Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Highway safety chief returns

Returning as director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Alberto Gutier said he’s as determined to help rural areas as he is big cities.

“I have a very soft spot for rural Arizona because they’ve been ignored by government for many years,” he said. “When you provide a small grant of federal funds to Coolidge, it’s as important as a $200,000 grant to Phoenix.”

The office is responsible for developing, promoting and coordinating programs, influencing public and private policy and increasing public awareness of highway safety. About 99 percent of its budget comes from the U.S. government.

Gov. Jan Brewer has yet to announce Gutier’s appointment, but outgoing Director Richard Fimbres has said Gutier is replacing him, and Gutier confirms that he’s taking the post.

A native of Cuba, veteran of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and stalwart Republican, Gutier, 69, served as director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety under Govs. Fife Symington and Jane Hull.

Since 1995, he’s been strolling the halls of the Legislature as a lobbyist with his firm, the Gutier Group.

Gutier said his priorities upon returning to the office are reducing drunken driving, aggressive speeding and red-light running and increasing the use of seat belts and child-safety seats.

“There’s a lot of highway safety that could be improved,” he said. “I’m going to try to raise that with awareness.”

To accomplish that, he plans public-awareness campaigns, including child-seat demonstrations, stricter seat-belt enforcement and reviving the slogan, “Drive Hammered, Get Nailed.”

Gutier said he wants to examine whether the office, which grew from nine to 18 employees since he left, can operate more efficiently.

He has worked in some capacity with nearly every major Arizona Republican campaign over the years, including Sen. John McCain’s run for president last year. He said he’ll carry that same devotion into his current office.

“I support whatever my governor supports,” he said.

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