A look at the candidates for Florence Town Council

Posted 6/7/22

With current Council Member John Anderson not running for reelection, Vice Mayor Michelle Cordes and Council Member Judy Hughes are looking to keep their seats on the Florence Town Council.

They …

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A look at the candidates for Florence Town Council


With current Council Member John Anderson not running for reelection, Vice Mayor Michelle Cordes and Council Member Judy Hughes are looking to keep their seats on the Florence Town Council.

They face candidates Nicole Buccellato, Jose “Mo” Maldonado and Cassandra Scherm. The primary election is Aug. 2. The general election, if needed, will be held on Nov. 8.

The town council is a seven-member non-partisan body elected to serve at large, representing all residents. The mayor and council serve four-year terms and there are no term limits.

The Florence Independent sent a questionnaire to the candidates. Their answers will be published in the June and July issues of the newspaper.

How do you characterize efforts to bring new business to the town? 

Nicole Buccellato, 40, is a senior diversion officer for the Pinal County Attorney’s Office. She has lived in Florence for 36 years.

“I feel like the town and residents have really tried recently to attract more people and potential business owners to town by hosting a multitude of events and also through offering grants to help restore some buildings. More grants are definitely needed to help continue restoring dilapidated buildings within all of Florence. We also need to be fair in dealing with potential business owners who show interest in renting or buying here,” Buccellato wrote.

Michelle Cordes, 49, is a Realtor and serves as vice mayor on the Florence Town Council. She has lived in Florence for eight years.

“In the past, Florence, expected new business to just come knocking. Finally, we have changed that mindset and started going out looking for business. Not just town staff or the Chamber of Commerce, but residents as well. Everyone is promoting the town and working at bringing the type of businesses we would like to see in Florence. The type of businesses that meet our residents’ needs but also honor our rich history,” Cordes wrote.

Judy Hughes, 65, is retired and serves as a member of the Florence Town Council. She has lived in Florence for 10 years.

“The continuance to bring roof tops to Florence will ultimately lead to economic growth. We are therefore reimplementing the Territory Square Zoning District: North End Framework Vision Plan (NEFVP), which was initiated in November of 2009 and after numerous months of study and community oriented workshops; the town council endorsed the Plan in June of 2011. The NEFVP identified a series of on-going tasks moving forward that would help to set the stage for future development. One specific recommendation was for the creation of a new zoning district. The intent was to create a zoning district that represented the vision cast for the NEFVP area and, at the same time create a framework to help incentivize future development within this area. Which has resulted in a dynamic vision for the northernmost boundary of the downtown directly south of the Gila River. The comprehensive planning process provides a road map for future development that address physical planning, programing, engineering and cost ramifications. The town has orchestrated a series of community oriented planning initiatives with the goal of creating a more plausible framework for future development in and around the downtown area. This information provides the regulatory standards governing land use and building for within the Zoning District. These standards represent the community’s and series of landowners’ vision for this northern area of the downtown. The zoning and associated components are intended to help ensure that the intended vision meets the expectations of the town, property owners and all community members,” Hughes wrote.

Jose “Mo” Maldonado, 47, is a retired U.S. Air Force veteran and currently is a maintenance technician at CoreCivic. He has lived in Florence for six years.

“By offering tax incentives to new businesses. Ensuring that realtors/sellers of properties are forthcoming with building data or hazards, so they are not blindsided after closing or in the renovation process. It is vital that the bulk of the populace is included in planning and execution of new business because they will be the ones that will or will not support the new business.” Maldonado wrote.

Cassandra Scherm, 46, is an educator. She has lived in Florence for more than eight years.

“The town has to make sure it remains ‘business friendly.’ There have been instances in the past where the town received negative feedback due to its business practices. We need to reach out to current, former and future business partners to ensure the town is ‘doing it right’ by its business partners. I know that the town has reached out with its grant process to help those in the downtown corridor. With the continued growth in the Anthem and downtown areas the town needs to bring in more eateries and shopping. There are numerous occasions when I discuss where to go to dinner or shop with my family and we end up going to Coolidge or San Tan Valley due to nothing being available here in Florence that we need or want. We have some great Mexican food, Italian food, Greek food, and sandwiches. But, we don’t have any steakhouse, seafood, sushi or pubs. We only have one grocery store located in Anthem, and nothing downtown. These are issues that have been brought up to me by those that I have reached out to during my [candidacy] period. These are things I hope to be able to fix,” Scherm wrote.

The town’s population is expected to boom in the coming years. Is town government ready to handle that type of growth?


“Florence is projected to have 3,500 new homes within the next five years. This would create an average of possibly 14,000 new residents. Recently the town has looked into our water supply and is attempting to fix problematic roads in and out of town such as Attaway road. While these are all very positive steps in the right direction, I feel we still have a long way to go to support that amount of growth. We will definitely need more businesses to help bring in more income, supply more jobs and keep up with the demand for goods and services for all residents,” Buccellato wrote.


“Currently, no, not if it showed up today. We are lacking in shovel ready sites, infrastructure and the ability to service all areas with growth potential. The town is working hard at addressing these issues and being ready for the growth as it comes. With the support of residents and business owners the town will be more than ready. This upcoming election is a perfect time for the residents to get behind the town ensuring its ability to not only provide a quality community for the current population but those looking to move or open businesses here. With the passing of the permanent base adjustment, the town will be able to take on the big projects needed without having to raise taxes, borrow funds or issue special bonds to do so,” Cordes wrote.


“Florence has done an exemplary job of attaining the 100-year water supply needed for new developments and has placed a new section in our General Plan update that addresses this aspect of future growth.

“There is more work to be done to be ready for the pending growth.

“[We need] collaboration across sectors (public, private, nonprofit) and political boundaries (towns, cities and county).

“We need to work with our regional partners to leverage regional resources. We also need to increase safe and efficient transportation corridors that bridge neighborhoods and increase access for our businesses. Attaway, Hunt Highway and Highway 79 are examples of roads that are heavily traveled on a daily basis and the infrastructure that needs attention,” Hughes wrote.


“No, we are not ready right now, but if we had access to untapped useable revenue, we could help maintain our current infrastructure, and definitely improve it and build it up for future growth,” Maldonado wrote.


“I believe that the town government will be prepared for the coming growth. Having been to several council meetings I have heard the administration state that they will continue to hire personnel that will become necessary as the town grows. They have also mentioned that they will have to lift the expenditure limitation so that the town can operate on a fiscally sound budget based on real monies that are brought in and expensed. With the adoption of the new 2018 IBC the town has also made sure that all buildings will be up to the new code standards. This adoption of new codes will ensure that safety will be paramount within the town,” Scherm wrote.

Why is it important to maintain Florence’s historic heritage?


“The town’s historic heritage is what draws people here initially. The residents and safe small town feel is what keeps them here. If we didn’t have the history what would set our town apart from other towns nearby?” Buccellato wrote.


“As the sixth oldest, non-Native American settlement in Arizona, it is important for Florence to remember and preserve its place in Arizona history. Florence is home to almost 140 historic structures (25-plus on the National Historic Registry) that draw thousands of visitors every year. Each of these buildings has a story to tell and I for one am proud to share them so that future generations understand the importance of our past,” Cordes wrote.


“Florence is proud of its rich history and has showcased it through our designated ‘historic district’ which is in the National Register of Historic Places, thanks to 140 historic buildings. We also embrace our Western heritage. The Florence Junior Parada established by local ranches in 1932 to raise money for needy children is the world’s oldest sanctioned youth rodeo. Our town is committed to preserving the past,” Hughes wrote.


“It preserves the historic, architectural, and aesthetic character and heritage of our town and it helps to provide a sense of place and continuity. As suburban sprawl and roadside development makes more places look identical, it becomes important for towns to keep their identities intact,” Maldonado wrote.


“Florence has a long-storied history since it was founded in 1866. I do not believe anyone wants to lose that historic presence within the town of Florence. There have been many generations of families that have grown up within this wonderful town and they, along with others, want to keep that friendly feeling. I for one used to work as an educator in the Florence Prison Complex and am saddened by its closing. Hopefully, the town will find a way to keep the structure as a museum or something of the sort. Walking down Main Street during a Third Friday event you can see the historic buildings, enjoy the company of shop owners, and eat at some great places. Florence’s history is within the town residents. They are the ones that offer a friendly hand, tell the stories of old, and keep the historic feeling alive. Take a tour of the historic homes and walk into the McFarland State Historic Park and listen to the wisdom of those who work there and share their knowledge,” Scherm wrote.

Florence, town council, election


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