The city of Goodyear and the larger Valley political sphere mourns the death and remembers the life of longtime Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord, who died Dec. 12 in her home surrounded by loved ones.
The mayor’s health had declined steadily after a recent fall in her home, the city stated in an announcement.
Lord’s daughters, members of Goodyear City Council and city staff shared stories and fond memories of Lord at a Dec. 13 press conference held in the city’s newly unveiled recreation center.
Those who knew Lord described her as someone with unwavering confidence and candor who never left the house without her makeup.
Lord’s eldest daughter, Kimberly Lord Stewart thanked the women in the room for “wearing your jewelry and your lipstick, making sure your handbag and your shoes matched,” adding that forgoing fashion was the way she and her sisters “rebelled” against their perpetually put-together mother.
Some in the crowd wore red, a color Lord was often seen wearing.
“Her piece of advice for all of us,” said Lord’s daughter Cassandra Louise Lord, “was lipstick on, shoulders back, chest up, walk out and own that room.”
Lord was described as a powerful leader and a mentor to other council members, many of whom stated they would not be in local government without her influence and mentorship.
“I got in this business through Georgia,” and “I’m here because of Georgia” were common refrains from those who served alongside Lord on the council, a majority of whom said they were recruited by Lord to run for office.
Many became close personal friends of the mayor and her husband, Ronald Lord, who died in 2020.
Councilmember Sheri Lauritano recounted when she served on a city subcommittee over two decades ago, Lord called her up and told her to consider running for an open seat on the council.
“She mentored me through the campaign and she was just wonderful,” Lauritano said, choking back tears. The council member was pregnant at the time, so when her daughter was born she grew up around the Lords through Lauritano’s work on the council.
Vice Mayor Brannon Hampton became emotional as he spoke of Lord’s encouragement and friendship.
“She was a great mentor…and just really committed to the city,” Hampton said.
“Georgia cared for all of us on council, really as her extended family,” Councilmember Bill Stipp remarked.
Stipp said his relationship with Lord took on a mother-son dynamic rather than one between colleagues.
Lord “always treated me like a son,” he said, “trying to hold me accountable when I didn’t want to be held, giving me advice about my kids, and sometimes expressing her disappointment for my own good.
“I always came back around to support and encourage her on the rare day she actually needed it,” he said.
Stipp also took a moment to read remarks from city staff who worked closely with Lord.
One staffer recalled a piece of advice Lord gave them that produced some knowing chuckles in the crowd: “If you must choose between being late and being put together, you should always choose late,” Lord advised.
Lord’s emphasis on style is what stuck with Council member Wally Campbell.
“She always made me check my lipstick and make sure I had the right color purse and the right color shoes,” Campbell said fondly.
Even a day before her death, Lord never lost her fashion sense.
When Campbell visited Lord on Dec. 11, she said the first thing the mayor did was open her eyes and exclaim, “I don’t have my lipstick on!”
Though Lord was a confident leader, she was always humble and slow to accept credit, she said.
“The thing that set her apart from all the mayors that I know: she got all the accolades and wonderful recognitions,” Campbell said. “But she always said, ‘It’s because of my council, my team and my city.’ It was never about Georgia.”
Lord’s record as mayor
Lord arrived in Goodyear with her husband in 1997, when the city had a population of about 19,000. Her life of civic service began in the early 2000s when she led the Goodyear City Center Technical Advisory Committee, which would one day form the plans for Goodyear’s future civic center.
Lord began serving on council in 2005 and became mayor in 2011 after the abrupt resignation of her predecessor. She died one year shy of her final term in office.
Lord was the young city’s first female mayor, but her gender was not an element she tended to focus on in regard to her political career.
“It didn’t occur to me initially, and even until after the election, that I would be the first female mayor of the city of Goodyear,” Lord is quoted as saying in a news release from the city. “I am pleased to have the opportunity to demonstrate to Goodyear’s young women that anything is possible.”
She navigated the city through challenging times, including an explosion in population growth and the later years of the Great Recession.
Since her time in office, Goodyear has developed into one of the fastest-growing cities in the country and home to big-name employers such as Microsoft, Amazon, Ball Corp. and UPS.
Lord represented Goodyear on numerous councils and won many awards during her time in office.
She was awarded the Certified Ambassador Award by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council for her promotion of economic advancement in Goodyear. In 2014, AZ Business Magazine named Lord one of the top 50 most influential women in Arizona business.
This past October, Lord was honored by the Westmarc board of directors with the Inspiration in Leadership Award.
Perhaps one of the mayor’s biggest legacies will be her role in the planning of a downtown core for the city.
Goodyear Civic Square is a planned mixed-use development that will include a dedicated city hall, a community library and class-A office space on the corner of McDowell Road and 150th Drive.
Lord told the West Valley View in 2020 that the creation of a city hall in Goodyear was one of the reasons she pursued a spot on the council.
“You can bet on opening day, while Mayor Lord won’t be there in person, she’ll be there in spirit,” City Manager Julie Karins said at the Dec. 13 press conference.
Lord was steadfast in securing her city’s economic interests.
When Gov. Ducey threatened a deal between Goodyear and Nike in 2019 after the footwear company took its Betsy Ross shoe off the market, Lord calmly rebuked the governor in a video address responding to the controversy.
Lord stated in the video the Goodyear City Council voted unanimously to allow Nike to build a plant that was expected to create more than 500 jobs.
“It has been the focus of Goodyear City Council to build a strong economy for years to come,” Lord said. “We will honor the commitment we made in our agreement (with Nike).”
The plan was eventually halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following her death, Ducey expressed his condolences to Lord’s loved ones and ordered all state flags to be flown at half staff in her honor.
Friends, colleagues, journalists and Arizona leaders of all stripes expressed their sadness following the mayor’s death.
“It was a pleasure to work with Mayor Lord as she advocated for her community and helped me understand the needs of Goodyear,” Sen. Mark Kelley, a Democrat, tweeted after her death.
“She’ll be remembered as a dedicated public servant who always fought to make her city a better place,” the tweet read.
“I am heartbroken to hear of the passing of Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord,” Republican Senator Debbie Lesko said in a statement.
“She was such a classy woman and a joy to be around, I feel honored to have had the opportunity to work with her over the years,” she said.
The Lords were also friendly with Arizona Sen. John McCain, who died in 2018.
Lord, a Republican who served in a nonpartisan office, appeared in a campaign ad endorsing McCain’s record on Luke Air Force Base when the senator was running for reelection in 2016.
Lord was an ardent supporter of the base, and instrumental in designating it a pilot-training site for the new F-35 fighter jet mission in 2012.
Lord was born in 1938 to a single mother and Greek immigrant, Margaret Cotsikas, who had settled Lansing, Michigan.
Cotsikas, like her daughter, had an aptitude for politics and made an unsuccessful run for the Michigan State House of Representatives in 1946 at a time when few women served in government.
Word spread about her bold move, and by 1947 Cotsikas was a member of the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee. She went on to serve as the vice chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.
“My mother (Lord) went with her everywhere,” since many hotels at that time would not rent rooms to single women, Lord Stewart said.
Lord attended Michigan State University, was a collegiate cheerleader and had a career in modeling.
She attended the State Department Institute for German Language, and graduated with fluency in German.
She was married to a Michigan state trooper, Jim Archer, with whom she had her eldest daughter, Lord Stewart who stated that her mother’s support of police and first responders was partially a result of her relationship with Archer.
In 1963, she married Ronald Lord, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. They had three children together and are survived by their four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. The Lords were married for 57 years until Ronald’s death in February 2020.
“Her ability to adjust, to pivot, to do whatever was necessary came from being a military wife,” Lord Stewart said.
During the Cold War, Ronald Lord served as an Air Force attache in Bonn, Germany. “My mother was basically his sidekick,” Lord Stewart said.
Lord would enlist her daughters to help entertain heads of state and foreign diplomats at their home, which was routinely inspected for recording devices and sometimes received bomb threats.
Lord’s daughter Cassandra Louise Lord recalled she would often talk into the gifts distinguished guests would bring, assuming they were bugged.
After her time abroad, Lord went on to receive her real estate certification from ASU.
Her extensive experience in real estate with a “national homebuilder” gave her “insight into how to create high-quality, attractive communities,” according to her city of Goodyear biography.
Lord was absent from the last three city council meetings, which were led by Vice Mayor Hampton in her absence.
Hampton will take over as acting mayor until the city council appoints a new mayor. Voters will have the opportunity to elect a mayor next August.
Lord’s daughters said they will announce “legacy projects” Lord shared with them before her passing at a planned celebration of life sometime in January.
Madeline Ackley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or found on Twitter @Mkayackley.
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