West Chandler residents joined their citywide neighbors as Mayor Kevin Hartke traced the city’s past, present and future during an inspiring State of the City address Nov. 16 at Chandler Center for the Arts.
Noting that the city has grown since its establishment more than 100 years ago by relying on leaders “who have always thought outside the box,” Hartke listed what he identified as major milestones.
Due recognition for their contributions, Hartke said, were a number of noteworthy business entrepreneurs and other future-focused planners. Among those he highlighted was Rogers Corp. for having paved the way in 1967 for a city that has become a technical and manufacturing hub.
Additionally, he said innovation has been key to many of the city’s successes, among them the growth in stature of law enforcement, its leadership and its staff. “Through the decades, few professions have had such a profound impact on the day-to-day quality of life for Chandler residents as police and fire,” he said. In that regard, Hartke related the city’s origins, dating back to 1920 when what was then the Town of Chandler was only eight years old. It was the year the town marshal position was established— the only law enforcement officer, along with an 18-person volunteer fire department, followed in 1936 by “The Old Dodge,” the first mechanized fire vehicle that still appears in occasional city parades. By the 1960’s, Hartke added, 14 police officers and a handful of paid firefighters constituted the city’s commitment to protecting its citizenry.
Today, he pointed out, there are 362 authorized, sworn positions and 177 civilian employees, with more than 50 new employees having been hired last year alone. Other areas where change has been highly visible include the area of water services, which he said has been “a boiling point” in recent months. Arizona is now in a Tier 2 drought, which could result in water challenges for some cities, he said, noting however that Chandler is ready for the challenge. As to business growth, Hartke pointed to strategic vision by the city’s leadership as having positioned the city well for future economic growth. Among the notable contributors to those advancements during 2022, Hartke offered an impressive listing:
• Edwards, EMD Electronics, Advantest and Stryker will build new manufacturing facilities in Chandler
• Yield Engineering Systems announced a new technology center in the Price Corridor
• Viavi expanded its presence, adding office space for its global headquarters.
The increase in economic vitality is also apparent in last year’s tourism numbers, according to Hartke. The city welcomed a record number of business and leisure travelers in 2022, with the Aloha transformed into a boutique motel, marking a successful redevelopment project, among others. In all, said Hartke, there were 27 companies that located, expanded or chose to continue operating in Chandler in 2022. And that, he said, results in more than 4,200 projected jobs in the coming years. Education provided another benchmark. One of Chandler’s greatest strengths is its highly well-schooled population, with educational attainment levels continuing to increase.
Evidence, he said, is seen in a growth of 42 percent of residents having bachelor’s degrees to 47 percent. Just within the past five years the city went from 42% of residents having a bachelor’s degree to 47%, he advised. Schools, as part of the discussion, were also responsible for contributing to the city’s talent pipeline. The University of Arizona opened a new, 14,000-square-foot facility; Grand Canyon University announced that it will be expanding its footprint in Chandler; and Chandler-Gilbert Community College continues to grow its specialized job training programs. “So as you can see,” he said, “the vitality and of our city is strong.” Also listed among Hartke’s salutes to community development and commitment to growth were:
• Southside Village, which received the city’s first-ever designation as a Historic Conservation District.
• The city’s commitment of more than $8.2 million in rental assistance to help counter rent increases, along with work to connect dozens of households with emergency housing vouchers to prevent homelessness.
Last year, according to Hartke, the City Council and Neighborhood Advisory Committee launched what is being called the Envision program, hosting events in Chandler neighborhoods to connect residents to staff, as well as expos and job fairs, giving neighbors a direct line to ask questions and share feedback on important city issues. On For Our City Day, more than 1,300 volunteers spent time cleaning, painting, and weeding yards. And the Golden Neighbors program provided home repair help, food and toiletries to seniors in our community.
Although business and education form a solid foundation for Chandler, Hartke referred to parks as a cornerstone of Chandler neighborhoods, connecting them to each other through recreation, sports and social gatherings. To ensure that the same kind of commitment can continue into the future, the City Council authorized half a million dollars to will be used for park landscaping. Finally, Hartke emphasized that Chandler has been a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, from such successes as the integration of Chandler High School; the election of Coy Payne, the state of Arizona’s first Black mayor in 1990; to its diversity today, where all cultures and backgrounds are celebrated. In his summary of where Chandler was and where it will go in the future, Hartke summed up even more noteworthy moments, achievements and plans for the future.
In conclusion, he said, “Chandler was…is….and will always be a place full of diversity, equity and inclusion.”