While much of the pre-election attention might be focused on the top of the ticket, voters in Chandler, Mesa and Gilbert will also be deciding the shape of their local government for the next two years.
All three municipalities have competitive council races after the nonpartisan elections in August failed to resolve all their campaigns for open seats.
Gilbert has the most competitive council election since neither at-large seat was filled in a race involving eight candidates in August.
The four left to compete are incumbent Jared Taylor, retired Phoenix firefighter Joel Anderson, retired town parks manager Scott Anderson and former town economic development commission chairman Jim Torgeson.
The overall issue of growth emerged in questionnaire responses from Torgeson, Taylor and Scott Anderson to questionnaires the East Valley Tribune sent all candidates in July. Joel Anderson did not respond.
For Taylor, growth and long-range financial planning are related, noting that Gilbert has long relied on fees that developers pay for new construction.
“These revenues will diminish as we approach build-out and new construction slows,” Taylor said. “Gilbert must have a strong financial plan in place to avoid future taxes on our residents.”
Part of the infrastructure targeted by Torgeson is the town’s sewer system, which he claimed “is rapidly falling into disrepair because of a poorly executed contract years ago” and warned that failure to address the problem “will prevent us from landing high-end employers we need to maintain our expectations.”
Torgeson also said long-term planning and development in connection with build-out was another major issue. He warned that without such planning, the town may end up with a surplus of commercial development in corridors that should be home to companies with high-paying jobs.
Scott Anderson also called attention to the financial impact of build-out, stating Gilbert “must look at diversifying our economy with new ideas such as continued tourism development and a brand development for planning purposes.”
Because he is an incumbent, Taylor was asked to cite two accomplishments he personally spearheaded. He said he ran “to make Gilbert the best place to raise a family” and “the best place to grow a business.”
Taylor said his involvement in various recreation projects, including the south Gilbert park plan and the overall parks and recreation master plan were among those accomplishments, as well as his efforts to help town staff adapt more efficient processes for businesses to set up shop.
Torgeson said his top qualifications were “a track record of being able to ask difficult questions and get answers” as well as his understanding of business and development from his service on the Heritage District Redevelopment Commission.
Scott Anderson said, “I have a proven track record and understand the community’s needs since I wrote most of its original plans and have influence development during the town’s most active growth. Second, I understand the internal processes of the town.”
One Mesa district has race
In Mesa, where incumbents are being termed out, two of three open council seats were already decided in August. That left the city’s 2nd Council District open for a race former city economic development official Shelly Allen and small-business owner Jeremy Whitaker.
Allen, a 54-year-old retired city of Mesa employee who worked in numerous departments during her career, is duking it out with 33-year-old small businessman Jeremy R. Whittaker.
Whittaker is president of Velocity Technologies, a computer consulting firm he founded right out of high school. Allen, whose lineage dates back to Mesa’s original settlers, holds a master’s degree in public administration and has served on the city Board of Adjustment and Planning and Zoning Committee since her retirement.
Allen says that her career with the city has given her an understanding and knowledge of the city’s operations and structure and that she also has practical experience in redevelopment and economic development.
Whittaker touts his background in a business he says has generated over $2 million in revenue. He says the fact that he is “not a life-long government bureaucrat” is one of his most compelling qualifications for office.
He also is one of the more vocal council candidates on the issue of the city’s $1.6-billion debt. He is against a November ballot proposition for a tax increase that he claims will raise business taxes by 23 percent.
“We have to start focusing on entrepreneurship, getting government out of the way of small business, and vocational training programs to boost our economy.”
Allen considers both public safety and a “fiscally responsible government” as the most important issues facing Mesa.
“We need to improve the supply side of revenue through our economic development efforts,” she stated, also citing a need to reduce spending.
Two of Chandler’s three open seats were decided in August.
The fight for the final at-large seat involves finance executive Matt Eberle and small-business consultant Mark Stewart.
Although Stewart did not respond to a Tribune questionnaire mailed to all candidates in July, Eberle said high-paying jobs must be a priority.
He said the current council “has done well” to attract companies, but that “we still have work to do.”
Eberle also listed “the integrity of our neighborhoods” as a big issue for the city, adding that investing in public safety is important to maintaining it.
He also touted his “20 years of proven financial leadership within Fortune 500 and publicly traded companies” as one of his major qualifications for office.