Guest Commentary

History: Wainwright family - police, planters, planners, parents

Posted 6/21/21

Welcome to the fifth in a series of articles authored by committee members of the Town of Paradise Valley Historical Advisory Committee.

The mission of the advisory committee is to, …

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Guest Commentary

History: Wainwright family - police, planters, planners, parents


Welcome to the fifth in a series of articles authored by committee members of the Town of Paradise Valley Historical Advisory Committee.

The mission of the advisory committee is to, “Establish, compile, archive and maintain a historical record of the Town of Paradise Valley and produce appropriate literature to commemorate the town’s major anniversary dates.”

In keeping with this mission, a series of articles are being compiled to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of Paradise Valley.

Join us for a family celebration on Sunday, Oct. 17 at the Camelback Inn.

Peter Wainwright served as deputy town marshal in 1973, on the Town Council from April 1974 to November 1981, Chief of Police from 1981- 1986, then again on Town Council from 1992 – 1994.

His son, Jonathon Wainwright worked for the town intermittently in high school and college and began volunteering in 1990 serving on Board of Adjustment and Planning commission.

Peter was interviewed Aug. 19, 2016. The following is excerpted from that interview.

I started out in the police department… I was put on duty by the Town Council at the time and the town attorney said that it would not be appropriate for me to be on both the council and be subject to the Town Marshal jurisdiction…so I resigned my commission in the Town Marshal’s department and served for several years in the (Maricopa County) Sheriff’s Department.

I think it was in the middle of my second term that I was asked to talk to Oscar Butt, the town manager, and Jack Brock, the mayor. I served five years as chief of police.

One way I gained some credibility from all of the members in the (Police) Department — they resented being called Town Marshal’s in particular with the California cars they stopped. I went before the council and asked if they wouldn’t change it to a police department and make me a police chief. That’s when they went from wearing brown (uniforms) with Stetsons and holsters to the blue uniforms.

Interviewer (and former police chief) John Wintersteen: You have the reputation for not only continuing the professionalism that (the previous chief) Les envisioned and …built, but you brought the police department out of the ‘40s and into the ‘70s — what was in those days pretty progressive for law enforcement. What kinds of other things did you do to bring the department up to where it should be?

We bought an alarm system. I had a good friend who had been with Motorola, Onno Prinze. He was on his own and doing some high techy stuff, so I asked him. … He came over to set up the alarm system for us and also brought all of the computer stuff into the department. He installed the town alarm system. It was not mandatory, but a lot of people went on it.

Jon Wainwright (Interviewed in 2019)

My first job with the town was while I was in high school with the streets department … I worked from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Lincoln Drive had just been expanded … the government was relocating saguaros and other trees from the CAP (Central Arizona Project) area and giving Paradise Valley as many saguaro cacti and other trees they wanted.

My job was to plant saguaros along Lincoln Drive. I did that in the mornings, and I worked for a law firm in the afternoon, Brown Bain Law Firm.

Town Manager Oscar Butt hired me as an annexation solicitor. He said, “You know everybody, why don’t you go do this.” It was a paid position I had during spring break while I was at Wake Forest — probably in 1981 or 1982 — my second job in Paradise Valley.

The town paid me to go door to door, places like all of the homes around Paradise Valley Country Club, the county island around 40th Street and Lincoln, Lincoln Hills area, areas around the Babbitt’s house.

Mrs. Babbitt chased me out when I tried to get her to sign the petition to annex her property.

My first volunteer job was as the bailiff in Paradise Valley. They gave me a badge but not a gun. Photo radar was in pretty full swing there. This was about 1990. I think Elliot Horne was the bailiff before me. When Elliot didn’t look scary enough for them, they decided to put me in. It was actually pretty interesting because … I heard all of the good explanations or objections!

I remember this nasty lady who came in — “this damn thing, I didn’t even have the car going and blah blah blah.” The guy said, “Well here is the photo.” I’m pretty sure it was not her and her demeanor changed because it was her husband and somebody, who was not her, in the front seat of the car.  She said “Oh, I guess they were speeding. How do I get a copy of this photo?”

After my career as town bailiff, I went on the Board of Adjustment, which I was on for 15 years, and now I am on the Planning Commission.

My wife of 31 years (Melinda Wainwright) serves as a volunteer for the Paradise Valley Police Department and my oldest son, while in law school, served as a legal intern to the Paradise Valley Town Attorney.

The full interviews with Peter and Jonathon Wainwright can be found on the Town’s website at 

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted on behalf of the Paradise Valley Historical Advisory Committee.