years to keep the doors open.
And that's the mind-set he'll take to City Hall with him if elected, he said. "These are tough times, and we can't stay open with gimmicks," he said, calling for real cuts and reorganizations.
What might some be? He said he'd revisit the "incredible subsidies" the city makes to the bus system - a system he once championed. He said he'd also take another look at social services as well as rolling back some regulations that don't focus directly on health and safety, such as the landscape ordinance.
His top priorities for funding, he said, in order, go from police and fire, to transportation and then parks and recreation.
Asta ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 1983, but said things are different now. Back then, he said, he'd started making his political transition, and that meant "neither side trusted me too much." But now he's been part of the business community for a long time, he said, "and people see I genuinely have their interest at heart."
Meanwhile, some of his projects have been contentious, requiring consensus between environmental, neighborhood and development interests. That shows he can be a strong mayor and bring divergent groups together, he said.
And he's able to admit mistakes, he said. Aside from his earlier political leanings, he also pointed to what he called a mistake he made 33 years ago when he stole a steak from a supermarket. "It was one of the great humbling experiences in my life," he said.
Recent events gave him the local government bug again. He was driving home, when he heard on the radio that baseball was leaving Tucson, and nearly simultaneously, he recalled, "My car hit a chuckhole. It was rattling and I thought, 'We're losing this town.' That's when I started getting excited about local government again."
Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4243.