Paradise Valley mayor discusses the role of local leadership amid the global COVID-19 pandemic

Posted 5/18/20

In the upcoming August primary election, the field is set for four hopefuls to compete for three seats on the local dais atop Paradise Valley Town Council. But the top political position in the Town …

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Paradise Valley mayor discusses the role of local leadership amid the global COVID-19 pandemic

Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner at the local dais earlier this year at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.
Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner at the local dais earlier this year at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.
Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey
Posted

In the upcoming August primary election, the field is set for four hopefuls to compete for three seats on the local dais atop Paradise Valley Town Council.

But the top political position in the Town of Paradise Valley is reserved for one: Jerry Bien-Willner.

Mr. Bien-Willner counts his 2020 campaign run as consecutive mayoral pursuits uncontested meanwhile his fellow colleagues --- Scott Moore, Julie Pace and Mark Stanton --- are in pursuit of contested races for re-election.

A newcomer to the race for Paradise Valley Town Council is longtime town volunteer Jonathan Wainwright, who has served as a member of the Planning Commission since 2013, following 17 years at the Board of Adjustment.
Paradise Valley’s primary election is Tuesday, Aug. 4.

Town Council members serve four-year terms, while the mayor serves a two-year term. Mr. Bien-Willner was first elected to the position of mayor in 2018.

Leading up to the August primary, Independent Newsmedia reached out to Mr. Bien-Willner to better understand how the small but mighty municipality is handling the unfolding precautions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

In coming weeks, the Independent offers a question-and-answer series educating readers on the issues that matter most residents.

This is what Mr. Bien-Willner had to say:

• As mayor, what is the most important issue facing the Town of Paradise Valley as we head into what appears, for a time, our new normal?

My primary duties have been and continue to be to keep Paradise Valley citizens as safe as possible and to manage our finances responsibly while holding true to our town’s values in our low-density residential setting. This COVID-19 outbreak impacts health, and also our finances – as it has everywhere else – so those are the issues on which I am most focused.

I believe the steps we have taken so far have served the town very well, and I’m very grateful for the excellent response from our council, other town volunteers, the town’s professional staff, the town’s resorts and houses of worship, and, most of all, all the citizens I serve -- who have, overall, remained responsible, caring, patient and have shown great resiliency. There will be a lot more work to do, but we are on the right track and will successfully get through this together.

• During these uncertain times, are you the right man for the job?

I am confident that I am doing the very best job that I can do for the town and its residents. Although no one knew about COVID-19 when I took office, I had put in place a program to prepare the town for revenue shortfalls like those we are facing now, which has been very useful, and had made sure that we had spent wisely and had a very solid financial footing before this challenge. There are many other things I have done to prepare the town, including my efforts to lead the recruitment of a top-level Town Manager, which we found in Jill Keimach. Jill has worked very hard for the council and our residents as the leader of our professional staff. Good preparation alone isn’t enough, though. Throughout my life, I have found success anticipating issues, solving difficult problems, and leading teams forward -- so I definitely feel up for this challenge, and the heightened responsibility during these uncertain times is a constant reminder to remain focused and to keep moving forward in the best interests of the town and our residents.

• Are there more issues at-hand at the Town of Paradise Valley other than the unfolding pandemic and the economic ramifications of the new virus?

While the response to COIVD-19 has been front and center as we move through the crisis, we continue to do our business with a focus on the present, and an eye toward the future. There have been many other challenges during my term as mayor beyond COVID-19, and I fully expect that to continue to be the case. A key ongoing challenge is to continue to preserve the town’s exceptional low-density residential character while recognizing our resorts and the positive impact they have on the community and permitting responsible development that holds true to the town’s history and values. I have always felt that our residents and stakeholders expect me and the council to solve, rather than create, problems, and if we are doing a great job at that, then they will not have to worry. Giving our citizens as much peace of mind as possible to know that town affairs are being handled responsibly and effectively is a very important part of our duties.

• Are you proud of municipal employees and first responders as they deal with these new public safety concerns?

I am exceptionally proud of our first responders and professional staff for the excellent work they have been doing during these unprecedented times, and the gratitude for their work has been expressed to me by many others in our community.

• In your role as mayor, what information are you looking at to weigh your day-to-day decisions on town matters?

I am continually engaged on all town issues, particularly during these times. I am in regular communication with the town’s leadership team on COVID-19 and other issues, and I also keep engaged on a daily basis in meetings, calls, and briefings from the federal, state, and county levels – as well as staying in touch with other current and former municipal leaders – to make sure we are operating with the best and most timely information available. I also continue to stay engaged with residents and stakeholders. The information I seek out and receive informs my decisions, which have always been and will always be guided by preserving the health and safety of our residents, the town’s financial stability, and having the best possible service levels within the limited areas in which our town engages.

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