By Andy Howell
Asst. Managing Editor, Casa Grande Dispatch
Last week, a group of geographically challenged congressional representatives visited Pinal County.
Now, where they thought they were is another matter.
The group of GOP lawmakers visited Fisher Industries, a construction and manufacturing company with a plant in Coolidge, to see a demonstration of wall-building technology and prototypes designed for the proposed Mexican border wall.
They were in Coolidge as part of a fact-finding mission to gain knowledge on the immigration crisis and to gather important information on the proposed wall construction and its usefulness, so they could go back to Washington and intellectually debate this important issue.
Ha, just kidding.
They were in Coolidge to gather social media soundbites to fire up their constituents. And the first casualty was truth.
According to reporting in The American Independent, many on the trip claimed they were actually on the border with Mexico and were witnessing the wall being built.
“The Wall is being built!” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., claimed on Twitter. He included a photo of himself looking at a mixing truck and a segment of fence.
Gaetz also tweeted a video of himself at the site with the caption, “I’m on the southern border of the United States in Arizona.”
“Reviewing construction at the border,” Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., tweeted and also included a video of himself at the site.
“Glad to be at the southern border,” Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn., wrote.
Of course, Coolidge is 146 miles from the border. Maybe, they got Coolidge confused with Nogales.
That’s understandable when you consider that our own sheriff has been a willing prop for the administration, giving the impression that Pinal County is a “border” county on the front lines fighting the smuggling war.
But Sheriff Mark Lamb’s continued self-promotion in this political battle may be casting the county in a negative light to the rest of the country, especially in light of all the economic development efforts by local officials to get companies to bring jobs to the county and convince people this is a great place to own a home.
Last month, Lamb, along with a number of other sheriffs, visited the California-Mexico border to preach support for President Donald Trump’s border wall.
“You don’t have anybody in Hollywood that looks like these guys,” the president said before introducing the sheriffs, where Lamb looked like he came straight over from central casting as an extra in a Tom Mix movie.
Lamb told the press his agency is constantly combating drug and human trafficking. Later he posted a video on Twitter of him pulling camouflaged clothing from bushes near Interstate 8.
It is bad enough that “Pinal” sounds like it was named by a urologist with a speech impediment. Now we have to contend with our own sheriff parading around talking like the county is a combat war zone.
Last month, we got a phone call from a woman living out-of-state who was concerned because her friends were retiring and moving to Pinal County. She said she had seen news coverage that indicated how unsafe Pinal County is and was looking for more information so she could talk them out of their move.
The Coolidge political junket is just another example of how Pinal County is just a tool in a political battle. Now, some of the lawmakers on the tour were honest about what the trip was all about, and media covering the event accurately portrayed it for what it was and where it was.
But that didn’t stop the others from openly lying about the event.
I feel sorry for county Economic Development Manager Tim Kanavel and Mayors Craig McFarland of Casa Grande and Christian Price of Maricopa. For every sincere effort they make to promote the county and their communities, the sheriff appears at some national press conference or on some reality TV crime show giving the county a black eye. It is almost like the sheriff is working against other officials when it comes to promoting the image of the county.
Is it too much to ask for a sheriff who is just interested in being sheriff of Pinal County rather than a national media figure?
Border towns like Coolidge would appreciate it.