One candidate steps up to challenge Gilbert council incumbents - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

One candidate steps up to challenge Gilbert council incumbents

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Posted: Wednesday, August 8, 2012 6:00 am | Updated: 10:43 am, Fri Aug 17, 2012.

A year earlier than expected due to the change in election years, two seats on the Gilbert Town Council are up for reelection.

Jenn Daniels and John Sentz hold the two seats. Both, who were elected for the first time in 2009, are seeking reelection and are joined in the race by Jared Taylor.

Voters will be asked to select two candidates. If two candidates receive more than 50 percent of the vote during the primary, they win the open seats outright. If fewer than two candidates hit the 50 percent mark during the primary, a runoff will be held in November to fill any seats still open.

While the three candidates have very different backgrounds, all focus on the need to keep the town government moving forward and continually striving for efficiency.

“The town council dropped millions of dollars by looking at every line of the budget,” Taylor said. “It was a drop in money without a drop in service level.”

During the recession, the solution to the town’s economic woes weren’t higher taxes, said Taylor.

Instead, he supports taking creative ideas from citizens to help mitigate changes in town revenue.

“We need to keep watching pennies while keeping service levels high,” he said. “Everybody has to cut back, and the town had to, too. Gilbert should have a high quality of life, but also be sensitive and keep an ear to the citizens. We need council members to listen.”

Money instead needs to help grow small businesses, which might eventually grow into larger employers — much in the way Apple grew, Taylor said.

“There is a lot of investment money that is here that’s not staying here,” Taylor said. Instead, Gilbert residents are putting investment money into Silicon Valley and other parts of the country. “You win the game by hitting base hits and getting on one base at a time.”

Finding steady revenues is also important to Sentz.

“Now, the town is heavily reliant on sales tax,” Sentz said. “We need to look at it and mitigate the effects so the dips aren’t so bad and we don’t become so reliant on the highs.”

That means focusing on the town’s strategic plan, which includes five areas — continuing community livability, becoming a technology leader, creating a rolling five-year budget, proactively addressing infrastructure needs and focusing on economic development with an emphasis on the bio-medical and life sciences.

“Setting (goals) is one thing, but you have to be measured against them,” Sentz said, who cites his military background for keeping accountability a main focus.

Sentz said it is important to get a monthly budget report from the staff which focuses on the actual expenses.

“We don’t come up at the end of the fiscal year and say, ‘Why are we short $20 million?’” he said. “The variance report asks why and then it says, ‘Here’s how we’re getting back on track.’”

Daniels said that while many of the five areas have been advanced in the last three years, there are things the town still has to work on.

“We have more to do,” Daniels said. Two such things include the Park and Recreation master plan and the Compensation and Classification study, both of which try to make the town as efficient as possible.

“It makes sure that they’re well paid and they have the job classification for the job they do,” she said. “Essentially we found that people were creating jobs for individuals and not matching people to jobs.”

When the study began, Daniels said, there were over 200 job titles in the town, but now it’s down to 60. Eighteen jobs have been eliminated in the last three years, but by no means has service been lowered, she said.

And soon, the town will be looking to hire an additional 14 people, Daniels said.

“We’re not growing government,” she said. “We’re leveraging technology and leveraging people to meet the needs of the town.”

But as the town has grown, the needs of the town have too. It’s about constantly reassessing those needs.

“Government cannot remain stagnant, holding on to positions and departments,” Daniels said. “But that’s not a trap that Gilbert has fallen into.”

“People say that government moves slowly,” she said. “But not in Gilbert.”

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