13 compete for 5 Surprise council seats, pt. 2

By Matt Roy, Independent Newsmedia

Election season is underway with only a few short weeks remaining until ballots get mailed Wednesday, Aug. 1.

This year, 13 candidates will compete to fill City Council seats in Districts 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6; while in a typical year only three seats stand for election, five seats must be decided this year due to appointments to fill two open seats on the panel over the past year.

To introduce themselves to Surprise Today readers, the candidates were invited to participate in this brief questionnaire, detailing their qualifications and vision for the city.

This week, the second of a two-part series will present the candidates in District’s 3, 5 and 6.

District 3

Patrick Duffy

Age: 36

Education: Bachelor’s in political science from Arizona State University

Years as a Surprise resident: Nine

Family: Nine years together with Audra Windsor and three great children: Caitlyn (15); Trinity (10); and Kilian (turned 5 June 29).

Q: Why are you running for city council?

A: Prior to serving on the Surprise City Council, I was very active with Surprise recreation in youth sports and coaching. It was in that role that I developed a genuine love for the city and its residents. I have built so many great relationships in my nine-year tenure in recreation and saw the opportunity to serve on council as another way to build on my experiences and relationships.

I feel with my background in finance and experience in recreation I can be a valuable asset helping Surprise continue on the right path towards greater prosperity. Surprise has a wonderful opportunity to keep growing strong and be a real leader in the West Valley. I firmly believe strong families and community support are the backbone of Surprise.

I am running for election and asking for your vote to keep our great city moving forward!

Q: What are your goals if elected?

A: With my background in financial planning and wealth management, I have a great deal of experience in managing budgets and planning for the future. Fiscal responsibility is my number one priority. I will ensure that our budget continues to balance the right priorities to protect our quality of life while keeping taxes as low as possible.

In regards to District 3, we have an incredible opportunity to create something special for all residents of Surprise and will continue working diligently with economic development, public works, public safety and recreation in focusing on the immediate needs of District 3 while also planning for our future.

Q: What are one commendation and one point of improvement regarding public safety in Surprise?

A: The city of Surprise must remain committed to expanding public safety infrastructure at a rate similar to our city’s steady growth. As councilman, I have been active in trying to bring another fire station to our growing neighborhoods in District 3.

Maintaining adequate staffing and equipment levels can help improve our ability to reach your friends or family in the event of an emergency. When seconds count, we must be there for our residents. I will continue my fight to make sure Surprise maintains efficient public safety programs.

Q: How will you be responsible in dealing with future growth in Surprise, and how will you work with the Dysart Unified School District in this area?

A: We must maintain responsible growth throughout Surprise. This means smart planning and efficient use of our resources to make sure our city is able to sustain our growth. This will help maintain our high quality of life and preserve property values.

With respect to Dysart Unified, I have been involved in dialogue with the district (leaders) regarding how we can best work together to make Surprise the best it can be. I think greater transparency and dialogue with all stakeholders will best serve the needs of our diverse community.

Q: What are the three most important issues you will tackle if elected?

A: Public safety is one of the top responsibilities of any municipal government. Surprise is growing rapidly and we need to take a citywide approach to ensure that resources are deployed thoughtfully and effectively in order to keep response times low.

I am fighting hard to increase public safety in our community and build an additional fire station in District 3. In addition, I am working with our police to ensure they continue to reduce crime, engage effectively with our neighborhoods, keep drugs out of our communities and ensure that our streets are safe.

Smart economic development is what will sustain our local economy for generations to come. During my time on council, I have worked effectively with the mayor, fellow councilmembers, members of the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce, and local businesses to attract economic development.

We must find the right balance of attracting large employers to our city while helping make it easier for small business owners to do business. Our future economic development will also require a skilled and trained workforce. We must support additional educational opportunities, such as Ottawa University and West-MEC, to grow employees that companies want to hire.

Maintaining our world class recreation and entertainment is critical to our identity in Surprise. I have seen firsthand the positive impact these programs have on our community, most notably our youth.

As Surprise continues to grow we must not lose sight of the value of recreation and the positive impact it has on families not just in sports but parks, trails, art etc. As your councilman, I will continue to encourage these programs in our community.

Gisele Norberg

Age: 51

Education: Bachelor’s in social sciences from Washington State University, Vancouver, Magna Cum Laude.

Years as a Surprise resident: Five years in October

Family: Greg and I married on July 4, 1999; we have two teenagers that are 14 and 16, and Greg came with two bonus daughters, 29 and 31.

Q: Why are you running for city council?

A: I’m running for City Council because I want to be the voice of the residents of District 3, whose concerns are not currently being heard. Instead, votes are being used for personal gain and not for what’s in the best interest of our district and our city as a whole.

Q: What are your goals if elected?

A: I have several goals, but most importantly we need to untie the hands of private property owners and developers; mend the relationship between City Council and the City Center property owners; and stop council from interfering unnecessarily with private development, which has damaged our city’s reputation.

In this way, we can encourage the much-needed growth of restaurants, retail and entertainment that will benefit the families that live in District 3 and keep our tax dollars in Surprise.

Q: What are one commendation and one point of improvement regarding public safety in Surprise?

A: Two great aspects of the city of Surprise are our fire and police departments. The average response time for our fire is just under seven minutes and our EMS is between 5.6 and six minutes. In addition, thanks to Surprise Police, crime in the city has significantly decreased.

As we add more homes and residents, we will need to hire more boots on the ground with police officers and firefighters to ensure that we keep these numbers low.

Q: How will you be responsible in dealing with future growth in Surprise, and how will you work with the Dysart Unified School District in this area.

A: I have had the pleasure of being a part of the growth for the city of Surprise by serving on the Planning and Zoning Commission. However, a big concern of mine is the lack of communication and partnership that should exist between City Council and Dysart Unified School District.

The City Council should be doing a better job with reaching out to the district and its board so that we can work together to ensure the best plan for growth.

Q: What are the three most important issues you will tackle if elected?

A: While there are many important issues in the city of Surprise, I would like to see an increase in tourism, more head of household jobs and raising revenue instead of taxes.

District 5

Skip Hall

Age: 72

Education: Bachelor’s of science in business

Years as a resident: 15

Family: Three children and five grandchildren.

Q: Why are you running for City Council?

A: I want to continue my service to my district and the city as a whole. We have made some great strides in the past 10 years from returning to financial health, maintaining the reputation as one of the safest cities in Arizona, significantly building our job growth and retail services for our residents and adding educational opportunities for our youth with the opening of Ottawa University, a four-year residential university, and West-MEC, a trade school, which will grow to provide more than 22 disciplines.

I want to continue to contribute to our city’s prosperous future.

Q: What are your goals if re-elected?

A: My goals include the following:

  1. Work, through good policies and a solid budget, to maintain safe neighborhoods, clean and well-maintained roads, and acceptable fire and medical response times.
  2. Preserve financial health through vigilant budgeting and continue to work to improve upon our AA+ rating.
  3. Increase activities for our youth, including the expansion of club sports and intentionally attracting private investment opportunities to develop sports and entertainment activities for teens.
  4. Ensure implementation of previously adopted policies to augment our water supply through acquisition and conservation.
  5. Continue to work with the landowners of City Center to attract development, which produces a special downtown and a unique place to work, live and play.

Q: What are one commendation and one point of improvement regarding public safety in Surprise?

A: With the recent population growth, the police and fire response times have been excellent. In addition, the city has taken the opportunity to provide in-house ambulance services, so our response times will continue to improve.

We, as a council, need to be aware and vigilant to ensure our residents receive high-level service through adequate funding.

Q: How will you be responsible in dealing with future growth in Surprise, and how will you work with the Dysart Unified School District in this area?

A: As with current growth, I will insure proposed development complies with the general plan and zoning laws. I will continue to ask questions of staff members to insure that development agreements are adhered to, including road improvements, architectural standards and 100-year water supply.

In addition, there will be continued outreach to surrounding residents and businesses so their voices are heard, their input is received and their concerns addressed.

We will work closely with Dysart Unified School District to ensure new development includes new school sites or access to existing schools with minimum impact. Growth in Surprise needs to be sensitive to the education of our youth and the quality of the same.

Q: What are the three most important issues you will tackle if elected?

A: My three top issues are:

  1. Support of police and fire.
  2. Promote economic development with focuses on retail and job creation.
  3. Ensure financial stability, accountability and transparency.

Leo Mankiewicz

Age: 64

Education: Two years of college; one year of court reporting school

Years as a Surprise resident: 11

Family: Wife of 38 years (a retired school teacher); two married sons (one a retired navy lieutenant/Naval Academy graduate, and the other a manager at the Internet Archive); two grandchildren.

Q: Why are you running for City Council?

A: Peace = progress = prosperity. I am a negotiator and peacemaker by nature and I believe I can contribute substantially to ending divisions and focusing the energy and talent of the City Council on solving our most pressing problems.

My past experience as chairman of the General Plan Committee in 2012, councilman in 2013, HOA president and Naval Academy Parents Club president confirmed for me that public service is both very gratifying and creatively challenging.

Q: What are your goals if elected?

A: The city of Surprise needs to start building its downtown and I would like to see a comprehensive, creative master plan that would incorporate desert- and pedestrian-friendly architecture into a unique, artsy destination that draws people in from all over the city and West Valley.

Ottawa University needs to be nurtured and continue to grow. I will also work very hard to provide more multi-generational facilities, both quasi-educational and recreational, for the many families of Surprise whose needs are not being adequately met.

Q: What are one commendation and one point of improvement regarding public safety in Surprise?

A: Our public safety organizations continue to knock it out of the park, accumulating accolades from across the nation, given limited resources. I am very proud in particular of the new city ambulance service, which augments our public safety in an important way, illustrating an important point of improvement needed, especially at the City Council level, to take into account the elevated requirements for equipment and manpower in a city that has a fast-growing portfolio of senior living facilities.

Q: How will you be responsible in dealing with future growth in Surprise, and how will you work with the Dysart Unified School District in this area?

A: Future growth begins with the City Center downtown core. You’ve got to get it right, and create a downtown that doesn’t compete with its surroundings but rather enhances them, that keeps our young people interested in staying and working here and draws our multi-generational mix of talent and passion into its heart.

You also cannot have growth without sustainability within our natural resources: water and our beautiful desert surroundings.

We really have five educational districts in Surprise: Dysart Unified, West- MEC, Ottawa University, charter schools and our heroic home-schoolers. The city can serve as the connector for this tapestry and promote cooperative programs of student and materials exchange, encourage feeder corridors and have city staff assist in cooperative grant writing for support funds where they don’t yet exist.

I will always champion intelligent, generous funding for education at Dysart and for their teacher salaries. Surprise needs to grow, not merely expand.

Q: What are the three most important issues you will tackle if elected?

A: Peace = progress = prosperity. I am confident that I can positively contribute to elevating the peace and goodwill on City Council, and I am absolutely convinced that once the investment community perceives a truly unified governance, the quality projects — and the jobs that come with them — will begin to flood into our city.

The progress and enthusiasm engendered will be self-actuating and capable of creating an economic engine that feeds and drives itself. The prosperity that ensues will enable the city to better provide for the needs of the many families who have arrived here on the edge of the Valley seeking affordability, safety, and a great place to raise and educate their kids.


District 6


Eric Cultum

Age: 50

Education: Bachelor’s in education; two master’s degrees of education, one in administration and leadership, and another in public policy implementation

Years as a Surprise resident: 10 years

Family: Wife, four children (Andrew, 18; Stephanie, 16; Kenzie, 13; and Emily, 10)

Q: Why are you running for city council?

A: I am running for District 6 city council as a result of hundreds of residents, city employees and business leaders asking me to extend my decade as a city commissioner to represent, lead and serve residents as their city council representative. District 6 residents are looking for a leader to fight and battle for what is best for District 6.

During the past 5 years of the incumbent Todd Tande, voters have seen firs-hand the failures of his inability to represent, interact, form policy, tax and engage our neighborhoods.

With government and public service experience and common sense solutions to many challenges in Surprise, I get the job done as a Planning and Zoning, Revitalization and Quality of Life and Arts and Culture commissioner with a decade of service here.

As a teacher and coach in the Dysart Unified School District, I am actually in tune with voters and am well-known and a reliable presence in our neighborhoods. I know Surprise, as well as the political environment and am a close ally of residents, the Dysart Unified School District, business development leaders and likeminded leaders who are looking for a better Surprise and want to see many characteristics to improve the quality of life in our city.

Q: What are your goals if elected?

A: My goals if elected are:

  1. Lead and engage in vigorous discussion in policy formation for a better present and future Surprise.
  2. Represent District 6 and continue my service “Of the People and For the People” of our neighborhoods.
  3. Create a business-friendly environment to attract and draw business and residents to Surprise.
  4. Downtown Development: Honor our agreements to enable property developers to do their job and end obstruction by Mr. Tande and the mayor.
  5. Come to terms and settlements with litigants of numerous lawsuits filed against the mayor and city and reverse actions destroying our city’s reputation.
  6. Create an annual budget that is fiscally responsible and return the general plan to its origin of what the voters approved

Q: What are one commendation and one point of improvement regarding public safety in Surprise?

A: I have been helping foster the business, commercial and residential growth of Surprise from 75,000 to 135,000 residents as a Planning and Zoning commissioner, who approves or denies projects “for a better Surprise” and the quality of life our voters demand. I have fought and opposed the mayor and Mr. Tande to successfully bring WinCo, In-N-Out and many businesses to Surprise and supported the approved Mattamy Homes project in our downtown.

I represent everyone in my district, including singles, families, married couples, students, parents and senior citizens. and battle to ensure our city is affordable to its voters and will work for their financial circumstances.

With a 4-0 record of victoriously defeating the unfriendly business centered mayor and Mr. Tande in Surprise, I seek far better for Surprise than what we have seen in the past five years. I also am not a puppet, and do not have a 100 percent voting record with anyone as it is not in the best interest of my voters and the very best for Surprise.

I value our public safety in Surprise! I most favorably desire to see a proactive approach to visibility and initiated action for safety in our city.

My opponent’s action to disable and destroy Bullard Avenue has resulted in the 40 percent increase of traffic, accidents and vehicular fatalities on Reems and Litchfield roads.

When the Surprise mayor made a campaign promise to seniors in Sun City Grand if re-elected to a second term, city staff had no choice but included the golf car lanes to ease senior travel to the movie theatres at the expense of public safety in District 6.

My solution to pedestrian crossing for students at Acoma Drive and Sweetwater Avenue was a $250,000 plan to install the Hawk Pedestrian Light Systems, like at our spring training facility, for safe student crossing and no change to the character of Bullard Avenue.

This solution is still doable with the delay work and could result in the return of $4 million to the federal government and not wasted in our city.

Q: How will you be responsible in dealing with future growth in Surprise, and how will you work with the Dysart Unified School District in this area?

A: I have been responsible for the growth of Surprise since 2009 as a committee leader in the redistricting process with the federal government and Surprise.

Additionally, as a commissioner for implementing arts and culture into the fabric of our city, it is improving on increasing the quality of life for all residents.

Next, as a Revitalization and Quality Life commissioner, I have rebuilt and enhanced depressed areas of our city and improved the conditions for affordable housing and reducing crime through neighborhood developments.

Lastly, as a Planning and Zoning commissioner, I’ve been growing our city by approving new residential developments to meet the legal requirements of our codes and ordinances and building commercial and business expansion in the city of Surprise. Returning Bullard Avenue to a fully functional north/south road is needed for the growth of our district and functional use for the expanding region of Marley Park.

Expanding the vision for our city, beyond current standards and philosophies, will ensure roads, parking, safety and expanded growth is done intelligently and not without careful planning.

Serving Surprise isn’t going to bring attention to myself but to quietly assure voters the best possible Surprise is vigorously being vetted to guarantee our desired quality of life and the needs of our residents. Together everyone achieves more!

I have been an employee of the Dysart Unified School District for a decade and I work with and interact with the entire base of administrators, teachers, staff, students and parents in the DUSD community.

I celebrate the great things in Dysart as well as continue to press for greater results for parents, students and teachers in service to taxpayers in the Surprise district. As a teacher and coach in Surprise and neighboring high school in El Mirage, working with public leaders in both cities results in better conditions for a bright future in our region.

Q: What are the three most important issues you will tackle if elected?

A: My top issues are:

Represent District 6 and return interactive listening and communication to our voters, especially with diverse opinions and perspectives, while assuring the best decision is made from a legal, fiscal, responsible and fundable city strategic plan.

Honor the laws, codes and ordinances to commercial and business partners to come to legal terms and settlements with litigants of numerous lawsuits filed against the mayor and city and reverse the consequences of the actions that are destroying our city’s reputation.

Fix Bullard Avenue and oversee a city budget that assures taxes will never be raised for District 6 and Surprise residents again.


Chris Judd

Age: 47

Education: Bachelor’s of science from Arizona State University; LUTCF professional designation from the College for Financial Planning

Years as a Surprise resident: Began working in Surprise in 1996; bought our home here in 2005

Family: Married for 20 years to my wonderful wife, Jenna; we have three daughters: Riley, 18; Tessa, 16; and Keira, 11.

Q: Why are you running for city council?

A: Because I love Surprise! I’ve been here for more than 20 years; my children go to school here and are being raised here. I love our friendly community and the potential of our town center. I have enjoyed serving my community with charity and service projects like Taste of Surprise. I want to help keep Surprise as the safe and friendly community that it is.

Q: What are your goals if elected?

A: My primary goal is make Surprise friendly to businesses. Around 85 percent of us are forced to commute out of the city and we need more head of household jobs. We get these by updating our processes and making it easier for businesses to start or relocate to Surprise.

I do not like irresponsible government spending and I will work hard to keep taxes low by not wasting our taxpayer’s money on mismanaged projects. I believe we need to increase activities for teens in Surprise so that they want to come back and support our community as adults.

Q: What are one commendation and one point of improvement regarding public safety in Surprise?

A: I plan to support our police, fire and medical department to help keep Surprise as one of the safest cities in the nation. We can do this by making sure they have the tools and financing to stay up to date on personnel, training, facilities and equipment.

One big public safety issue that needs improvement in my district is Bullard Avenue with its school crossings and congestion. Bullard Avenue should have been fixed three years ago and it should not cost us $4 million.

Q: How will you be responsible in dealing with future growth in Surprise, and how will you work with the Dysart Unified School District in this area?

A: Surprise is going to grow. We need to update our processes to make it easier for businesses to start or relocate to Surprise, while at the same time, having controls in place to keep the bad actors away.

We need to make sure our roads and infrastructure can handle the increasing traffic. We need to stay in communication with the leaders of Dysart Unified School District and do everything we can to help get all schools in our community up to an A rating.

My wife and sister are teachers with Dysart Unified and my daughters and most of the children in our community go to a Dysart school, so we all have a stake in making sure the district does well.

Q: What are the three most important issues you will tackle if elected?

A: My top three priorities will be:

  1. I will bring honesty, integrity and openness to the City Council. Too much seems to be done in backroom deals and appears to be tainted by well-connected special interests.
  2. I will work to keep taxes low, services effective and waste to a minimum.
  3. I will work to improve the business climate, making it easier for businesses to come and grow here, bringing more recreational and entertainment options to our residents, both for children and adults.


Todd Tande

Age: 59

Education: Master’s and bachelor’s in management

Family: Four generations of Tandes live in Surprise. My parents moved to Sun City Grand in 2003. I arrived with my wife, Dr. Blossom Tande, and our children in late 2008. One daughter and one son. Two grandchildren.

Years as a Surprise Resident: 10

Q: Why are you running for city council?

A: There is more to do to make Surprise even better and I like to achieve results! We have accomplished a lot over the past five years, setting the strong foundations to build on and there is still much more work to be done.

Together, we have balanced the budget, put Surprise’s fiscal house in order, and improved our bond rating. We have also attracted major employers, including Iris USA, Cobalt Rehabilitation and Milam Glass. We have also attracted education investment, including Ottawa University and West-MEC, to Surprise. I want to work hard to help Surprise live up to and realize our tremendous potential.

I have a track record of achieving results and we are well on our way to achieving more results, with more good announcements that will be coming from the city very soon.

Before moving to Surprise, I helped create the initial development guidelines for the town  (now city) of Fishers, Indiana. Money Magazine recently called Fishers, Indiana, “a booming city with good schools, a low cost of living and an entrepreneurial buzz” as the best place to live in America in 2017.

Q: What are your goals if elected?

A: As your councilman, I am committed to increasing transparency at Surprise City Hall and protecting the taxpayer, listening to residents’ priorities and providing high-quality services, such as public safety and recreation. I also want to prioritize significant efforts on economic development to bring good jobs here in our Foreign Trade Zone, develop our downtown area with the benefit of a master plan created by the landowner that incorporates our residents’ input into a mixed-use sense of place with unique restaurants, entertainment and good jobs. I want us to also focus on bringing signature retail to our Prasada area.

Q: What are one commendation and one point of improvement regarding public safety in Surprise?

A: Citywide, the population of Surprise has grown by more than 68 percent since 2005. Our police and fire-medical department staff members provide good service and save lives.

With the population increases in our young families and seniors, we need to ensure our public safety can keep up with growth. I voted to add more police and fire-medical officers without a tax rate increase, but we will need to continue to monitor our growth to make sure we are adequately staffing public safety to keep response times low as the city continues to grow.

Q: How will you be responsible in dealing with future growth in Surprise, and how will you work with the Dysart Unified School District in this area?

A: I currently serve as the City Council liaison to the Dysart Unified School District Governing Board and I have already met with Dr. Quinn Kellis, Dysart’s new Superintendent.

Our city approval processes include a review of new development projects by the Dysart staff. Education plays a key role in attracting high-wage employers and training our future workforce.

I want our children to have great educational opportunities and options. Schools play a key part in our ability to attract jobs and economic opportunities. Businesses with good jobs and their decision makers want to locate in communities that have safe and well-maintained schools, small class sizes and modern technology.

I am committed to continuing to work with and support all stakeholders, including DUSD, our charter schools, West-MEC and Ottawa University to maintain our high quality of life and provide essential city services to all residents.

Q: What are the three most important issues you will tackle if elected?

A: My top priorities will be:

  1. Supporting public safety and keeping response times low – I helped implement development for the first fire station in our District 6 to keep up with growth and spearheaded the effort to finish our streets to allow public safety and traffic to flow freely. I am proud to be endorsed by police and fire associations because they know that I understand what it takes to improve public safety in our community and ensure our first responders can be there when we need them most.
  2. Economic development to bring good jobs here, by attracting more companies with good jobs to our Foreign Trade Zone, our downtown where we need to also create a unique sense of place and to our Prasada area while bringing in signature retail. It is absolutely critical that we continue to attract a balance of high-wage employers, small businesses and unique retail to keep our residents and our tax dollars in Surprise.
  3. Supporting our youth programs, including Surprise Youth Council, schools and recreation services. I am proud of the safe, family-friendly community that we are creating. Part of that is creating opportunities for our youth and families to have things to do. I will continue to support missions of the Community and Recreation Services Department as well as the Sports and Tourism Department.

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