Guest Editorial: Mark Winkleman
The resignation of Arizona State Land Commissioner
By Mark Winkleman | May 20, 2009
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
After more than six years leading the Arizona State Land Department to record-setting land sale and lease milestones, I would like to inform you that I have submitted my resignation as the State Land Commissioner to Governor Brewer. It has been a great honor to serve as the State Land Commissioner. I am fortunate that I have been able to play a prominent role in helping to shape the growth patterns of the State and raise money for education. In the past six and half years the Land Department, with the support of Governor Napolitano and Governor Brewer, has become a necessary and compelling voice, not only in preserving Arizona’s amazing natural beauty, but in generating the revenues that are critical to education in the State.
I am proud that the Land Department was able to set numerous records during my tenure as the State Land Commissioner. These records reflect increased proceeds from the sale and lease of land that go directly into the State Land Trust which provides vital funding for education in Arizona.
During my term the State Land Department achieved several record-setting milestones, including:
• Revenues exceeding $1.7 billion, eclipsing the cumulative total of the prior 90 years.
• Highest sales price for a parcel of State Trust land: $150 million
• Highest price per acre: Over $1 million per acre
• Highest annual revenue: $382 million during fiscal year 2008
• Highest amounts paid for permanent open space: Over $189 million
• Highest rental income -- commercial leases that will generate over $2.3 billion
The Land Department’s contributions to the Classroom Site Fund have substantially increased during the past few years and last year the Land Department contributed over $100 million to the fund.
I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the hard working team at the Land Department. I am grateful for the opportunity to lead them during both good times and some very challenging times for the economy. I would like to thank my staff for their dedication and hard work in impressively increasing the funds available for education in the State of Arizona and managing our natural resources. It is remarkable to pause and look back at all we have accomplished together. State employees rarely get enough credit for the work they do and I believe the employees of the State Land Department are among the very best in representing the interests of the State. I accepted my position having no experience in public service and I have been continuously impressed with the dedication and professionalism of the employees of the Land Department. I am honored to have had the opportunity to lead such a committed and talented group of people.
As many of you know, in the past the State Land Department was often avoided by the real estate industry and overlooked by the education community. With focus and hard work by my staff, these deficiencies improved dramatically. My staff and I worked diligently to foster cooperative and productive relationships with both the business and education communities and Arizona's cities and towns. I attribute much of the Department’s recent success to these improved relationships.
I appreciate having had the opportunity to reach out to diverse constituencies, ranging from real estate developers to agricultural interests to conservation organizations and municipal open space advocates, the latter of whom became partners in the implementation of the Arizona Preserve Initiative, which allows communities to acquire permanent open space from the Department. The Trust received over $189 million for the purchase of permanent open space during my service.
During my service as the State Land Commissioner I have had the opportunity to make policy decisions knowing that such decisions will have implications lasting decades. This is a rare opportunity in today’s rapidly changing world. I am honored to have had the opportunity to help commence the visioning and planning efforts of the 275 square miles of State Trust lands, known as Superstition Vistas. These lands represent a unique opportunity and it is my sincere hope that the ultimate development of these lands will be a showcase of the best way to create responsible development and will produce billions of dollars for Arizona’s education system.
I regret that we were not able to reform the laws that govern the State Trust lands during my years of service and I hope that these efforts will continue and ultimately be successful. I also hope that during these difficult budget deliberations, the legislature will see the wisdom in providing the Land Department the resources to continue to produce substantial revenues to help fund education in our State.
I plan to stay actively involved in real estate and rejoin the private sector. I also hope to find other ways to positively impact real estate and business-related issues facing the State that I have been so honored to serve. My last day at the Land Department will be May 22. Jamie Hogue will continue to serve as the Deputy Land Commissioner and, if necessary, will serve as the acting State Land Commissioner until my successor begins service.
As most of you know I have been responsible for managing approximately 9.3 million acres of State Trust lands, representing approximately 13 percent of the State of Arizona. Public education is the primary beneficiary of these lands.
From now until May 22, you can continue to contact me at the Land Department at (602) 542-4621 or firstname.lastname@example.org. After May 22, you may contact me at (602) 432-5955 or email@example.com.
I would like to wish each of you happiness and success during these challenging times. I appreciate the tremendous support that I have received from you during the past few years. It has been my privilege to serve as Arizona’s State Land Commissioner.