In the Flagstaff election for mayor and city council, Northern Arizona University emerged as a top vote-getter.
Flagstaff’s new mayor—Sara Presler-Hoefle—does legal work for students on campus and serves as an adjunct instructor in The W.A. Franke College of Business. Karla Brewster, newly elected to serve on Flagstaff’s city council, is an administrative assistant in the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies.
NAU political analyst Fred Solop said as newcomers to electoral politics in Flagstaff, both candidates owe their assent to different factors.
“In the mayoral race, the election quickly turned into a referendum on the incumbent, four-term office holder, Joe Donaldson,” Solop explained. “Sara distinguished herself in the March primary election as the only woman candidate in a field of five—a fresh, young voice on the Flagstaff scene.”
Polling from NAU’s Social Research Laboratory showed that the general election turned on issues like the affordability of living in Flagstaff and diminishing satisfaction with the way of life in this area.
“The more satisfied a voter is with living in the area, the more likely they were to vote for the incumbent mayor,” Solop explained. “Voters who were less satisfied with how their lives are going were more likely to vote for Sara. She embodies the hope for change. People are looking forward and asking the new mayor to help improve the local quality of life.”
Presler-Hoefle said being an NAU alumnus, a former student body president and a current employee gives her a unique perspective on issues important to the university and its students, faculty and staff. “Knowing this institution is key, and understanding the importance of higher education is key,” she said. “Teaching and working at NAU, I’ll be able to effectively communicate those interests to a greater degree. I think it will strengthen our communication with the Legislature and the federal government when it comes to advocating for NAU and the city of Flagstaff.”
In the city council election, Solop credited Brewster’s established networks within NAU and the local Democratic party for her emergence as a top vote-getter in a crowded field of six candidates, including an incumbent council member, another former council member, a community activist, a real estate agent and a popular county worker.
“This election turned less on issues that distinguished the candidates from one another and more on established networks of voters,” Solop said. “Karla is viewed by many as attentive to local politics, having consistently attended city council meetings over the last year. She is well known in Democratic party circles, as evidenced by her serving as president of the Democratic Women of Northern Arizona. She is also a long-term employee of NAU and is president-elect of NAU’s Classified Staff Advisory Council. These established networks helped lift her up to become one of the top three vote-getters in the city council election.”
Brewster called her election to Flagstaff’s city council “grass-roots democracy at its best,” and encourages others to get involved in the community. “Getting involved in local issues is the best chance for people to see results that affect their daily lives,” she said.
The candidates will take their oaths of office on June 17.