Warren Petersen is a third-generation Gilbert resident. In 2012, he was elected to the Arizona State House of Representatives in Legislative District 12, where he now serves as the House majority leader.
Petersen is working on his law degree and has been in the real estate industry for 18 years, mostly in new home construction and as owner of a real estate brokerage company for more than a decade.
Petersen recently sponsored House Bill 2569 which allowed anyone with an out-of-state occupational license or certificate in good standing for at least one year to obtain an equivalent license in Arizona without taking an exam, a bill that put Arizona in the national spotlight.
Chamber Business News talked to Petersen about what he does in his free time, his passion for politics and what he has planned for the next session.
Question: Why did you initially want to get into politics?
Answer: Well, I’m really passionate about freedom and liberty.
My family has always been a political family, I would say, where [we] never missed an election. I’ve never missed an election since I was 18 years old. I’ve voted in every single election, even when I was on a mission for two years. I had my parents mail me my ballot and I sent it back.
In 2008, 2009 I was getting pretty established with my business and started to look at local government and state government and I wasn’t real happy with a lot of the policies I was seeing. So I got involved in a couple of local town council campaigns and after that, I ended up running for the legislature.
Q: Do you think working in real estate has helped you in your time as an elected official?
A: Absolutely. I think it is really important for all legislators to have business experience.
[As a realtor,] I’ve had a lot of interaction with government entities. Federal, state, local government entities have all come into play as I’ve worked in my business, and so that kind of interaction has also been a real motivator for me to get involved and to run.
I’ve seen a lot of the red tape that businesses have to deal with and a lot of the things, the burdensome regulations that businesses deal with from day-to-day. It’s definitely helped me connect with businesses and business owners and people, my constituents, who’ve had issues with government. It’s given me a good perspective on how to help them and things I can do to help out.
Q: Do you think being an Eagle Scout has helped you with your career?
A: Getting an Eagle Scout, I think, is great for anyone and I think the biggest thing that getting your Eagle does is it teaches you how to do a project, put things together, work with other people and accomplish things.
I think I really noticed this more when my son got his Eagle than when I got my Eagle. I just noticed that before he got his Eagle, he was not able to tackle, he didn’t have the confidence to tackle big projects like he does now.
It’s definitely helped me with everything from public speaking to organizing things to putting projects together, so it definitely, I think, gave me a headstart on business and politics.
Q: What was your favorite legislation to work on during the last session?
A: I’d definitely have to say that my favorite legislation was the universal licensing bill that I worked on… I think what made that bill different, I’ve been really blessed to be able to pass legislation over the year, but I think something that was really unique about this bill was that it had national repercussions. I had some collaboration nationally and so that was kind of fun and kind of neat to actually interact with people on a national level and see it really affect and have kind of a ripple nationwide.
Q: What are your biggest priorities for the next session?
A: One thing I’ve been working on for a few years and I’m hoping it will come together this session…is a simplification for education funding.
Right now education funding is very convoluted and due to the convoluted nature of it, there’s a lot of acrimony that comes out of that. So what I’d like to do is take all the various silos and I would like to stack all those and pretty much you end up with backpack funding where funding follows the student. It would eliminate the whole argument that people have, ‘do charters get more? Do districts get more?’ Everybody would get the same amount of funding.
It would be very transparent, an easy dollar number for the media and for the various interest groups that discuss and talk about it. It would give them all a number that everybody could have a consensus on and I think people would be surprised how significant the number is and the big investments we’ve made in K-12 education.
I’m hoping I can put that together. I’ve had some good meetings with a lot of stakeholders and we’ll see if that comes together, but I think that would be a lot of fun. I think it would be very meaningful and make a big impact in Arizona if we can get it done.
Q: What is a fun fact about you that most people might not know?
A: A fun fact I think most people do not know that I won the spelling bee in fifth grade.
Q: What makes you unique as a politician?
A: I think there are a lot of different backgrounds and various backgrounds down at the legislature. I think something unique I bring is kind of a perspective of a business owner, I own my business and I’ve also worked for a business for a long time.
Father of five, 20 years of real estate experience. Also law school experience. I think I bring a lot of unique experiences that way.
I wouldn’t say I’m better than any of the legislators. I think that’s what makes the legislature kind of special, you have all these citizens. It’s a citizen dynamic, lots of people, lots of different backgrounds bringing their voices down to the Capitol and trying to put together good policy for Arizona.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I love going to the outdoors, spending time in the outdoors.
Our family goes to the beach, we try to go at least once a year… I saw a saying one time that says, ‘the beach solves all problems,’ and our family likes to go to the beach. Try to get there at least once a year.
Getting outdoors, I enjoy reading, I enjoy learning. I like to always be learning and learning more things.
You can follow Rep. Petersen on Twitter.