Meet The Gentles: District 6 couple who serves community, country

Karl and Carla Gentles along with their dog, Ever, began hosting spontaneous parties in the district after visiting a hospitalized friend and bearing a picnic basket full of goodies, flowers and more years ago. They continue visiting homes of family and friends with a prepackaged party.
Karl and Carla Gentles along with their dog, Ever, began hosting spontaneous parties in the district after visiting a hospitalized friend and bearing a picnic basket full of goodies, flowers and more years ago. They continue visiting homes of family and friends with a prepackaged party.
Submitted photo

A man named Karl Gentles walks into the room and introduces himself to a woman who happens to be named Carla.

From there, the rest of the story is history in the making, as the couple supports each other in everything they do, including Mr. Gentles’ recent endeavor to run as a candidate for Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, said Mrs. Gentles.

The couple, bearing a similar first name and interests, will celebrate their seventh wedding anniversary on Jan. 27.

“That is the first thing people ask,” Mrs. Gentles said about the irony of them having similar first names during a Jan. 10 phone interview.

Telling the Independent how they were destined to be together, Mrs. Gentles, 50, a Greenville, South Carolina native, noted her excitement for her husband’s congressional pursuit and that she is able to “bear witness and be a part of this journey.”

“We are partners in our small business and our marriage is a partnership. We make big decisions and big moves together. The decision to enter this race, and running this campaign will all work in alignment, collaborating and totally supporting each other. We have each other’s back,” Mrs. Gentles said.

“Karl’s congressional pursuit is a natural progression and continuation of the work he has accomplished in District 6 and throughout the Valley. He is exceptionally passionate about creating connections and collaborations to help build better communities. The impact Karl has contributed to the Valley, as well as his service on various board positions, and initiatives reaches beyond politics.”

She plans to use her military and public relations background to assist him in whatever capacity she can as her experience ranges from military service to working in the fashion industry and running their small business, she said.

“I am confident all of my experiences will serve us well in this campaign and I am prepared to serve wherever and however my services are required to accomplish the mission,” Mrs. Gentles added.

Serving the community and the country is something that Mr. Gentles, 55,  who is a Kingston, Jamaica native and Arizona resident of 34 years, holds dearly as he is married to a veteran, and grew up in a military family.

His father retired  as a chief master sergeant after 33 years of service in the United States Air Force .

“Growing up, I was an Air Force brat and we moved around the country and world every four to five years. I made fast friends and cultivated the ability to relate to and truly hear people from different backgrounds. We need more of this from political leaders: The ability to listen, hear, understand and make decisions from that wiser more informed place,” said Mr. Gentles.

He has called the Arizona Congressional District 6 area his home for more than 18 years. 

“My wife is an Army Reserves retiree serving 29 years. My nephew joined the Air Force on the day I announced my candidacy. We need more leaders who operate like our men and women in uniform operate: putting our country first, not narrow agendas and petty political attacks,” he said.

“I care about it deeply. I’ve always been about giving back. Now, I want to do even more in congress. My focus is on getting things done and making a difference for Arizona in education, job creation and economic development.”

As Mr. Gentles raises money for his campaign and speaks to the public, he is listening to people during “meet and greets” throughout the Arizona 6th Congressional district, which includes portions of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, Paradise Valley, Care Free, Cave Creek, Fort McDowell Indian Nation and Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community. 

Below, he and his wife opened themselves up to district readers interested in meeting them.

Karl Gentles:

What ignited interest in representing Arizona’s sixth congressional district and putting in a bid as a 2020 Democratic candidate?

Observing a serious decline in leadership nationally and the need for a more problem solving versus partisan fighting in Washington. I want to be part of the solution for the people of this district not part of the problem in Washington, DC.

Why do you consider yourself “the right person for the right time?”

I have wide-ranging experience getting things done from the nonprofit and government sector to running our small business and working with big employers. I can get things done by building broad coalitions to focus on solutions at home not silly partisan fights in DC. The demographics of our district are moving to a more diverse and moderate population base with values that are more representative of what Arizona is today.

Is District 6 diversified enough and what efforts will you take to further promote diversity?

Creating dramatically more economic opportunity and fighting hate each time it rears its ugly head. I will represent our entire district and people from all walks of life and the issues important to us all. Our collective strength and sense of community comes from our diversity with each adding to the amazing beauty of our district. We will work to truly understand each others needs, hope and challenges and find constructive ways to address and support each other’s success.

What do you envision for District 6, especially areas such as Paradise Valley and Scottsdale?

My campaign will focus on the things that transcend party and politics, the issues we all talk about around our dinner tables each evening. Those issues include how we build better lives for each other and ourselves. We will focus on protecting and building a high quality of life for the entire district.

That means working tirelessly for our families over politics and ideology. We will work to protect and create more jobs including new effective pathways for people to fully-participate in our economy. We will work to expand economic opportunity and development by supporting the success for companies that employ our family members and our small business owners.

What did you learn from working with the likes of the late Sen. John McCain?

Our ideologies were not always in sync but we built on our common ground as Americans and Arizonans. It was an absolute honor and privilege to serve as a staff assistant to Senator John McCain. There I learned the power of duty, honor, principals, decency and placing country above party, core values I’ve retained to this day. I learned that governing and the work is done in between the lines and not at the extreme and partisan edges of the parties. I learned that doing what is right is more important than political ideology even though it’s more difficult.

Describe what differentiates you from other candidates and what you will do for the district?

I’ve been getting things done for Arizona throughout my career and have shown that I can build partnerships and collaborations to deliver impactful outcomes. Candidates should run on their actual accomplishments. As executive director of the nonprofit Back to School Clothing Drive, we made a difference in the lives of 250,000 elementary school kids. At the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, we brought over two dozen companies to the Valley including USAA.

As an executive member of the USAA leadership team, we grew the company to over 3,000 new jobs leading to the development of the Norterra section of the district. As the leader of the community development group at Bank One (now JP Morgan Chase), I traveled the state and the Bank’s western region to create economic opportunity for low-and-moderate income communities.

What does the MLK holiday mean for you and your family?

It means honoring Dr. King’s legacy and hard-fought victories for equality and justice. It means honoring his spirit of service over self, perseverance and leadership in the face of extreme resistance, and his unwavering compassion for those in need. Dr. King’s vision of a more just world is a human issue that transcends race or politics. One of my guiding principles is his quote that you measure a leader by how they operate in “challenging times” not just times of “comfort.” These are challenging times.

Anything else to share with readers that they would find odd/interesting about yourself?

I’ve been obsessed with trains since I was a kid, an aspiring tri-athlete, and I once walked on and was selected as an alternate for the Arizona State University basketball team. We need leaders with goals and grit and passion and those are qualities I hold dear.

Carla Gentles:

• What does the upcoming MLK Day mean to you?

MLK Day is a reminder to me of what is possible, and the importance of service and vision. Karl and I recognize the importance of service and how service cultivates growth. We also embrace the importance of vision and how vision propels our journey. Dr. King’s legacy of service and vision transcends his time here with us, and made it possible for candidate like Karl to follow his vision and will to serve.

Anything interesting about your family to share with our Paradise Valley and Scottsdale readers?

Karl and I love spending time with family and friends and are fans of the “pop up” party that we host spontaneously or may show up at the home of one of our family or friends with a prepackaged party.