Henry Wade Jr. has been a member of Maricopa City Council six years and is also the director of housing counseling services for the nonprofit Chicanos por la Causa. He just spent one year as vice mayor. A native of South-Central Los Angeles, he spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force before retiring to become a real estate broker. He spoke with InMaricopa about development and issues the city is experiencing.
Remind us of your background.
Henry Wade Jr.
City of Maricopa councilmember
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Maricopan since: 2008
Family: Wife Gayle, three sons, two grandsons
Politics: Former chairman of Pinal County Democrats
Military: U.S. Air Force 20 years
Worst-kept secret: Was the grand marshal of the 2019 Arizona Black Rodeo
I’m Henry Wade, city councilmember for the City of Maricopa. That is my most cherished job. I enjoy doing that above everything. I also am actually the director of housing counseling services for the nonprofit Chicanos por la Causa (CPLC). CPLC is celebrating its 50th year of community service. It is a community development fund. My portion of it is a HUD-approved housing counseling agency. So what we do is first-time homebuyer education. We do loss mitigation to help people stay in their homes if they’re facing foreclosure. We do financial literacy education as well. We have an office in Phoenix, one in Tucson and then one in Las Vegas, Nevada, that I manage. I’ve been working with Chicanos por la Causa now, my eighth year with them, and thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere as a nonprofit. Its one of the largest Hispanic nonprofits in the United States. The No. 1 supplier of health and human services in Maricopa
County. A lot of people don’t know anything about it. They way I came about working for Chicanos por la Causa was through my real-estate background. Before I retired from the Air Force I spent time learning real estate, going to school, what have you. So, I was first licensed in 1980 here in Arizona. I was a licensed appraiser, Realtor, broker. Started a company called Northstar Homes. I chose the North Star because that’s what Harriet Tubman used to help guide slaves into freedom. My schtick was I helped guide people into home ownership. Thoroughly enjoyed doing that.
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I’m married. We are a blended family. I have three sons, two that live here now and one in Colorado. I am currently raising my two grandsons. One’s 18, he’ll be graduating this year from Maricopa High School. And then one is 11. He’s over at Saddleback Elementary. He’s kind of gotten the political bug – he is the sergeant-at-arms for the Saddleback Student Council. We went through the process, did his flyers, did his speech and the whole bit. We’re real proud he got elected and so it was fun watching that. Lived in Maricopa since 2008. My wife Gayle Randolph and I were looking for somewhere to live. We went back and forth between Maricopa, Laveen, Chandler, all over the place. We wanted to settle down and have some roots. We settled on Maricopa actually for two reasons. One was that it was actually faster, believe it or not, to travel on the 347 to the 10 than it was on Baseline Road to come from Laveen over to the 10. Less traffic actually. And houses were $60,000 cheaper. That had a lot to do with our decision. Love Maricopa. Truly, thoroughly love Maricopa. At the point that I am here in Maricopa now, being on council, this will be my sixth year on council, I can’t think of anything better to do in a community that has embraced me and my family the way that they have than to be able to give back to the community is our joy. Both of us. I’m very fortunate to have a partner like Gayle, because not only is she helping me raise kids that are not her kids and not her grandchildren, but she’s also been engaged as my campaign manager when I run for office, and she’s been very successful helping me get elected twice. And didn’t know anything about politics before becoming engaged in the process, so, pretty smart lady.
Why did you first run for council?
I ran for council because I ran into a councilmember who was – I went to a council meeting and so he had mentioned to me about Planning & Zoning Commission. So, I put in the application for it and, of course, I was rejected. Nobody knew who I was, because they didn’t know my background. I tried it again and got selected. Served Planning & Zoning for four year, two years as vice-chair. Then actually ran for county supervisor for the fourth district when the five districts were first established. Ran against former Mayor Anthony Smith. It was a good contest, I would say. I think I did pretty well, particularly considering he certainly had name recognition and experience and whatever. Eventually I ran for city council and was successful the first time.
What can the council do better than it has been doing?
We have a good council. We really do. We have a sincere level of respect for each other. I say, for the most part. Of course, there are different personalities and dynamics and people have different motivations in what they’re trying to do what they think they should do. But having watched councils since 2008, I think we have a very good council. I think the majority of us, all of us, I would say, want Maricopa to prosper, want Maricopa to be a thriving community, want people of Maricopa to feel they are engaged, that they’re a part of what’s going on, that the City listens to them and satisfies their needs. As an African American on council, I have to say, and I don’t think I’m speaking out of school, that the African American community looks to myself as a leader and someone to speak for their concerns and on their behalf, and I don’t have a problem with doing that at all. I think the relationship I have with my fellow councilmembers allows me to be able to do that and feel comfortable about doing that. I don’t feel like I’m stepping on anybody’s toes or that someone’s going to get upset with me. Because we can talk. At any given time we can sit down and have a conversation if they want to. I’ve come to respect members of the council, very much so. Everybody is trying their best to make Maricopa a better place to live. They live here. City manager – I think that was one of our best hires since I’ve been on council. We have a city manager that is engaged, that’s intelligent, that’s creative and lives here. When you look at that, you look at the council and the kind of people that are involved in running the City, we’re vested in this community. I think that’s important.
What are you proudest of that has been achieved on council?
That the council could work together to get things done. The overpass is an example. I’m hopeful that the city is observing and paying attention to the beautification of Maricopa through the cleanup. The city manager has been an advocate, a staunch advocate, to make sure that the community looks good when people come through, and I like that. As we did the overpass, the little things that were discovered, the little junk places where people were hiding things, all came out. Here you are, from hundreds of feet in the air, people can see all those things. We just completed our strategic planning session, a briefing from the city manager on our financial position, and we’re doing pretty good for a little bitty city like this. I remember a time when it was kind of desert, nobody was looking at Maricopa. We weren’t getting developers and investors looking at Maricopa. We were going to trade shows trying to encourage people to come out and see Maricopa. And it’s come to pass, and we’re prospering from it.
The hospital companies have not been really excited about moving here …
That’s always a concern of mine. They said we needed to 45,000 [population]. So then we had 45. Then they say, “You need 50,000.” OK, so we did 50. “Well, maybe you need 55.” We’re pushing toward 55. Let’s stop making the excuses and let’s go ahead and get this done, because we need a hospital here, right? Gayle’s dad lives here. He’s 83 years old. He still lives by himself. He’s still ambulatory; he’s in great shape. He’s slow, he’ll tell you that. Having an emergency clinic here is important to us, as well, and something we need to be concerned with, particularly with Dad. I’m hopeful we can continue to push forward in that direction.
What was the most difficult decision you’ve had to make on council?
When we were deciding on whether you could carry guns in public places. That was the most difficult decision for me. I was very distraught with the decision that was the eventual outcome because I felt that people didn’t come out and express their views well enough to be able to give council a little more room to make that decision. So, it was kind of a slam dunk on the other side. I was disappointed in that. Just because people didn’t come out and say anything on it.
Why do you think that was?
I don’t know. We live in a fairly conservative area. I would say that a lion’s share of people would be in favor of allowing that to happen. I think it’s the minority that feels they don’t have the power to push it away, and so they don’t come. As it turns out, and as I came to understand from going through the issue and talking to people afterwards, there were a couple of councilmembers that were really on the fence about it. Had the people come out and shown more support, I think, for council in that regard, those of us who were wanting to vote against that, they would have had a little more fire power.
There were a couple of city employees who were kind of scared about it, saying they were in the line of fire, not the council.
That’s exactly right. That’s one of the reasons I was concerned about it. I still don’t quite get it. I’m retired military. I don’t have a problem with weapons and carrying them around if necessary, but I have a difficult time understanding why you need a 9mm in the library with a bunch of kids.
How would you describe your time as vice mayor?
Exhilarating. People would, of course, always ask you, “What’s the vice mayor do? What does that mean?” I’d say, well, when the mayor is too busy to go here or go there, he calls up and says, “Hey, can you take care of this for me?” By the same token, too, there is a little bit of a bump among the community when you’re vice mayor versus a councilmember. What was most amusing to me, though, was that when I came off of being vice mayor, people thought I was leaving the council as well. No I’m not going anywhere. It’s great the way the system is established because you get an opportunity to serve as vice mayor for a year and then we among our peers make the selection, which is very encouraging and very supportive. It was a unanimous decision when I was elected vice mayor. I was very humbled and respected that decision.
So far have you achieved the goals you wanted to achieve on council?
No. There’s so many things to do. There’s always something else coming up. We’ve got challenges with the 347. It was nice that the overpass came in. It was one of the special parts of being on council, knowing that you had something to do with that. I traveled to D.C. a couple of times with the mayor and put my two cents in wherever I was given the opportunity to talk about how important the overpass was. I’ll do the same thing with the 347 and others. The fact that we were able to see Propositions 416 and 417 pushed forward, still in the throes of decisions of other people who inflict their ideas on our community. There are many, many things to do, and I want to be a part of making sure those things get done.
What have you personally gotten out of being on council?
To be able to satisfy my public-service bug. My commitment. Most people know I’m retired Air Force. I spent 20 years – actually 20 years, 27 days – in the Air Force, and throughout that time I learned and honed those skills of public service and supporting the community and being involved and engaged. I think that’s what it is. It gives me the opportunity to give back, to do something. I grew up in Los Angeles, south-central Los Angeles, a very famous corner, Florence and Normandy, was one block from where I grew up and graduated from Crenshaw High School in south-central. I graduated from high school in 1973, so the things that I experienced with the Watts Riots in ’68 and then watch things happen throughout. The Rodney King thing, I was not there. Actually, I was here watching it on CNN, and my mother, who was a block away from all the activities, I was talking to her on the phone. So, when she was hearing the glass breaking and the sirens and the helicopters and all that, she was with a block of where these things were taking place. That’s my background. I don’t shy away from it. I’m very proud of where I grew up and where I came from, but I also want to be able to contribute in a positive way to the community I live in. Growing up in south-central, I got some skills out of there. Sometimes folks don’t even know. Sometimes people will say something, and they don’t have a clue as to how I got honed to be the person that I am, both growing up in L.A. to be part of the Air Force, starting my own business when I retired from the Air Force, starting a real estate company that was an appraisal company. People don’t know.
That could have gone a completely different direction.
Absolutely. I have a friend that we were going into the buddy program. We went to testing together, did physicals together, we did everything together as we were moving towards actually leaving to go in the Air Force. And the day it was time to go, he was a no-show. We’re still friends and still in contact with each other. He says, “The biggest mistake I ever made was not getting out of bed and going with you.”
How are race relations in Maricopa?
It’s just respect. Just respect that fact we’re all in this together. We’re all Maricopians. We’re all Arizonans. But I’m going to say something. Gayle’s going to kill me, but I’m going to say it. We live in a fairly conservative city, but there are people in this community that still use the term “colored” when referring to black people. That insults me. I love you, but don’t use that term to describe black people. That is something that is abrasive and is insulting to black people. I think that maybe no one’s ever said that and shared that, so I’m sharing that.
When you think about the residents and the amenities they’re demanding, are the plans in place to make that happen?
Yeah, I think they are. One thing that’s been a little controversial here of late, of course, is the multi-family housing. The apartments we’re moving toward. From a commercial perspective, a hotel is scheduled to be available to us in November of this year, so that’s pretty good. And there are many developmental projects on the horizon. The way the city has aligned itself with development in terms of connecting economic development with those pieces as well, so we can see the benefit from the growth of it as well as the benefit from the revenue that comes from it. I like the way the city manager operates. His idea is if it’s not profitable, it doesn’t make much sense to do it. He’s taken that position, and I think that’s a smart position to take.
In using your background, when the council gets projects like multi-family housing, what are you looking at specifically to make sure that’s going to be what Maricopa needs?
A credible developer, somebody that we can trust, somebody that’s going to be there through entire project, from start to finish, somebody that if there are things that don’t go the way that we would like them to go, that we can work it out, we can negotiate and improve whatever the situation might be. We are going to get apartments in the city of Maricopa. Now I’ve been saying that for two years. At one of my Councilmember on the Corner events, the largest event we had was about housing, and we had a really good turnout for that. And I said then, “We will have multi-family housing. Get used to that fact.” Sometimes people can be a little upset, and I appreciate that. I wouldn’t necessarily want to have a three- or four-floor apartment as my view outside of my backyard when I’ve been having mountains and everything for eight years. I get that. At the same time, there’s a need. And they are not HUD houses. They are not Section 8 houses. That’s the other thing. When we talk about the subsidy, people think we’re going to have inferior, Section 8 residents moving into Maricopa. We have firefighters, we have teachers, we have young people who have graduated from college and want to be around their parents but don’t want to live with their parents. We have people here that would be able to utilize those, that we don’t have to worry about the stigma of having apartments that have been subsidized that will bring in people that are less than whatever they might want to consider them. I call them constituents and citizens, and that’s what they are. They need space, just like I need my space, they need their space.
This story appears in part in the March issue of InMaricopa.