Frank Pratt, one of the most senior members of the state legislature, passed away after a long illness, House Speaker Rusty Bowers announced on Tuesday.
Pratt, 79, is survived by his wife, Janice, his son, Bryan, and his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was first elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2008. He served six years in the House and six more years in the Senate before being elected again to his old House seat in 2020.
Sen. T.J. Shope, Pratt’s longtime seatmate, mourned the death of a man he called a friend, colleague and mentor.
“There are no words I can convey that would properly share my feelings today as I learn of the passing of my friend, colleague, and mentor Frank Pratt. He was a trailblazer not just in Pinal County politics but also in life,” Shope, R-Coolidge, said in a press statement. “While most knew him to be a quiet type who played his cards close to the vest, I knew him as somebody of deep conviction and a firm belief in right and wrong.”
Pratt was known as a low-key lawmaker who was well-liked by colleagues from both parties. The former rancher and farmer, who went on to run a successful company that installed swimming pools, never sought the limelight, said Shope, who described Pratt as a throwback to an earlier era in legislative politics.
“I don’t think he ever really wanted the spotlight of attention on him. He definitely didn’t work that way. I think he looked forward to being done in a timely manner and being able to get on I-10 and head back to Casa Grande when his work was done,” Shope told the Arizona Mirror. “On the weekends, he’d be out there in 110-, 115-degree heat building swimming pools. I don’t think the limelight really meant much to him. I think going and putting the work in is what meant a lot to him, because that’s pretty much all he did his whole life.”
During his 13 years in the legislature, he focused largely on rural issues, especially involving agriculture and water. Shope said he had a deep reservoir of knowledge about those issues. He could pull out a map of Pinal County and tell you how deep you’d have to drill a well in any particular spot, Shope said.
Bowers called Pratt an “irreplaceable figure” in the legislature.
“Our prayers are with Frank’s wife, Janice, and his family, and we hope for them to know how very much we appreciate Frank’s service to our state. The honor, integrity, and high ethic by which he conducted himself in his service is incomparable,” Bowers said. “He loved what he did and wouldn’t let anything stop him from doing it. He never quit. Like Jesus’ observation of Nathanael, I would say of Frank that he was a man ‘in whom is no guile.’’
Praise also poured in from the other side of the aisle. House Democratic Leader Reginald Bolding, of Phoenix, called Pratt a “deeply respected member of our Legislative family who loved this state with all of his heart.”
“We may not have always agreed, but he was never once disagreeable. He loved his work for his constituents and always showed up ready to work. And although he was not vocal, when he spoke, his words carried weight. I will personally miss our conversations on the House Floor, and our caucus will all miss the presence of a class act who never put partisanship in front of relationships,” Bolding said.
Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags at state buildings be lowered to half-staff in Pratt’s honor.
“He did it all — public servant, business owner, rancher, farmer and family man. He was one of the good guys, and we’re lucky he called Arizona home. Representative Pratt was asked once why he went into politics. His answer was simple and straightforward: he said he was ‘just trying to make Arizona a better place,” Ducey said.
Pratt represented District 8, which covered parts of Pinal and Gila counties. As a resident of Pinal County, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors will select his replacement from a list of three candidates chosen by the district’s Republican precinct committeemen, who are the elected, voting members of a political party’s district-level organization.
There are now four vacant seats in the legislature, with another on the horizon. Former Sen. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, and former Rep. Aaron Lieberman, D-Paradise Valley, resigned to focus on campaigns for higher office. Raquel Terán, D-Phoenix, left her House seat when the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors appointed her to a vacant Senate seat in her district. Rep. Bret Roberts, R-Maricopa, is moving out of state and plans to step down on Sept. 30.
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