Stephen E. Emerine, 73, former Tucson Citizen and Arizona Daily Star journalist, Pima County assessor, public relations specialist and taxpayer advocate, died early Friday after complications from surgery.
Mr. Emerine was well-known and respected in Tucson’s journalism, business and political circles. He was a frequent critic of local government policies, especially concerning property taxes and spending.
“I’d like him to be remembered as a guy who really cared about his community,” his son, Edward Emerine, said Friday.
“He really was one of the good guys.”
Retired Tucson Citizen managing editors Clyde Lowery and George Rosenberg worked with Mr. Emerine in the 1960s.
“He was a great reporter,” Lowery recalled Friday. “He asked hard questions and wanted straight answers.”
“I’ve been thinking about my 20 years at the Citizen and the people I loved,” Rosenberg reflected. “Steve’s face kept popping up.”
Mr. Emerine was born in Scottsbluff, Neb., in 1935 and worked at newspapers in the Midwest before moving to Tucson in 1960. He was a reporter and assistant editor at the Tucson Citizen from 1960 until 1967.
Mr. Emerine briefly taught journalism at the University of Arizona before leaving to become a co-owner of the then-weekly Green Valley News and, later, the Nogales International.
From 1973 until 1980, he was the Pima County assessor.
Mr. Emerine was a managing editor of the Arizona Daily Star in the 1980s.
Mr. Emerine also was associate director of News Services at the University of Arizona and was chief spokesman for the UA’s Mount Graham telescope project in the late 1980s and 1990s.
Mr. Emerine, a Democrat, was a frequent visitor to the meetings of local elected government bodies, often to speak on spending policies, property taxes or proposed bond packages.
“He was capable and likable and fearless,” Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll, a Republican, said.
A jazz lover, Mr. Emerine was a past president of the Tucson Jazz Society, former wife Carolyn Emerine said.
“He ate, slept and breathed jazz,” she said. “I’m sure he’s up there now swinging with the best of them – Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton.”
Mr. Emerine wanted to have a jazz funeral, and his family is trying to accommodate his wishes, she said.
Being president of the jazz society “was the most wonderful thing in the world to him,” she said. “I don’t think there’s anyone in Tucson who had a bigger jazz collection than Steve. Jazz and politics, that was Steve.”
Mr. Emerine also had been a state Democratic committeeman and remained active in Pima County Democratic politics.
Mr. Emerine was a longtime member of the Pima Taxpayers Association.
“He wanted government to be good and honest and transparent,” said Mary Schuh of the taxpayers association.
Mr. Emerine started a business, Steve Emerine Strategic Public Relations, in 1994 and was a columnist for Inside Tucson Business.
He is survived by his wife, Claudine; daughter Keely Mix Emerine of Idaho; and son Edward Emerine of Tucson.
Memorial services are pending, his son said Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.