Joel Valdez to Step Down at Midyear
After 20 years of guiding dozens of building and finance projects on campus, Valdez has announced his intent to retire at the end of June.

By Jeff Harrison, University Communications
March 4, 2010

Joel D. Valdez, the senior vice president for business affairs at the University of Arizona for the last 20 years, has announced he will retire on June 30.

During those two decades, Valdez shepherded the UA's projects and managed its finances through one of the most turbulent periods in the school's history.

Valdez came to the UA after 16 years as Tucson's city manager, where at the time he oversaw nearly 5,000 employees and a $500 million budget. All the while he reported to several mayors and council members of varying political stripes.

As city manager, Valdez initiated a new budget process for the city, supervised hundreds of millions of dollars in capital construction projects and implemented major technology changes in city operations as Tucson nearly doubled its population.

UA President Emeritus Henry Koffler cited that experience in managing a complex operation and responding to multiple constituencies when he recruited Valdez to campus in 1990.

"His most visible impact has been the many construction projects and the creative financing involved in getting them built during times of serious financial constraints," Koffler said. "Each one has an interesting story. The advantageous bond issues that he arranged are part of this story."

There are dozens of these stories both on and off campus. The new Student Union Memorial Center is just one example. Using mini-bonds and design-build construction, the University obtained a $70 million building for about $60 million, and in the process created a model for the way the entire State of Arizona now procures construction.

Valdez oversaw construction of dozens of new buildings throughout campus, such as the Integrated Learning Center, Keating Bioresearch, the Helen Schaefer Poetry Center and a number of residence halls. There were also significant additions to other buildings, including Architecture, Space Sciences, Optical Sciences and the Eddie Lynch Pavilion at the McKale Memorial Center.

Several of these projects have won national recognition for their architectural design and energy efficiency.

Other less glamorous projects included giving several older buildings upgrades that will extend their lives for several more decades. Historic Old Main and Herring Hall also got much-needed facelifts.

Valdez also established an internal audit function that has assisted the University in improving and maintaining financial records that are among the best and most reliable in Arizona, and aided the UA through federal and state audits.

"It is impossible to encompass the full value of Joel's expertise and counsel to me personally," said UA President Robert Shelton. "He guided a major campus rebuilding program through nearly two decades of state budget cuts, three economic recessions and four presidents, including me. Additionally he provided immeasurable support of diversity on campus through hiring, mentoring, educating and encouraging employees and students to achieve their full potential. Joel is a unique leader and the University of Arizona has been fortunate to receive his wisdom and energy over the years."

Valdez, who is 75, was born in Tucson and grew up with the city and the University, and graduated with a degree in education from the UA in 1959. After several years working at Pima County Juvenile Court, he began his career in city administration at the then-city-county library system in 1966.

In 1970, he joined the city manager's office as an administrative assistant and was assistant city manager from 1971-74. While there, Valdez also completed a certificate program at the Sloan School of Management at MIT in 1972 and a senior manager's course at Harvard in 1978. He was appointed Tucson City Manager in 1974.

Valdez' leadership has been recognized nationally and internationally. His long list of awards comes from the American Society of Public Administration, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Hispanic Professional Action Committee, the UA Alumni Association and UA Hispanic Alumni, Distinguished Achievement Award from the Arizona State University College of Public Programs and the Outstanding Achievement Award from the UA College of Education.

President Bill Clinton appointed Valdez to the United States National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. He also has had board positions with the National Academy of Public Administration, International City Management Association and the White House Conference on Balanced National Growth and Economic Development.

Valdez also has worked locally with the UA Foundation Board, the Catholic Diocese of Tucson, Tucson Medical Center and the Tucson-Pima Library Board, now the Pima County Library Board.

In 1990 the Tucson Mayor and Council named what is now the Joel Valdez Main Library in his honor.

"Joel Valdez came to the University of Arizona when our finances were unsettled and immediately put our house in order," said UA President Emeritus Peter Likins. "He has a creative mind and a great heart; over time he has earned the respect and trust of everyone with whom he relates, whether at the level of state officials and regents or among the ranks of his loyal staff and the students he reaches out to engage."

"The UA has been able to maintain a high level of excellence in large part because of Joel's remarkable ability to find financing for new buildings, refitting older buildings and upgrading critical infrastructure,"said UA Provost Meredith Hay. "He's been an indispensable part of the University and he will be greatly missed."