Giles on reelection: a chance to make Mesa better The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Giles on reelection: a chance to make Mesa better

Giles on reelection: a chance to make Mesa better
City News

By Jim Walsh
Tribune Staff Writer

After his resounding re-election to his second and last full four-year term, Mayor John Giles cherishes the lengthy 10-year opportunity voters have given him to make his hometown better.

That decade results from an extra two years from the last half of the second term for former Mayor Scott Smith, who resigned to make an unsuccessful bid for governor and was replaced by Alex Finter until the next election.

Ten years is a long time, Giles said – Long enough to see projects he started come to fruition, such as the asu@mesacity city center and two closely-related spinoffs – a plaza and an incubation studio in the city’s vacant former Information Technology building.

Long enough, also, to see a fledgling Mesa Promise scholarship program at Mesa Community College contribute to a larger pool of Mesa college graduates who might work in the high technology jobs that the city envisions will be generated by the ASU-anchored Innovation District.

With four more years from a lopsided win Aug. 4 over constitutionalist Verl Farnworth – 60,313-30,360 in unofficial results, a 67-33 percent margin – Giles might even see the city’s long-dormant Site 17 redevelopment project downtown become an important asset.

In District One, Vice Mayor Mark Freeman, a close Giles ally, won an equally lopsided victory over former mayoral candidate Danny Ray, 10,235-4,696, a 69-31 percent margin.

Giles scored a secondary victory of sorts in District 2, even though he wasn’t on the ballot, when his hand-picked candidate, political novice Julie Spilsbury, coasted to a comfortable victory over Jeremy Whittaker, Giles’ unofficial nemesis, 8,465-6,802, a 55-45 percent margin.

The turnout was uninspiring at nearly 35 percent for mayor and nearly 38 percent for the two council races, with District Three council member Francisco Heredia winning an uncontested seat after opponent Christopher Bown dropped out.

Apache Junction and Scottsdale had a turnout of nearly 50 percent, while Gilbert and Chandler were at nearly the same level of Mesa, at about 36 percent.

“I’m very humbled and grateful,’’ Giles said. “I think our residents voted to keep going forward in a positive direction.”

“There’s a plan and we’re executing that plan,’’ beyond the required focus on the health and welfare of residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, he added.

Giles said he will continue to focus on what he considers progress, economic development for better jobs and more sales tax revenue and more high school graduates entering some kind of higher education or training.

Just don’t talk to him about building a legacy. He doesn’t believe in legacies, just leaving the city better off than when he started in 2014.

“I don’t see it in terms of a legacy. I see it in terms of personal satisfaction,’’ Giles said. “I’ve got 10 years to do the best job I can. Shame on me if I don’t take advantage of that opportunity.’’

Giles’ goals also include improving internet access throughout the city in the belief that computers are now a necessity, especially Mesa students turning to distance learning during the pandemic.

“We need to learn the lessons of COVID. There are some things that become more obvious that we need to address,’’ he said.

He also wants to see more outreach and services to senior citizens, who turned up in food box lines alone despite the high threat of contracting COVID-19 because they had no one to help them.

Even without Whittaker’s criticisms from the council dais, Giles anticipates opposition, saying, “These ideas get better with constructive criticism.’’

Despite his loss, Farnsworth said he’s concerned about Giles facing little opposition from council and that he will be watching carefully and speaking loudly when necessary.

Farnsworth is especially concerned about what he calls private-public partnerships, essentially the tax incentive deals the city has used with downtown redevelopment and economic development projects.

“I will monitor their conduct on behalf of the people. I will speak against intrusions on the public’s trust and resources,’’ Farnsworth said. “I think we are in for a rocky road.’’

But Spilsbury sees no rocks to climb, just opportunities to work well with others and get important work done. She said she won’t bow to anyone, but she also will be constructive.

She said the mayor, City Manager Chris Brady and virtually the entire council called her or texted her, congratulating her on her victory over Whittaker and welcoming her to the council. She will be seated in January.

“I’ve been given leadership qualities by God. I can make things happen,’’ Spilsbury said. “I made friends everywhere I have been. People have said they enjoy working with me.’’

Spilsbury has mainly been noted in the past as a school volunteer and said she didn’t know initially that serving on the council was a paid position when she was weighing a bid at elected office.

She said she would like to think that residents voted for her because of her years of building relationships in the community as a mother and a lifelong Mesa resident, but acknowledged the impact of Giles support, saying, “I’m sure that didn’t hurt me.’’

The addition of Spilsbury and the subtraction of Whittaker leaves the already formidable Giles in an enviable position as he starts his last term, former council members Pat Gilbert and Dennis Kavanaugh said.

“I think the future is his to define,’’ Gilbert said. “I think for John, the best days are ahead.’’

Freed from the constraints of facing another election campaign, “I hope he has moments of go for broke,’’ Gilbert said.

Kavanaugh also is anxious to see what Giles might accomplish in his last term, beyond watching the ASU building open and completing some of his redevelopment projects downtown.

“I think he will be in a strong position to build coalitions with council members on policy issues,’’ Kavanaugh said. “I think you will see a lot of infighting among council members go away.’’

Kavanaugh also sees an opportunity for a less restrained approach from Giles, who is mainly known for his calm and steady manner. He praised Giles for listening well and building relationships.

Without another election, “that’s always a liberating feeling. You can be freer with your opinions,’’ Kavanaugh said. 

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