Connecting with Tempe...by Pam Goronkin
To two who have served us well: Thanks!

Ever struggle with finding an appropriate way to thank someone?  I’m talking about favors and deeds, service and sacrifice that exceed the commonplace.   

Very often in our personal lives we find ourselves at a loss of creativity in such matters. We may merely mumble our appreciation or perhaps send a note to someone who has gone out of his or her way for us.

Frequently, although we feel deeply indebted to such persons, rising to the same level to demonstrate our appreciation can be difficult.

Mayor Neil Giuliano and Councilmember Dennis Cahill will take their leaves from Tempe City Council on July 15. Dennis Cahill completes his fourth term with 12 years of service. Neil Giuliano served one four-year term as a councilmember before his election as mayor in 1994, bringing his total years of service in Tempe to 14.

Of course, there have been, and will continue to be, farewell parties before it’s over. Mayor Giuliano, in particular, is probably growing weary of this long goodbye as one organization after another pays him homage.

His leadership and vision, along with his courage, candor and grace under pressure, have been great gifts to this community. Sometimes I think we’ve taken him for granted. But he’s ready to move on.

Cahill leaves under different circumstances, of course, accepting the fact that Tempe voters chose another as their next mayor. But I’ve noted the hugs and the handshakes and the whispered conversations with Dennis. Ordinary citizens, members of the business community, other elected officials, movers and shakers alike have grown fond of this teddy bear over the years. His folksy humor, his compassion and his genteel spirit will be missed.

Since the March primary election, members of council and city staff have pondered how to give these deserving leaders an appropriate send-off. Members of the community have also stepped forward with suggestions.

Between Neil Giuliano and Dennis Cahill, there are 26 collective years of preparation, planning, analysis, flesh-pressing, deal-making, study, creativity, deliberation, debate and facing down the critics as they helped steer the course of Tempe’s ship of state. 

Tempe is a small community, and the direct impact of devoted leadership is easily attributable to those responsible. Would Tempe have Town Lake without the will and leadership of Neil Giuliano? How many Tempe residents would understand how to take advantage of the earned income tax credit were it not for Dennis Cahill? 

Entire columns could be, and I’m sure will be written, listing the achievements of these veteran policy makers. Honoring them while they are still alive to savor the recognition seems appropriate.

As a result of a resolution passed by Tempe City Council on June 3, the linear park on the south shore of Tempe Town Lake, extending from Rural Road on the east to Mill Avenue Bridge on the west, will hereafter be known as Neil G. Giuliano Lakefront Park. 

The senior center at the Westside Multi-Generation Facility will henceforth be called Dennis J. Cahill Senior Center.

Neither of the honorees participated in the proposals or the voting. But the balance of the Council was unanimous in its approval to name these public places in honor of the exceptional service of these two fine public servants.

Just prior to this vote, I received an email message at City Hall from a citizen who is opposed to these tributes for Giuliano and Cahill. In his words, “Everything they’ve done has been for their own glory and political gain.”

If glory is the acknowledgement of a job well done, I agree. If political gain is what comes from your fellow citizens electing you to serve time and again, I agree.

But if “glory and political gain” is meant to suggest that these two men did what they did with self-serving, ulterior motives, I emphatically disagree.

Simply said, Neil Giuliano and Dennis Cahill were far from perfect; even they would acknowledge missteps along the way. But the love they showed for their community, and the determination with which they worked to make it better, overwhelmingly counterbalance any small errors of judgment that  may have been made during their years-long tenure as public servants.

Certainly, the tributes now being staged are not entitlements. On the contrary, only the most deserving merit them.

In my view, there is no question about how deserving these two elected officials are of our tributes.

If you disagree, feel welcome to share your thoughts with me. If you agree but prefer to keep your thoughts as no more than passing memories, indeed that’s your prerogative.

However, if you agree and would like to express your own gratitude to these two men, you can send email to neil_giuliano@tempe.gov or to dennis_cahill@tempe.gov.

Even though the official adulation must be appreciated, it’s thoughts from the “silent majority” that I’m sure will mean the most.