A Mayor Among Us

Machinist Mechanic Joe Konrad starts 2021 as Benson’s new mayor

A philosophy that can often be heard echoing among business leaders and innovative thinkers is that much of an organization’s wealth is stored in its people. Arizona Generation and Transmission Cooperatives (AzGT) is no exception. The experience that many of its employees have and the length of time they spend here provide an invaluable resource, for both AzGT as well as the community it serves. Recently, Joe Konrad provided one of the latest examples when the AzGT machinist mechanic was elected to be the city’s next mayor.

“I was excited and deeply humbled. It was certainly an honor,” Konrad explained. “I was sworn in by Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels. The sheriff and I were at an event back in November and he offered to administer my oath. As with everything else right now, Covid prevented the city from having a large gathering for the ceremony but I was surrounded by my family and that was as special as an occasion can be.”

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels (l) administers the oath of office to the new mayor of Benson, Joe Konrad, AzGT machinist mechanic, while his wife, Vicky, holds the Bible for him.

But Konrad is no stranger to local politics. He was first elected to the city council in August 2014 and sworn in the following January.

“I got involved in city council because I saw an opportunity to give something back to the community that I call home,” Konrad explained. “My family, especially my wife Vicky, encouraged me to run.  She got the word out that I was interested and I was surprised and humbled by the number of people who showed up to support me.  I knew then that it was the right thing to do.”

After five years on the council, Konrad said that running for mayor felt like a natural progression. His peers in Benson city government, which includes the previous mayor, Toney King, also supported his decision. He credits training that he received on the council for preparing him for the new position.

“As a council member I participated in training that is provided by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns,” Konrad explained. “This training gave me quite a bit of insight into how municipalities operate so I felt that I was up to the challenge.”

Less than a month in his new office, Konrad already knows how he wants to start that challenge. By reviewing where the city has been and where they wanted to go five years ago, he will see how they can improve and attract growth for a sustainable future.

“I want to go back and review the strategic plan that we developed back in 2015-2016 and make sure we are on track with that plan,” he said. “Benson needs to see some growth and economic development.  We want to be a great place to call home and provide the amenities that our citizens want and deserve.  This can only be accomplished by building and maintaining a reliable and sustainable revenue stream.”

Konrad started at AzGT in 2003, long before he would run for Benson City Council. He credits the four-day schedule he has for allowing him to attend council meetings on Monday nights. Perhaps more significant than that is the training he received in the succession management program, and the advice he can still remember from Emery Silvester, director of administrative services, who retired in January, which can serve as one more example of the wealth of knowledge in AzGT serving not only its own purposes but those of its community.

“I was in the first group of employees who completed the succession management program and the knowledge I gained from that program has been a great benefit on and off the job. My friend and former co-worker, Emery Silvester, was my mentor at the end of the succession management program. Emery once said to me, ‘Joe, would you rather be right all the time or would you rather be effective?’ I have always been grateful for the guidance and wisdom that Emery shared with me and I wouldn’t have that if not for being a part of this organization,” Konrad said. “Our cooperative is recognized by the City of Benson as a key community partner.  Being a part of this organization and being able to serve as mayor says a lot about how we adhere to the Seventh Cooperative Principle, Concern for Community.”