News article -- Gilbert Republic, June 17, 2008
Leadership winner 'the best ambassador'
Jim Fickess, The Arizona Republic
People who assume all academics sequester themselves in ivy towers have never met Dr. Maria
If there is a meeting of Gilbert community leaders, Hesse, president of Chandler-Gilbert Community
College, is there.
She is the recipient of the 2008 Gilbert Leadership Award, sponsored by the town's Chamber of
Commerce. The chamber's annual awards will be presented at a luncheon today.
quot;A community college has an obligation to serve the community,quot; Hesse said. quot;You can only do that
well if you are out there and know the community.
quot;We ask everyone to be out there in the community,quot; Hesse said. quot;I feel humbled getting awards
like this. It isn't me who should get it on the behalf of the college when everyone is out there.quot;
Hesse, 53, took over for founding CGCC President Arnette Ward in 2002.
The community responsibilities have grown with CGCC and the surrounding area.
Hesse joined the community college in 1987, just after its campus opened on Pecos Road near the
Now, Chandler-Gilbert Community Colleges has three locations, 14,000 students seeking academic
credits, 4,000 non-credit students and 600 full or part-time employees.
As the name implies, the college serves more than one community.
quot;There's been Chandler and Gilbert and now Queen Creek, also,quot; said Hesse, a Gilbert resident
whose daughter recently graduated from Mesquite High and is headed to Northern Arizona
University. quot;We are charged with serving these three Southeast Valley communities.quot;
Part of that is providing leadership, which Hesse defines as quot;the ability to move a group of people to
a common or shared goal.quot;
At CGCC, the main goal is providing the capacity to serve a growing student population.
quot;There are more students who want to come and take certain courses and subjects than what we
can offer,quot; she said. quot;We are looking at solutions, such as offering more online courses.quot;
Hesse follows another educator, former Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent and current
Northern Arizona University professor Wally Delecki, whom she describes as a friend and mentor,
in winning the chamber's leadership award.
And, it would be hard to find a bigger fan of Hesse than Delecki.
quot;Maria is simply the best ambassador for Chandler-Gilbert and the entire Gilbert community,quot;
Delecki said. quot;She reflects the true mission of leadership, which is service to people.
quot;When you look to volunteering in the community, please let me know a group or committee that
Maria isn't on, helping out on her personal time. She is bright, efficient and organized, but her best
quality is kindness. Never underestimate the power of kindness.quot;
News article -- Gilbert Republic, Aug. 23, 2008
Home auction points to stark contrast
Behind the well-maintained models being sold are empty dirt lots of failed development
Jim Fickess, The Arizona Republic
The auction signs pointing to a Gilbert neighborhood also lead drivers to a stark real estate
The seven model homes at the Marque at Cooley Station border a well-maintained green belt with
three homes a stone's throw from the community pool.
They are part of the quot;published minimum bidquot; auction being conducted Sept. 14 by Beverly Hills-
based Kennedy Wilson Auction Group.
But look beyond those houses in the Trend Homes development south of Warner Road between
Higley and Recker roads and you'll see signs of the collapsed real estate market.
A patch of vacant lots sits north of model-home row. Drive a block to the west and scaffolding still
surrounds multifamily structures where work stopped weeks ago.
Najafi Cos. LLC purchased Trend Homes Inc. in June for $86.5 million, following the Gilbert home
builder's emergence from bankruptcy proceedings.
Those market realities lead to events such as the Sept. 14 auction.
Kennedy Wilson will be selling 30 model homes in four Valley developments, including two in
Gilbert - the Lakes of Annecy, northeast of Val Vista Drive and Pecos Road, and the Marque at
The minimum offers, which the sellers must accept if no one bids them up, range from $90,000 to
$375,000 for houses that were previously priced at $184,950 to $759,950.
The minimum bids for the seven Marquee model homes run from $115,000 to $245,000. They
range from 1,750 to 2,450 square feet with five three-bedrooms and two two-bedrooms.
As one walks through the well-appointed, never-lived-in models, it's not hard to imagine them
commanding more than twice that amount during the boom times of a couple years ago. Most have
custom flooring, upgraded appliances and custom window treatments.
Like many builders, Trend had sold the houses and leased them back to use as models, said
Ginger Hoggarth, a Kennedy Wilson property manager.
Now, that private owner wants to sell them, Hoggarth said, and is taking the auction route.
Auction buyers are usually a mix of people purchasing a home and investors, Hoggarth said.
quot;Usually the investors are interested in houses that hold around the minimum bid,quot; she said. quot;They
are thinking about how much money they can lease it for. People looking for a home are more
interested in the upgrades and amenities so tend to bid higher.quot;
Information about Sept. 14 auction: www.kennedywilson.com
News article - Gilbert Republic, Oct. 10, 2008
Baseball player hits 1 out of park for kids,
Jim Fickess, The Arizona Republic
Shea Hillenbrand greets you with the kind of handshake that's strengthened from a life of working
the farm or swinging a baseball bat.
The bat gig didn't work out for the Mesa native this major-league season, allowing him a chance to
pursue a dream of running an animal rescue ranch.
Hillenbrand and his wife, Jessica, daughter of a veterinarian, have owned Marley Farms in far south
Gilbert for 1 1/2 years. The 25-acre spread, named for the Hillenbrands' 12-year-old miniature
schnauzer who died right before they bought the property, is seeking groups of children to visit its
quot;We are looking primarily for three types of kids -- inner city, disabled and those in child crisis
centers,quot; Hillenbrand said Tuesday morning while leading a tour of about 20 children from Mesa's
quot;I have been blessed to be able to live my dream and Jessica and I have been blessed to be in a
position to help.quot;
Hillenbrand, who played at Mesa Community College before turning pro, is no gentleman farmer.
He says he and Jessica tend to the approximately 100 petting zoo residents, 80 percent of which
are rescue animals.
Besides the petting zoo, the ranch has boarding and training facilities that include 135 stalls, four
arenas and four trainers. It also has a feed store.
There is another 13 acres that can be developed, including the possibility of building a house there.
The Hillenbrand family, which includes adopted children Austin, 3 1/2; Dakota, 2; and Noah, almost
2, lives about two miles from Marley Farms in Gilbert's Greenfield Estates.
quot;I was born a farmer but grew up in the city,quot; said Hillenbrand, who said he bought his first horse
after his rookie major-league season in 2001, with the Boston Red Sox.
The 33-year-old wants to get back into The Show. A career .284 hitter over seven seasons,
including 2003-04 with the Diamondbacks, the infielder was a free agent this season but there
weren't any takers in a slow market.
While Hillenbrand looks like he could step right back into the batter's box in front of tens of
thousands of fans, he's making a big difference in a much smaller arena.
quot;This place gives kids a chance to get away from their lives for a couple of hours,quot; he said while
guiding the Sunshine Acres crew through the petting zoo.
It was hard to tell who was enjoying themselves more Tuesday morning -- Hillenbrand or the kids.
For more information about Marley Farms and its petting zoo tours for disadvantaged children:
Column, Gilbert Republic, Aug. 29, 2008
Keeping theater Hale and Healthy
Like other business owners, David and Corrin Dietleinare having to work harder and smarter to
keep their operation, the Hale Centre Theatre, healthy.
Changes in the way business is being done at the downtown Gilbert venue include:
-- A remodeled Web site (www.haletheatrearizona.com) that makes it easy to buy tickets online.
-- The addition of Thursday night shows this year, bringing to four the total per week (Thursday,
Friday, Saturday matinee and evening).
-- A new performance genre. The Hale, in its fifth year of productions, will be presenting its first
thriller, Wait Until Dark, starting Sept. 4.
That play, based on the 1968 movie starring Audrey Hepburn, offers Hale-goers a 180-degree
change from its summer fare, The Music Man, which David Dietlein says has been popular. It's
typical of the classic musicals the Dietleins have staged in their five years in Gilbert.
-- A lot more work for the Dietleins.
“We've always worked 80-hour weeks but have had to work extremely hard; days and nights of
reducing costs everywhere we can,” David said. “Rather than having outside people come in to
help, Corinn and I have had to do more things ourselves.”
While the Hale is feeling the economy, it hasn't been hurt as hard as some other Valley live venues.
Dietlein said that since live productions throughout the Valley depend on winter seasonal visitors,
it's hard to tell if summer or the economy is affecting the gate.
“Audiences have continued to come in but it's not always a sellout,” he said.
Dietlein attributes his theater's relative success to its affordability.
Ticket prices in the intimate setting (330-370 seats depending on production) range from $17-$24.
“That's about half or less than other theaters in town,” he said. “You don't have to buy a dinner to
see a show. If you are cutting back, you can eat at home and then come.
“By the time you go to a movie and buy concessions, you could have seen live (theater) at the
The Hale doesn't plan on trying to increase revenue by raising prices.
“We believe theater should be affordable for anybody,” Dietlein said.
Heck, the $17 you'd spend for a ticket at Hale would barely cover the service charge for an
overpriced Broadway series ticket in the ASU Gammage's nose-bleed third balcony.
Column, Gilbert Republic, Aug. 22, 2008
Entrepreneurial energy flowing
It's no secret that the birth of the Gilbert Small Business Alliance this summer was sparked by
discontent with the town's Chamber of Commerce.
While the jury is still out on the need for – and the effectiveness of – the upstart alliance, one
couldn't help but be impressed with the entrepreneurial energy heating up an already warm Gilbert
Historical Museum meeting room at Thursday night's alliance meeting.
There was more productive networking and business being done there than almost any chamber
meeting I've attended.
That's not a knock against the chamber and its leadership. Longtime Gilbert chamber
president/CEO Kathy Langdon is one of the most knowledgeable, professional chamber execs I've
known. She is the opposite of the quot;sun's-always-shining-because-I-am-a-good-boyquot; mentality that
has given that profession a bad reputation.
If you're going to get something out of such organizations, you need to put something in. And, a lot
of the chamber attendees are corporate types whose job description includes attendance at such
They are a different breed than the small-business owner.
But both must succeed in tough economic times. There was some talk at Thursday night's alliance
meeting about the chamber having a role in the rash of business closings.
Such finger-pointing ignores the economic reality that the real estate slowdown has had an
inevitable effect on Gilbert business.
Earlier Thursday, I was touring model homes that will be auctioned off next month. A couple of
years ago, people were on waiting lists to buy those houses, whose prices were soaring.
That market reversal greatly affects commerce in a Valley economy where one in three dollars
generated comes from real estate and related businesses.
While competition is great, sometimes cooperation is better.
If some of the alliance start-up enthusiasm could be combined with the chamber's expertise and
experience, the whole Gilbert business community could benefit.
Column -- Gilbert Republic, Aug. 12, 2006
Heated exchange of ideas can be civil
Jim Fickess, The Arizona Republic
Cynthia Dunham, a Plugged In Southeast Valley blogger, and I came away from two different
political forums at Chandler-Gilbert Community College this summer with the same word stuck in
our minds: Civility.
Dunham, the executive director of the Leadership Centre at CGCC and former Gilbert mayor, wrote
in an Aug. 3 blog (seblogs.azcentral.com) how she was impressed that students were asking
questions about civility to District 21 legislative candidates in an event she had moderated the night
CGCC President Maria Hesse outlined the school's Statement on Civility before a Gilbert Chamber
of Commerce District 22 forum I attended on July 19.
(District 22 covers most of Gilbert, southeast Mesa and parts of Pinal County while 21 includes
most of Chandler, Sun Lakes, Queen Creek and parts of Gilbert and Mesa.)
It's a good idea to stress civil behavior before any civic or political gathering. It's a better idea that
CGCC, which will be welcoming more the 9,000 students when classes start Monday, makes it part
of the curriculum.
The Statement of Civility was developed a couple of years ago as part of a CGCC initiative on
citizen engagement, Hesse explained.
quot;We want students to take a more-active stance in the community,quot; she said.
quot;In some of the first forums, students would come almost angry with pre-conceived notions,quot; Hesse
A committee drafted the civility statement, which is incorporated in introductions of those events.
quot;We wanted to get students to realize that even if you've made up your mind, there is value in
understanding the other side,quot; Hesse said. Noel Morelos, a CGCC political science professor who
has played a key role in drafting and implementing the civility statement, says encouraging civil
behavior is part of being objective.
quot;It allows students and college constituents to see both sides, focus on the topic and decide for
themselves,quot; said the Gilbert resident, who points out that during a healthy exchange of ideas
questions can both be heated and civil.
Morelos said one of his first duties this fall will be to put the Statement of Civility on the CGCC Web
CGCC isn't the only Southeast Valley institution of higher education where civility is being
Doug Anderson, the dean of Penn State University's college of communication, stressed its
importance in his convocation address last fall to Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School
of Journalism and Mass Communication.
quot;Be cerebral,quot; the former Cronkite school director told the students. quot;But be civil and sincere.quot;
Good words for all of us to follow.
Column -- Gilbert Republic, July 19, 2007
Going (for the) green
Gilbert's Riparian Preserve, long hailed for its ecological contributions, is increasingly being touted
as an economic driver.
Migratory and wintering birds aren't the only creatures flocking to the water recharge ponds near
Greenfield and Guadalupe roads. The preserve has drawn a half-million visitors since it opened in
2000, was designated the Valley's only Important Birding Area by the Audubon Society earlier this
year and faces the prospect of being joined by a similar facility in south Gilbert in about three years.
It's even drawing summer events, such as Saturday morning's Maricopa Audubon Society
Dragonfly and Damselfly Walk.
The walk will start at 7 a.m. Saturday at the Riparian Preserve, 2757 E. Guadalupe Road. A $5
donation is requested. Information: www.riparianinstitute.org
One of the organizers of Saturday's walk praises Gilbert's foresight in turning a water recharge area
into a preserve and urges the town to capitalize on the tourist potential.
“Gilbert is a smart city,” said Bob Witzeman, who's been active in the county Audubon society since
moving to Phoenix in 1958. “People come out here as winter visitors and many want to go bird
“Places like the Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo each have their own merit but the
Riparian Preserve offers something unique.”
A similar facility near Ocotillo and Higley roads in south Gilbert will be completed in about three
“The second place will draw the same kind of birds,” Witzeman said. “It will suck them in like a
Gilbert is realizing that potential, says Scott Anderson, director of the town-funded Riparian Institute
since its inception.
“The real thought is to try to increase the value of these for tourism,” Anderson said.
At least one Town Council member has been floating the idea of increasing the preserves' tourism
and educational potentials by adding galleries, classrooms and a small auditorium to attract
lectures and performances to the southern site.
It makes a lot of sense. The current corporate jungle has businesses of all sizes and shapes
throwing elbows to prove who's the most Earth-friendly to suddenly environment-obsessed
Why shouldn't Gilbert, which has been seeking a marketing identity, capitalize on the town leaders'
forward ecological thinking and go for the green, as in tourist dollars?
Online blog – gilibert.azcentral.com, Oct. 22, 2008
A Whiter shade of pale
They could have piped Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale into Tuesday night's joint meeting
among Gilbert's Town Council, Design Review Board and Planning and Redevelopment
The makeup of the meeting in Room 300 of the municipal center was about as White as its walls.
Of the approximate 20 members from the four public decision-making bodies, there was only one
person who was clearly non-Anglo, a Latina.
And, town professional staff in attendance appeared to be all Anglo.
This isn't the first time I've railed about the lack of diversity in Gilbert leadership. A combined
meeting of the Gilbert Town Council and Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board that I wrote about
in April was almost equally as White.
As I pointed out at the time of that meeting, maybe there were other diverse groups represented as
the only criterion being used was visual. Diversity is a lot more than race – it includes such factors
as religion, age, economics and sexual orientation.
This is not a knock against the credentials of anyone involved in Tuesday night's meeting. I would
be the last person to be critical of the predominant demographic of the group – White males middle-
aged and older.
I've participated in meetings where most everyone looked similar to me and others where there was
a broader spectrum of appearances and backgrounds. The meetings that have variety of members
almost always come up with more visionary and universally appealing ideas than those comprised
of boring White guys.
It's hard to imagine a more mundane topic than the one discussed Tuesday – updating the town's
general plan. But that plan will be key in determining what kind of community Gilbert will be when it
One message was clear from Tuesday night's meeting – Gilbert's decision makers want as much
input as possible from the town's residents.
A more wide-ranging, diverse chorus of voices will serve the town's future well.
Online blog – gilbert.azcentral.com, Sept. 17, 2008
Role reversal: Higley employee interned here
Roles were reversed at this morning's Higley Unified School District's Community &
Business Partner Breakfast.
One of the main purposes of the quarterly meeting is to have officials of the southeast Gilbert
district and community members discuss how the schools can better prepare students for the
But today, one of the featured school district employees got some of his training in the private
sector -- namely The Republic. Carlos Espinosa, whose photographs of Higley district
activities provided an introduction to the meeting, also runs the district's Web site.
Before he went to work for Higley, Carlos interned as a graphics artist in our Mesa
information center through a program with Mesa Community College.
Online blog – gilbert.azcentral.com, Jan. 23, 2008
Girl fight at Gilbert High
The story coming out of Tuesday night's Gilbert Public Schools governing board meeting makes me
glad my children are through with the high school years.
A mother asked board members to rethink the district's policy for students who hit back in self-
defense. She said her daughter received the same 10-day suspension as the instigator of a fight at
On one hand, I can understand the mother's frustration -- in some situations you need to physically
stand up for yourself.
On the other hand, schools need a no-retaliation policy or we'd need to staff our junior highs and
high schools with hockey linesmen to break up the fights.
Parents of junior and senior high students – how do you advise your children to behave if they find
themselves in such a situation?
Should they fight back?
If they are bystanders, should they be doing more than recording the fight on their cell phones?
How would you address this situation if you were a GPS board member or administrator?
Please share your thoughts.