Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano said farewell Sunday to the citizens he has served for more than a decade.
Enjoying free food and live music, about 50 people gathered at Tempe Beach Park, a place that many of Giuliano’s fellow council members said would not have been completed if not for him.
"This is one of Neil’s special places," said Vice Mayor Barb Carter. "It was Neil’s tenacity that brought Town Lake from being an idea to reality."
Giuliano was elected mayor in 1994 after serving as a City Council member and vice mayor between 1990 and 1994. A celebration later that afternoon lauded Tempe’s selection as an All-America City.
Giuliano’s comments were brief and humble. He said that while he has "pushed the envelope" many times, he could not have done anything without his colleagues’ support.
"We’ve been really able to transform Tempe into the great community it is today," Giuliano said, adding that the All-America honor is an example of their work.
"Being named the All-American City for the second time . . . it’s like the Oscars for cities," he said.
Carter also said Giuliano led the city with "intellectual dignity," and that Giuliano’s projects will be his legacy.
"Thank you for making so many dreams a reality," Carter said.
Troy and Michelle Coble of Tempe thanked Giuliano for the free social programs offered at the Tempe Public Library.
"I don’t think that Scottsdale or some of the other cities can compete," Michelle Coble said.
Giuliano has had the reputation of chasing opulent city projects with high costs to taxpayers, and favoring large retail chains over small businesses on Mill Avenue. Giuliano and his supporters have argued that he is a leader who has championed developments in the city with voter approval.
Among Giuliano’s accomplishments:
• Tempe Town Lake, which despite early controversy has become a central feature of the city.
• A cost-sharing agreement with Chandler to land the Arizona Mills shopping mall at Priest Drive and Baseline Road.
• The Tempe Center for the Arts, which will feature two theaters, meeting and administrative space and a 17-acre arts park.
Giuliano also endured controversy. In 2000, other council members accused Giuliano of starting Tempe’s unpopular effort to block United Way contributions to the Boy Scouts because of the Scouts’ ban on homosexuals. Giuliano survived a subsequent recall election.
Giuliano planned a new Arizona Cardinals stadium under a Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport flight path. He lost out to Glendale.