All of us owe something (if not most things) to those who came before us, and the same goes for cities. The cities we know and love obviously didn’t magically appear as-is; they were founded, formed by the desires and initiative of those founders and others who came later, and evolved over time into the municipalities that we call home.
However many leaders are lost to the annals of time. Some spent their time trying to reform and revolutionize, but for whatever reasons were not able to. Some preferred to take from their respective cities instead of giving to them, to extract rather than build. But some truly transformed in unequivocally positive ways, and easily one of the most transformative leaders in the history of Scottsdale recently passed away.
Former Scottsdale Mayor Bill Schrader recently died at the age of 93. His influence not just on the city but the state as well could not be understated. It is not an understatement to say that he is single-handedly responsible for the size and scope of modern day Scottsdale. However, perhaps the most influential aspect of his work was the hallmark of an area in growth, an area that went from a backwoods afterthought to a modern tourist destination and then a retirement and life destination as time went on.
It is odd to think that all of north Scottsdale could have been part of the city of Phoenix, but save for Schrader’s intervention while mayor it would be. In perhaps one of the most iconic anecdotes of old Arizona you’ll ever hear, after being told that Phoenix was making a play for that area, “after receiving the tip, (he) milked his cows and called a meeting of key city officials for the following day.” Additionally, his work in developing the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt has been something enjoyed by countless people for decades.
Also, his leadership at the Salt River Project during such a critical time shouldn’t be understated. As a member of the board for a staggering 42 years, he oversaw the first big step in growth for the area, as it went from a mostly desert outpost to an area worthy of living in. The foundations for our growth were built then, and he was in the center of it with a pure sense of service and unyielding humility.
We have grown so far and so fast that it is safe to say that this area will never see another Bill Schrader, a farmer turned (somewhat) accidental changemaker. So when those who were there, who did make that change leave us, it is vital that we hold up their memory and recognize their contributions. So thank you, Bill…we owe you a lot.