My Story- Debbie Hecht

Debbie Hecht: MY STORY

I grew up a block from the ocean in Deal, New Jersey, where my love of the ocean began.  I love being in a small town, knowing neighbors and being able to make a difference in my community. I enjoy reading, researching and writing educational pieces and legislation. I am a swimmer, snorkeler, hiker, Master Gardener and tennis player.  My son, Matt Bender (PhD candidate at UCLA for Computer Science) and wife Melanie and grand daughter, Mila live in Culver City, CA.    I graduated from Asbury Park High School, in Asbury Park, New Jersey and the University of Arizona.


  • Graduated from the University of Arizona and taught school for several years.
  • In 1978 I became licensed to sell real estate in Arizona, specializing in selling land and apartment buildings.  I was a licensed as a real estate broker from 1981 to 2014.  I no longer hold a real estate license in any state.  Note: Real estate brokers and agents have the powers of the attorney in Arizona, to write and execute contracts and draw up closing documents.  This is different than other states.   A knowlege of contracts is imperative.
  • I invested in tri-plexes and 4-plexes as I earned the money for down payments to be able to establish a dependable income. I remodeled 11 properties and designed and built my own home. I have managed my own properties since 1978.
  • I was elected to the Tucson Mountain Association in 1998 as a Board member for 2 years and TMA President for 6 years. During, during my tenure at TMA we:
  • Partnered with the Trust for Public Lands to save 880 acres as Sweetwater Nature Preserve and to protect endangered species, which is now a Pima County Park.
  • Helped to turn out more voters than any area in Pima County to pass the $215 million Open Space Bond that purchased Sweetwater ($12.1 million) as the first acquisition.
  • I wrote the legislation to protect the peaks and ridges in Pima County and led the group to successfully lobby to make the Peaks and Ridges Ordinance part of the Pima County Code.
  • Led the planning of Columbus Park, a 300-acre active sports park, facilitated adding 60 acres to the park by the City of Tucson as ball fields.
  • TMA collaborated with 18 homeowners groups to plan a 12-mile long roadway with 3 different governments, which is now being built.
  • Organized political forums:
    1. To help elect Pima County Supervisors, concerned with open space and land preservation.
    2. To elect a Pima County Assessor who promised to give tax reductions for conservation easements to abandon development rights.
  • I represented TMA on the 85-member Steering Committee for 4 years that wrote the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (a multi-species habitat conservation plan) and provided direction for areas for development. To see the complete plan:
  • I worked with Gail Hartmann to write legislation to award property tax reductions to property owners who used conservation easements to reduce or extinguish their development rights.
  1. Appointed to the Board for Judicial Appointments, recommending judges.
  2. Appointed to the Pima County Bond Advisory Board by Supervisor Sharon Bronson.
  3. Worked with Congressmen Raul Grijalva (AZ-D) on land use issues when he was a supervisor. (He was a great supporter of creating Sweetwater Nature Preserve and the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan). Grijalva is now the Chair of the House or Representatives Committee on Natural Resources.

HAWAII- I have lived  on the Big Island of Hawaii (Hawaii County) since 2001. While on the Big Island I have worked on:

  • The 2% Land Fund as Campaign Coordinator from 2005 to now to pass the legislation to create the 2% Land Fund. The Land Fund was on the ballot 4 times.  In 2020, voters once again approved the changes on the ballot proposed by the Charter Commission.  These changes created a salaried position for someone to work on the 2% Land Fund and increased the scope of the non-profits to build trails, toilet facilities and small structures as long as their stewardship plan is approved of by the Department of Finance and the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Commission (PONC).
  • The 2% Land Fund sets aside 2% of property taxes each year for Open Space acquisition in Hawaii County.
  • In 2013 I wrote the enabling legislation with Council member Brenda Ford to set aside of property taxes to maintain properties acquired with the 2% Land Fund, which created the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund.
  • So far, almost 8,000 acres has been preserved as parkland and open space, as of October 2020.  A portion was paid from the 2% Land Fund and a portion was received Grants from matching funds from State Legacy Lands and the US Fish and Wildlife Agency for endangered species totaling and $2,000,000 million in private funds.
  • I was appointed by Mayor Billy Kenoi to the Public Access, Open Space Natural Resources Commission, which prioritize citizen’s proposals on lands to be acquired each year as recommendation for acquisitions
  • Worked as the legislative aid to Council member Brenda Ford for the Hawaii County Council and helped to research and write legislation.
  • Served as a board member and secretary for 4 years with the Hawaii Pacific Parks Association (HPPA) and served on the committee to re-write the bylaws for that group.  HPPA is the non-profit that runs the bookstores at the National Parks in the state of Hawaii, and makes grants with the proceeds that provide funding for interpretive staff salaries and National Parks projects.
  • Worked as a member of the League of Women Voters to re-write the Initiative and Referendum Article that was approved by voters and is part of the Hawaii County Code.
  • Proposed several changes to the Hawaii County Charter during the charter review in 2010 on Referendum, Recall and Transparency in Government.
  • Wrote the by-laws and was the founder of the Kona Community Tennis Association in Kona.
  • Collaborated to write the by-laws for the West Hawaii Unitarian Universalists and is a founding member.

I go back and forth between the Big Island and San Diego, while in San Diego:

  • I was appointed by the Sierra Club National Board to the Steering Committee to help resurrect Sierra Club San Diego after National Sierra Club suspended the charter of the local Sierra Club for infighting and possible malfeasance.
  • I was then elected chair of the Steering Committee for the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club and served for 2 years from February of 2014 to January of 2016 to take over when the chapter was suspended.
  • I resigned after 2 years in frustration over lack of priorities, lack of support from National, decisions on employees and budgets.
  • I was involved in advocacy against free form Open Ocean Aquaculture in Hawaii and California.   I researched  and wrote the Guidelines with many others for Open Ocean Aquaculture that were unanimously accepted by the 39 delegates representing all of the chapters of the Sierra Club in California and Nevada at the 2016 Sierra Club’s California Nevada Regional Conservation Committee.
  • Directed the effort at the Unitarian Universalists Fellowship of San Dieguito, Solana Beach to convert to an all-solar campus and wrote the Kitchen Guidelines to eliminate waste and reduce recycling.
  • Appointed to the Sustainability Advisory Board for Del Mar working on water sustainability, recycling and transportation.
  • Worked with neighbors to protect Scripps Bluff Preserve near Dog Beach in Del Mar, CA. Measure G was soundly defeated 60% -40% in March of 2020.
  • 2020- Elected Chair of the Moku O’ Keawe Land Conservancy working with land owners on the Big Island of Hawaii to use conservation easements to preserve land from development and/or to retain agricultural lands for farming in perpetuity.

For more information on the Great Successes of the 2% Land Fund Program go to: