Who will be granted the privilege of leading Scottsdale into the future?

The political posture of the city of Scottsdale is beginning to take form as local candidates ramp up their politicking in anticipation of a possible August primary election — but a November general election seems more likely.

Seven people pulled packets, but one candidate — Becca Linnig — opted to pull out of the race prior to the May 30 signature deadline, which Scottsdale City Clerk Carolyn Jagger confirms will likely force the municipality to forgo a primary election.

“For example, if no more than two candidates file petitions for the office of mayor, a primary election would not be held for that office, and both candidates’ names would appear on the general election ballot,” she said. “If no more than six candidates file petitions for the office of council, a primary election would not be held for that office, and all six council candidates’ names would appear on the general election ballot.”

On Wednesday, May 30 — as long as all signatures are verified and campaign finance documents intact — Scottsdale voters can expect these six candidates to pursue three Scottsdale City Council seats:

  • Bill Crawford
  • Kathy Littlefield
  • Linda Milhaven
  • Alyssa Robis
  • David Smith
  • Solange Whitehead

The anticipated general election will occur Tuesday, Nov. 6. The Scottsdale Independent reached out to each candidate to better understand their motivations for seeking public office again — or for the first time.

Scottsdale residents must be registered to vote by Monday, July 30 to be qualified to vote in the upcoming election. Official ballots will be available beginning Wednesday, Aug. 1.

The incumbents

This year’s election cycle will showcase the chase for three seats with those inhabiting those chairs today are not quite ready to give up the local limelight.
The incumbents are: Ms. Littlefield, Mr. Smith and Ms. Milhaven.

Kathy Littlefield. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Kathy Littlefield

Ms. Littlefield, an incumbent finishing her first term, contends she has 25 years of finance and management experience as she co-founded and continues to manage Scottsdale-based computer company, NetXpert Systems.

Her previous professional experience includes several years working in the budget office of the city of Plano, Texas, helping to design and track the departmental budgets.

In addition, her finance background includes serving as the finance director of Girls Ranch, a nonprofit company that was based in Scottsdale. Also, Ms. Littlefield was twice treasurer of her legislative district and has been elected as a state committeewoman.

“I am a native Scottsdale person,” she said. “I grew up in Scottsdale and went to public school here — I care about the city very deeply and care about what happens to (it) in the future.”

Ms. Littlefield, the wife of Bob Littlefield — a former member of Scottsdale City Council — and vocal critic of dense development says she is a proponent of the everyday citizen of The West’s Most Western Town.

“I think Scottsdale is a very unique and special city and I want to help keep it that way for our citizens, our tourists and for anyone who visits or want to stay here,” she explained. “I ran for council to represent the citizens and their desire is just that: to keep Scottsdale special and to keep our future bright.”

A major part of Ms. Littlefield’s political mantra has been advocation for a public vote on the proposed desert-appreciation and research venue, the Desert EDGE.

Desert Discovery Center Scottsdale unveiled its plan for a proposed desert-appreciation venue July 31, 2017. Located on less than six acres just south of the established Gateway trailhead, the center includes a series of structures coined “pavilions” and might cost somewhere between $61.2 and $68.2 million to build.

“I think that is very important to our city and to our city’s future because, at the moment, it is tearing us apart,” Ms. Littlefield said. “I believe the vote of the citizens is appropriate, timely and I hope it comes to pass — I think that is a very divisive subject the way it is. I want to heal that division.”

Linda Milhaven (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Linda Milhaven

Ms. Milhaven, an incumbent finishing her second term, has been serving Scottsdale in various capacities the majority of her adult life.

She has served in numerous volunteer positions including serving as chair of the following entities:

  • The Scottsdale Public Art Board of Trustees;
  • The Board of Directors at the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce; and
  • The Better Business Bureau Board of Directors.

Ms. Milhaven is graduate of Scottsdale Leadership earing the Frank B. Hodges Alumni Achievement Award in 2009. As part of her 30-year banking career at Wells Fargo, she was a community bank president in Scottsdale from 1993 to 2005.

Ms. Milhaven explains the quality of life in Scottsdale knows few bounds and that’s not by accident, she says.

“I think the biggest opportunities I can look forward to is trying to maintain the quality of life of the community,” she said. “The most important thing is to make sure we have a stable and vibrant local economy. Sales tax is such an important part of our tax revenues for us to continue to invest in our community.”

But those sales taxes are not sufficient to make needed infrastructure improvements citywide and Ms. Milhaven raises concerns of where the money will come from.

Scottsdale City Council Tuesday, May 1 — by a 4 to 3 measure — approved a resolution ultimately destined to materialize in a ballot measure where city officials will ask for a .10 percent increase to local sales tax in hopes of raising just over $70 million to help pay for transportation projects.

There are 118 Scottsdale infrastructure projects city leaders have identified carrying an estimated cost of $810 million, but elected leaders readily admit municipal needs exceed existing funding sources and mechanisms.

“We need to figure out how we are going to invest in infrastructure to maintain our quality community,” she said. “I think my expertise helps us get there.”

Ms. Milhaven also points out she believes it’s an exciting time for redevelopment in the southern region of the city.

“I think the redevelopment in the south of our community, we have an opportunity to do some special things,” she said of local developers thinking outside of the development box. “I would point to Fashion Square’s rezoning: what we want more of would be doing better quality projects. I think we have some projects where we can really make them special to help turn around downtown.”

As the horizon of economic prosperity begins to eclipse the doldrums of the Great Recession, Ms. Milhaven points out revenues are up, but a need for reinvestment is lurking.

“We need to have a really good long-term plan on how we are going to maintain the quality of our infrastructure,” she said. “We need to be looking at how we are investing in our community.”

David Smith (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

David Smith

Mr. Smith boasts more than 40 years of financial management experience including serving as Scottsdale’s city treasurer and chief financial officer from October 2009 until he retired in July 2013.

Prior to his employment with the city of Scottsdale, Mr. Smith was the chief financial officer for Amtrak from 2004 to 2007 and served as the CFO for the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest electric utility, from 1995 to 2003.

Mr. Smith says he is a man on a mission — and there is work yet to be done.

“The reason why I am running for re-election is because I am not done yet,” he said. “I had several goals when I ran for council the first time. Some of those have been realized and many of them are a work in progress. The most important is putting us back on a path of financial sustainability.”

A major tenet of Mr. Smith’s current tenure is seeking to abolish a tax on groceries within local limits.

Scottsdale City Council in March 2016 voted to take 1.1 percent of the 1.65 percent retail sales tax assessed on all grocery sales within city limits and funnel those dollars into the capital improvements budget forecast.

The entire 1.65 percent food tax accounted for about $12 million in fiscal year 2016-17, records show

“I have made some progress on that, but we are not there yet,” Mr. Smith said of pursuing the abolishment of a tax on food in Scottsdale.

“Most of my goals and objectives are related to the financial and I consider myself a pragmatic member of council. We need to make sure we are we are preserving certain aspects of our community like the arts and culture.”

Beyond all else, Mr. Smith says he has a No. 1 goal if elected to another term.

“The No. 1 thing to accomplish would be fiscal sustainability,” he said.

The challengers

Three challengers have emerged in pursuit of three seats atop the local governing board with one familiar face and two freshman candidates.

Bill Crawford

Bill Crawford

Mr. Crawford has previously pursued both the mayor’s seat — he dropped out of the race against both then-incumbent Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane and challenger Bob Littlefield in 2016 — and a council seat during each of the last two election cycles respectively.

Mr. Crawford is a longtime business owner and community advocate helping to bring new levels of safety to the entertainment district of Old Town Scottsdale.

Mr. Crawford says he is a strong supporter of Mayor Lane, and if elected, he expects to join forces with the mayor in pursuing his political agenda.

He has owned and operated his business, Basic Training MedX in downtown Scottsdale with his wife, Debbie, since 1997. In 2012, Mr. Crawford was inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame for his lifetime contributions to health and fitness.

Mr. Crawford’s volunteer service includes:

  • Maricopa County Sheriff’s Posse
  • Association to Preserve Downtown Scottsdale’s Quality of Life
  • The StarShine Academy
  • Scottsdale Symphony
  • Olive View Manor Homeowners Association

“For more than 20 years, I have fought tirelessly to protect Scottsdale’s unique brand and quality of life and have successfully advocated for residents, neighborhoods and businesses on critical issues impacting our city,” Mr. Crawford said.

“One of my most notable achievements was working with downtown residents and businesses to address public safety and compatibility concerns regarding the entertainment district in downtown Scottsdale.”

Mr. Crawford says he is a proud husband, father, grandfather and business owner as well as community leader.

“My efforts in collaboration with Mayor Jim Lane were successful and led to a safer downtown through the development and implementation of multiple ordinances and innovative public safety solutions,” he explained of his grassroots efforts.

“I have a proven track record of bringing people together to solve problems. I care deeply about Scottsdale and our future. While working on the mayor’s campaign in 2016, people got to see who I am and what I stand for. I was able to showcase my abilities and gain support. Scottsdale is a great city, and because of Mayor Lane’s leadership, we are making significant progress and seeing real results.”

Mr. Crawford contends his addition to the local governing board will bring a true consensus builder to the table.

“As a councilman, I will continue to build on our city’s success to keep Scottsdale headed in the right direction — such as keeping crime and taxes low and maintaining a strong and vibrant economy,” he said.

Mr. Crawford says a major focus of his tenure — if elected to city council — would be to maintain the quality of life residents enjoy. On a finer point, Mr. Crawford says he intends to:

  • Maintain business-friendly regulatory environment to continue to attract high-quality jobs as well as retain existing employers;
  • Improve transportation infrastructure to relive congestion and ease commutes; and
  • Continue efforts to promote economic vitality that is compatible with Scottsdale’s valuable brand, protect tourism and visitors industry including special events.

Alyssa Robis

Alyssa Robis

Freshman challenger Alyssa Robis says she is Scottsdale through and through.

“I am a 28-year-old female who was born, raised, educated, and employed all in Scottsdale,” she said. “I am direct, honest, intelligent, passionate, righteous, hardworking, and some might even tell you I am funny.”

Ms. Robis says her political ambition was activated by the swirling consternations around the Desert EDGE project.

“Like many in Scottsdale, the Desert Edge debacle, caused me to begin paying attention to the decisions being made by the current Scottsdale City Council,” she said.

“In November 2017, I hit my threshold for the lackadaisical responses from the current council, and decided to attend the November work study session on the topic. When I entered City Hall it was apparent that my generation was vastly under represented by both the citizens attending and the current council.”

With a background in commercial real estate, Ms. Robis says the Millennial generation is more than just smart phones and entitlement.

“At the age of 28, I am a Millennial. My professional background is in commercial real estate. I found much of the data presented at the work study session regarding operating and construction costs to be artificial at best,” she said of her impression at City Hall.  “After this meeting I began consuming as much information as possible on the current council and subsequently their voting records. It was then that I realized that the current council does not serve Scottsdale, but rather a handful of special interests.”

If elected, Ms. Robis says she aims to giver her Scottsdale generation a voice in local politics and the future of the community of Scottsdale.

“I am running for my generation, I am running to disrupt the established political climate, and lastly I am running because I will be a resident of Scottsdale for the next 50 years,” she said. “The current council is on their way out, yet they are setting the stage for the future of Scottsdale, a future I will have to live with, a future that my children will inherit.”

Ms. Robis contends she can elevate the level of “integrity, intelligence and innovation” at Scottsdale City Council.
“How did we get to the point of having approximately $666 million in unfunded capital needs? Why did the council believe they had the right to fund a $68 million tourist facility in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve?” she asked.

“Why were there discussions regarding antiquated transportation technology such as installing a fixed-rail system in Scottsdale as recently as 2016? Citizens can not expect different results, if we continue to elect individuals who are bought and paid for by special interests.”

Solange Whitehead

Solange Whitehead

While Ms. Whitehead is seeking her first term as an elected leader, she has served as a local commissioner and boasts an extensive volunteering background.

“I have worked in a number of capacities,” she said, while providing a letter of endorsement of her professional background.

“In addition to my careers, I have always been engaged in the community through philanthropic activities. I served six years as a city of Scottsdale Preserve Commissioner, I raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities over the years as a founding (volunteer) race director and later an executive director of a nonprofit, the Environmental Fund for Arizona.”

Ms. Whitehead points out in 2009 she was awarded the Arizona Wildlife Federation’s Conservationist of the Year award.

“Most recently, my husband and I provided the funding for Scottsdale Community College’s 3D printing lab,” she said. “I have lived in Scottsdale since 1996. We raised our three kids here.”

Ms. Whitehead contends the financial picture at Scottsdale City Hall is out of whack and she is the one to correct those errors.

“I am running for city council to champion community priorities and fiscal responsibility at City Hall,” she said. “Scottsdale is a world-class city blessed by its natural beauty and a tradition of empowering its diverse, highly-skilled residents resulting in extraordinary achievements such as the creation of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.”

Ms. Whitehead says she believes the cache of the Scottsdale brand is under assault.

“Today, Scottsdale’s brand is being chipped away with rampant up-zoning increasing traffic, harming the character of our neighborhoods and blocking mountain views,” she said. “To sustain Scottsdale’s charm and quality of life, we must re-align city priorities with the community priorities, manage the city budget — our tax dollars — wisely and conservatively, and build back public trust.”

A holistic approach to thought of the future of Scottsdale is a missing element Ms. Whitehead says she can bring to the table.

“A city can be richer just be prioritizing its community,” she said.

“This city has gotten astray. It has been so wowed by expensive consultants with expensive ideas that are not compatible for planet Scottsdale. The priorities at City Hall have gotten way off and we need to align them back to community priorities and then the public dollars.”

Ms. Whitehead says she wants to re-align community needs and wants with municipal desires.

“The first rule is to do no harm — it seems that we have the contractors driving the priorities not staff driving the contractor priorities,” she said.

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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