Pima County Administrator Jan Lesher announced that she hired Sunnyside School District Superintendent Steve Holmes as a deputy county administrator. Lesher made the announcement in a memorandum to the Pima County Board of Supervisors that also detailed her reorganization of county administration.
“Mr. Holmes joins Pima County following 28 years of extraordinary service in public education and a very successful period as Superintendent of the Sunnyside Unified School District. Leading more than 14,000 students and a workforce of 2,000 employees, Mr. Holmes has experience managing and transforming systems that are similar in many ways to those of Pima County,” Lesher wrote to the board.
In his seven years as Sunnyside superintendent, and seven years as an assistant superintendent, Holmes earned a national reputation for finding innovative solutions to the challenges faced by urban school districts. Under Holmes’ leadership, the district has been committed to fiscal accountability and greater organizational efficiency, which stabilized the district’s budget during a time of declining enrollment. Among his achievements with the district:
- He moved the district to a self-insured health plan creating a solvent trust fund
Implemented an energy and water savings program that saved the district millions of dollars
- Developed a staffing model that resulted in more dollars going directly into the classroom
- Put in place new technology tools and student data systems that have resulted in positive impacts on student learning and more efficient use of staff time.
Holmes is a Sunnyside alum, a graduate of the University of Arizona, and has a master’s degree in administration, planning and social policy from Harvard. The Arizona Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents named him Superintendent of the Year for 2022. He teaches a graduate leadership class at the University of Arizona College of Education for current and aspiring superintendents on the functions and responsibilities of school chief executives, with an emphasis on “external and internal system relationship in policy formation and decision making.”
“Leaving Sunnyside has been a difficult decision. I have loved every day I spent in service to the students, parents, teachers, and staff of the wonderful Sunnyside community. However, I’m ready for new challenges and new opportunities in my career. I’m excited to join Pima County at the start of a new era for County government and leadership,” Holmes said.
Holmes will start working for the county in July and will be paid $230,000 a year. He will oversee several of the administrative support departments such as IT and Procurement, as well as Public Defense Services.
He takes the spot vacated by Lesher when she became Acting County Administrator in December and joins Deputy County Administrators Carmine DeBonis and Dr. Francisco Garcia as part of the county’s executive leadership team. Lesher has been performing double duty since former County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry was severely injured while bicycling downtown in October. Huckelberry resigned from the county in April to focus on his recovery. The board hired Lesher as County Administrator on April 5.