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Linda Milhaven: we built this city on the promise of what Scottsdale could become

Photo of Scottsdale city leader Linda Milhaven
Scottsdale city leader Linda Milhaven spent more than a decade at City Hall helping to shape the decisions that have led to the 21st century metropolis. (Photo Arianna Grainey/DigitalFreePress.com)

1ON1 with Scottsdale community leader: Linda Milhaven

By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

This month marks the first local legislative session Scottsdale community leader Linda Milhaven will not be sitting atop the dais at City Hall, 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd.

Following three consecutive terms — a total of 12 years of elected leadership — Ms. Milhaven says she is proud of her time as an elected leader, pointing to a litany of accomplishments that began decades ago as first a business leader, then a community volunteer, and then ultimately resting as a voice of reason atop Scottsdale City Council.

But Ms. Milhaven says her days as an elected leader may have not come to a close.

“I am pretty proud. You know? When I ran the first time, I was looking at areas of downtown designated as ‘slum and blight’ on the community,” she told the Arizona Digital Free Press Friday Jan. 20, while enjoying lunch at The Capital Grille — just a few miles north of where those dilapidated buildings once stood in Old Town Scottsdale.

“I saw a great opportunity there to bring more people downtown. I think in my time on City Council, we have done some projects that have brought people downtown to help them succeed and I hear from merchants there that they are having their best year.”

Ms. Milhaven explains for much of her tenure, she and her colleagues, helped lay the foundation of modern-day Scottsdale.

“We faced a lot of financial challenges at the time,” she explained of her first two terms. “When I was first elected, we were still in the throes of the Great Recession, and we were going to get through it without compromising services to the community. Then, COVID happened and there was just so much uncertainty in local government. Over my time, we have faced some unprecedented financial challenges that we managed through great financial conservative policy efforts.”

Although Ms. Milhaven is happy to share efforts she played a role, she was reticent to take too much credit for cumulative municipal efforts.

“What did I champion? It is a team sport. There was stuff I wanted to get done, but I wouldn’t say I was a champion for a cause. One item that immediately comes to mind is the passing of our nondiscrimination ordinance,” she said of local workplace protections passed this last calendar year at Scottsdale City Council for those who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“I was sorry we didn’t get it done sooner, but we did get it done. I think communities have souls like people have souls and we have values that we all live by. We all, as a community, want to be open and accepting of all people. If we have folks in our community who are scared they can be treated unfairly in our community and if passing an ordinance makes them feel more comfortable in the community, then I think that is the responsibility of the government to do so.”

Linda Milhaven: banking, core leadership & a run for mayor?

In 1994, Ms. Milhaven began her 13-year tenure at the Scottsdale Community Bank — a time when Scottsdale’s population was about 150,000, she estimates — with her main focus to grow deposits and investment in barren land known today as ‘The Scottsdale Airpark,’ which today is one of the municipality’s coveted employment sectors.

“It was just a wonderful opportunity,” she said. “We helped finance a lot of the business growth in the Scottsdale Airpark. In the early 1990s local business were buying lots and building owner-occupied properties and I would get to finance those — I got to meet such neat people.”

Conversely, Ms. Milhaven points out, during the same time sectors of downtown, in and around Old Town Scottsdale, were struggling.

“Everyone was so welcoming to me,” she said, explaining the feel of the community she experienced. “It is just about showing up and being available to help. Part of that role is you go to City Council to advocate for the issues that are important to you.”

Ms. Milhaven says as she became more involved in the local community a draw to civil service blossomed.

“I am not a politician,” she said of what she thought some 20 years ago. “But I looked around and saw some real needs in our community especially in the arena of economic development. At the time, I didn’t really see anyone running who had the same concerns as I do. It became clear to me to run for City Council.”

Ms. Milhaven says she has always been accused of being a straight shooter.

“One of the things I am accused of is being straight forward and I take that as a compliment,” she said. “My grandmother told me, ‘if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.’ This is an extraordinary community and we have followed the decisions of leaders that looking back are breathtaking in their hindsight. I don’t think we can take anything for granted and we need to remember what got us here.”

For Ms. Milhaven, finding solutions through collaboration is the name of the game.

“There is a lot of conversation around the divisiveness in our political system — divisiveness in our community,” she said. “But at the end of the day, what it all boils down to, is that we all really want the same thing. When people talk about a concern for traffic, I share that concern. When people talk about concerns about water, I share those concerns.”

When asked directly what the future may hold for Ms. Milhaven, she said:

“I am getting a lot of encouragement to run for mayor, so I am considering it,” she said with a smile. “From a technical standpoint signatures are due in April or May of 2024, but I think whoever wants to run for mayor will likely want to get out ahead of that at least a year or so.”

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