This past year Ahwatukee Foothills saw dramatic changes and at the same time steady signs of hope.

While many businesses closed, others continued to thrive and the city of Phoenix took steps to change the way business is done.

Events caused the community to shrink in fear and then find new ways to extend a hand of hope and comfort to those in need.

Here is a look back at the events of 2011:

Legislative District 20 GOP leadership was in turmoil at the beginning of the year when their newly elected chairman Anthony Miller resigned suddenly citing safety concerns.

Miller resigned shortly after the attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson), and the killing of several others, including a federal judge, in Tucson.

Commenting in a Jan. 12 story, "I'm not going to get shot or my family shot for what is a volunteer position," said Miller who was first elected to the post by party activists in 2009.

Jeni White was voted to replaced Miller after his resignation. In the Jan. 12 story she said, "(Miller) made a personal decision based on his feelings and we need to respect those feelings," she said. "This is a sensitive time and a sensitive matter and we're trying to bring some calm and rationality to it."

The group has since moved forward without issue. Miller turned his focus to his non-profit, the American Foundation for Cardiomyopathy.

This year city councilman Sal DiCiccio was threatened with a recall if he did not resign but Diciccio stood strong and though enough signatures were collected, a recall election was never held.

"I think the taxpayer has won a huge victory," DiCiccio said in an Aug. 12 story. "It sends a message to the other politicians, not only in Phoenix but across the state, that they can have a backbone to protect the taxpayer. They're hearing the same thing that I've been hearing, which is the public wants to feel like they're Number 1."

Andrew Chavez, owner of Petition Partners that helped the group collect signatures said the group decided not to go forward with the recall to save taxpayers money. A special recall election is estimated to cost around $200,000.

Later in the year Phoenix residents were asked to decide on another election. Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon was termed out and after a long and sometimes biting campaign, former city councilman Greg Stanton, who represented Ahwatukee Foothills, came out on top.

Stanton told supporters on election night, "The future belongs to you. I value the trust and confidence you have placed in me."

Stanton began the transition in November and will officially take office on Jan. 3.

The business community also saw significant changes in 2011.

First, the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Terri Kimble resigned to go head the chamber in Chandler. After a long search, Anne Gill was named as the chamber's new leader.

Gill has experience as a marketing director, a small business owner and an executive director of a non-profit.

During an Oct. 25 interview Gill said "Owning a small business with my husband, and having worked with other businesses and helping them grow, I know what it takes to run a business. I know times are tough and we all need to work a little bit smarter. I'm able to look at things from a different perspective and give some fresh ideas."

Many businesses celebrated anniversaries this year and also celebrated surviving through some tough times.

Plaza Hardware celebrated 30 years in business. Ahwatukee Carpets remembered 20 years. Macayo's thanked the community for 15 years in Ahwatukee and 65 in Arizona and Mountainside Wellness Center celebrated 10 years. Neighborhood fixtures like Bell'Italia prepared for its 10-year anniversary coming up in 2012.

"We're being careful with the way the economy is and times are," said Paola Caputo, owner of Bell'Italia. "We would like to have a little bit bigger place, hopefully have a bar so people can come and enjoy it, but we're not real greedy because you can't be. This is our niche."

Not all business in Ahwatukee thrived. The community was sad to see the closing of Rock Bottom Brewery in June.

After serving the area since 1999 the restaurant closed its doors.

"It was only after much consideration that the company made this difficult decision to permanently close the doors after over 12 years of business at this location," Lindsay Killian, marketing coordinator with CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries, Inc., owners of Rock Bottom, wrote in an email June 20.

The Rock Bottom locations in Desert Ridge and Glendale are the company's only remaining Arizona locations.

Ahwatukee also faced some tragedy in 2011. Three deadly crashes took place on Ahwatukee streets including one that took the life of Dr. Richard A. Mickle on Nov. 29.

Police believe Mickle was driving to work when his car crossed the center line and crashed head-on into a dodge pick-up truck. It took first responders 35 to 40 minutes to free him from the wreckage.

A Tempe Police Officer, Scott Saffell, was killed in an accident in October and 28-year-old Nicole Johnson was killed after colliding with a palm tree in an early morning crash in September.

In December 28-year-old Amanda Blaies-Rinaldi was found dead after a shooting near Piedmont and Elliot roads.

Anthony Rinaldi will now face charges of disorderly conduct and first-degree murder after he apparently shot his wife and left in a car on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Rinaldi's young son who remained in the house called 9-1-1. Rinaldi eventually turned himself in to a DPS officer on the side of Interstate 10.

A seven-year-old murder in Ahwatukee finally went to trial in 2011. Jeffrey Martinson was convicted of killing his 5-year-old son, Joshua Eberle-Martinson, in 2004 after a weekend visit.

The trial was delayed for years as Martinson went through five sets of legal counsel. Now the trial has been delayed once more. The jury that convicted Martinson of first-degree murder could not decide whether or not to give him the death penalty.

Judge Sally Duncan declared a penalty phase mistrial for the case. The judge and attorneys will meet again in January to decide where to go from here.

Even among all the tragedy Ahwatukee residents continually stepped up to do something great. Girl Scouts worked together to decorate the Ronald McDonald House. Two club baseball teams competed to gather cans for the needy. Connecting to Serve created focus groups to help address issues within the community.

2011 may have been full of changes but Ahwatukee Foothills is prepared to adapt and continue to be a force for good in Arizona.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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