By Jesse Bryant
Tragedy has once again struck Rural Arizona with the passing of Rural Arizona’s Senator Chester Crandell. It was announced Monday, August 04, 2014, that Senator Crandell died while out riding his horse in his Rim Country home of Heber, Arizona.
It was in Heber, also, where Chester grew up and finished school in the one-room school house in 1964. He went on to attend Mesa Community College, then transferred to the University of Arizona earning a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Education and afterward earning a Master’s of Education Leadership degree from Northern Arizona University.
After college, he began a distinguished thirty year career in public education starting at Westwood High School in 1972. He developed the first Vocation Agriculture program at Heber-Overgaard School District, and in 1999 helped to establish the Northern Arizona Vocation Institute of Technology (NAVIT) across rim country school districts.
While serving as superintendent of NAVIT, Chester took sevice to the next level by becoming a candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives. He received a warm welcome by rural activists and became the “C” in that year’s ABC team representing the five eastern counties, including Gila, in the legislature; Senator Sylvia Allen and Representative Brenda Barton being the “A” and “B” of the team. In 2012 with the retirement of Senator Allen, he ran for and won a seat in the state senate.
Chester presented a strong voice at the capitol for all rural Arizonans and our important issues. Most recently he was working on efforts to restore control of public lands to the states, and running for a second term. His death creates vacancies in his office and on the November ballot. A strikingly similar incident occurred in 2008 when Senator Jake Flake died of a heart attack after being thrown from his horse in Snowflake, AZ. As it happened in 2008, the law requires that the Navajo County Board of Supervisors appoint a resident of Navajo County to finish the remaining few months of Senator Crandell’s term. The precinct committeemen of the Republican Party inside Crandell’s legislative district will gather together in a central location within their district, receive qualified candidates, and elect an individual to run in his place for the November election.
Chester Crandell, leaves behind his wife Alice, nine children, and many grandchildren. As an inheritance he leaves them a ranching heritage, a name marked by honor, and an example of humility. Rural Arizona mourns the loss of one of its champions and heroes, but hats come off to a fitting passing for a man of the land.