Pima County is one of the largest and most populous counties in the state of Arizona.  Known as the home of the bustling city Tucson, Pima County is a desirable residence and tourist destination. For people both within and outside of Arizona.   Pima County is also rich in history as one of the oldest continuously occupied areas in the United States.   With a long and storied history, Pima County is also firmly anchored in the present as one of the fastest growing areas in Arizona.  Today’s Pima County is home to a rich assortment of museums, restaurants and parks which makes it an appealing area for all.

The History of Pima County and its County Seat Tucson

The history of Pima County dates back long before the present to prehistoric times.   The earliest dwellers in the area have been reported to be Paleoindian and Archaic hunters and gatherers who had a presence in the area as early as 10,000 B.C.E.   There is evidence of continuous habitation of the area that dates as back as far as three thousand years.  The area was occupied by Native Americans as early as 200 CE.  The Hohokam Indians were the residents of the area in that time.  The Hohokam were one of the major Indian tribes of the Southwestern region.   The Hohokam lived in the area of South Central Arizona that is now Pima County as well as its surrounding counties.   They lived where the Gila and Salt River basins are.  

The early Hohokam lived in small villages in what is now Pima County.  They were farmers who raised corn and beans on what was the little land in the area that was suitable for farming.   Although the land is mostly desert, there is some arable land.  As their farming progressed, their villages became more advanced with what could be considered technological advances for the time.   The Hohokam built canals and irrigation systems in the area.   Around 1400, the Hohokam society declined and they disappeared. 

The Pima Indians were among the descendants of the Hohokam, and they also lived in the area that is now Pima County.   The Pima built an intricate society that was centered in their villages.   There were also multiple other Indian tribes and communities that occupied the area with the Pima being the largest and most influential tribe in the area.

The Native American hegemony over the area began to erode in the late 1600s with the interposition of colonial powers.  Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit explorer and missionary, visited the area in 1694.   This led to an era of Spanish colonization and mission-building in the area.  The area eventually came to be under the rule of the Spanish, although contacts between the Pima and the Spanish was not necessarily hostile.   The Pima Indians had a reputation of being peaceful and friendly.  The Spanish soon settled the area in large numbers, and the population was mixed between the Native Americans and the Spanish.  The area became further transformed when silver and gold were discovered in the area in the mid-1700s.  The area was under control of Spain when the Tucson Presidio was founded.  When Mexico fought a war for its independence from Spain, the settlers in the area that is now Pima County were engaged in the conflict on behalf of the Mexicans.   However, Mexico did not maintain control of the area for long.

Dramatic change came to the area after the Spanish-American war of the late 1840s.  Once Mexico was defeated in the conflict, the United States purchased much of the land in the Southwest from Mexico.  The Gadsen Purchase was completed in 1853 and was initially intended to secure land on which to build a southern transcontinental railroad.   In this transaction, the United States bought almost 30,000 square miles of land that is now South Central Arizona and part of New Mexico for $10 million.   All of what is now Pima County was included in the area that the United States purchased from Mexico. 

Now that the area was under American control, the entire character of the area began to change.  The United States Army took control over the area and established forts.   The presence of the Army benefited the area since the economy was devoted to providing the Army with necessary supplies.  In addition, trade routes and links were established, and Pima County was in a desirable geographic location.   Pima County was along the route that farmers drove their cattle on from Texas to California which brought many visitors to the area.  In addition, many prospectors on their way to California for the Gold Rush passed through the area.  Their presence brought economic benefits for the area, and some of the prospectors settled in Pima County instead of making their way on to California.

The area of Pima County briefly became a Confederate territory.  The area was conquered by Texans and Arizona militia on behalf of the Confederacy at the start of the Civil War.  There were numerous efforts to restore to the area to Union control over the next two years.  In 1863, an army of Californians finally drove out the Confederates and the area that is Pima County again became a part of the Union. 

In 1863, the Pima County area became a part of the Arizona Territory.  The following year, Pima County was incorporated and its borders were established.   Pima County is the oldest county in Arizona.  The original area made for a large county that exceeded 30,000 square miles.  In the following years, its territory has since been subsequently been reduced to under 10,000 square miles as other counties were formed from its territory. 

The twentieth century brought about immense change and growth of the entire area.  Two things combined to spark tremendous growth in the county.  First, the clean air in the desert helped contribute to the growth of the area by drawing people hoping to take advantage of it for health reasons.   After World War I, the federal government constructed a rehabilitation facility for veterans of the war who were injured by nerve agents.   In addition, the VA Hospital that was constructed became a major growth engine for the county.  Second, the growth of the University of Arizona helped drive development in the county as the University established itself as a leading public institution.  Arizona achieved statehood in 1912, and Tucson and the surrounding Pima County immediately were integral parts of the state.

The area continued to grow as the twentieth century progressed.  In 1940, the Tucson Army Air Field was constructed, bringing more of a military presence to the area.  Pima County also began to grow as a cultural and architectural destination. 

By the second half of the century, Pima County was a growing area whose growth mirrored that of the entire state of Arizona.   The population of the area has grown by leaps and bounds as its reputation as a Sun Belt destination became established.  By the beginning of the present century, Pima County’s population surpassed a million residents since the last Census was conducted in 2010.    Given the expansive area of Pima County, there is even more room for the county’s growth. 

The History of the County Seat Tucson

The history of Tucson dates as far back as 1775.  In that year, the Presidio San Augustin Del Tucson was built by Spanish soldiers that were in the city.  Tucson had a Spanish military presence thereafter, which eventually became a Mexican military presence after Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. 

The area was the site of conflict prior to the Spanish-American War.  A Mormon battalion had marched through the area in 1846.  They occupied the Garrison of Fort Tucson without firing a shot as the Mexicans fled before any conflict could ensue.  The occupation was only temporary as the Americans left after a couple of days and the Mexicans reestablished occupancy of the Garrison. 

The original capital of the Arizona Territory was established in Tucson, which was originally incorporated in 1871.  The capital of the Arizona Territory was eventually moved to Phoenix.  It was transportation that really contributed to the growth of the region.  Those that were travelling from San Antonio to San Diego passed through Tucson on their journey.  In 1880, the United States finally was able to construct the long-planned Southern Pacific Railroad, which passed through the heart of Pima County right near Tucson.  This set the stage for dramatic growth in the area as more and more people settled in Tucson.   The city received waves of Chinese immigrants who came to the area in conjunction with the building of the railroad and stayed after it was completed. 

The growth and the traffic also meant that Tucson experienced some of the ills that more vibrant urban areas encountered.   The city was a magnet for gamblers and those of lesser moral ilk.  Pima County in the second half of the nineteenth century was a dangerous place, with numerous high-profile robberies.   Still, the people kept on coming through Pima County, both as a destination in transit as well as a place to settle.

By the time that 1900 rolled around, Tucson had a population nearing 8,000.  A major event that would set the stage for the later growth of Pima County occurred in 1885 with the founding of the University of Arizona.   The University was established in Tucson.   The city had initially hoped to be the location of the state’s psychiatric hospital since the hospital would have resulted in a greater appropriation for the city.  The presence of the University of Arizona established Tucson as a center of higher learning and as a university town. 

During the time prior to Arizona’s statehood, Tucson was the largest city and commercial center in the Territory of Arizona.  However, right around the time that Arizona became a state, Phoenix surpassed Tucson in territory and population.  Still, Tucson has grown exponentially over the years.  In the time between 1950 and 1960, Tucson’s population practically quintupled.  Tucson’s population today is more than ten times what it was in 1950.   

Tucson is now a vibrant center of Pima County and Southern Arizona with a population that has passed a half a million residents, and it continues to grow by the year.   Tucson has gone from a city with a population that could be measured in the hundreds in the 1850s to a city that is one of the 35 largest in the country.  It is the second largest city in Arizona, behind Phoenix. 

Overview of Pima County

Geography and Population

Much of Pima County is centered in Tucson, which is the heart and soul of the county as well as the center of the county’s government.   Tucson is the largest city in the county with a population of approximately 520,000.  Other population centers in Pima County include Oro Valley, Marana, Sahuarita and South Tucson.  The population of the county just surpassed one million residents in 2016.  Nearly all of the residents of the county live in and around Tucson.    Virtually the entire population surrounds a corridor that travels along I-10 and 1-19 in the eastern part of the county.  To the west of the urban areas lies the Tohono O'odham Nation Reservation, which fills most of the land area of Pima County.

Pima County consists of 9,189 square miles of land.  The city of Tucson is only 236 miles of the county’s territory, but it holds half of the population.  The Tohono O'odham Nation Reservation has an area of 4,486 square miles and most of the reservation in within Pima County.   There are several other Indian Reservations located in the county as well as national monuments.  Pima County is located practically entirely within the Sonoran Desert. 

Although nearly Pima County’s entire population lives in an urban area, most of the county’s area in uninhabited.  The county is also home to several mountain ranges that surround Tucson.  These mountain ranges include the Santa Catalinas, Rincons, Santa Ritas and the Tucsons.   Although Pima County is practically entirely desert, there are numerous rivers in the county, including the Santa Crux which flows through Tucson. 

Tourism in Pima County

Pima County has become a top destination for tourism both in the state as well as the country.  Pima County draws approximately seven million overnight visitors every year.  The number of tourists to the area grows close to eight percent every year as visitors come to Tucson to enjoy the year-round nice weather.   Pima County is known as a great home for golf as well as other nature activities.

In addition, Pima County has numerous racetracks and museums.   Pima County possesses a unique ecology that features desert vistas combined with mountains.  It has a rich mixture of flora and fauna.  This is because Pima County has engaged in sound stewardship of its land and has developed in a manner that preserves the ecology.

Business in Pima County

Much of Pima County’s employment is driven by the University of Arizona which is Tucson’s largest employer.   Tucson is regarded as a very favorable environment for businesses due to the tax rates in Arizona and a conducive regulatory environment.   Pima County also has a robust job market with unemployment rates that are lower than the state of Arizona as a whole. 

In addition to the University of Arizona, state and federal government also employ large numbers of people in Pima County.   The county historically has had among the lowest unemployment rates in the state.  In addition to education and government, construction and retail are also large employers in the county.   Finally, health care and mining businesses also have large presences in Pima County.

Real Estate in Pima County

Pima County continues to grow in part because it presents favorable real estate opportunities for both those looking for a residence as well as investors looking to purchase property.  There is quite a bit of available land in Pima County which make the real estate market vibrant and busy.   In addition, businesses can rent space in Pima County at affordable rates, making it a conducive location to base a business.

Government in Pima County

Pima County is run by a County Administrator, although that person does not have executive authority.  Instead, the County Administrator acts to administer the agencies of the county government.  Currently, the County Administrator is Chuck Huckleberry.  The Administrator is not an elected position.  Instead, the County Administrator receives a contract at the direction of the Board of Supervisors.  The County Administrator carries out the policies that are enacted by the Board of Supervisors and also administers and overseas all functions of the non-elected government.  The County Administrator is a non-partisan position, but the partisan Board of Supervisors votes every four years on a contract renewal for the County Administrator.   The Board of Supervisors has the power to remove the County Administrator. 

The Board of Supervisors is the legislature of the county.  There are five members of the Board of Supervisors.  They are elected to serve four-year terms.  The last election for the Board of Supervisors was held in 2016.  The Board of Supervisors enacts policies and provides guidance for the County Administrator who runs the day-to-day operations of the government. The Board Members oversees all of the budget issues for the County, setting taxes and giving the various agencies of Pima County government their annual budgets. The Board of Supervisors also oversees some of the services provided by Pima County.

Overview of the County Seat Tucson

University of Arizona

As mentioned above, the University of Arizona was founded in Tucson in 1885.  The founding of the University followed a push to establish a university that lasted for almost 25 years.  Although Tucson was initially disappointed at receiving the university as opposed to other public institutions that were being funded at the time, the university has steadily grown over the years to become the centerpiece of the city.    The university began accepting students in 1891 and has gradually added various professional schools over the years.   The University of Arizona currently has over 43,000 students, which includes 34,000 undergraduates.   Many of the University of Arizona’s professional schools are considered to be among the best in their respective disciplines. 

Tourism in Tucson

Tucson features endless sunshine and desert scenery.  The city is hope to a burgeoning restaurant scene and numerous ranches and resorts.  The city is also home to a variety of historical and art museums.   In addition, there are scenic drives that showcase the beauty of the area.  The city is accessible through the Tucson International Airport, which is located eight miles south of the city.

Tucson has a historic district that reflects its time as a Spanish outpost.  Some of the top attractions in Tucson includes the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, the Mission San Xavier del Bac, Saguaro National Park and Tucson National Park.  Tucson offers spas, luxury resorts and affordable hotels that are a draw for potential tourists. 

Downtown Tucson

Downtown Tucson has established a reputation as a trendy urban area.  It is regarded as a mix between an urban and Western environment.  Downtown Tucson is both a center for business as well as a destination for tourists looking for quality restaurants and cultural events.  Downtown Tucson has undergone extensive redevelopment in the past 20 years, and the pace of redevelopment has quickened in this current economic boom.  Numerous businesses have either relocated to Downtown Tucson or have expanded their current headquarters.  

Real Estate in Tucson

The Tucson real estate market is affordable for home purchasers.  The median price of a home sold in 2017 in the Tucson-area is $189,900, which is after a 7.9 percent increase from the previous year.  The price of homes in Tucson is generally affordable given the average income in the area.  Although Tucson and Pima County were hit hard during the recession of the last decade, prices have rebounded since then.   Home prices are in the midst of a long period of expansion.  Apartments in Tucson are affordable as well with an average rent of $769.   Median incomes in the Pima County and the Tucson area are lower than in other areas in the West.  As such, real estate and apartment prices must remain reasonable.   The affordable real estate serves as a draw to those looking to relocate to Tucson from other higher cost areas. 

Tucson City Government

In addition to the Pima County government, the city of Tucson also has its own government. Tucson has a mayor. The current mayor of Tucson is Jonathan Rothschild. The mayor of Tucson is not given much power in the City Charter. The mayor presides over the City Council and has some voting power on the Council. The mayor also represents the city at various functions and ceremonies.   The Mayor of Tucson is an elected position which is chosen by the voters at-large.

Tucson’s government is overseen by the City Council. These are partisan elected offices, and members serve four-year terms.  The City Council has six members, and the mayor can participate in some of the votes, albeit without equal voting power. The last election for the City Council were held in 2017 when half of the seats were contested. The other half of the seats will be up for election in November 2019.

Tucson is run by a City Manager who has the executive power that the mayor would otherwise have in a city government. The City Manager is not an elected position.  Instead, the City Manager is appointed by the City Council. The City Manager serves at the pleasure of the City Council. If the City Council so chooses, they have the ability to fire the City Manager. While the City Council passes legislation that sets the laws for the city, it is the City Manager that holds the executive power in the city. The City Manager plans and implements the budget while the City Council passes the legislation that appropriates money for the city government.

County Courthouse Overview and History

The County courthouse is the home of the Arizona Superior Court in Pima County. There is quite a bit of history that is attached the Old Courthouse. The old Pima County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Old Courthouse was constructed in 1928 using a unique form of architecture.  It was constructed in the style of the Old Spanish Missions and us one of the most well-known and recognizable buildings in Tucson. It is located in the center of Downtown Tucson.  Its address is 115 North Church Avenue.  

When the Old Courthouse was initially built, it housed the courts, the jail, the sheriff’s office and a library.  The county spent $300,000 on the construction of the courthouse and paid for it with a bond issue.  The building was designed by architect Roy Place who designed many other courthouses around the same time in Arizona.  The courthouse previously held the Pima County Superior Court and then the Pima County Consolidated Justice Court.  After 1977, the Pima County Superior Court moved to a new building that was constructed for it. 

The Old Courthouse had its famed turn in history.  In 1934, the trial of infamous bank robber John Dillinger was held in the Old Courthouse.  After his trial, he was escorted back to Indiana.  The Old Courthouse has been featured in many different movies and television shows. The 1976 version of the iconic movie "A Star is Born" was filmed at the Old Courthouse.  In addition, the 1956 movie "A Kiss Before Dying" also filmed scenes at the Old Courthouse. 

The building was renovated in 1954, adding a south wing to the building. It maintained its appearance from that renovation until recently.  After the Pima County Consolidated Justice Court moved out in 2015, the building underwent further renovation.  There are plans to turn the Old Courthouse into a center with museums and a memorial.  The ground floor will become an expansion of the Tucson Museum of Art.  Numerous other tenants have signed on to occupy space in the renovated building.  The newly purposed Old Courthouse is scheduled to open in 2020.

Today, the Pima County Courts are housed in several different buildings.  The Arizona Superior Court is located at 110 West Congress Street in Downtown Tucson.  The building was constructed in 1977.  This court is the general jurisdiction statewide court.  In Arizona, the Superior Court is an appellate court for justice and municipal courts.  There is also a juvenile court housed at this location.  There are over 30 judges that have chambers in this location. 

The Pima County Consolidated Justice Court was housed in the Old Courthouse until several years ago.  In 2015, it moved into its current home at 240 North Stone Avenue in Downtown Tucson.  The court is part of the County Public Service Center, which was completed in that year.  The building houses multiple county offices, and it was intended to provide county residents with the convenience of being able to visit several county offices under one roof.  The building on North Stone cost $143 million to construct. 

There are ten judicial precincts in Pima County.  Each precinct has its own presiding judge.  Eight of the ten precinct judges have their chambers in the courthouse on North Stone.  There are two other judges who have their offices in individual courthouses that are located elsewhere in the county. 

The Pima County Consolidated Justice Court is the court of original jurisdiction for Pima County.  The court hears criminal and civil cases.  It also hears small claims and traffic cases.  The judges of this court are elected by the voters of the county.

County Sheriff

The Pima County Sheriff's Department serves the unincorporated areas of Pima County.  It is an extremely large sheriff's department with an annual budget of $135 million.  The department was founded in 1865.  Currently, there are 600 sworn deputies as well as almost 900 civilians working for the department.  There are six district offices and three satellite offices.  

The department handles the entirety of Pima County that is not Tucson.  Its territory contains almost 400,000 residents.  The Operations Bureau is divided into four divisions which are the Patrol Division, the Specialized Response Division, the Criminal Investigations Division and the Administration Division.  In addition the Corrections Bureau for the county is under the aegis of the Pima County Sheriff's Department.  This includes the prisons and the related support services.  The crime rate in the area covered by the county is relatively low in comparison to the rest of the state of Arizona.

The sheriffs of Pima County are chosen by public elections.  The elections are held every four years.  The last election was held in 2016.  The current sheriff of Pima County is Mark Napier who was elected for the first time in 2016.  Pima County has had several notable sheriffs over the years.  Edwin Echols was the sheriff around the time of World War II.  Echols was personal friends with Will Rogers, who campaigned for him when he ran for the office.  Echols was involved with the rodeo and was nicknamed "Mr. Rodeo."  The longest-serving sheriff of Pima County was Clarence Dupnick, who was in office for 35 years.  He won seven elections for his post and served until his retirement in 2015.  He had a long list of achievements in his tenure as sheriff which included the construction of several prisons and the modernization of the department.

Tucson Police Department

The Tucson Police Department has jurisdiction within the city limits of Tucson.  The Tucson Police Department was founded in 1871.  At that time, Tucson was a high-crime area that was frequented by gamblers and robbers.  Over the first 50 years of the department, the Tucson Police Department had over 30 different marshals and chiefs.  Initially, the chief of police was an elected position.  After 1930, the chief of police was appointed by the City Council. 

The Tucson Police Department had a role in history as they were the ones who arrested John Dillinger in 1934.  Dillinger and his gang had come out to Tucson in an attempt to evade attention and avoid capture.   There was a fire at the hotel where he was staying, and the firemen found his bag that contained a large amount of cash.  The firemen recognized Dillinger from a picture that they had seen in a detective magazine.  They reported the information to the Tucson Police Department.  The police engaged in a stakeout and Dillinger was captured without a single shot being fired.  The Tucson Police Department succeeded where every law enforcement agency that had tried previously to capture Dillinger had failed.  He was booked and processed in Tucson before being transferred back to Indiana.

Today, the Tucson Police Department has close to 900 sworn officers along with 200 civilians in their employ.  The Tucson Police Department is broken down into five operations divisions that cover a geographic area of the city.  The Tucson Police Department has faced challenges due to funding in the city and state budgets.  The number of employees has remained relatively constant over the past 25 years although the city has grown dramatically in that time.  Nevertheless, the violent crime rate in Tucson is the second lowest in Arizona, behind only Phoenix. 

The Tucson Police Department maintains an active presence in the community.  It also is active on social media.  The current chief of police in Tucson is Chris Magnus.  He was appointed to the job in 2016 after serving as police chief for 10 years in Richmond, California.  The chief has a deputy and three assistants and reports to the Tucson City Manager.  The Tucson Police Department often has to deal with riots that occur when the University of Arizona basketball team has success in the NCAA Tournament.

County Jail

The Department of Corrections is under the auspices of the Pima County Sheriff's Department.  All of the county corrections, including those for criminals who are apprehended by the Tucson Police Department, are handled by the Pima County Sheriff. 

There are three locations for the county jail.  There is an adult detention complex that is located in Tucson.  There is also a minimum security facility that is located in Tucson.  Finally, there is a district jail in Ajo, which is located over two hours away from Tucson.  There are approximately 2,300 inmates that are housed in the corrections system.

Pima County has undertaken a program recently that is aimed at reducing the inmate population in the county.  Pima County is attempting to find creative alternatives that would lead to fewer inmates.  This would save money for the Pima County Sheriff's Department, which struggles with the high cost of housing inmates.  The goal is to reduce the inmate population to below 1,700 prisoners.

The Corrections Bureau is divided into two sections.  The first section handles operations.  Its functions include intake, the minimum security facility and security services.  The second section handles support services that accompany the actual incarceration.  The function of this section include inmate processing, judicial services, logistics and medical services.

Pima County is relatively advanced in the technology that is associated with its corrections bureau.  There is a program in the jails that allows inmates to have access to tablets.  In addition, the jails employ full body scanners that are designed to protect inmates from sneaking any types of contraband into the prison.

The Distance Between Tucson and Phoenix and the Directions

Pima County is located in the South Central part of Arizona.  It stretches all the way to the border between the United States and Mexico.  Tucson is located in the eastern part of Pima County.  It is located approximately 113 miles from Phoenix.  The journey from Phoenix to Tucson is an easy one.  In order to travel between Tucson and Phoenix, all one has to do is traverse the route by way of I-10.  It takes approximately one hour and 40 minutes to travel between the two cities. 

There are public transportation options that can get travelers between the two cities.  There are numerous bus companies that transport passengers between Phoenix and Tucson.  These buses travel frequently and travel from one point to the other is relatively inexpensive.  In addition, Amtrak offers train service between Tucson and Phoenix.  Amtrak offers two trains per day between the cities and the journey is scenic and fast.  In addition to buses and trains, there are shuttles that run from Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix to various destinations in Tucson.