It has been an unequivocally positive past 5 years in the town of Paradise Valley, a tenure that has been under the guidance of current Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner. But that will soon be coming to an end, as Mayor Bien-Willner recently announced that he will not be running for a fourth term.
Paradise Valley has an unusual governance system where mayors are only elected to two-year terms, leading to a relatively short three-term tenure, but one that has by any metrics been a successful one, so much so that his last re-election was a dominant win over a strong candidate, Councilmember Julie Pace. After all, when things are going extremely well it’s difficult to make the case that a change in course is necessary.
Bien-Willner is an attorney by trade, having earned his legal degree from the University of Arizona. After a career in law in New York City, he made his way back to Arizona and cut his teeth in the nuts and bolts of the town with two separate tenures in the town’s Planning Commission, where the importance of quality growth was undoubtedly hammered into his mindset.
His time as Mayor was one of significant success for Arizona’s wealthiest municipality. Despite a significant influx in interest, the town has been able to hold onto its unique small town feel. While some areas have had a completely obstructionist and stifling view of growth, and others have been so open to growth that it entirely transforms the landscape, Bien-Willner’s Paradise Valley has managed to find a perfect middle ground. New homes are selling for astronomical amounts and new resorts and recreational offerings are becoming a serious draw for tourists, but the spirit that has made PV special hasn’t gone away in the slightest.
This is probably best typified by a couple of new developments that were approved under his jurisdiction. The Ritz-Carlton development covers 20 acres, has 20,000 square feet of event space and an outdoor amphitheater. Additionally, there is the redevelopment of the former Smoke Tree Hotel into a boutique hotel with high-end dining options. Both are united by a common vision: that the unique, upscale ethos of Paradise Valley must be preserved. That the brand is paramount and cannot be sacrificed in the pursuit of growth. That Paradise won’t be paved to put up a parking lot.
Most good public officials understand that there’s a point where they’ve accomplished all they can reasonably hope to, that their legacy will be a positive one, and that continuing on will accomplish little more than blocking the next set of leaders from making their impact. Many public officials don’t get this and continue to stay on for the sake of ego or personal benefit. Kudos to Mayor Bien-Willner for understanding that it was a great run and that it’s an appropriate time to move on. Our state and country would be well-served by having more of this mindset.