Before 2020 slips into the rearview mirror, here are 12 people who impacted Ahwatukee or represented a significant development that touched the community.
Jennifer Armer. As the founder of the Armer Foundation for Kids, which helps families who have a child or children suffering from a catastrophic medical condition, Jennifer Armer is one of countless Ahwatukee residents who make giving back individually or through an organization a mantra in their lives. This year, Armer also opened a thrift store at 9830 S. 51st St., Ahwatukee, to help raise funds for her charity.
Sen. Sean Bowie. The vaunted “blue wave” this election cycle pretty much turned out to be a trickle, but Ahwatukee resident Sean Bowie handily won reelection to a third term. His and the victories of fellow Democratic Reps. Mitzi Epstein and Jennifer Jermaine suggest Legislative District 18 likely will remain a Democrat stronghold for some time to come.
Anya Chaudhry. Anya Chaudry was not only Ahwatukee’s sole winner of a prestigious Flynn Scholarship, but she also is representative of thousands of high school seniors here and across the nation who lost proms and typical commencement exercises to the pandemic in May. One of several Thunder valedictorians in the school’s virtual graduation this year, Anya was one of only 19 seniors in the state to win a Flynn.
Wilson Gee. This hasn’t been a great year for Wilson Gee. With two of his four Ahwatukee golf courses closed, his woes in 2020 mounted after a judge held him in contempt of court and ordered him to have the long-dormant Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course open for business in two years or pay $3.5 million in sanctions. While he has tentatively sold the Club West golf course, the buyers are running into their own problems with homeowners over a plan to build houses on part of the site.
Raphael Isaac. The pandemic literally washed away all of Ahwatukee’s treasured Christmas traditions except for an online presentation of the Ahwatukee Nutcracker and the million white lights display along Chandler Boulevard. The latter almost became a casualty in a long-running dispute with city inspectors, but Festival of Lights Committee President Raphael Isaac worked with the city to postpone infrastructure repairs for the lights to next year.
Wanda Kolomyjec. Wanda Kolomyjec was one of five candidates for three Kyrene Governing Board seats that made the field in this election unique: all five are educators. Her election ensured Ahwatukee will continue having two of the five board seats for the next two years, along with Margaret Pratt.
Armando Montero. Armando Montero not only recaptured a seat for Ahwatukee on the Tempe Union High School District Governing Board but as a 2019 Desert Vista graduate, will be giving the board a unique perspective as a voice for students still in the district’s seven high schools. The ASU sophomore’s campaign championed more mental health services for students – a position for which he was a strong advocate as a Thunder student.
Christian Nunez. Christian Nunez, a Mountain Pointe High senior, entered the fray over a proposal by some Tempe Union board members to eliminate funding for school resource officers at the district’s two Ahwatukee high schools. He urged the board not to pull the plug on SROs and so far, the district has not.
Joelle Prestegard. Joelle Prestegard, 12, of Ahwatukee, is wearing a facemask – the iconic symbol of 2020 – for a unique reason: She was near the brink of death after contracting COVID-19 but managed to pull through with the help of doctors at a Texas hospital where she was initially diagnosed and the dedicated support of her mother, Marissa King.
Lisa Thayer. Like other small business owners in Ahwatukee and throughout the Valley, Lisa Thayer has been weathering a pandemic that began just as she opened a business. Her Gordy’s Goodies Pet Food & Supplies at 15425 S. 48th St., like others who braved the coronavirus’ impact, is a testament to the fortitude and determination of small business owners throughout the country.
Dr. Jan Vesely. Before announcing her retirement from Kyrene’s top executive post, Dr. Jan Vesely left an enduring legacy with the district in terms of student achievement and the development of more equitable treatment of non-white students. She also navigated the district through the treacherous waters of COVID-19, becoming one of the first school superintendents to close campuses before Gov. Doug Ducey ordered them all shut down in March. She also carefully reopened campuses to five-day learning until the virus surge became too menacing.
Ryan Whitaker. The nationwide controversy over police brutality came to Ahwatukee this year when a Phoenix police officer fatally shot Ryan Whitaker twice in the back in the doorway of his condominium, setting off internal criminal and disciplinary investigations that have yet to be concluded. Phoenix City Council already has conceded the officer’s actions were unjustified: it unanimously approved a $3 million settlement with Whitaker’s family, who have added their voices to concerns about the high number of shootings, many fatal, by Phoenix police.