John Goodie: Police Chief George Gascón was indeed one of Mesa's most celebrated and high-profile individuals, and many were delighted that Mesa finally went outside the box to acquire new leadership and direction. City Hall knew early on Gascón needed to shake up things, which he wasted no time in doing. Many grumbled about the changes but stayed the course and realized after time that this new direction was needed.
This column is one that I wasn't looking forward to writing, and once June 1 passed, I thought things were looking good. But as I sat with a group of Mesa police Chief George Gascón's diversity board members on June 16, I was thinking something's up as his commanders slowing starting arriving but still no chief.
Gascón finally arrived and apologized for being late due to meeting with Mesa City Manager Chris Brady. Then he dropped the bomb that he indeed accepted the offer from San Francisco to become its police chief. The room became silent with many in shock with disbelief at his announcement. Gascón shared that it was a hard decision for him after three years because of his love for the citizens of Mesa and the dedication and hard work of his brass and line officers who in three years have transformed Mesa in the direction needed.
I expressed, nearly in tears, to the chief a heart-felt "thank you" on behalf of all at the meeting and on behalf of many Mesa residents who'll surely feel his loss. We all stood up and gave him a standing ovation.
Gascón was indeed one of Mesa's most celebrated and high-profile individuals, and many were delighted that Mesa finally went outside the box to acquire new leadership and direction. City Hall knew early on Gascón needed to shake up things, which he wasted no time in doing. Some officers retired, and others moved on to other agencies. Many grumbled about the changes but stayed the course and realized after time that this new direction was needed.
Under Gascón's leadership Mesa's crime rate has drop drastically. He has brought many programs such as COMSTAT, which gauges crimes in certain areas that might need more enforcement concentration. He started his diversity forums, which consist of the clergy, Hispanics, African-Americans, people with disabilities, gays and lesbians, and business forums - because he knew the values of keeping the community involved with the police department during calm and stormy waters.
There are those who didn't agree with his policies and are thrilled the chief is moving on to greener pastures. But San Francisco is blessed get this lawman to lead the way. You see, Gascón is a big-time major city lawman and has shown that he backs down from no one and has taken heat from his stance here in Mesa with the troubling immigration theater. He stood up to the self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in America, excuse me, in Maricopa County, and would not be swayed by the comments of some of Mesa's top political critics at the state Capitol trying to changes laws on immigration.
Gascón made Mesa a safer city and a better police department in my view, and I know I'm not alone. I hope City Hall will pick Gascón's successor from one of the fine men and women in his outstanding command staff who have been dedicated and supportive of his leadership, direction and accomplishment with all that he brought to Mesa's table.
I thank Gascón for his commitment to Mesa with dedicated service, honesty and transparency, and steadfast stances on controversial issues. I hope the chief leaves with wonderful memories of a town and its appreciative residents, who I pray he'll always cherish as his first police chief assignment. I feel San Francisco is another steeping stone, as I've heard that many eyes are on him in Washington and nationwide.
Bye, George (no pun indented) and again, thank you, sir. Be safe and Godspeed to you and family.
John Goodie of Gilbert is a Mesa parks ranger. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.