Mayor Jenn Daniels’ abrupt announcement last week that she won’t seek another term means six of the seven Gilbert Town Council seats could change hands this year – with three filled by appointments instead of by voters.
Daniels’ decision – which she announced on her Facebook page Feb. 3 – also sets up the possibility of a fight between two council members to succeed her.
Daniels in her announcement said she would finish her term, which ends Dec. 31.
“I do really feel like transition and leadership are really good things for an organization, they do infuse new energy,” she told GSN. “I also almost spent 12 years serving the town of Gilbert. There always has to be an exit point so I decided now it’s the time for me.”
In her Facebook post, the mother of four wrote:
“I have loved the nearly 11 years I have spent serving Gilbert as both a Councilmember and a Mayor. It’s been an incredible experience and we have so much to be grateful for as a community. It has been a difficult decision but I have decided not to run again for Mayor.
“I am thankful for the support I have felt over the years from so many of you and I am excited to continue to celebrate Gilbert’s Centennial with you as I fulfill the remainder of my term. Gilbert will always be my home and the future is bright!”
Daniels said she was still planning her future.
“I’m exploring the opportunities that might be out there right now but not elected office at this time,” she told GSN.
In the upcoming August primary, two council seats already are up for grabs with incumbent Scott Anderson seeking a second term and Councilman Jared Taylor opting not to run. So far, four others have indicated they plan to run for a council seat – Tyler Hutchins, Busola Obayomi, Kathy Tilque and Monique Keberlein.
On the morning of Daniel’s announcement, Councilwoman Brigette Peterson immediately filed a Statement of Interest form required to begin collecting signatures to run for the mayor’s job in the Aug. 4 primary. Sandra Reynolds and Gary Livacari also filed similar forms before Daniels’ announcement.
Peterson has two years left on her term, which means the council would have to fill the vacancy with an appointment.
The Council also is looking at possible appointments to replace members Eddie Cook and Jordan Ray – both of whom also have two years remaining in their terms.
Ray has indicated he will run for justice of the peace for the Highland Justice Court and Cook is seeking an appointment to the Maricopa County assessor position.
Cook is one of five finalists being interviewed by the county Board of Supervisors this week. The other finalists are Thomas Galvin, Jr. Rodney Glassman, Laurin Hendrix and Darren Rasmussen. Hendrix, also a Gilbert resident, is a former state representative and sits on the Maricopa Community College District Governing Board.
No date was set last week on when supervisors will vote on the appointment.
Cook also had his eye on the mayor’s seat.
“I will go through the assessor’s appointment process and see where that ends up,” he said. “Depending on the outcome of that will determine if I decide to move forward to run for mayor.”
Once election petitions are filed by the April 4 deadline, candidates who hold council seats must resign.
Aimee Yentes, who was elected in 2018 with Peterson, Cook and Ray, is the only Council member staying put this election cycle.
Daniels was elected mayor in 2016. She previously served on the council from 2009 until July 2016, when she was appointed mayor to fill the vacancy left by John Lewis, who resigned to lead East Valley Partnership.
Over 250 people responded with comments on Daniel’s Facebook page with comments mostly thanking her for her service.
Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke posted, “It has and will continue to be an honor serving with you/next to you!”
During Daniels’ leadership, Gilbert implemented advisory groups, including Advancing Education in Gilbert, ONE Gilbert and the Executive Advisory Committee.
One Gilbert is her ambitious effort to develop a coordinated town response to teen suicides. At least six Gilbert teens are among 40 who have taken their lives since July 2017.
Also during her term, the town achieved AAA bond ratings from all three rating agencies, opened two new parks and transformed the Heritage District into a regional destination.
Daniels also chaired the Maricopa Association of Governments last year.
“Jenn was very instrumental in having me run for office,” said Cook, who has served for nine years. “When I came on board it was a time where we were able to change the dynamics of the council.
“We were not the minority vote and that allowed us to really build that strategic plan to get our economy going here in Gilbert and financially transform Gilbert to act like a billion-dollar corporation, a corporation using the best business practice.”
He said Town Manager Patrick Banger was instrumental in executing the council’s direction and what Gilbert is today is because of team effort.
“It’s not one person who did one thing that they could claim,” Cook said. “It really was the creation of a one-team culture and Jenn has been part of that. That is the part I really appreciate, her leadership to continue to maintain really a team effort and many stakeholders involved to make that success work.”
Ray said people publicly see Daniels at ribbon-cutting ceremonies and at the Council meetings but behind the scene she has helped shape policy to guide Gilbert’s growth.
“Jenn has been a tremendous advocate for the Town of Gilbert,” Ray said. “I don’t think the people of Gilbert realize the time, effort and energy she has put in as mayor.
“She’s doing what she believes is best for Gilbert and will leave a tremendous legacy both as a town councilwoman and mayor.”
Gov. Doug Ducey singled out Daniels last fall to appear on stage with him for a “fireside chat” at the Arizona League of Cities’ annual convention.
He responded to Daniels’ announcement with a tweet:
“Thank you for your public service and for being such a phenomenal partner in growing our economy and improving the quality of life in Arizona.