James Alan Hartdegen, better known as Jim, is a fixture in Arizona agriculture.
While a Representative in the Arizona State Legislature from 1977 to 1991, he served as Chairman of the Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee for a number of years. He was a member of the Arizona Groundwater Study Commission that led to the 1980 Groundwater Act.
Hartdegen was elected and served two six-year terms (1997 – 2008) representing Pinal County on the CAWCD Board of Directors. He then was appointed by Governor Jan Brewer on May 2012 to complete the unexpired term of Terri Kibler, who left the Board.
Hartdegen served in the United States Army and in Vietnam, attaining the rank of Sgt. E-5. He is a member of Who's Who in American Politics, American Legion, Arizona Town Hall, Casa Grande Chamber, and a Life Member of VFW. He attended Mesa Community College and Arizona State University and in 1999, he founded The Hartdegen Group, a professional lobbying organization that represents electrical districts.
He recently answered the following questions about his time on the CAWCD Board of Directors and changes in Pinal County Agriculture.
Arizona Agriculture: When and why did you run for the CAWCD board?
Hartdegen: The CAWCD Board of Directors has 15 members, with ten of those from Maricopa County, four from Pima County and one from Pinal County. I ran for this board because Pinal County needed a steadfast representative, and I knew I would be willing to dedicate my time and energy to be that person. I was first elected in 1997 and then again in 2003. The terms are six years long. Then I was appointed in 2012 to fulfill a vacated term for two years, then found myself running again and was elected in 2015. It may sound crazy to people who don’t know me to serve this many years in an unpaid position, but for me, it’s been about contributing what I have to offer to support and represent my community. The health of Pinal County depends on its water supply, and I have taken my role seriously. I feel great pride to have been serving for so many years on a board that makes critically important decisions about our current and future water supplies.
Arizona Agriculture: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen regarding water for Pinal County agriculture?
Hartdegen: I first served on the CAWCD Board in 1997 and have seen many changes over the past 20 years. During my first term, the challenges for Pinal County agriculture were more like challenges farmers have faced no matter where you farm; they needed to answer the age-old question, “How do I make a living off the crops I can grow?” More recently, however, the challenges have shifted from the farmers to the irrigation districts. Our state is looking at a future in which central Arizona agriculture will lose a certain amount of water, and some lands will not be farmed. Now irrigation districts have greater responsibility and importance to the farmers they serve to secure the water supplies needed to support this economy. The irrigation districts are doing their best to plan and prepare, and I believe they will succeed so Pinal County agriculture will continue to thrive well into the future.