Former Lawmaker Bev Hermon Remembered as Supporter of Charter Schools, People with Disabilities

December 4, 2019
Arizona Republic
Andrew Oxford

A former Arizona legislator who helped create the state's charter school system and advocated for people with disabilities died Nov. 26 following an illness.

Bev Hermon was 86.

Colleagues and others remembered the Republican from Tempe as hard-working and independent, not afraid to stand up for herself or the causes she championed.

"That's an understatement," daughter Monica Attridge said. "She was fiercely independent."

Hermon was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1933. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in violin performance at Drake University with a minor in art history. She also met her husband Robert at the university. The couple married and relocated to Tempe, Arizona, in 1962 where he worked in civil engineering.

In Arizona, Hermon's involvement in politics started with a local Republican women’s club and a seat on Tempe’s first Design Review Board. She managed political campaigns before running for office herself in 1974.

Hermon won a position on the Tempe City Council and served on it for eight years. In 1982, she won a seat in the state House of Representatives, launching an eventful 12-year tenure at the Capitol

At the Capitol, she was a voice for people with disabilities — she also had a child with an intellectual disability — and was critical to the passage of early charter school legislation in the 1990s.

She also was among 11 GOP members of the House and Senate who signed on to a letter in 1987 denouncing actions by Republican Gov. Evan Mecham they said had alienated mainstream members of the party

It was a bold move at a time when Republican legislators faced pressure to stick with the embattled governor.

Hermon went on to win a seat in the state Senate, where she was key in passing legislation to create charter schools.

"She had the courage to recognize that more choices in education opportunities would benefit all students, and she's been proven correct," said House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa.

"I have great respect for her legacy."

Hermon sought the Republican nomination for the 1st Congressional District in 1994. She lost, but continued to work as an advocate. She opened a consulting firm and lobbied on behalf of groups including the Arizona Consortium for Children with Chronic Illness and the Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities, where she was a founder and president for a time

"She had a profound and lasting impact on the lives and careers of many of its past and present members and the individuals they serve," the organization said in a statement after her passing.

Hermon had other careers throughout her life, as an educator, librarian and small business owner. She was a fixture of her community, living in the same house in Tempe for more than 50 years

Even recently, in her mid-80s, Hermon told her family it was about time she get back to work, perhaps giving piano lessons.

Hermon could not sit idle, said Attridge, describing her as a Renaissance woman.

"She was very creative, had a real eye for art, architecture, interior design, was proud of the fact she was a businesswoman," Attridge said. "She never met something she couldn’t do."

Hermon is survived by her children, Monica Attridge and Eric Hermon, of Flagstaff, and R. Robert Hermon of Lenoir, North Carolina. She is also survived by three grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She was preceded in death by her husband, Robert.

A remembrance event will be held at Richardson Funeral Home, 2621 South Rural Road, Tempe, at 10 a.m. on Thursday Dec. 5.

The family welcomes contributions to The Hozhoni Foundation at 2133 N. Walgreen, Flagstaff, AZ 86004 or at The organization serves people with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities.

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