Mayor Spotlight: Mayor Adolfo Gámez, City of Tolleson

Name, title & city/town:
Mayor Adolfo F. Gámez, City of Tolleson
Year elected to office: 1981
Years served as mayor: 20
Hometown: Tolleson

City of Tolleson
Incorporated: 1929
Population: 6,545
Elevation: 976 ft.
County: Maricopa
Area within Limits: 6 sq. mi.

Why did you decide to serve in local government?
At the age of 17, I realized the power parks and recreation holds over the quality of relationships and leadership development among youth as a Little League Baseball coach. During those formative years my best friend, James Cardona, and I made an oath to each other that one day we would make a difference in the lives of Tolleson's children. Immediately upon graduation from Northern Arizona University, I returned to Tolleson to uphold our oath. In my first public service position as a social worker for the Tolleson Elementary School District, I began to harness the power of parks and recreation every day on the school playground by throwing footballs through the chests of so many children calling for the ball. Those children weren't just hoping to catch a pass; they sought acknowledgement and praise from a caring adult.

What are the biggest challenges facing your city today?
The ultimate challenge is combating the public perception that Tolleson is not a progressive community that matches the quality of service delivery of its compatriot communities throughout the Phoenix Metropolitan Region. Too many assume, based upon geographic and population size, that Tolleson lacks sophistication, when in fact the opposite is true.

What opportunities do you see for your community?
Tolleson's opportunities are infinite as we take great pride to embody a regional approach to governance and economic development for which the West Valley is renowned. Often, when engaged by a Tolleson official one will hear, "Tolleson may be small, but we're in the middle of it all," or in Spanish, "Chiquito pero picoso!" which loosely translated means, "Small but very spicy!"

In all seriousness, Tolleson is known as the employment center of the Southwest Valley, boasting numerous Fortune 500 companies encapsulated within our six square miles. Most recently, we have managed to take advantage of our primary perceived weakness, truck traffic, and converted it into perhaps our greatest strength. Tolleson proudly serves as the home to Freightliner Arizona, Peterbilt Rush Truck, Inland Kenworth, and Utility Trailer dealerships, all of whom have solidified, and diversified Tolleson's fiscal future.

What are you most proud of during your time in office?
I am most proud of my senior administration; they are all homegrown babies. Each of the administrators who were raised in Tolleson are products of a network of caring adults who mentored them and developed their leadership qualities. This informal network's belief system is formalized and embodied by the Tolleson Teen Council, which has brought my original intent to enter public service to fruition.

The Tolleson Teen Council precisely emulates the regular city council. Youth from the community run for office hoping to win the teen mayor, vice mayor, or councilmember seat. This program is recognized throughout the country as one of the most innovative youth initiatives since it literally designs and implements youth programs for the entire city of Tolleson. Their passion and pertinent leadership guarantees that youth services remain relevant to the children of Tolleson. Future civic leadership emerges from the Tolleson Teen Council.

Why is the League important to cities and towns in Arizona?
The primary role the League plays for Tolleson is that of its conduit to all other municipalities throughout the state and the nation. Equally profound is the tenacity with which League staff ensures that communities of limited human resources remain abreast of legislative activity so that we may take thoughtful, informed positions.

League of Arizona Cities and Towns
1820 W. Washington St.
Phoenix, AZ  85007
Phone: 602-258-5786
Fax: 602-253-3874

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