Nick Haney saves lives in his role as a Glendale firefighter paramedic.
But now he wants to improve lives in his hometown of Surprise.
“I believe in the city so much,” said Haney, one of three candidates vying for the opening seat in District 1 on the Surprise City Council.
Neither Haney nor opponents Raymond Grim and Lew Guyn were born in Surprise, but unlike the other two Haney was raised here.
He’s now hoping that the hometown-boy-make-good story helps propel him to an election win at the age of 27.
The three men will battle in an Aug. 2 primary. If no candidate receives at least 50% of the vote, it will go to a November runoff in the general election.
District 1 encompasses the northern part of Surprise and the far northwest.
“I think I offer a fresh, new perspective that could benefit the council,” Haney said. “I want to be part of the solution.”
Haney is certainly grabbing the early advantage in endorsements and fundraising over his two opponents.
The Professional Firefighters Association and Arizona Police Association are standing behind Haney.
The political newcomer has also raised more than $5,000 in donations so far, more than half of which have come from Arizona residents who have given at least $100.
Many contributors aren’t from Surprise, however, since Haney’s connections run deep in the West Valley with his job. For instance, he received $1,500 from the Glendale Firefighters union.
Haney has been a firefighter paramedic with the city of Glendale since November 2016.
In that job he is skilled in Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support.
He said he believes his job working with a team to save lives would serve him well on the council board, which specializes in solving problems. He calls what the fire department has taught him a “commitment to service.”
“No matter who you are, how much money you make, the god you worship, the political party you belong to, you call, we go,” Haney said. “We got into million-dollar homes and we go into homes below the poverty line. We treat everybody the same.”
Haney said because of that he considers himself a moderate politically.
“If there is a pothole that needs to be fixed or issues going on with the city roads, that’s not a Republican or Democrat issue, that’s a city issue,” Haney said. “My vote doesn’t belong to a political party. It belongs to the folks of District 1.”
Haney said he reached out to Mayor Skip Hall before making the decision to run.
“I just wanted to get his perspective,” Haney said.
He ultimately decided he wanted to help bring back a sense of community
“That’s what I want my [future] kids to experience, and as a firefighter I know how important community is,” Haney said.
Haney also knows about community, having grown up here.
In the late 1990s, the Haneys moved to Surprise, followed by his grandparents and aunt and cousins who also came.
“Family was always close by,” Haney said.
He remembers Saturdays spent by the pool with his grandparents and two cousins with were born just months apart in 1994.
Haney is a product of the Dysart Unified School District system. While at Willow Canyon High School Haney was active in sports and a one-time member of the Surprise Youth Council.
He joined the SYC after his grandmother noticed an ad for it in a newspaper.
“In our family if Grammy tells you to do something you do it,” Haney said with a laugh. “So, I checked it out, and it was probably one of the best decisions I could have made.”
Beside high school, Haney also spent about 2-1/2 years working with the city of Surprise as an aquatics assistant manager and a water safety instructor and diving coach.
After graduating from WCHS in 2012, he enrolled at Arizona State University, where he got more of a taste for politics.
Haney was the Senate president for ASU’s student government from April 2015 to May 2016. He also served for a time as a representative on the Public Safety Advisory Committee and was chair of the University Affair’s Committee.
Haney was also a legislative intern with the Arizona Association of Counties in early 2016.
That’s in addition to the time he spent as a victim advocate intern in the Arizona Attorney General’s office.
In 2016, Haney graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s in political science and government and pre-law from ASU.
He was the second in his family to graduate from ASU, joining his mom, who attained a perfect 4.0 GPA while there.
“The only reason as I know that is because I graduated with a 3.9, and she never lets me forget it,” Haney joked. “She showed me if you’re willing to work hard there is nothing you can’t do.”
Being a local product, Haney said he still keeps in contact with his old teachers.
“They cared more about my success as a person, not necessarily as a student, which was super important to me,” Haney said.
He also hears from people who see his signs across the city and question his decision to run.
“My family and friends are asking ‘Why do you want to run? It’s so crazy out there,’” Haney said. “It sounds cheesy, but it’s about the people to me. I want to make a positive impact.”
Haney said he believes he can do that.
“You can do a lot of good things with local government if you’re willing to put in the work and you have a servant’s heart,” Haney said.
Jason Stone can be reached at email@example.com.