Burton Barr
272 pages, 6 x 9
12 photos, 3 illustrations, 5 tables
Release Date:10 Sep 2015
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Burton Barr

Political Leadership and the Transformation of Arizona

The University of Arizona Press
Politics, like poker, requires timing and risk, and Burton Barr of Arizona knew it. The deal maker of Arizona politics would say, “You gotta know when to hold them.” For more than two decades, Barr played his political cards with skill as he led Arizona through an era of enormous growth and success.

Considered perhaps the most influential person in Arizona’s political development, Burton Barr represented north central Phoenix in the Arizona House of Representatives for the twenty-two years from 1964 to 1986. As the Republican House Majority Leader for twenty of those years, he left his fingerprints on every major piece of legislation during those decades, covering such issues as air pollution, health care for indigents, school aid, the tax code, prison reform, child care, groundwater management, and freeway funding.

Burton Barr’s political life unfolded during the very time his state and region shifted from being outliers to trendsetters. His choices in policy making and his leadership style were both an outcome and a creator of his sociopolitical environment. Arizona politics in the 1960s and ’70s was a rich brew of key elements, a time when the economy was being transformed, the nature and distribution of populations shifted, partisan politics were in flux, and the very lifeblood of the West—water—was being contested under increasing pressures of usage and depletion.

How Barr successfully responded to those challenges is the story of Arizona’s development during those years. At the heart of it, Barr’s political life and personality are inextricably bound up with the life of the West.
An insightful account of Burton Barr, the Republican House majority leader who led Arizona through a period of tremendous growth and state government modernization.’—Western Historical Quarterly
‘An invaluable contribution to Arizona and legislative history.’—New Mexico Historical Review

‘Most every afternoon, in the quiet hours after the session, Burt Barr was the wisest and best political mentor I ever had.’—Governor Bruce Babbitt

‘At a time when the great complaint is why government doesn’t seem to work, it is instructional to reflect on a time and place when it did. One of the principle reasons for Arizona’s dynamic problem-solving governance during the ’70s and much of the ’80s was the influence of a unique Arizona leader, Burton Barr. Today’s leaders could learn a lot from the engaging stories told in this book.’—Senator Jon Kyl
‘In my experience in Arizona politics, if we had a living treasure, it was Burt.’—Phoenix Mayor Terry Goddard

‘The most decent man I know.’—Minority Leader Art Hamilton

‘[Barr] wrote the legislative history of this state for twenty years.’—John Kolbe, Phoenix Gazette

‘Who soars like an eagle, works like a beaver, thinks like lightning, waggles his eyebrows like Groucho Marx, and fixes his wife’s and children’s breakfast on Sundays? Rep. Burton S. Barr, R-Phoenix, is indeed a riddle.’—Bernie Wynn, Arizona Republic

‘[Barr had a] reputation of being unable to hold a grudge longer than he can hold his breath.’—Shawn Hubler

‘[Barr was] a perpetual motion machine. He never slowed down; I don’t think he sat down.’—Peter Burns

‘Burton’s ideas overwhelmed everything.’—Representative Jim Skelly
Philip R. VanderMeer is a professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. His research interests include urban and Southwest history, social analysis of religion in America, political careers, and legislative behavior.
List of Illustrations
Foreword by Alfredo Gutierrez
Preface and Acknowledgments

Introduction. Understanding Burton Barr
1. Making the Man and Raising the Barr
2. Making a Life as a Businessman, Peacetime Soldier, and Family Man
3. Arizona’s Political Structure, Legislative Stalemate, and the Beginning of Reform
4. Legislative Leadership
5. Burton Barr and Policy-Making in Arizona
6. Leaving the Legislature and Running for Governor
7. An Itch to Serve: Life after the Legislature

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