Q&A: Get to know Mark Napier, the new sheriff in town
Mark Napier was elected Pima County Sheriff on Tuesday, defeating incumbent Chris Nanos. Napier, who has 28 years of experience in law enforcement, has worked at the UA for the last seven years as associate director of operations at Parking and Transportation Services and also as an online criminal justice teacher for Boston University.
He is about to become a grandfather and hopes to take some time off to travel with his wife between now and when he begins his new position in January.
Meet the new sheriff in town: Mark Napier.
DW: Why did you decide to run for Sheriff?
MN: I thought there was tremendous opportunity to do some good there. I know that sounds trite, but it really isn’t. There’s obviously problems with corruption there, there’s cronyism and bullying of employees, and all this has been in the media, it’s not something I’m making up. Many of the deputies came to me in March and asked if I would please run, because I had run before in 2012. I thought about it long and hard because it’s a tremendous commitment of time and everything to run, and after I thought about it, I thought it was the right thing to do, so I decided to run.
Why did you think now was the right time to run for Sheriff?
It’s the right opportunity. Stars aligned. There was an opportunity to go into the Sheriff’s department and do some good. I love the UA, make no mistake about that. I love my job here, I love interacting with students and I’ve been part of the campus now for seven years. I was in law enforcement for 28 years before I came here and I miss it, I miss being a senior leader in a law enforcement. That’s what I was educated to do, trained to do, that’s what I spent almost 30 years of my life doing.
What do think about all of your endorsements?
The individual endorsements are all very, very nice, and I’m very appreciative, but what I thought was the most striking was the breadth of endorsements that go all the way from the governor that certainly is political right, to the Tucson Weekly which is certainly on the political left, so to get that breadth of endorsements for one candidate I thought was really an accomplishment. We were breaking down partisan barriers and all these things that keep in the way of doing good things.
What do you hope to accomplish as sheriff?
I think the main thing for me is to really advance causes of social justice. Republicans or people on the right roll their eyes when you say social justice and at the same time they embrace the Constitution. You can’t have one without the other, and the term "social justice" has gotten a bad rap. It’s about maintaining the rights and liberties of all people, to understand that there are social and economic disparities in this country that are real, they exist. You can say they don’t or wish that they don’t, but they’re there. But we should be thinking of ways to fix those things in realistic ways.
Some of the current narratives on racial tensions are simply not true. It’s not true that white police officers go out and discriminately shoot people of color, that’s just not factual. It’s not statistically factual, it’s just not correct, so you do a disservice to the dialogue we should be having, which is the extreme incarceration rate of minorities, the socioeconomic disparities of minorities, the educational disparities for minorities, we should be talking about those things. On one side, we get off on tangents about things that really are not factual. On the other side, they think any discussion of this is too liberal, it’s soft in crime and all those things, and we really need to get those two things together.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Pima County?
There are a lot of economic challenges facing Pima County. The County is $1.4 billion in debt. If you drive around on our roads, our roads aren’t very good. We’re not really bringing in a lot of business. We’re doing a little bit, but when I came here in 1987, Tucson was thriving, it was booming. There was a lot of stuff going on. There was a lot of excitement. A lot of that’s gone away. You see a lot of deterioration of our neighborhoods and our streets and stuff like that, and that all trickles down to law enforcement.
We have a lot of challenges here. Public safety is always a challenge. We’re a short distance from the international border—our county has 130-mile exposure to the international border—and the border is not secure and bad people are coming across.
Despite who got elected, we’re not building a wall. Mexico is not paying for it, that’s never going to happen. This country will never deport over 11 million people, that’s just silly. We should just stop talking about that because it’s never going to happen. There’s no way to make it happen, even if you wanted to. There’s a lot of really unhealthy dialogue going on out there, and that’s a challenge for every county.
What do you think about Sheriff Joe Arpaio losing the election for Sheriff in Maricopa County?
The voters spoke in Maricopa County. There’s been ongoing concerns about Sheriff Joe, and despite the fact that people thought he would get re-elected, the voters decided differently.
What do you think about Martha McSally getting re-elected?
Martha McSally is a brilliant woman. I’ve been around Martha and I think she is exceptionally smart, very capable, I think she is a good congressperson for our area, and I have a lot of respect for Martha. She’s a really good asset to us.
What do you think about John McCain getting re-elected?
Sen. McCain has always been very, very nice to me, he’s a nice man, I think he tries to represent Arizona very well, and like I said, he’s always been kind to me.
What do you think about Donald Trump getting elected?
Donald Trump, I think like some Republicans, was not my first choice, not my second, third, fourth, fifth, 17th choice, but nonetheless, he’s our president. I commend Hillary Clinton for having a very gracious concession speech the other day. She was very gracious, she said all the right things. Just like Barack Obama got elected eight years ago, all I wanted for him was for him to be successful. I might not be politically aligned with him, but this is our country so we want the president to be successful, whoever that is. That’s what we should be focused on now. The election ran and Mr. Trump is going to be our president for the next four years. I hope that he is tremendously successful because it matters to me.
Is there anything else you want to say?
Many Democrats voted for me. They crossed partisan lines, they crossed partisan ideology to vote a Republican for Sheriff. I want them to know, and for me to go on record every chance I get, that I am very appreciative.
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