Election season is brewing in Mesa as seven candidates are on the campaign trail that leads to the Aug. 4 primary election.
This year, Mesa residents will see four races, one of which includes an unopposed incumbent, to decide their city leaders for the next four years. Voters will decide races for mayor and three councilmembers.
Mesa operates on a district system with six geographical districts and a council member representing each district. Voters in the individual districts choose the councilmembers while voters within the entire city select the mayor.
Mesa City Charter dictates councilmembers and mayors will serve for only two consecutive four-year terms. The charter staggers councilmember elections so every two years, voters are selecting councilmembers in three districts.
In the mayoral race, incumbent John Giles will face Verl Farnsworth. Mr. Giles has been mayor for almost six years after voters selected him in 2014 during a special election and reelecting him for his first four-year term in 2016. Mr. Farnsworth ran for City Council in 2018 but lost to David Luna in District 5.
In District 1, voters will decide between incumbent Mark Freeman and Danny Ray, who ran for mayor in 2014. In District 2, incumbent Jeremy Whittaker and Julie Spilsbury will be vying for the seat.
In District 3, incumbent Francisco Heredia is running unopposed after his challenger Christopher Bown withdrew. Mr. Heredia replaced Ryan Winkle after the City Council removed him in 2017 for allegedly driving under the influence. Voters upheld the appointment in 2018 and Mr. Heredia is now running for his first full term.
The primary election is slated for Aug. 4 while the general election is set for Nov. 3. Typically, the primary election narrows down the field of candidates to two but this year, the primary will likely decide the outcome of these races.
Mesa City Charter states a candidate wins the seat of mayor or councilmember during the primary election if they can garner the majority of the votes cast, meaning at least 50%. In 2020, there are at most two candidates in each race, meaning a high likelihood of a candidate hitting the required threshold.
Independent Newsmedia reached out to each candidate’s campaign to give them a chance to introduce themselves and explain what their three priorities are in regards to governing. Mr. Farnsworth and Mr. Heredia did not return a request for comment at the time of publication.
Mayor Giles has been the mayor of Mesa, Arizona, the nation’s 36th largest city, for five years. His priorities are guiding the city through the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn. He is focused on jobs, educational opportunities and quality of life. He has the support of Mesa’s community leaders and is known as a consensus builder.
Mr. Giles is a fiscally responsible leader. The city has a balanced budget and no primary property tax. He is committed to keeping taxes and utility rates low while continuing to provide quality services.
Mr. Giles has attracted new companies to Mesa and created thousands of jobs. As a small business owner himself, he is strong supporter of local companies and has been endorsed by the Mesa Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Giles has spearheaded innovative partnerships between the city and philanthropic organizations to make both Pre-K and post-high school education more attainable.
Mr. Giles was born and raised in Mesa and practices law in Downtown Mesa. He is committed to keeping Mesa an affordable and safe place to call home.
His website is https://www.johngilesformayor.com/
Mr. Farnsworth is a 23-year Mesa resident, hailing from District 5. In 2018, he ran to be councilmember of that district but ultimately lost to David Luna. He is a retired small businessman of 40 years, working in various branches of construction.
If elected, Mr. Farnsworth said, on his campaign website, he hopes to make the city a place “we want [to] raise our children, and grandchildren, where our friends will want to come and put down roots, and where the schools can propel our children toward future success.”
Mr. Farnsworth plans to scale back increases to utility rates he says are being used to fund the Arizona State University@mesacitycenter project.
Mr. Farnsworth is also critical of Mr. Giles for a sale of a desert swath to Blandford Homes, saying the city backtracked on a promise to build a park on the land. This has led Mr. Farnsworth to call for more transparency and honesty in governing.
Mr. Farnsworth has also expressed support of what he calls better budgeting, focusing on first responders and infrastructure rather than what he claims are pet projects.
His website is https://verlformayor.com/
Mark A. Freeman currently serves as councilmember and Vice Mayor in District 1 for the City of Mesa. One of Mark’s grandparents was the founder of Mesa in 1878, and his roots go deep in the community. Mark grew up in a farming family and worked in and around agriculture all of his life. He and his wife LeeAnn have three children and eight grandchildren.
Mark spent his 31-year career as a Fire Captain/Paramedic in Mesa holding many other specialties in the department. One thing Mark prides himself on is getting out in the district and fixing and facilitating the needs of the residents in District 1. His focus is on a team approach to resolving problems and conflict and he has a track record of success. Mark will continue to focus on bringing jobs and new developments to District 1 and being an advocate for District 1 residents.
His website is http://www.markfreemanformesa.com/.
My name is Danny Ray. I was born and raised in northwest Mesa. I am a small business owner; we do residential and commercial construction and roofing. My wife Alisa and I have seven children that we plan on raising in Mesa. My family is the most important aspect of my life.
I believe we must leave Mesa a better place for our children and their children. To do this we must constantly make responsible, and at times, hard decisions. Thomas Jefferson said, “The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”
We must help Mesa restore:
Jeremy Whittaker was elected to the Mesa City Council in 2016. He seeks reelection to his second and final term. As a successful business owner and community volunteer, he seeks to continue his work with the neighborhoods to build the future Mesa. His entrepreneurial expertise and demand for fiscal responsibility are a winning combination for Mesa to reach its full potential.
When it came time as an adult to choose a place to put down roots, he chose Mesa. He has called District 2 home since he bought his first house here. It’s where he and his wife, Roshana, will continue to deepen their roots and raise their son Duke.
Learn more at https://jeremywhittaker.com/
I’m Julie Spilsbury and I am running for Mesa City Council because I believe in Mesa! I love Mesa!
My husband and I both grew up in Mesa, and we chose to raise our six kids here. I’m running because I want them to stay here and raise their families here too. They’ll do that if we can provide them with safe neighborhoods, a good education, with places to work and take their kids for entertainment.
My priority is to protect public safety from the damaging initiatives that are being proposed, to build safe neighborhoods and to keep Mesa affordable. You can learn more at SpilsburyforMesa.com.
Francisco Heredia is a native Arizonan who is the child of Mexican immigrants. He owns two small businesses in west Mesa: a consulting firm and a commercial printing shop.
“It has truly been an honor serving as your councilmember for District 3 in the City of Mesa,” Mr. Heredia states on his website.
“I am running to continue on enhancing our work in making this great city an even better place to live, work, and play.”
Mr. Heredia’s focuses are on strong neighborhoods such as safe and prosperous communities as well as parks and libraries; improving infrastructure in west Mesa; and economic development, in particular, bringing jobs in various capacities to Mesa.
His website is at https://www.herediaformesa.com/.