Carol Springer, a former Arizona treasurer and state lawmaker known for her firm-yet-personable style, died in Prescott last week. She was 81.

Springer was the first woman to lead the state Treasurer’s Office. She was elected in 1998 as part of the “Fab Five,” a group of women who held all of the highest public offices in Arizona at the same time.

According to her obituary, published Wednesday, Springer died “peacefully in her home surrounded by family” on Aug. 9. Her cause of death wasn’t immediately available.

Her career in public office spanned more than two decades. Springer, a Republican, was first elected to the state Senate in 1990, representing the Prescott area. At the time, she worked as a real estate broker.

Springer helped pass laws that created charter schools, distance-learning programs for community college students and a telemedicine program for patients in rural areas.

But Springer was perhaps best known as a fiscal hawk. She helped improve the state’s financial footing and for years led the powerful Appropriations Committee, which oversees the legislative budget process.

That knack for balancing a budget helped catapult Springer to the Treasurer’s Office.

Betsey Bayless, the former Arizona secretary of state, befriended  Springer in the late 1990s when both came into statewide office as part of the “Fab Five.”

The group attracted national attention overnight, with interviews on the “Today” show and in publications like Time magazine. Its other members included Gov. Jane Dee Hull, Attorney General Janet Napolitano and Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan.

Bayless said although Springer was serious about her job as treasurer, keeping the state’s budget in the black and building up its rainy-day fund, she also knew how to have fun and crack a joke.

When the “Fab Five” was compared to the Spice Girls, the British pop group popular at the same time, Springer laughed about her title as “Baby Spice,” Bayless said.

“That was probably the most fun thing that any of us have ever done in our public life,” she said. “Carol had a particularly wry sense of humor. We made things happen, but we made it enjoyable.”

Springer unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2002, losing the Republican nomination to Matt Salmon. Salmon later lost to Napolitano in the November election.

But Springer quickly returned to public office, winning a seat on the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors in 2004. She served on the board until she declined to run for another term in 2012.

At the county, Springer worked to cut spending, create water conservation programs and secure state funding for local road projects.

Supervisor Tom Thurman, who was elected with Springer, said she was a motherlike figure and taught him the ropes of public office. At the state level, he said, she was a “bulldog” advocating for Yavapai County.

“It wasn’t scolding, but it was constructive criticism by my elder,” Thurman said with a laugh. “She let you know where she stood, definitely. There was no wishy-washiness about her.”

Springer was born Dec. 5, 1936, in Buena Vista, Colorado, but grew up in a suburban area outside of Portland, Oregon. She moved to Arizona in 1969 and lived in the mountain community of Prescott for 45 years.

She had five children and many grandchildren. 

Outside of politics, she had colorful interests. According to her obituary, she was a small-engine-airplane pilot, bowled on the women’s professional tour for 14 years and competed in roller skating.

Springer also loved animals, including her dog, Coco. (In lieu of flowers, she asked that donations be made to the Yavapai County Humane Society, 1625 Sundog Ranch Road, Prescott, AZ 86301.)

The public is welcome to attend a celebration of life in Springer’s honor from 3 to 7 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Windsock Cocktail Lounge in Prescott, 1385 Iron Springs Road.

Arizonans react to Springer’s death






Read or Share this story: