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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Planning to Lead by Example

Raised in West Phoenix, he attended church, did volunteer work and gave back to the community, participated in after-school programs, hiked South Mountain, played basketball in high school and dreamed of making it to the NBA, devoted himself to the Phoenix Suns, went away to college and law school, and moved back to work as an attorney and later, a politician.

Said Phoenix Mayor Elect Greg Stanton: “I am a product of this city.”

Stanton, 41, is a Democrat who beat Republican Wes Gullett in the November election. He staked his campaign and vision on diversifying the Valley’s economy and building a more educated workforce. He will be sworn into office in January, replacing Phil Gordon, who has served since 2004.

“I want the morale to improve. We’ve got to get our mojo back,” Stanton said of the City of Phoenix, where he’s beginning to build relationships with city workers at all levels in advance of officially taking office.

Stanton is quick to pay his respect to the campaign volunteers in South Mountain for their work on his election. “I had an army of people helping me, including a lot of people in the South Phoenix area,” he said.

Stanton attended Marquette University and earned a law degree from the University of Michigan, then returned to Phoenix to practice education law at Jennings Strouss & Salmon, and later Quarles & Brady LLP, where he met his wife Nicole. He left private practice in 2001 to serve on the Phoenix City Council, representing the sixth district—including the Biltmore, Ahwatukee Foothills, Arcadia and North Central neighborhoods—for nine years. In 2009, he joined the state Attorney General’s office as Deputy Attorney General.

“I love practicing law,” he said. “I love public service more, but for me it was a great foundation.”

Stanton is known to be high energy (“he’s got energy to burn,” one colleague said) but also very politically savvy, bright, and with an aptitude for public policy.

Another fundamental experience that shaped Stanton was his time spent as a “big brother” through Big Brothers Big Sisters. For 16 years, he mentored Desmond, his “little brother” who is now attending college to become a dental hygienist. He said the experience taught him a lot about parenting and had the “greatest impact on my development.”

Today, the Stantons have two children of their own, Trevor and Violet. Though still very young, Stanton hopes his children learn from his career in politics that “hard work can pay off.”

Free time is spent doing family stuff, including bike rides and trips to the zoo. Basketball at the YMCA is a rare treat, and for reading pleasure, Stanton is in the middle of Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World’s Least Sustainable City by Andrew Ross, which addresses Phoenix’s problems, how they came about, the role of local government in them, and Ross’ recommendations to fix them.

If hard work is Stanton’s mantra, he extends that philosophy to himself. In recent years he has lost 50 pounds and even kept it off during the campaign with disciplined exercise and diet. No more fast food, no more junk food, he said. Despite the hectic campaign schedule, he still was on the treadmill five days per week, 30 minutes at a time—“I have a love-hate relationship with the treadmill,” he jokes.

“Just because you’re at a rubber chicken dinner, you don’t need to eat everything on your plate,” he added.

Discipline, indeed.

“I’m going to lead by example,” Stanton said about the job ahead of him. “I’m going to work harder than anyone else.”

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