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Finalists announced for redistricting panel’s top staffer

By: - March 12, 2021 11:54 am
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A Phoenix City Council aide, the head of a statewide regulatory board, an Arizona Commerce Authority vice president, a longtime staffer for elected officials or a former Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission staffer will be the executive director for the panel that will draw Arizona’s new legislative and congressional districts.

The AIRC pared down its list of 43 applicants at its meeting on Tuesday and selected five whom it will interview for the executive director position, the commission’s top staffer who will be its first hire. 

The finalists are:

  • Trevor Abarzua, the vice president for business attraction from southern California at the Arizona Commerce Authority. Abarzua previously served Gov. Doug Ducey as director of operations and logistics and as a policy advisor, and worked for U.S. Sen. John McCain’s 2016 re-election campaign.
  • Tom Augherton, the executive director of the Arizona Board of Massage Therapy. Augherton is the former mayor of Cave Creek and was chief of administration for Attorney General Grant Woods.
  • Kristina Gomez, deputy executive director for the 2011 Independent Redistricting Commission and a community outreach staffer on the first IRC in 2001. Gomez currently serves as deputy director at the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners.
  • Keely Varvel Hartsell, a longtime aide to Democratic officials who spent the past four years as chief deputy recorder under former Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes. She previously served as chief of staff for the Democratic caucus in the state House of Representatives, and worked at the Department of Economic Security and Governor’s Office of Children, Youth and Families during Janet Napolitano’s administration. 
  • Brian Schmitt, chief of staff to Jim Waring, a Republican member of the Phoenix City Council.

The commission will conduct interviews and choose an executive director at its next meeting on March 16.

During their discussion and votes on the applicants, redistricting commissioners identified them by number instead of name to preserve their confidentiality until the finalists were selected. 

The five commissioners unanimously voted to interview Abarzua and Schmitt, and voted 4-1 to interview Gomez, with Republican Commissioner Doug York the only dissenter. The commissioner voted 3-2 to add the other two applicants to the list of finalists. Democrats Shereen Lerner and Derrick Watchman and independent Chairwoman Erika Neuberg voted for Hartsell, while Neuberg, Lerner and Republican David Mehl voted for Augherton.

Abarzua previously applied to be one of the commission’s Republican members.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”