/ Modified jan 11, 2024 5:38 p.m.

Cochise County Celebrates life and legacy of first female county supervisor

Judy Gignac, who served on the board of supervisors from the late 1970s-late 1980s, passed away last month at 84

Judy Gignac 1 A Celebration of Life was held for former Cochise County Supervisor Judy Gignac, who was the first woman elected to the board from 1977-1988. A photo of Gignac (left) with President Ronald Reagan (right) was displayed for attendees during the event. January 9, 2024.
Summer Hom, AZPM News

A celebration of life was held Tuesday for former Cochise County Supervisor Judy Gignac who passed away December 14 at the age of 84. Gignac was a Supervisor from 1977 to 1988 and the first woman to be elected on the board.

"In the beginning of her career here in Cochise County, it was a world of men and men only," said Gignac's daughter Beth Hooper. "And she had to work her way through that … So helping women and assisting them make their dreams, their goals come true and have their voices heard became very important to her.”

Former Congressman Ron Barber said Tuesday he first met Gignac in 2006 and called her "a true force of nature." Barber said when he was considering running for Congress after Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords resigned to focus on her recovery from the shooting at a Tucson Safeway on January 8, 2011, he said Gignac became a close advisor along the journey of running for public office.

"Gabby encouraged me — well, encouraged is probably a mild word — she pushed me into running for office in a special election to fill her seat," said Barber. "I'd never imagine running for anything ... One of my first calls as I was considering the race was to Judy. I was honored to receive her endorsement. She was a close and important advisor, and I knew I could count on her for candid advice and guidance."

District 2 Cochise County Supervisor Ann English served on the board with Gignac for four years in the mid 1980s.

“Her community could always count on her," English said. "And so, she reflected her total community, not a few people ... Of course, everyone knows that she was a Republican at the time and I was a Democrat. But it seemed as though in those times, we were able to discuss, look for ways to compromise and just keep the county moving forward."

Sierra Vista Mayor Pro Carolyn Umphrey said Gignac was the first contributor to her campaign when she first ran for City Council in 2018.

"We would normally meet at her house," said Umphrey, who was re-elected for a second term in the 2022 General Election and was appointed as Mayor Pro Tem last year. "We'd have tea, and sometimes, a shot ... It would just be every day things, and then, there were these little nuggets of wisdom that would slip into her stories."

Gignac Former Cochise County Supervisor Judy Gignac with her dog Buddy on July 19, 2023.
Submitted by Carolyn Umphrey

After her time on the board concluded, Gignac was appointed to the Arizona Board of Regents for an 8-year term and served until 2002.

Umphrey talked about how a phrase had been created to describe Gignac and her strict attention to detail.

"They made up a word just for her," Umphrey said. "They would say 'you've been Gignac-ed' because she was so thorough in reading every packet ... She read everything word for word, so she caught everything. So, they literally had a name, the staff did for the Board of Regents."

When asked to describe Gignac, words like "trailblazer," "inspirational," "stellar," "non-judgemental" and "loving" are used by colleagues and her surviving family.

Outside of education and politics, Gignac's son Chris Gignac said she was the general manager of Bella Vista Water and Bella Vista Ranches. The University of Arizona's Commission on the Status of Women awarded Gignac with an honorary Vision Award in 2002, according to a press release.

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