Glendale mayoral candidates share perspectives before Election Day
PHOENIX — Glendale voters will cast their ballots on Tuesday to either reelect the city’s current mayor or elect a political newcomer.
KTAR News 92.3 FM spoke with both Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers and his challenger Michelle Robertson on Tuesday regarding their backgrounds and political perspectives.
Despite serving four terms in the Arizona House of Representatives before his mayoral election in 2013, Jerry Weiers said “I despise being called a politician.”
Instead, Weiers said he prefers to describe himself as a family man with a 38-year marriage, a daughter and two grandsons. Weiers also noted he is a cancer survivor.
His challenger, Michelle Robertson, doesn’t share Weiers’ disdain for being labeled a politician since she’s not had the opportunity to be referred to as such.
Robertson has served 19 years in the Cartwright Elementary School District as a teacher, content specialist and mentor and currently serves in the human resources office.
She’s also a mother of two daughters.
Robertson described her ideal vision for improving the future of downtown Glendale:
“With the support of various programs and grants, I really want to look at development zones that are nearby where we can perhaps have larger apartment structures or different business buildings that will drive in business to the downtown area, but not change the structural make-up of the downtown area,” she said.
With nearly eight years of service as Glendale’s mayor, Weiers attributes the decline of the downtown area to the younger generations’ lack of interest in many of its once popular store fronts.
“We were pretty much one of the antique capitols of the state,” Weiers said.
“The millennials lost interest – they don’t seem to care about antiques.”
To revitalize the downtown area, Weiers advocated for several events to be hosted over 40 weekends instead of the few large events the city typically hosts — including Glendale Glitters and the Chocolate Experience.
“When you have a large event that people show up from all over the state and other states that do catering … after the event is over, they pack up and leave,” he said.
“That doesn’t help my merchants downtown — in fact, it hurts them.”
Regarding matters of public safety in Glendale, both candidates explained how they would address such issues if victorious in next week’s election.
Among Robertson’s top priorities is increasing staffing among police and fire departments.
“We can’t meet the needs of the community if we’re not staffed appropriately.” she said.
To increase Glendale’s revenue, Weiers’ challenger would like to enable various academies and departments in the city to use the 45 million-dollar Glendale Regional Public Safety Training Center for multiple training uses.
“Public safety quite honestly is huge,” Weiers said. “It’s two thirds of our budget.”
“There has not been a year we have not approved their [public safety] budget. Every time we have had events come to us where fire says, ‘we need a new fire truck’ or police says, ‘we need more cars’ –- we’ve given it to them every freaking time.”
He added the city has decreased the crime rate and has a better ratio of firefighters to residents when compared to cities such as Surprise, Peoria and Gilbert. Weiers also claimed that the response times of Glendale’s emergency personnel are faster than most cities.
The city of Glendale attracted media attention last year after it initially denied a veteran fire captain workers’ compensation after he was diagnosed with cancer — which he contracted on the job.
Glendale Fire Capt. Kevin Thompson had served over two decades with the department prior to his cancer diagnosis. For roughly four months, Thompson paid out of pocket for his cancer treatment.
“A concern for me is the way in which the cancer claims were handled,” Robertson said.
“I find it appalling that it took getting the media involved for the city to become advocates for our employees.”
“It was reversed,” Weiers said of the initial compensation denial.
“… When we found out we actually could [approve the workers’ compensation claim], we did.”
Finally, the candidates also shared their thoughts on policies concerning Glendale schools resuming eduction amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“That’s something [determining coronavirus-related education policy] the city doesn’t do,” Weiers said.
“The governor gave that responsibility to the school districts.”
Weiers added that there has to be some sense of normalcy for kids to learn in an educational setting. He said he’s unsure how that will unfold, but hopes to see both online and in-person options available.
Robertson advocated that the upcoming school year look different for each individual person and their unique situation.
“When it comes to education, it’s not about trying to reproduce content and worksheets, but maybe focusing on skills like reading, problem solving and communication,” she said.
With the school year fast approaching, Robertson added she’s worried about the digital divide in education.
“There are structural inequities; not everyone has the access to laptops and internet services that make digital learning as easy as possible.”
Robertson also said she believes the return to in-person learning needs to be data-driven.
Those interested can find more information about the election for Glendale mayor online.