Joe Ferguson, who covered local government and politics at Arizona newspapers for more than a decade, including the last seven years at the Arizona Daily Star, was appointed Tuesday by the Pima County Board of Supervisors to serve as a constable.
Ferguson, who most recently covered the City of Tucson and state and local politics for the Star, will take over the ninth precinct constable position that will be vacated by Colette Philip, whose retirement becomes effective Feb. 1. He was selected with a 3-2 vote.
"Joe is a dedicated, ethical journalist who has served Tucson and the Star well," Star Editor Jill Jorden Spitz said. "I'm sorry to see him go but I respect his decision to take this this next step in his career and in his life."
Ferguson’s appointment was met with some criticism from Supervisor Ally Miller, who accused her fellow board members of giving a “political favor” to Ferguson. She labeled the other applicant, George Camacho, a special assistant in the constable office, as the “most qualified individual.” She and fellow Republican Steve Christy voted against Ferguson.
Chairman Richard Elias, who made the motion to appoint Ferguson, fired back at Miller, saying he felt the long-time reporter “will be a better constable.”
After the vote, the group that accompanied Camacho to the meeting stormed out, with some of them directing expletives toward the board.
Ferguson said Miller is entitled to her opinions, but “there’s a lot more to this job than filling out paperwork” and “the real work is out there in the community.” Constables are elected positions that serve civil and criminal papers from Pima Justice Court, Pima County agencies, or other equivalent legal bodies.
He said he became interested in the constable position after working on a project about eviction court while teaching his class on reporting public affairs at the University of Arizona’s School of Journalism.
“As I learned about it for the class, I learned about a lot of the things that some of the constables were trying to do. I thought it was an enviable thing to do,” he said. “I thought that I could do some good work in the community.”
Ferguson notified the Arizona Daily Star early of his interest. He was removed from the government and politics beat to a general assignment reporting position.
After taking over in February, Ferguson will have to run for election in 2020 to retain the position. As of last week, Camacho was the only candidate to submit paperwork in the ninth precinct. Ferguson said he will submit a statement of interest later Tuesday.
The position pays about $67,000 a year.