Nine terms enough, McCall decides

County recorder steps down after 36 years in office

County Recorder Joan McCall is leaving office after serving in the position for 36 years.

Courtesy County Recorder Joan McCall is leaving office after serving in the position for 36 years.

KINGMAN - After 36 years as Mohave County recorder, Joan McCall is looking forward to retirement.

Born in Prescott, McCall has lived in Mohave County since 1957. Since then she has seen a lot change in the area.

"My folks had been living in Flagstaff and Chino Valley," she said. "My mother had a heart condition that required her to move to a lower elevation area. They bought the JHJ cattle ranch, which was pretty much all of Golden Valley. At that time, I had lived for five years in Oregon where I went to the University of Oregon. My husband was in the service. We got a divorce and I came home" to the family ranch in Golden Valley.

McCall worked locally in the private sector until 1972.

"When I first came to Mohave County, I went to work for Dr. Arthur Arnold," she said. "Then I worked for LTR/Greyhound Bus Lines. In 1967, we discovered my oldest daughter needed a kidney transplant. We moved to Denver during 1968 where she had that surgery. When we came back, I went to work as day manager for La Posada Restaurant at the top of the hill in Kingman. That restaurant, right next to a Ramada Inn, was always busy 24 hours a day. I worked there until it was sold in 1972."

Then a simple suggestion led to McCall's long-term career with Mohave County government.

"My mother, Virginia Statler, was chairman of the local Republican Party in 1972," she said. "She told me, 'Peggy Smith is retiring. Why don't you run for office?'"

First, McCall laughed at the suggestion. Then she ran - and won.

Things in the Recorder's Office have changed a great deal since that first successful election.

"When I started (as recorder), we were in a very small area in the old courthouse," she said. "We had eight employees. We were still recording in 'blotter books' by hand, with pens. The index books were being typed on manual typewriters. The first thing I did was to get everyone electric IBM typewriters. They were wonderful.

"We were swamped with work," McCall said. "When I walked in the door, there were two cardboard boxes of mail to be answered, some containing checks and cash. This was back in the days of the Lake Havasu Estates fiasco, which was a big land-fraud situation. The number of recordings was very high. For my first two years as recorder, I worked seven days a week. We all worked our fannies off."

In 1972, county human resources, finance and purchasing departments didn't exist, she said. "The elected officials did everything for each department. Then the Board of Supervisors hired a finance director, Gene Winship. He was a corker. He used to try to hold all the supervisors' noses to the grindstone about spending. He did a lot to bring everyone's attention to budgets and expense reporting. He didn't last long."

McCall saw several Boards come and go during her years with Mohave County.

Wrong ideas

"There have always been a lot of people who have wrong ideas about what an elected supervisor can and can't do," she said. "I used to cringe every time there was an election because of the many statements candidates made. Many would promise to 'fix those roads.'

"I remember when Jim Shultz was elected supervisor. He was bound and determined that he was going to get all those roads fixed. The county attorney informed him that he couldn't use General Fund, property tax dollars, to repair roads."

Road maintenance is funded through Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) dollars derived from fuel taxes and license fees.

"That supervisor swore the county attorney was lying to him," McCall said.

Big changes

Technology has changed under McCall's watch.

"I've seen it change from pen and pencil on paper to everything now being on computer," she said. "When we first started looking for a computer system in 1985, there were no recorder packages out there. I remember one bid from IBM; they wanted an enormous amount of money to create a system for us. They did the same thing to the state when we had to go to a statewide voter registration system. IBM told the state how many millions of dollars it would take to create a system." The state paid and that system still has problems, McCall said.

"I went up to Eagle, Colo., and saw a recorder's system that I liked. It was from Eagle Computer Systems, which probably, at that time, employed about nine people. Since then, Eagle has been purchased by Tyler Technology, which is a huge company out of Tyler, Texas. Eagle's David Kunkel developed the recorder's system that we purchased. Since that time, we have stayed with the company, now Tyler. Right now we are doing some testing on receiving electronic images for recording packages."

New challenges

McCall said the new recorder, Carol Meier, will have several challenges.

"Carol will have to learn many things," McCall said. "We (Recorder's Office) are strictly governed in what we can and can't do. Our fees are statutory. She shouldn't have a problem in that I have a terrific staff of hardworking employees and they will be glad to teach her. Everyone here is part of the team and, initially, she will just have to watch and learn. Having been in the Assessor's Office, Carol knows many people and I believe she will have an easy transition. Her biggest problem will be, due to the downturn in the economy, keeping good employees."

McCall has been on the Arizona Association of Counties (AACo) Board since the early 1980s and has stayed involved in the Republican Party. She may be retiring, but she plans to keep busy.

"I'm going to stay right here in Mohave County," she said. "I will stay a precinct committeeman with the party. I plan on running errands for my mother and spending a lot of time with my children (Gina Sparks and Katherine Lawson), grandchildren (Kylie, Kelsey, Dustin, Jamie and Emilie), and great grandchildren (Teagan, Blake, Gabrielle, Makayla and Bryan David)."