Mesa residents will get the chance to vote for City Council candidates in Districts 1, 2 and 3 in the Aug. 30 primary election. If votes constituting a majority of all of the valid ballots cast for that District, that candidate will be declared elected without running at the General Election in Nov. 8. If no candidate receives a majority, the two receiving the highest number of valid votes cast for that office will be named on the ballot at the November General Election.
Mayor John Giles is running unopposed for mayor, but the following candidates are vying for City Council seats:
Mesa City Council District 1
Courtney Guinn, 36, has been a resident of Mesa his entire life. He and his wife live in west Mesa and have four children, ages 7-11. Guinn has worked in the private sector of business for over 15 years with Walgreens. During this time, Guinn says he’s worked in sales and account management where he learned what it takes to gain new business and how to retain existing business.
“I negotiate multi-million dollar contracts, ensuring that the deals I make are a win for my company and a win for my clients, creating long-term partnerships. Mesa has struggled with being able to bring in the new business needed to help Mesa thrive,” Guinn says. “I will bring my experience to Mesa City Council in an effort to help the city attract new businesses that will benefit Mesa for the long-term.”
Guinn says he decided to run for Mesa City Council “after I read that councilmembers voted to raise their own pay by 10 percent. As I began to review their salary and benefits further, I found councilmembers also receive a retirement pension, healthcare benefits, $350 per month for a car allowance and $100 per month for a communication allowance. I believe salary and benefits for councilmembers should be determined by voters, not by the councilmembers themselves. While these benefits are only a small percentage of the city budget, I feel that it sets a stage for wasteful spending decisions that have continued to be made. An example of this is the money that was spent on the colored pillar decor along Mesa Drive at Southern and on the colored signs and sidewalks around Fiesta Mall. I would make sure that before we spend money on decor in areas that are suffering from the loss of business, we work to bring in new businesses and then make investments that would complement them. As a city, we cannot continue to have an ‘if we build it they will come’ approach to bringing in new business. That approach continues to add to city debt.”
Guinn’s two greatest concerns for the city of Mesa is: financial accountability and the current approach of dealing with business. He says the city a has too much debt.
“Through past bonds and deals made, the city has grown our debt to over $600 million,” he adds. “We cannot continue to spend money we do not have and waste money paying on the interest of money borrowed in the past. I will work to reduce the amount of debt the city has and work to limit wasteful spending.
“Becoming a business-friendly city is an area where Mesa has an opportunity to improve. As I have spoken with businesses, I hear the reoccurring theme: ‘The city of Mesa can be difficult to work with.’ We need to change how we interact with businesses and change the perception that Mesa is not business-friendly. Growing business helps Mesa and brings people to our great city,” Guinn says. “I know I will be able to leverage my experience in working with businesses to get more businesses to come to Mesa and fill the many vacant commercial properties we have throughout our city.
“I am running for Mesa City Council because I want to make Mesa a better place to live. My campaign is 100 percent self-funded. I also plan on waiving all benefits received by councilmembers. I will accept the salary while in office, but will work to change the Mesa City Charter so only voters can approve changes to councilmember salary and benefits.”
Born in Mesa in 1955, Mark Freeman has lived his entire life in the area of the city known to natives as Lehi. He and his wife, LeeAnn, have been married for 38 years. A graduate of Westwood High School and Rio Salado College, Freeman served 31 years with the Mesa Fire Department as a firefighter, an engineer and a captain paramedic. He now farms 20 acres at the corner of Brown and Center streets near downtown Mesa.
“I’ve loved Mesa my whole life and I want to continue serving our city, my neighbors and our families. We need to finds smart ways to keep costs down, and we need to connect our residents and our city staff even better than we do today,” Freeman says. “I want every resident in District 1 and all over the city to feel like they have a friend and a servant working for them on Mesa City Council.
“Our city needs common sense, conservative leadership. That’s why I’m running for Mesa City Council. As your voice in City Hall, I’ll apply the same principles I learned as a firefighter and as a farmer – meeting customers and listening to them closely, understanding your needs and problems, taking personal responsibility and taking action, and working tirelessly to find cost-effective, practical solutions,” Freeman says. “I’ve never been afraid of hard work. I know what it takes to keep our families safe and to improve our quality of life. I’ll work hard for you as your Mesa City Councilman.”
Pat Gilbert grew up on Spencer Street just south of Main and west of Stapley and in the Westwood High School neighborhood now known as Mesa Grande on 11th Place. His uncle (Don Strauch) was mayor of Mesa from 1980-84. Gilbert himself was a Mesa councilmember in the 1990s.
On his website Gilbert states: “I am pretty passionate about public service as a member of the Mesa City Council. I think City Councils serve at least three important functions: (1) to inspire and lead the thousands (in our case in Mesa) of city employees to higher levels of effective, efficient and customer focused services; (2) to seek the best and most successful path for the city’s growth and development; and (3) act as a common sense test for all manner of policies produced and implemented in a reasonably large suburban community including its zoning and growth plans.”
Mesa City Council District 2
Kathleen Winn, 58, moved to Mesa in 1998, but has worked in Mesa since 1988. She spent almost 30 years in real estate and lending and was at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office as community outreach and education director. She is co-chairman of the Arizona Anti-Trafficking Network and executive director of AZMEN, both volunteer positions. Winn and her husband, Albert, have seven children, two boys and five girls. They have six granddaughters.
As an active community member of Mesa, Winn believes that her background would lend itself to the issues of a growing city. “I believe that I am representative of those who live in my district,” she says. “My husband and I raised our children in Mesa. My husband helped to bring and maintain 5,000 jobs to Mesa. I ran my own small business successfully. We contributed to our church, community, and other charities locally and statewide. I believe my family values, business background, and experience with public safety will contribute to the future Mesa we want to live in. I am a tireless worker that produces positive results and someone who cares about the community where I reside. Mesa is currently the third largest city in Arizona and 38th nationwide. We must be strategic about our growth, vision, and plan for the future. As a business woman, wife, mother, grandmother and involved community member I am confident I am best suited for this job.”
Winn says her biggest concerns are public safety, strategic growth, and fiscal responsibility by the City Council.
“If elected I would support the hiring of more officers,” she says. “We are currently down 100-150 officers and it will take us a minimum of seven-10 years to correct this deficit at present rates of retirement, new recruits, and job transfer rates. We also need to make sure our officers have the best equipment and we restore benefits that were promised and have not been granted.
Mesa needs to attract high paying employers in the fields of technology, defense, manufacturing, medical, and education. Retail and small business the grow organically when you bring in the employment. Mesa needs to aggressively pursue and make sure if employers are looking at Arizona they are looking at Mesa.
“As an executive’s wife, mother and business woman I understand the concerns of executives looking to relocate,” Winn continues. “Finally the budget should not be convoluted or confusing to the public. We need to have transparency and manage funds responsibly. The council needs to balance the budget, not speculate, and have a strategic plan for growth based on sound financial principles. We need to make doing business with the city a streamline process and conducive for growth and development.
“I would like voters to know if they select me to represent them I will be accessible, responsive, and committed to finding a resolution for their concerns,” she continues. “I promise to listen and give voice to the residents of my district and work to build a better Mesa for our future.”
“My heritage runs deep in Mesa, both my mother’s and father’s families are part of the original family settlers in Mesa,” Shelly Allen says. “I am running for Mesa City Council in District 2 because I care about the members of our community and want to make a difference.
“Based on my experience, education and service on boards and committees, I inherently understand the issues facing our city. I have over 30 years of experience within city functions and operations. I have practical experience in both economic development and redevelopment. I have experience working with and advocating for small and large businesses alike.”
Her website states her goals:
- Promote responsible, limited and fiscally sound government.
- Advocate for small businesses and major employers.
- Support economic development in targeted industries; healthcare, education, aerospace and tourism.
- Supporting Mesa’s traditions, heritage, culture and family values.
- Listen to views of Mesa neighbors and community members.
- Ensure that public safety has necessary resources.
Businessman Jeremy Whittaker has lived in Arizona for 21 years. He has called Mesa — and District 2 — home since 2005. It’s where he and his wife, Roshana, raise a family. He is president and founder of Velocity Technologies, which offers technology solutions for small- to medium-size businesses.
Whittaker’s website says he offers a “fresh” perspective and is a proponent of responsible spending and will bring with him a unique “world view” of finances, and how they can be applied to Mesa and the local economy. He says as a councilman, his goal will be to push forward policies that will not only create economic growth, but sustainable economic growth through entrepreneurship and supporting small businesses. He is also an advocate of clean energy and renewable resources.
“Running a successful business is a great accomplishment,” Whittaker says. “But we really need to look deeper at what makes us happy as individuals. With this I’ve turned my attention toward the City Council both as a civic duty and as a personal desire to make the community a better place for everyone.”
Mesa City Council District 3
Jerry Lewis has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from Brigham Young University. A Mesa resident since 1982 he and his wife, Janet, have seven children. All have attended Mesa Public Schools. Lewis has worked as a teacher, school administrator, and business owner. He has also been a dedicated community servant involved in numerous community organizations and boards. He served as Mesa’s Senator from 2011-2013.
“I have a history of service in Mesa,” Lewis says. “I have served as mentor, coach, tax advisor, scout leader, neighborhood watch block captain, state senator, and educator. I have served alongside you as we have rolled up our sleeves on national days of service. Maybe we have seen one another at City Council meetings as we provided input on new businesses and developments. I have worked with you as a parent to serve the PTO. I have helped our schools find new leadership. Community involvement and political experience matter. I have been honored to be involved as an active citizen and community advocate alongside you before this campaign began and will continue my involvement with you after this campaign ends.”
Lewis’ website says: “I am a proud supporter of our public safety officials and want to ensure that we continue to find innovative ways to increase response times and work for the safety of our community … My experience in the private sector and in public leadership will allow me to work with community leaders, innovators, investors, and you to bring quality jobs to Mesa.”
Ryan Winkle is a native of Mesa. He graduated from Westwood High School, attended Mesa Community College and graduated from Arizona State. He and his wife, Erika Godinez Varela, just had a baby in February. Winkle co-founded the Mesa Urban Garden, the first city-sponsored garden project that provides fresh produce directly to the community and local food banks. He co-founded RAILmesa, a registered neighborhood group that advocates for increased citizen participation, responsible development of housing, transit options and the creation of quality jobs along Mesa’s Light Rail Corridor. In addition, Winkle founded Innovative Urban Solutions, LLC, a consulting firm focused on cross-sector community development.
His website says: “Mesa is small business. Mesa is people. We are a city of small business owners and hardworking residents. We are a city of people who want to stand on our own two feet and pursue opportunity and the American Dream in our own community. That’s who I am and that’s who I want to represent at City Hall.
Winkle says small businesses and neighborhoods need:
- To help all of our residents and business owners be successful.
- A responsive building and zoning department that is timely and makes the process of growing easy.
- Open and transparent process that protects the taxpayers against favoritism and giveaways.
- To empower city staff to be creative and try new things to get stuff done.
- A commitment to our neighborhoods and our residents that will help them enhance and preserve the value of their homes.
- A great public school system that everyone can feel good sending their kids to.
- To make sure we have safe streets.
– Kelly Mixer is managing editor of MyNewsMesa.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.