It’s nothing new to hear Mesa Mayor John Giles say, “I love our city. I think it’s a great place to live,” but it was to a new crowd of 5 to 13 year olds at A New Leaf’s La Mesita Campus.
“Mesa is a great place to be a kid,” Giles told them on Wednesday. “And we’re trying to do more to make it a good place for you.”
He gave the kids a brief overview of what it’s like to be the mayor of Mesa and the benefits of staying in school, while answering the children’s questions.
A New Leaf’s La Mesita Campus serves homeless and low-income families with the goal of helping the families achieve and maintain long-term stability and break the cycle of homelessness and poverty for at-risk children and their children’s children through its services.
“Mayor Giles and the city of Mesa have been very supportive of our programs,” said A New Leaf CEO Michael Hughes. “It’s such a wonderful opportunity for them to meet the mayor personally. We appreciate his leadership and all he is doing on behalf of the homeless in our community.”
Giles reminisced about being born and raised in Mesa and going to Pioneer Park and attending Webster Elementary School and Westwood High School.
Playground talk was a hit with the children requesting more and Giles saying, “I get to plan parks so I need to talk with you guys because we want more fun parks like the playground at Riverview Park.”
The highlight was individual questions from each kid, like when Abigail asked the mayor if he uses the light rail.
“Yes, I love the light rail,” he said. “I like to ride it to ASU.”
David asked about his family and Giles told him he has five kids, four grown daughters and a son in the seventh grade, along with five grandchildren.
Kianna was more interested in what kind of pets the mayor has. “We had a cat and a dog, but they are now gone so we are looking for our next pet at local rescues,” Giles said.
As an avid runner who has completed two Ironmans, the mayor was asked about how he trains.
“I was always a runner as a kid growing up here and I’m training right now for a marathon the first week in October. It’s hard,” Giles said.
Shyanne asked, “What does the mayor do?”
“It’s a really cool job. I wasn’t planning on being mayor but when the opportunity came up two years ago, I decided I cared a lot about Mesa and wouldn’t want any other job in the world,” Giles said. “There are almost a half million people living in Mesa and I stay pretty busy giving them the things they need and I work all day with the people that make those things happen.”
Angelika asked how long he has been mayor. “Almost two years,” Giles said. “And now I want to be mayor longer so I’m running in this election, but no one is challenging me so I’ll be mayor in January for four more years.”
That prompted “D” to ask the tough political questions like if Giles actually likes politics, whether he’s Republican or Democrat, and whom he plans to vote for in November’s presidential election.
“I like city politics because there are no parties and we all work together to make things good for Mesa,” Giles said. “I’m a registered Republican, but I’m not enthusiastic about it and I honestly don’t think I’ll vote for Trump or Clinton. Right now I’d vote for Gary Johnson (the Libertarian Party nominee), but I’ll probably change my mind before I vote. This time a lot of people are discouraged (about our presidential choices).”
La Mesita’s After School/Summer program provides a safe place for resident children from kindergarten through eighth grade to grow and learn while parents are working or taking classes. The program is supported by donations from individuals and corporations.
For 45 years, A New Leaf has provided a broad spectrum of supportive services for children and adults in crisis including domestic violence and homeless shelters. Vulnerable families receive shelter, basic needs and hands-on support for a new start – transforming their lives to become independent, thriving members of the community. The average family living at La Mesita is a single mom with two to three children.
The La Mesita Campus, 2254 W. Main St., features both a 16-unit family homeless shelter for families with children and 80 units of affordable housing. On-site services for all residents include workforce development and a Financial Opportunity Center to help them become self-reliant. La Mesita’s final construction phase is underway and will add an additional 30 units of affordable housing and community space to the campus.
– Kelly Mixer is managing editor of MyNewsMesa.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.