Joel D. Valdez Main Library

Pima County Public Library's Joel D. Valdez Main Library, opens a new window fast facts:

  • opened in 1990 as a part of the Tucson Public Library system
  • 96,000 square feet
  • 175 feet in height
  • four stories

The Main Library was named in honor of longtime City Manager Joel Valdez by decision of the City Council on September 9, 2002. Valdez served as Tucson City Manager from 1974 to 1990. The library system became Pima County Public Library in 2006.

Biography of Joel D. Valdez

At the tender age of nine, Joel Valdez was already delivering newspapers and was a contributing member of the community.  As he grew older, Joel built up his paper routes until he converted them into an independent carrier service. The business enabled him to help his parents financially and pay his way through high school and the University of Arizona. 

Joel was born in a house directly across from St. Augustine Cathedral in Tucson on July 2, 1934.  His parents, Luis F. Valdez, deceased and Miriam L. Valdez, were natives of Sonora, Mexico and although neither graduated from high school, education was always a priority. The same qualities and values that were instilled by his parents made him a successful newspaper boy and started him on a career that can only be described as brilliant.  

After receiving a Bachelors of Science from the University of Arizona in 1957, Joel spent the next eight years at the Pima County Juvenile Court as a probation officer.  He moved steadily up the promotional ladder eventually being named the Superintendent of Detention Services. The experience marked the beginning of his career in public administration. As testimony of his effectiveness as a probation officer, Joel is still in contact with some of his former charges. 

In 1966 the City of Tucson recruited Joel to serve as Administrative Assistant to the Library Director. It was during his years with the library (1966-70) that his expertise in budget planning and monitoring was formed.  Later, he was to enroll for advance studies at the Sloan School of Management within the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the prestigious Harvard University Senior Managers in Government Program. One of his major contributions while at the library was the opening of a bilingual branch in Tucson's south side, a concept in library service that became a model for cities throughout the Southwest.

In 1970 Valdez advanced into the City Manager's office where he began to familiarize himself with the many facets of city government.  Within a year he was promoted to the position of Assistant City Manager and assumed a supervisory role over the departments of Library, Finance, Parks/Recreation, Community Center and Federal Programs.

In 1974 when the position for City Manager became available, Joel was picked from a field of over 200 candidates. For the next 16 years he went on to become one of the premier Managers in the country, by effectively administering a budget of $500 million and work force of 4,000 employees.
His accomplishments were numerous.  Among them, Valdez supervised the implementation of capital improvements totaling several hundred million dollars in the areas of housing, streets, water/sewer, public safety, buildings, libraries, parks, and public/private ventures. In 1984, he created and supervised the largest bond election in the City's history, over $300 million. When Federal funds began to dry up, Joel helped create the Downtown Development Corporation, as a vehicle for creative financing strategies to help the City construct major public facilities.

After a distinguished career with the City of Tucson, Joel announced his retirement effective as of June 1990. His retirement plans, however, were placed on hold when Dr. Henry Koffler, then President of the University of Arizona, convinced Joel to join his administration. In July 1990 Joel Valdez launched a new career at the University as Vice President for Business Affairs. In 1992 when newly appointed UA President, Manuel Pacheco, reorganized his management team, he promoted Joel to the position of Senior Vice President. The legacy of fiscal responsibility that he left with the City of Tucson is now firmly in place at the University of Arizona.

In 2010, Joel retired from his 20-year career with the University of Arizona. He overcame budgeting challenges and implemented the construction of many new buildings and renovations of others.

Among his civic responsibilities, Joel has been a close supporter of the Sister Cities program, an assignment that has created friendships throughout Europe, Latin America and Asia. The United States State Department has also tapped Joel for special assignments that have provided technical assistance to the countries of Chile, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.

His professional affiliations earned him two appointments to national commissions by Presidents Carter and Clinton, including the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Sciences. He has served in various capacities with the major domestic and international public administration organizations. At the local level, he has worked with such diverse groups as the International Mariachi Conference, United Way, Hellenic Cultural Foundation, Carondelet Health Network and the Diocese of Tucson.

Joel married the former Mary Lee Jacobs and together raised two children, David and Laura Lisa. They had five grandchildren.

Joel Valdez died on June 8, 2022. 


City of Tucson Main Library: schematic design, July 1986 / Anderson DeBartolo Pan, Inc.
Publisher [Tucson]: Anderson, 1986.
"Main Library to bear Joel Valdez's Name."  Arizona Daily Star. Page B5.

Biography of Joel D. Valdez by PCPL staff dated April 2, 2003.

Harrison, Jeff. "Joel Valdez to step down at mid-year." University of Arizona News. 4 March 2010 (link no longer active)

Ludden, Nicole. "Joel D. Valdez, former Tucson city manager, dies at 87., opens a new window" Arizona Daily Star. June 9, 2022 

Find the information you need by calling the library's Infoline at 520-791-4010 or by sending your question to Ask a Librarian.