Civic Leadership

Burton Barr: Political Leadership and the Transformation of Arizona by Philip R. VanderMeer

March 16, 2015

By Arizona Center for Civic Leadership

In his book, Burton Barr: Political Leadership and the Transformation of Arizona, ASU professor Philip R. VanderMeer describes a period that could easily be called the Barr era.

Burton Barr served in the Arizona House of Representatives for more than 20 years beginning in 1964 and was House Majority leader for most of his service. Known for his problem-solving style, he helped guide the modernization of state government as well as the development of landmark programs and policies that remain central to Arizonans today.

VanderMeer’s portrayal of Burton Barr extends beyond his political accomplishments though. He draws a portrait of a man whose determination can be traced to his immigrant parents and a strategic mind developed on the battlefields of World War II. He also describes a man devoted to his family and relationships. These bipartisan relationships are what propelled him into leadership and helped to make him an effective policymaker. These relationships also played a critical role in Barr’s run for Governor in 1986. The biography provides a fascinating story of the politics and personalities that shaped the 1986 Republican primary election, in which Evan Mecham narrowly defeated Burton Barr, a surprising upset that had a deep impact on Barr and changed the landscape of Arizona politics. This new book, which was started by longtime Arizona leader Jack Pfister, offers every reader something to think about and a deeper understanding of Arizona.

Burton Barr: Political Leadership and the Transformation of Arizona was published by University of Arizona Press. http://www.uapress.arizona.edu/Books/bid2488.htm

Flinn-Brown Fellow Jennifer Carusetta contributed to this post.