In the past 13 years in his role as president and CEO of the influential East Valley Partnership, Roc Arnett, of the Mesa 30th Ward, Mesa East Stake, has done more, perhaps, than any other single individual to spur the economic development and overall influence of the Phoenix East Valley.
Arnett’s retirement from that position was effective December 31. Taking his place will be John Lewis, another well-known community leader who is currently serving as Mayor of the Town of Gilbert and is also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The East Valley Partnership (EVP) began in 1982, formed by a group of powerful business and civic leaders from Mesa, Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler and other East Valley municipalities who sought to unite in order to match the strength and clout of Phoenix.
Arnett, a native of Mesa, was named EVP’s first full-time president and CEO in 2002
Since then, the East Valley has experienced tremendous population growth, adding thousands of new homes and jobs.
Arnett has led the coalition’s efforts to manage the growth, while improving the economy and the quality of life in the East Valley. Under his direction, the EVP has grown so it now includes more than 125 businesses from Apache Junction, Chandler, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Florence, Fountain Hills, Gila River Indian Community, Gilbert, Guadalupe, Queen Creek, Mesa, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Scottsdale, Sun Lakes and Tempe.
EVP has focused on projects such as Superstition Vistas, the 52-square-mile Gateway Airport area, and the Price Freeway corridor, as well as many other economic, transportation, aviation and aerospace and education projects, such as the billion-dollar community college bond that passed in all precincts in 2004. The EVP website says, “We actively advocate in areas such as economic development, education, transportation and infrastructure, arts, behavioral health, and other important areas.”
While an Arizona Republic editorial called Arnett a “passionate cheerleader and the leading voice for the region’s economic development,” he downplays it all.
“I don’t take all the credit,” Arnett says. “I have simply moved things forward. I’ve had a wonderful time getting to know the people and leaders in the East Valley and have had phenomenal support from individuals and businesses. It really has been a great run and I’ve enjoyed it tremendously.”
Arnett will continue to serve in his calling as director of the Greater Phoenix Public Affairs Council and to work on various community projects and fundraising efforts.
As far as his replacement with the EVP, “John Lewis will do nothing but move things forward,” Arnett says.
Fifty-eight-year-old Lewis was selected after an extensive process that took several months and attracted more 50 applicants.
Lewis and his family have lived in Gilbert for 30 years. He has 28 years of experience in the private sector, 19 of that with Apollo Group (parent company of University of Phoenix). Formerly the stake president of the Gilbert Stake, Lewis has further demonstrated his strong leadership abilities in his tenure as Mayor of Gilbert for nearly seven years.
“John Lewis is a very dynamic and collaborative leader,” said Brian Campbell, chair of the East Valley Partnership Board of Directors.
Mike Hutchinson, formerly EVP’s project manager, will serve as interim president and CEO until a transition plan will allow Mayor Lewis to assume that position this summer.
Lewis looks forward to this new challenge and to continuing the work he’s been involved with in the East Valley.
“In the next 30 years, there could be another million people, another 400,000 jobs in the East Valley, so education, transportation and branding will be key things to focus on,” Lewis says.