Memorial service Feb. 1 for former Chandler mayor The Chandler Arizonan

Memorial service Feb. 1 for former Chandler mayor

Memorial service Feb. 1 for former Chandler mayor
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By Kevin Reagan

Arizonan Staff Writer

 

Former Chandler Mayor Jerry Brooks, who led the city during times of immense growth and advocated for the creation of an arts center, died on Jan. 14 at the age of 89. 

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Feb. 1 at the: Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave.

Mr. Brooks served as Chandler’s mayor from 1984 to 1988 – a period when the city’s population doubled in size and its boundaries expand down south to Sun Lakes.

Among his most notable accomplishments was spearheading the city’s effort to open the Chandler Center for the Arts in 1989. 

CCA General Manager Michelle Mac Lennan said Mr. Brooks was instrumental in getting the facility built and remained involved with the center for the rest of his life. 

“He was a vital advocate and supporter of arts and culture in our community,” Mac Lennan said. “Mayor Brooks’ vision, leadership and passion is an inspiration to all of us.”

In a 2005 interview, Mr. Brooks said he wanted an arts center to make Chandler more attractive to businesses looking to relocate their headquarters, but the city didn’t have enough funds in the 1980s to build one. 

The former mayor knew Chandler High School needed an auditorium and thought he might be able to persuade school board members to build a facility to serve both parties.  

  “So, I kind of waited in the bushes until they got elected and then I went over to the superintendent and city manager and got everybody together,” Mr. Brooks said in 2005. 

The plan worked and the two groups made a deal to build the arts center together. High school students would use the center during the day and the city would host events in the evening.  

More than 30 years later, the center’s emerged as an active venue for events and performances throughout the year. In 2011, Mr. Brooks was recognized by CCA when it established the Jerry Mr. Brooks Legacy Foundation, which manages the financial contributions that support the center’s programs. 

Mr. Brooks was born in Texas in 1930. His father was M.L. Mr. Brooks, Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction during the 1950s. 

The family grew up around Phoenix and Mr. Brooks enlisted in the Marines after World War II. He was later sent to Vietnam during the 1960s and didn’t have the best memories regarding how the military treated locals during the war.  

“I just always felt we pulled the rug out from under them – sold out – and I’m still bothered by it somewhat,” Mr. Brooks said in 2005. 

He moved to Chandler in the 1970s and got a job at Waste Management of Arizona. During this time, he crossed paths with Sen. John McCain, who had recently returned from the Vietnam War and was starting his political career. 

Mr. Brooks quit his job and offered to manage McCain’s first campaign for Congress in 1982. McCain won the race and spent the rest of his career in Congress until his death in 2018. 

Mr. Brooks remembered traveling with McCain around the East Valley to make campaign stops in Chandler and Sun Lakes. 

“That’s how I got a taste of politics,” Mr. Brooks recalled in 2005.

His motivation for getting involved in local government stemmed from turmoil he saw going on at City Hall. There was a feud boiling between Chandler’s police department and the City Council, Mr. Brooks said, and threats were made to recall council members. 

Mr. Brooks thought he could calm the tensions and was elected to a seat on the council in 1982. He resigned two years later to run for mayor and won. His first priority in office was to improve Chandler’s roads and infrastructure so the city could handle more development.

“When I got in I wanted to build a feather nest and make it real nice and fluffy and inviting for any high-paying employers we could get,” Mr. Brooks said in 2005, “so we pushed hard to upgrade standards of development.”

He remembered fighting with the Maricopa Association of Governments over its plans to have the Loop 101 stop at the U.S. 60 and not pass through Chandler.

“I could envision the growth in Chandler warranting that freeway – it was obvious to me,” Mr. Brooks said in a 2016 interview.

Loop 101 was extended by the time voters approved funding for its construction in 1985. 

Despite not considering himself a “very good politician,” Mr. Brooks thought the city made important decisions during his mayoral tenure with a lasting impact. 

“We set some standards that have been followed through the years we can all be proud of,” Mr. Brooks said in 2005.

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