By Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers
Last week I received a call from the media asking me to comment on Congressman Trent Franks’ pending resignation and wanted to know if I would be forming a committee to run for that office.
To say the least, I was stunned. But even more than that, I was forced to look at the possibility of going to Washington, D.C., and how that would affect the city, my family and friends. It made me look deep inside myself.
I was shocked at the hundreds of calls, e-mails, text messages, and the sheer number of folks stopping and asking; maybe asking isn’t the right word – pleading for me to run for Congressional District 8. My phone battery has been dying the last few days from lengthy calls from people wanting me to represent them in D.C. It’s been overwhelming to say the least. But maybe even more surprising to me are the folks who have been brutally honest with me, telling me NOT to go to D.C.
It’s been pointed out to me that just five years ago, our fine city had a BBB bond rating (basically junk bonds). It was also pointed out to me that five years ago, we had many pending lawsuits and less than zero dollars in our savings account. Staff was looking for employment in other cities, meaning we were losing talented and skilled people – what I have referred to as brain drain. We had an Interim Police Chief, Interim City Manager, library hours cut, parks not receiving water, leaving grass dying and no outlook for the future.
The Chamber of Commerce was kept at arm’s length. Millions and millions of dollars was being paid to fund professional hockey, and a professional football franchise that was being disrespected by city staff. Our roads were getting worse by not doing necessary preventative maintenance. We were the second-most financially strapped city in the United States, second to Detroit, Michigan, (and that city went bankrupt.) And there were other morale busters.
Fourth of July fireworks display – cancelled.
The Fire Parade—cancelled.
The city had done everything possible – except fix the problem.
That was then.
Most recently, our city received an AAA bond rating. This is the strongest sign that our city is back on track and headed in the right direction financially. It has not been easy, but we’ve made difficult decisions and the city has turned around.
In the area of quality of life, friends are telling me that with my leadership, we have a very successful Fourth of July fireworks display that is much larger, but not paid by the taxpayers. Yes, I restarted it, but not alone – by working with Jeff Teetsel, a principal at Westgate.
We just had the Fifth Annual Hometown Christmas Parade. Yes, I started that, also. Now, it has large sponsors, such as our own Sanderson Ford, and a committee of nearly 35 members. It’s not a city event, but the city has become a big partner in helping it succeed for our residents. It is the largest parade in Arizona.
I’m reminded that five years ago, we had no program for our veterans. This past September, we held our Fifth Annual Glendale Stand Up for Veterans event. I started that, recognizing that someone who signs a paper saying that they will give their life for their country deserves the full attention of all, to ensure that they are not forgotten and looked after.
One very good friend of mine told me that I’m the only person he knows that can take a problem for some, and turn it into a fun event that helps so many.
In April, the third Mayor’s Big Dog Run will occur, and this time it will be even better than the last. This has become a biennial event, and this year’s tentative plan allows motorcyclists to ride down the Luke Air Force Base runway, take a lap inside The University of Phoenix Stadium, and finish this year with a lap around Phoenix International Raceway. Again, all proceeds go to Glendale Community College Veteran Scholarship Fund.
A veteran buddy of mine reminded me of all of the work and projects I’ve been involved in at Luke Air Force Base. Protecting the base and its mission and working with so many folks to ensure that the F-35 program would succeed in Glendale have been top priorities of mine. Working with many community partners, the base is now well on its way to 144 F-35 jets.
I had a Glendale Ambassador remind me that we have a trip planned to Norway with our new Sister City, Orland. Norway also trains Air Force pilots here at Luke.
A local business owner reminded me that finally, a Glendale distributor, Swire Coca-Cola, is now supplying and participating in Glendale Glitters. Coca-Cola is growing their operations in Glendale – one of many businesses locating and expanding in our city.
A fellow pilot asked if I remembered that long before I was mayor, I raised funds for Civil Air Patrol and built a building for educational programming at our airport. Now, young kids can learn aerospace leadership and rescue.
And, just last night a Glendale police officer thanked me for something that my wife and I do each year – not because we have to, but because we believe that it’s the very least we can do. We visit all of the fire and police stations and the 911 call center – anyplace where our first responders are working on Christmas morning. It usually takes about five hours, but my wife and I want them to know how important their job is, and how much I appreciate them.
A great friend of mine wanted me to think of the public service day I initiated a couple of years ago. For that event, I wanted an opportunity for our citizens to meet our police and see what they do. I wanted them to understand that a split-second decision by our officers can be judged for years by many. That’s also when I allowed myself to be “tased” by a person to raise money for the 100 Club – an organization to help families of first responders who have been killed while on duty.
I was talking with a city staff member and she didn’t want me to overlook our successes in new growth with IKEA, and with ConAir now the second largest corporate campus in the Valley, and with the new BMW Dealership breaking ground.
Another great community partner has been American Furniture Warehouse who now dedicates trucks and men to pick up food for the local food drive I started for Hope for Hunger food Bank (now run by the Phoenix Rescue Mission.) This year’s goal is 100,000 lbs. of food for those in need.
Each morning I lay in bed sorting out my day—thinking about what needs to get done and I always think to myself – can I make a positive difference in someone’s life today. And, late at night, most of the time, I’m unable to fall asleep quickly because I just can’t make the gears stop turning. I lay there and think to myself whether I have, in fact, accomplished that goal of making a difference in someone’s life. Some days I don’t, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. But then there are those days where I know in my heart that I did make a positive difference. I have to tell you—I like that feeling.
I’ve spent the last four days struggling with a decision – if I could make a difference in Washington DC. I believe I could. But then, I wonder what happens here in my home, my city with all of my friends and a dedicated group of folks that have embraced my belief that together we can all make a difference. And we have. Frankly, I don’t want to lose this momentum. I don’t believe we are done, and I do believe that our very best days are still ahead.
With that said, I want to thank all of the folks that have encouraged me to run for Congress, District 8. I’m convinced that I could make a difference there, as well.
But, my heart is here. You know, in my last election I had an opponent say that I was a career politician. I guess I am. I want to keep my career here in this fantastic city that has trusted me with their vote and belief that we can make this city better and serve those who live, work and go to school here.
I have to say, I can’t think of anything that has created more anguish for me and my family than this decision over the last few days. But, I do believe that my decision to stay and continue being your Mayor is the best for my family and our great city.
Thank you for your trust. I will work each and every day to continue to earn your support.
Finally, I have to thank my wife, Sandy, of 35 years who knows how important this was to me and never pushed me in either direction. Thank you for your trust in me and always having my back.