Young Valadez, whom Eckstrom directs by remote control, was unopposed (thanks, Dan) in the November election but leaped at the opportunity (thanks, Dan) to serve as a gubernatorial adviser in the Napolitano administration.
The Board of Supervisors must choose a replacement for Valadez. The plan is to restore Senatore Vic Soltero, the beneficiary of Eckstrom appointment maneuvers 12 years ago, to the upper chamber. Soltero is a workhorse who went to the House of Representatives when he was termed out of the Senate in 2000.
Perhaps Eckstrom will look for another Soltero to take Vic's House seat. Perhaps Chuy Higuera is ready for an epic return.
The game is only beginning. Eckstrom is about to hit the wall. He'd love to bail, but must lock up pre-approval for his daughter, Jennifer, who has done a fine enough job on the South Tucson City Council but may lack the desire and training for prime time. Don't be surprised if Enrique Serna, the former county manager who is now chief deputy to county Prime Minister Chuck Huckelberry, gets the nod to fill in. Sure, Serna would cut his pay by more than half to take the $54,600-a-year supe job, but he's near retirement and has never really been moved by money.
A KINO WIN: Dennis Douglas, a former sheriff's major who has been a Pima County health department administrator for 10 years, is subbing at administrator at Kino Community Hospital. Good move. Douglas is a professional who, despite a jarring lack of hospital experience, will do what is most important at the county hospital: Restore morale.
GOOD RIDDANCE: We don't know much about Michael Winkleman, the commercial real-estate developer tapped to head up the State Land Department by Janet Napolitano as she puts together her gubernatorial administration.
But we're sure he can't be worse than outgoing Land Department honcho Michael Anable, who accelerated the department's disposal of state trust land in Maricopa and Pima counties. Anable's planning department was all about putting as many houses on the land as possible, with no consideration of open space or conservation values.
The Growth Lobby likes to say that Anable was just following the mandate from the Arizona Constitution, which requires the land be disposed at its highest and best use to benefit schools. But building all those new homes means a lot of new students--and that drives up the cost of education. We call it a Ponzi scheme, with developers making out at the top and kids losing at the bottom.