At 16, Lonnie Stradling helped build the workshop and showroom for the family cabinetry business that has served area residents since 1935.
He remembers sweeping the floors and learning how to make and install cabinets at Stradling's Fine Cabinetry, which was started by his grandfather.
Growing up on a 20-acre family farm near Horne and U.S. 60 in Mesa, Stradling knows the area's history and heritage. He's trying to parlay that knowledge and his business acumen into a seat on the Gilbert Town Council.
Stradling, a 1971 Mesa High graduate and third-generation Arizonan, raised four children in the area, the last 12 years in Gilbert, with his wife of nearly30 years, Dawna.
Stradling attempted to stray from the cabinet business, spending a couple years in college and selling life and health insurance for six years.
However, he ended up taking over the family business in 1988. It employs 25 and is on Southern Avenue, between Mesa and Stapley drives.
Besides running the business, the 55-year-old Stradling has also been involved in local politics as a precinct committeeman and a district vice chairman, both for the Republican party. He has also held leadership positions with the Boy Scouts and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Although he has never run for political office, Stradling decided to run for the council because he says he loves the town and thought his business experience could give insight in helping Gilbert.
If elected, he wants to make it easier for new businesses to move to Gilbert. The process of receiving permits and the high development fees are just some of the issues Stradling says need to change for business owners wishing to come to town.
"Gilbert has a reputation for being more difficult to work with than other cities," Stradling said. "We need to attract new businesses, hotels and more revenue in Gilbert. It can't just be a community of homes."
The town also needs to set up standards for discouraging what he calls the wrong type of businesses, such as adult bookstores and hookah lounges.
"We need to set up standards before they become a problem," he said.
Boosting the right type of commerce would bring in much-needed revenue for a town dealing with job and budget cuts. The plan would be to use the extra revenue to avoid even more cuts, Stradling said.
When Gilbert has more money, Stradling said he wants to work on traffic light synchronization to improve congestion.
Rep. Laurin Hendrix, R-Gilbert, knows Stradling as a man of good character who is honest, trustworthy, well-liked and respected. Stradling is also a "good, fiscal" manager who "understands budgeting and cash management," Hendrix said.
"He's a fiscal conservative, which is probably something we need at this time to lead us through this mess," said Hendrix, a former neighbor, business partner and friend of Stradling's for 15 years. "He'll bring experience to the table right away."
Brad Johnston, who knows Stradling through Boy Scouts and church, said Stradling has the ability to make difficult decisions.
"He, more than most, thinks about what a government should do in our lives," said Johnston, a Gilbert attorney. "He approaches decision-making from a principled perspective by thinking about what the appropriate role of government is in our life, rather than thinking about what is expedient today."