ARIZONA NEWS

Gilbert mayor says she is not seeking reelection in wake of youth violence controversy

Jan 26, 2024, 7:05 AM | Updated: 10:15 am

Split image Gilbert Mayor Brigette Peterson and the town's landmark water tower...

Brigette Peterson began her term as the mayor of Gilbert in January 2021. (Town of Gilbert Photos)

(Town of Gilbert Photos)

PHOENIX — Gilbert Mayor Brigette Peterson announced Thursday she will not run for reelection this year.

“I have just over 11 months remaining as mayor,” Peterson said in a statement. “I will continue to give 110%.”

Her decision not to run for the mayoral seat came after public scrutiny over her handling of youth violence in the town following the death of Preston Lord, a teen from Gilbert.

Lord, 16, was assaulted outside a Halloween party in Queen Creek on Oct. 28, 2023, and he died two days later at a hospital.

Media reports and social media accounts have implicated group of violent youths known as the Gilbert Goons in the attack on Lord and other assaults in the East Valley. Multiple young adults and teens have been arrested in recent weeks in multiple assault cases.

The attacks have been going on for years. Gilbert Police Chief Michael Soelberg said his department is investigating youth violence cases that date back to 2022 during a Thursday press conference.

Gilbert Mayor Brigette Peterson accused of inaction, apathy

The first time Peterson publicly addressed the recent spike in youth violence was during a Jan. 9 Town Council meeting.

When public comments began, multiple people critiqued her for not attending marches honoring Lord and failing to reassure the community that children are safe in Gilbert.

One man who gave a public comment, identified only by the first name Brandon, accused her of childish, vindictive and embarrassing behavior.

“In part due to her failed leadership, we now have a group of entitled, punk little thugs going around beating innocent people to death for no reason and getting away with it,” he said.

Peterson later said although her heart broke for Lord’s family, the public shouldn’t want town leaders to involve themselves in teen violence cases.

“We didn’t know about this topic,” she said. “As councilmembers, we are not privy to information, which we shouldn’t be. You should not want us to have that information.”

Peterson didn’t acknowledge the youth violence issue in her Thursday announcement. She said she was grateful for the opportunity to help the community.

“Almost 15 months ago, my grandson was born,” Peterson said. “Life is short and I am choosing to focus my energy on my family.”

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Gilbert mayor says she is not seeking reelection in wake of youth violence controversy