Councilman John Williams’ Quarterly Newsletter – Sept. 2014

What’s Happening at City Hall?

New Leadership Team
As many of you have observed, since City Manager Chris Hillman left us for Irving, Texas, there have been a number of administrative changes. We have a new City Manager, Bob Wingenroth, who brings a positive servant leadership approach to our community. I am very excited to have Bob on board, and I have the utmost confidence that he has the expertise, professional tact, compassion for others, perseverance and tenacity to be a great leader for our City.

City Manager Bob Wingenroth
City Manager Bob Wingenroth
Assistant City Manager Rick Buss
Assistant City Manager Rick Buss
Assistant City Manger April Reynolds
Assistant City Manger April Reynolds









Mr. Wingenroth has chosen April Reynolds and Rick Buss as his Assistant City Managers. Rick Buss is a long-time public servant who brings years of expertise in the area of economic and community development. Formerly, he served as the Town Manager for Gila Bend where he led groundbreaking efforts in sustainable energy and economic development. Mr. Buss is responsible for the Public Works, Economic Development and Community Development Departments.

April Reynolds was promoted to Assistant City Manager after years of serving as our Human Resources Director. Mrs. Reynolds, a four year veteran of the US Air Force, has been employed with our City for 10 years. She is responsible for the Human Resources, Communications and IT Departments.

Youth Services Administrator
I am very excited to announce the hiring of Paul Bernardo in the capacity of Youth Services Administrator. Paul’s resume is very impressive and he brings with him a wealth of knowledge, experience and credentials from previous positions he held with two other municipalities, the Boys and Girls Club of America and the YMCA.

Paul Bernardo
Paul Bernardo

The Youth Services Administrator is a new position within the City that supports and promotes civic engagement for all ages. There are times when we, as a community, are not fully engaged or invested. There are many factors for the apathy that exist, some of which are related to our very busy lives, long commutes and slow-to-recover economy that have forced other issues in our daily lives to take precedence. That said, our duties as citizens are to ensure our leadership is held accountable and to do that, we must activate our civil liberties. To regain this passion and demonstrate the importance of civic engagement, the Youth Services Administrator will be responsible for promoting youth engagement, initiating projects to build a stronger community and utilizing talent and resources to erase the barriers that exist whether age, socioeconomic, or otherwise. I’m excited to have Paul on board, and I’m confident that he will bring passion to the job and model the behaviors reflective of a civic leader in our community.

Youth Master Plan
Over the past several months, I’ve met with a number of school principals and education leaders. The purpose of these meetings is to continue to build relationships with all educational institutions, analyze what we are doing well, and then plan for the future as part of the construction of a Youth Master Plan. The Youth Master Plan will define what we need to plan for to meet the needs of growing families in Surprise. We all know that youth are grossly underserved, and as we climb out of the economic meltdown, we must prioritize and make critical program and development decisions so that we are truly meeting the needs of Surprise youth and families. The Master Plan will be constructed by Surprise youth, so if you have a son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild, friend, or neighbor who might want to contribute, send them my way!

Youth Civic Leaders Program
The Surprise Youth Civic Leaders Program (YCLP) is designed to improve the level of activity and engagement among youth and all residents within the City of Surprise. The YCLP is not a formal commission; therefore, it has no limitations on participation. Selection into the program is based on specific criteria outlined in detail on the YCLP application and the completion of a panel interview with members of the Surprise City Council. The program is open to all Surprise high school students. To download the application, please visit

Education Update

Dysart Unified School District
I am pleased to say that Dysart Unified School District has been representing our City very well over the last year with a variety of awards and accolades. Most recently, the Washington, D.C. Center for America Progress identified Dysart as one of the top districts in Arizona with high achievement despite a low-cost operations budget. The 2014 Return on Educational Investment report compared the District’s operational budget to state test results in math and reading, school enrollment, special education student stats, student poverty numbers and federal cost-of-living information. Additionally, Dysart Unified School District received a 2014 Accountability Profile label of “A” from the Arizona Department of Education.

Shadow Ridge High School
The Shadow Ridge High School Signature Architecture Program is, for the second time, SkillsUSA National Champions for Architectural Drafting. The SRHS Signature Architecture Program is now the top-rated high school architectural drafting program in the nation.

In addition to the aforementioned award, Shadow Ridge High School was also named a 2014 Best High School and earned a bronze medal from U.S. News and World Report. This year’s accomplishments include Signature Architecture Program student Reed Freeman being awarded the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Rensselaer Medalist Scholarship, Daniel Cox becoming the school’s first athlete (wrestling) to win a state championship and the boys varsity basketball team advancing to the state playoffs.

Valley Vista High School
Valley Vista High School was also recently named a 2014 Best High School and earned a bronze medal from U.S. News and World Report, a recognized publisher of education news and information.

Sunset Hills Elementary School
Karen Winterstein, Principal of Sunset Hills Elementary School, has earned the prestigious title of 2014 Principal of the Year by the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

Imagine Prep & Arizona Charter Academy
Students from Imagine Prep and Arizona Charter Academy participated in the Capitol Scholars Program over the last few months. I sponsored the awards ceremony for the schools to acknowledge the students who participated and the teachers who guided them. The Capitol Scholars Program was developed a few years ago by Representative Rick Gray. City Hall hosted the program workshops, which began in April. The workshops included discussions on writing, research, transforming bills into ideas, debating and public speaking, and more. The students will travel to the State Capitol on September 26th to present the bills they created and to participate in a mock legislative session.

Image Prep Students
Students participating in the Capitol Scholars Program

The Capitol Scholars Program Awards Ceremony was held in the Mayor’s Atrium on Friday, September 5th. I am so proud of the students who participated. The hard work and creativity of the participants is exceptional!

CM Williams 1
Addressing the reception attendees.
CM Williams 2
Me and Rep. Rick Gray at the reception.

Transportation Update

Waddell & 175th Interchange
Residents, school parents and others have raised the issue of the traffic flowing east and west on Waddell Road between Cotton Lane and Verde Vista, especially during the AM and PM traffic volume peaks. The most common question is why westbound traffic is prevented from turning left onto 175th Avenue. This concern is valid and it clearly impacts traffic negatively in this area.

I recently met with City staff to champion improvements in this area. Our Public Works Department is now in the process of conducting a traffic study, including the redesign of the median and westbound lanes, to allow vehicles to safely turn left onto 175th Avenue. While we are still identifying a construction timeline, the City is targeting winter break as an ideal time to make the improvements since the two nearby schools are not in session at that time. Please do not hesitate to contact me or Mike Gent, Interim Public Works Director, at

Bell & Grand Avenue Interchange
Big changes are coming to the City’s busiest intersection as ADOT prepares for improvements at Bell Road and Grand Avenue. Plans will allow ADOT to construct a new Bell Road bridge to travel over both Grand Avenue and the adjacent Burlington Northern Sante Fe railroad tracks. The bridge will eliminate the existing intersection where Bell Road is currently located. This option minimizes impact to area businesses. Construction is set to begin in late 2015.

Grand Avenue will connect to the new Bell Road bridge via on and off ramps traveling to and from Grand Avenue’s center median area. This particular option was supported by City Council as well as the majority of residents in a city-wide survey. For more information, you can visit or email

HOA Information

If you would like me or any of the City staff to attend your meetings, please let me know. We would appreciate the opportunity to be present and available. You can email me with your request or call me via my contact information below.

Mark Your Calendar!

District 3 Meetings
I am looking for a number of Surprise residents, both young and experienced, that will be willing to meet monthly to provide insight into the growing needs of our City and our District. The only requirements are that you live in, work in, or operate a business in District 3. If you are interested, please email as soon as possible. The first meeting is scheduled for September 18 at 5 p.m. at City Hall. This meeting will be a free-flowing discussion on issues important to those members, as well as an opportunity for me to review some major decisions coming up and gather community feedback. Please RSVP to me, prior to September 15, at

Surprise Fiesta Grande
Mark your calendar so you can attend the Surprise Fiesta Grande on October 4th from noon until 9 p.m. The Surprise Fiesta Grande will be a street-style festival along Grand Avenue and Hollyhock Street. Admission will be free! There will be live music, dancing, a classic car show, a kid zone with piñatas and interactive games, authentic Mexican food, festive beverages, chalk art, a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, an adult softball tournament and much more. We hope to see you there!
Surprose Fiesta Grande
Check Your Email Account
My new City Council website will be ready beginning in October. Please be sure to check it for valuable information affecting District 3 and the City. Additionally, we will be sending updates via email providing you sign up for my newsletter through Notify Me. Please click here to sign-up. I am honored to represent District 3 and I’m always looking for ways to keep you informed!

Please note that I will be sending my newsletters quarterly. Thank you!

Did You Know?

Facts and Figures of Surprise AZ



Age Is Not A Boundary To Leadership

I believe that engaging young people in civic leadership roles can revolutionize a city. It helps to create interest in future service, and it allows current leaders to understand how to better meet the needs of the city’s youth. Here are some of the ways we are engaging youth in Surprise:

Youth Leadership Commission (YLC): Open to all Surprise High School Students. This program is designed to improve the level of activity and engagement among youth and all Surprise residents with the City of Surprise. The YLC is not a formal commission, therefore has no limitations on participation, but selection into the program is based on specific criteria outlined in detail on the YLC application and the completion of a panel interview with members of the Surprise City Council.

Here are some of the initiatives that our Youth Leadership Commission members can participate in:

  • Scholarship to National League of Cities Conference The youth leadership scholarship provides outstanding young Surprise citizens the opportunity to attend the National League of Cities Conference in Washington, DC as youth representatives for the City of Surprise. Participants in the Youth Leadership Commission program must meet the following criteria to qualify for the scholarship:


  1. Participation as an intern for the Mayor and Council for a period of no less than one month. Students serve on the dais with City Council members during all regularly scheduled meetings and Council Workshops. Students can actively participate and engage in discussion items, but cannot vote or attend executive sessions.
  2. Demonstration of their engagement in volunteer work within the community, school and at home.
  3. Student in good standing at their school.
  4. Resume and two references (one scholastic/professional and one personal).
  5. Completion of the Surprise Youth Leadership Scholarship Application.
  6. Completion of a community service project or initiative.
  • Surprise Community Service Project Initiative


Students work on a project team that will be responsible for initiating and implementing a community service project.

Students will work with an adult mentor whom will help facilitate and guide the project Community service hours will be logged for their participation and will be submitted as part of the scholarship application.

Once the project is implemented each group will give a formal presentation that describes the entire planning and implementation process including project preparation, implementation, the collaborative process they went through, road bumps along the way and how they were managed, and an assessment on the success or failure of the project.

  • Leadership Development

As part of the program students will participate in quarterly leadership training sessions. Students whom complete all leadership training sessions will receive recognition in May for their efforts.

Surprise, Open For Business

As Surprise has grown in population, it has grown in offerings. We have ballpark that attracts spring training visitors from all over and one of the largest public tennis facilities in the country. We have attracted great restaurants and shopping, and now, we are seeing more big businesses making Surprise their home. It’s an exciting time for the city!

In the last couple of years, we have seen business that have located here, grow! Southwest Products, an industrial diesel engine company, finished construction of 165,000 square feet of headquarters and manufacturing facilities in 2013. They have grown their number of employees 50% since then!

And new businesses are moving in. Cobalt Medical Development is constructing a 50,000 square foot advanced rehabilitation facility that is expected to create 125 jobs. Cobalt’s CEO Richard Fiske said, “As we looked nationally for a location, Surprise stood out due its collaborative approach to business development.”

Surprise also supports early-stage technology-based companies. The city’s AZ TechCelerator is designed to help these types of companies reach the next stage in their business plan businesses by providing affordable space and the tools and resources needed to help businesses grow.AZ TechCelerator, a four-building campus, totaling nearly 60,000 square feet is designed to accommodate your needs and provide you with the affordable space, tools and resources to grow your business.

If you would like to find out more about the city’s economic development incentives, click here. And if you are interested in learning more about AZ TechCelerator, click here.AZ TechCelerator, a four-building campus, totaling nearly 60,000 square feet is designed to accommodate your needs and provide you with the affordable space, tools and resources to grow your business.

Youth Master Plan In Development

It’s an exciting time in Surprise!  You can feel the city coming into its own. We are growing into a well-rounded community where families can enjoy a healthy lifestyle, find and keep good jobs and build a sense of home and community.

It’s clear that now is the time to reach out to our young people. Young people are the foundation of a growing city, and it’s important that they get engaged early. That’s why I think it’s vital to have a Surprise Youth Master Plan. This strategic plan will help guide youth services, projects and initiatives now and in the future. The best part about the plan— students will lead the development process.

The long term vision, through the successful implementation of this student lead planning process, is for the City of Surprise to become the leader in youth opportunities, services, and programs for the Valley. The development and implementation of this document will integrate youth into the formal planning process, and incorporate shared leadership opportunities for youth within our growing city.

Recently, we conducted several youth surveys as preliminary research for the Youth Master Plan. See the results here:

While we are planning for the future, we are also focusing on today. Read more about the ways we are currently engaging youth in Surprise, here.