A Kingman High School graduate remembered for being smart, athletic and popular has been appointed deputy director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
Patrick Cunningham was a "heck of a nice guy, very pleasant, very smart, social," said Steve Golding, a fellow graduate from the Class of 1972 and an accountant with Mohave County government
Cunningham, 48, of Scottsdale, was appointed deputy director Jan.
6 by Gov.
Janet Napolitano after she was sworn into office.
He served as chief counsel of the environmental enforcement division of the state Attorney General's Office from 1991 to 1999.
He also was chief counsel for the criminal division from 1997 to 1999 and director of legislative affairs from 1999 to 2000.
Napolitano was elected attorney general in 1998.
As deputy director, Cunningham said he will report to Steve Owens, whose appointment by Napolitano to director awaits confirmation by the state Senate.
Cunningham said he will be responsible for four divisions: air and water quality, solid and hazardous waste programs and administrative services.
"The director himself will then set forth various duties," Cunningham said.
He said priorities will be children's health issues, including respiratory problems; working with business and environmental groups and local governments; and continuing the leadership momentum during the past five years.
Cunningham, son of John and Doris Cunningham of Kingman, said he will be sensitive to the needs of rural areas.
"I think people who grew up in a small town learn the collaborative process early," he said.
That means consulting with colleagues before making a decision, which is what Napolitano and Owens want, he added.
Cunningham said he did not take part in the civil and criminal suits that led to multimillion-dollar fines against North Star Steel for violations of its air quality permit while he worked for the Attorney General's Office.
To prevent conflict of interest, he will not be involved in any dealings with the mini-mill located off Shinarump Drive and Route 66, he added.
He draws high marks from state Rep.
Joe Hart, R-Kingman, who said his father, Dick, was a good friend of Cunningham's father.
"Patrick is just a first-class guy," Hart said.
"He's got the experience and the reputation at the Legislature to help ADEQ.
I'm sure that is why the governor appointed him."
Hart said the appointment also will "defuse the controversy" over Napolitano's nomination of Owens, who served as an environmental adviser to former Vice President Al Gore.
"I'm just real happy for Patrick, and it will be a bonus for all of Mohave County to have somebody in ADEQ who is a native son," Hart said.
Cunningham, who was born in Denver in 1954 but grew up in Kingman, is fondly remembered by others in his 70-member graduating class.
"I remember that he was easy-going, laid-back, very friendly and always smiling," said Eve Hanna, who works in the support center for a family-owned restaurant business in Kingman.
"He wore thick, black-framed glasses like the kind that Barry Goldwater used to wear, and I think he got straight A's on everything," Hanna said.
"He was the kind of a kid that adults would have looked at and said, 'He's going to be something special.' "
Gary Rucker, who was class president every year and student body president during his senior year, described Cunningham as an excellent baseball player who was "real quick-witted."
Rucker, a second-generation mechanic in Kingman, said the teachers liked Cunningham because "he was a pretty compliant student."
Cunningham, who attended his 30-year reunion last summer, laughed at the accolades.
"It is very nice of them to say all those wonderful things," he said.
Cunningham, who played shortstop on the baseball team, reminisced about his team winning the state championship in 1972, but he was less
proud about a student body post.
"Vice president of the senior class was probably the most humble position available of the entire high school," he said.
"Who wants to be vice president?"
After high school, Cunningham attended the University of Michigan, where he graduated cum laude in 1976 and earned a bachelor's degree in liberal studies.
He earned a law degree from Arizona State University in 1979.
Because he went to college through the ROTC program, Cunningham said he served with the Army six and a half years until 1986.
As a member of the Judge Advocate General Corps, he served as an appellate attorney, defense attorney and prosecutor.
He served as an assistant U.S.
attorney for the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force in Phoenix from 1986 to 1991 before joining the state Attorney General's Office.
Cunningham's wife, Mary Ellen, is a community specialist at a Scottsdale high school.
They have two daughters: Mary Kate, 15, and Meaghan, 14.