Matt Nielsen | Age: 40 | Years in Gilbert: 6 | Occupation: Executive VP | Education: BA Communications (California State University) MS Negotiation & Dispute Resolution (Creighton University School of Law) | Immediate family: Married with four children | Community/civic involvement: Founder, Board chair at Educational Freedom Institute (non-profit organization); former Cubmaster and Scoutmaster with Boy Scouts of America; several teaching, administrative and leadership positions within my faith community.
1) Compare/contrast your leadership style with outgoing Mayor Jenn Daniels.
In contrast to Mayor Daniels, I tend to rely much more on hard data to make significant decisions, certainly, for instance, relative to taxes and proposals for the addition of new lines of service. This is something I learned early on in my professional career. I’ve been disappointed to witness how often important decisions are made with insufficient research and data. If a proposal is important enough to bring before the Town Council for a vote, it ought to be properly and thoroughly researched.
Like Mayor Daniels, I will absolutely continue to be very supportive of Gilbert’s first responders,
2) Small businesses in town will continue to suffer from the COVID-19 economic fallout for the foreseeable future, what else can the town do to help them?
While the economy, per se, isn’t within the purview of government, the Town of Gilbert can remove barriers to economic growth for small business owners. Eliminating unnecessary red tape, lowering taxes, and becoming more efficient in operations can all help reduce the burdens of businesses in our town.
3. Name your top three priorities:
My first priority is to keep intact all of the great things that we love about our town. The sense of community and the family-friendly feel of the town are my extremely important.
Second, I will focus my efforts on seeing to it that the town government fulfills its role without outgrowing it. This requires fiscal responsibility, particularly in these challenging times.
Lastly, I will work with town staff to right-size government to reflect the actual needs of our town. All too often, elected officials tend to advocate for government and for growth in government, at the expense of residents. This is backward. I’ll put my private-sector experience to work on behalf of the citizens of Gilbert.
4 Should the economic fallout of COVID-19 worsen for town finances, what measures would you recommend avoid cuts/disruptions in services?
The first measure I would advocate for is the immediate withdrawal of the 82 new positions that were approved at the June 16th meeting. That action alone will save $6.6 million in expenditures and it can be done immediately. Further, I would recommend the sale of both the St. Xavier University building as well as Cactus Yards. Those two actions should yield a combined $3 million.
5. Should Cactus Yards be sold to a private operator? Why or why not?
Absolutely this should be sold. Every year, Gilbert loses $1 million on this property— a bill that comes out of the pockets of you, the taxpayer.
6. What should the town do with recycling since it no longer generates revenue?
I support recycling when it meets two simple criteria: First, it should at least be carbon-neutral. Second, it should be a good value to residents. Sadly, the research on the type of program Gilbert runs (single stream) is mixed at best. I am open to finding other ways to make recycling available to residents.
7. What is your assessment of the relationship between Gilbert Police and the community and what changes, if any, would you advocate?
My sense is that the relationship between Gilbert PD and the residents of our town is very good. I think Chief Soelberg has done a great job reaching out and making himself and his staff available to citizens. I am not aware of any issues with the department that would require significant changes.
8. Do you think the town’s “City of the Future Initiative” does enough to ensure Gilbert continues to thrive?
I would encourage a much more significant review of the implications of some of the proposed measures in the plan. Gilbert residents do not want to give up all of the wonderful things that make Gilbert unique in order to become a “smart city.” I will guard against measures that would endanger the things we love about Gilbert. Additionally, I’m a strong believer in the individual business owner, the entrepreneur, and their supporters. I’m confident that as we continue to come together as a community and cooperate on initiatives between private enterprise and town government, we’ll be able to thrive in the days ahead.
9. Name three things you would fix or improve with town government.
- We claim to be “data-driven” on the Town Council, but we’re actually not. Simply having data isn’t being “data-driven.” We need data that is relevant to the issues at hand and we need it organized in a way that is accurate and useful. I’ll use my business experience to help the Council gain access to the data required to make informed decisions.
- The town government is growing right now. During an unparalleled time of lockdowns, social distancing, and layoffs, Gilbert’s Town Council voted to increase the size of government. I will work to increase efficiencies and reduce waste.
- Gilbert has a long, proud legacy as a conservative town. We pride ourselves on our commitment to personal responsibility, and we’re constantly looking for ways to help our neighbors or a stranger in need. We seem to be slowly losing sight of those conservative values in our town government. These are the things that make Gilbert great. As mayor, I will protect those important attributes. I will ask the tough questions. We don’t all have to agree once we’ve heard the facts, but we should all be able to agree on what the facts truly are.
10. Name three things the town does right.
1. Gilbert prioritizes safety. We need to continue to make sure that residents are safe. This means that our first responders should have the resources required to fulfill their duties.
2. We encourage revitalization. The Heritage District is fast becoming a destination. High-quality and attractive retail establishments will help increase the appeal of the area as well as buttress against decay.
3. With only a few notable exceptions, Gilbert’s parks and outdoor spaces are nearly universally liked and supported by residents. Many voters I’ve talked with have concerns about some of these parks, but we all seem to agree that they, in general, are an important amenity for residents and that our parks are well-planned and generally well-maintained.