Two other ride-alongs: I learned SO much!

Two ride-alongs I did lately: With a park ranger and a code compliance officer. These are the last two we are asked to do in our Mesa Leadership class (the others were with police and fire).

I met Park Ranger K. Wallock at the Mesa Parks & Recreation office downtown on Wednesday, Jan. 27. We talked about what he does in the office for awhile and I also met another park ranger, B. Skutnik (there are five total). Then Ranger Wallock and I headed out in his truck.



What does a Mesa park ranger do?

  • Assist visitors and deter negative activity
  • Respond to citizen calls and concerns
  • Patrol facilities daily during peak usage times
  • Secure and close the City of Mesa Cemetery daily
  • Patrol 60+ parks, 110+ retention basins and recreational facilities throughout Mesa
  • Participate in neighborhood meetings
  • Secure and close park gates and restrooms each night
  • Monitor underdeveloped park sites
  • Monitor and secure off-leash and on-leash dog areas
  • Partner with Mesa Police to ensure appropriate park use
  • Check park reservations and resolve conflicts
  • Inspect playgrounds and report maintenance needs (from

One thing this list doesn’t say is that the park rangers keep an eye on the homeless people sleeping in the parks. They really are very kind and make sure they are OK. They also keep a close eye on the ones who are potentially dangerous so to try to keep others in the parks safe.

So the first thing he said we were going to do was check on the homeless in the parks on the west side of town (he said most of the homeless hang out in Pioneer and Kleinman parks), but as we were going there he got a call about a duck in distress at Red Mt. Park.

I didn’t get a photo of the distressed duck, so I’ll use Daisy Duck instead.

On the way there we were the first to come upon an accident that had just happened, so Ranger Wallock pulled over to check on the people involved and called in for police.

Ranger Wallock calling for police.

After police arrived and Ranger Wallock had made sure everyone was OK, we took off for the park.


Here’s where it gets interesting.

Mesa Fire had already arrived (note: the original call from a frantic women about the duck caught up in a fishing line included calls to: Animal control, Mesa Parks and Rec, Fire and Police). Good thing nothing else was going on in Mesa this afternoon!

So, unfortunately, we missed the helpful firefighter who actually jumped into the water that surrounds a little inaccessible island where the duck was stranded. I did, however, get to see the video of it from the animal control officer, who said it was at her prompting and that she owed the firefighter some cookies! What happened (and you should know that this water is quite disgusting) is that there was not a boat or dingy available to reach the distressed, disabled duck so the firefighter (is there not anything they won’t do to save a life?) jumped in and with a little backstroke (as to not put his face in the water) headed toward the duck. The duck got so scared that this thing was coming quickly at it that it flapped its wings so hard that it freed itself and flew away…

Lake at Red Mt. Park.

That would be the happy ending of “the distressed duck who was saved” story but, meanwhile, above-mentioned animal control officer, while waiting for duck help, noticed some teenage boys running through the park and shooting at each other with (gasp) a gun!

She had detained the four boys and we showed up about the same time as Mesa police.

Park ranger and police officer decide what to do with trouble-making boys.

It was quickly determined by the police officer that the gun was a toy pellet gun and, after a thorough review of city code, said it was not illegal. However, the police officer then had to call each of the boy’s parents and tell them what happened and told the boys, basically, that it was a knot-headed idea to run through a public park with something that actually looks quite like a real gun.


The sun begins to set on what may, or may not be, a typical day for those sworn to keep us safe in the city of Mesa, and as the duck case was solved and the teenage boys promised to not be boys again, Ranger Wallock and I continued on…

Desert Arroyo Park sign

Our next stop was at Desert Arroyo Park at the northeast corner of McKellips and Ellsworth. This is Mesa’s newest park that was opened in the fall. It’s a great, natural desert landscape park – go see it if you haven’t been there!

Desert Arroyo Park:


I didn’t take these two photos – I borrowed them from the Internet. It was getting dark and no one was there when we got there.

It is a perfect place to take a walk and snap some photos of the sunset. (Ranger was working, I was enjoying the view and I did take these sunset pics!)

He locked up the park (open only from sunrise to sunset) and then we headed to another park. Oh, and Ranger Wallock and I discovered that we both went to Mesa High and are close in age so we knew a lot of the same people and had great conversation throughout the evening!)


We also closed up Desert Trails Park on the northeast corner of McDowell and Recker. This is a cool bike park with a great hill and obstacles (again, not my photos – it was dark!)

Desert Trails Park:

Then we went to the Mesa Cemetery. He turned on his side spotlights and we drove around to make sure everyone was gone so he could lock it up. He said sometimes people try to sleep in there. Have these people never watched scary movies?!

Mesa Cemetery - horiz (2a) lores

I mentioned to Ranger Wallock that Zedo Ishikawa (only people who didn’t go to Mesa High would have to ask, “Who?”) But it was dark and I couldn’t remember exactly where it was in the dark (he had a flashlight and I had my phone).

Here it is in the light of day. Carry On!

Find a Grave: Zedo Ishikawa at

That took us to the end of my ride-along. It was great! I learned a lot about Mesa Parks (a few notable items: 1. They will not stop you for ice-blocking any more. 2. The Park of the Canals,  1710 N. Horne, is a hook-up site for gay men – don’t back into a parking space – that’s a sign you’re available).

Thank you, Ranger Wallock. I had no idea it would be so fun!

More info on park rangers and who to call if there’a problem:

My second ride-along was with Code Compliance Officer A. Smith on Wednesday, Feb. 24. Again, she was great to explain everything and we enjoyed our morning together. She feels she is doing a service to our community and likes making things better; however, not everyone is happy to see her because she shows up when there is a complaint made against them. And people can be pretty rude.

I told her from the start: “I really have no idea what you do other than maybe check out yards with weeds.” She laughed and off we went with a long list of places where neighbors had complained.

A complaint about a property within the city limits can be made by phone or online. Go here for more info:

We did see a lot of weeds in yards (it is spring) and, yes, she will send a “courtesy letter” giving homeowners 14 days to clean it up. We also saw a structure attached to a main residence (it has to go); a shed built in an easement (it has to be moved); mattresses and other old furniture stored in plain sight of the street (take it to the dump!), travel trailers parked in front of house (they have to be in backyard), trash dumped in an alleyway (city workers will clear the debris), dead palm tree fronds (they can’t be over 8 feet) and washing machine water running into the street (use the clean-out).

She takes photos of everything and keeps detailed records of complaints and cases.
Alleys really can be a nuisance in our city. Some are being gated off.

Care to see a list of City Codes/Laws/Ordinances? Download the documents at:

FYI: Having a garage sale?

  • Only 4 events per calendar year
  • Sale event may last no more than 3 consecutive days
  • No permit is required
  • Signs are permitted as long as they DO NOT block the sidewalk or cause a traffic visibility issue. PLEASE collect signs immediately following the sale.



Mesa Leadership learns about challenges of local education

By Jill Adair

Special to The Arizona Republic

Contributed by Jill Adair, a freelance journalist and an associate faculty member at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Members of the Mesa Leadership Program recently learned about local education and its impact not only on a community, but on the nation and the world.

“Education is a global issue,” said Dr. O.T. Wendel, senior vice president of Strategic Initiatives and Planning A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona.

He said in a world of vast information, the challenge is to train students where to find it and also how to evaluate the information they find.

“Get good information,” he said. “But also get good knowledge.”

Wendel said the educational process and setting is changing and quickly evolving into the future.

“It’s going to look different than we remember it,” he told the group meeting on the ATSU campus, which is an osteopathic medical school at 5850 E. Still Circle in Mesa.

February’s class met at A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Mesa.
The Mesa Leadership class was welcomed by Dr. Randy D. Danielsen, dean of the Arizona School of Health Sciences of ATSU.

Also speaking to the class was Dr. Roger Yohe, acting vice president of Academic Affairs with Mesa Community College.

The community college meets the needs of a group of students with varying educational and career goals, including those interested in earning an associate’s degree or credits to transfer to a four-year university, to obtaining a certificate in their field of work or learning skills through the Career and Technical Education programs.

“Not everyone needs a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “What our economy needs is a skilled workforce.”

Higher Education in Mesa – Education Roundtable featured (at left) Dr. Roger Yohe of Mesa Community College, and Dr. Albert Simon, A.T. Still University.

Mesa Community College is the largest of the 10 community colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District. There are two campuses in Mesa – the Southern and Dobson Campus and the Red Mountain Campus; two smaller learning centers – one in downtown and the other near the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport; and an online, eLearning program.

Leadership class member Pei Hsieh, a manager with Good Neighbor Insurance, said she was impressed that both institutions are promoting and expanding their scope of influences beyond academic training.

“They want their graduating students to continue involving in social justice, serving greater good and underserved communities and participating in cultural and global engagement,” she said.

February’s Mesa Leadership class, held Feb. 5, started in the morning with speakers and a tour of the ATSU campus and concluded in the afternoon at the East Valley Institute of Technology campus, 1601 W. Main St.



The class toured a lab for learning at Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health at ATSU.
Wearing 3-D glasses in the 3-D anatomy lab at ATSU.


After lunch the class heard from Mayor John Giles, who recently announced that Arizona State University is planning to open a satellite campus in downtown Mesa.

Mesa Mayor John Giles speaks to the leadership class about education in Mesa and other highlights/challenges the city faces.

ASU already has a Polytechnic campus in east Mesa, but Giles said after several months of meetings, University President Michael Crow and other officials are in the process of determining what would be a good fit for ASU downtown.

“Those discussions are fairly far along,” he said. “We’re getting close to deciding what that is, but deciding what that is, is, frankly, just the beginning of this process because then you have to figure out how to pay for it.”

He briefly discussed the challenges of funding education across the board in Arizona, and noted that local schools have no funding for early childhood education.

He said a recent city task force’s preliminary report found there is a problem and a need for more resources and opportunities for pre-k education in Mesa.

“We’re noticeably below the (national average) with kids involved in early childhood education or pre-K,” he said.

He suggested a possible pilot program that brings the nation’s “best practices” to Mesa schools.

Tour of EVIT programs included the Academy of Cosmetic Arts – Cosmetology.
Inside the Culinary Arts kitchen.
Students learn radio/audio production at EVIT.

After a tour of some of EVIT’s programs, Leadership class members heard a panel discussion that included Dr. Sally Downey, superintendent of EVIT; Jared Taylor, business manager of charter school Heritage Academy with a campus in downtown Mesa; and Dr. Michael Cowan, superintendent of Mesa Public Schools.


Leadership class members heard a panel discussion that included (from left) Jared Taylor, business manager of charter school Heritage Academy with a campus in downtown Mesa; Dr. Sally Downey, superintendent of EVIT; and Dr. Michael Cowan, superintendent of Mesa Public Schools.

Taylor said of education in Arizona: “There are pockets of excellence; there are pockets that are hurting.”

He noted that challenges come in the form of lack of funding, changing demographics and a teacher shortage in certain areas.

Downey called on local residents and leaders to take an active role.

“Make education the No. 1 priority,” she said.

Cowan said politicians often see the effects of the disintegration of the family and neighborhood problems and lay the blame on educational institutions.

“It requires awareness and a ‘link-arms mentality’ to make families successful,” he said, challenging class members to consider education along with other future leadership opportunities.

Downey agreed.

“Get involved!” she said.

Taylor said: “Any school can be criticized. Find a place to make a difference in public education and make a difference in a child’s life.”

Leadership class member Patti Oskvarek, a personal, business and leadership coach, said she learned from this experience that having passionate and empathetic teachers and educators are the key to successful education programs.

“These teachers and educators are making a difference in people lives by sharing their gifts and talents, which help their students succeed in life,” she said.

Road sign to  education and future
The future depends on what you learn today.




2016 Class Project – Grant Woods Boys and Girls Club

From Melissa Jones, Mesa Leadership 2015-2016 Chair:

February 5, 20162015-2016 Class, News       

bookThe Class of 2016 selected the Grant Woods Boys and Girls Club for their project this year. Class members have been working with the on-site Manager to determine the needs. The proCaptureject is ambitious with 4 areas of emphasis.

The Book Club is collecting supplies and books to replenish the library at the Boys and Girls Club.

The Playground Enhancement Team is working to provide soccer field goals, repaint the basketball court, replace the sand in the play area with wood chips, and provide a BBQ set for community events.

A mural project will allow the community and students to be Muralinvolved in enhancing the appearance of the playground.

The Office Renovation Team is working to update, restore, or replace existing furniture that isn’t structurally sound.

The class has had a cleanup day and a paint day. They are making great strides but they could use your help. a donation to the project would help make this transformation a success and would enrich the lives of the children in our community. Your donations are tax deductible.

Make a donation online by following the Make a Payment link at the top of this webpage. Be sure to include that your payment is for the 2016 Class Project Boys and Girls Club in the Payment for: field. You can also mail a check made out to the Mesa Chamber Business in Education Foundation to Mesa Chamber of Commerce c/o Mesa Leadership, 40 N Center St, Ste 104, Mesa AZ 85201. Make sure to note on the memo line the 2016 Class Project Boys and Girls Club.

Thanks for your support of this incredible class and their impressive project.

Local Authors Donate Books to Boys & Girls Club

The outpouring of generosity has been INCREDIBLE from local authors who have offered to donate 10 copies of their books to the Mesa Boys & Girls Club. One of our goals as the Mesa Leadership Class 2016 was to provide at least 10 different books of 10 copies each for children and teens for book clubs and reading circles. We have had more than 200 copies of new books from local authors! Well beyond our goal!

Thank you! Thank you, authors! And for the rest of us, please support these amazing authors. Many have their websites linked or you can find their books on Amazon or at other online retailers.

Here’s what’s been donated:

Four books each from author Josie Monahan. The first book, “Writings of a Young Girl” was written between her sixth and ninth birthdays. The second, “The Grouch and the
Lovebug,” was written when she was 10. She has just turned 13 and recently appeared as a lead in Fiddler on the Roof and Les Miz. She has a beautiful voice and very talented, having written the book, lyrics and melodies to a musical based on “The Grouch.”


We received 10 copies of “Mary Elizabeth the Spotless Cow” by Dalvatore Barbera, as well as 30 temporary tattoos and bookmarks from Sweetles Press.


Author Angela Dawnell Chase donated 10 books copies of “The Confident Butterfly.” Go to her website at:

Author Becca Leone donated 10 of her books “His Soul to Break” for young adults. For more on her books, go to: or


Local author Victoria Kjos donated 10 of her books “Welcome to India.” Her website it:


 Local author Conrad J. Storad donated 10 books of “The Bat Book” and 10 books of the “Gator, Gator, Second Grader.” The author’s website is at:
Three precious books from Hersch Altman, who survived the Nazi occupation. He said it is important to him that the generations continue to learn about the horrors of the holocaust. They are no longer in publication and these books are the last of them.


Carol Schultz donated 10 copies each of her books, “Cracker & Kurt’s Baseball Game” and “Sandy Brown’s Butterflies.”

Carol Schultz

Ten signed copies were donated from author Adam Baker, “Maury C. Moose and the Forest Noel.” Visit the author’s website at:

Adam Baker

 Received 10 books for the teenagers reading club from author Annette Mahon, “The Secret Admirer.”
Annette Mahon.jpg
Received 10 books for the teenagers reading club from R J McMillan, “Tell Me About Your God.” These interviews with ordinary people reveal extraordinary personal thoughts on religion, spirituality and the nature of existence. The book is available as an ebook in kindle format through Amazon Books, and paperback version through the author at Follow him on Twitter at @RJMcMillan99.

R J McMillan

Received these children’s books today from Sandra Wardman, “Cody the Coyote.” Her website is:
Sandra Wardman
David J Guidera, author of “A Perfect Christmas,” donated 10 books.
David J Guidera
Received 10 books, “Royal Priesthood,” 10 book markers and 20 CD’s of the book, “Adams In Your Courtyard,” from local author Leslie Carol.
Leslie Carol
Local author Rico Austin donated books today. His books are: “Arizona Is Where I Live,” “Mexico Got Lucky” and “My Bad Tequila.”
Rico Austin
Author Plynn Gutman not only donated a set of her book, “My Son Dave (the Duck),” to the Mesa Boys and Girls Club but she also made a presentation to the Discovery Children on Friday, Jan. 29. She encouraged them to read and write and the kids were very interested the storytelling and her book.
dave the duck
Author Plynn Gutman reads her book to the children.
Because of her international schedule and book tours Plynn Gutman will be also be donating 10 books of her “Your Journal Companion” and will give a workshop about journaling to the Boys & Girls Club children over the age of 10 on how to journal and will be donating pens and journals to all of them on April 21st from 4:15 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Children’s book author Nancy K. Arnold of Arizona donated 10 copies of her book, “Patriotic Pups.” Arnold has received the Arizona Book Award -Glyph Winner and was named three years in a row “Who’s Who of American Teachers.”
Nancy K Arnold
Author Nancy Arnold with Mesa Leadership class member Diane Cantile.
Children’s author Dani Miller donated 10 copies of her book, “Paxton and Mali Find Their Boat.” This is Miller’s book and her son, the star of the book.
These books have been delivered to the Mesa Boys and Girls Club and are already in the hands of the boys and girls to enjoy!
delivery to club
chamber donations2
Other books donated by the Mesa Chamber of Commerce.

chamber donations

Dropping off 214 donated used books.
book group2
The children enjoying their books in reading circles.

book group

Other supplies made possible from donations and gift cards from Target!


Other wonderful donations from a variety of people!


And there was A LOT more!!
A very special THANK YOU to Patti Oskvarek for all her hard work and efforts in heading up the book drive and supplies committee!

Mesa Leadership Program offers learning through classes, tours and shadowing experiences

By Jill Adair

Special to The Arizona Republic

Contributed by Jill Adair, a freelance journalist and an associate faculty member at Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

 This year’s Mesa Leadership Program is halfway over and the experiences already have been eye-opening and greatly enriching for class members.

“I’ve lived in this town since the mid-90s and I’ve learned more in these few months than all those years,” said Lynn Runyan, a class member and senior planning analyst with Salt River Project.

Class member Morgan Sarager, a customer service analyst with SRP, said he’s learned a lot about how the city needs to operate effectively now while also being prepared for the future.

“It takes a coordinated effort to make sure the daily functions of the city are completed but leaders must always have the future in mind when making important strategic decisions,” he said.

“I’ve also learned the importance of building healthy relationships with those whom we work with,” he said. “We may not always agree with each other but having the ability to build positive working relationships and focus on common goals is an important leadership skill to possess.”

January’s Mesa Leadership class, held Jan. 9 at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, focused on sustainability and development.


The class heard from Brian Sexton, public information officer with the airport, who highlighted the growth and potential for the area in the far southeastern part of Mesa.

PIO Brian Sexton discusses the airport’s impact on the local economy.
“Allegiant Air is the anchor for Gateway,” Sexton said, assuring the class that the airlines is planning to stay and grow where it’s been since 2007 – in Mesa.


Kevin Thompson, Mesa City Councilman from District 6, spoke about leadership perspectives on priority initiatives.

Councilman Kevin Thompson speaks to the class.
He said his focus since he joined the council a year ago has been on economic development and envisions a manufacturing corridor along Elliott Road near the airport.

And with increasing residential development in his district, he said the “big push” is for a new fire station in the area and more police.

“It’s our job on city council to ensure that our residents are safe, and feel safe,” he said.

Class members toured the airport as well as the adjacent Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus, including the Aviation Simulator Building, Startup Labs, and Laboratory for Algae Research and Biotechnology.

A dust storm moves into Sky Harbor Airport in the Aviation Simulator Building at the Polytechnic Campus.

The skies look clear for now.

Pei Hsieh in an airplane simulator.

Michael Book gives it a try.

Aviation students learn how to assemble and repair airplane engines.

Students can dream big and make things happen in Startup Labs, an entrepreneurial prototyping and collaboration space at ASU’s Polytechnic Campus.

3D Alley


student creation
3D printer in action: A dragon emerges.

A working wrench: A student’s creation via a 3D printer discovered while touring Startup Labs’ “3D Alley.”

Dr Milton Sommerfeld
Dr. Milton Sommerfeld, co-director of the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, explains to the Mesa Leadership class how pond scum can be turned into sustainable fuel.

In addition to these monthly classes that run through April, Mesa Leadership Program offers tours not normally available to the public as an opportunity to learn first-hand about the issues currently facing the city.

Lyn Gorton, a class member and event lead for American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Greater Mesa, said his perspective has been broadened through these experiences.

“There are a lot of people in Mesa who need some form of help,” he said. “This is not obvious from a general public point of view, but I have had my eyes opened to a lot of things going on behind the scenes in our city.”

Runyan said she has been impressed with local nonprofit agencies and the resources they offer to the less-fortunate in the community.

“Helping those in poverty, women and children – that’s where I would like to make my contribution,” Runyan said, considering her volunteer opportunities after the class is over.

Mesa Leadership also requires and helps provide an opportunity to spend a day with a local leader of the class member’s choice to observe leadership in action. Some class members have spent part of a day with the mayor, city council members or leaders in local business.

Diane Cantile shadows Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh.
Jaime Glasser shadows Mayor John Giles and presents him with her artwork of Light Rail downtown.
Jill Adair shadows Mayor John Giles.
Sarager, who was recently in Washington D.C., was able to shadow Congressman Matt Salmon, R-Dist. 5, while there.

“I think what benefited me most was being reminded that we can all do great things, no matter what our aspirations may be,” he said. “I think we sometimes doubt ourselves and our abilities as individuals, so we automatically set limits to what we can achieve in life.”

“Spending time with Congressman Salmon helped me remember the potential we all have,” he said. “(He) is an amazing person and leader who has done and continues to do a lot of wonderful things but he wasn’t born into a political family or given an easy road to get to where he is. He had a desire to make a difference and serve his community and he had to work hard to get to where he is.”

Morgan Sarager with Matt Salmon
Morgan Sarager shadows Congressman Matt Salmon.
“Whether we aspire to become a member of Congress, a city leader, a business leader, a better spouse, a better parent, or just a better person, we should not doubt our abilities,” he said. “We can do great things and become great leaders if we have the desire and drive to become such.”