Newsroom | MAG Remembers Keno Hawker

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Along with a penchant for fun, adventure and chocolate, former Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker leaves a legacy of transportation advocacy that forever shaped the Valley’s transportation system.

Former MAG chair helped shape the Valley’s transportation system


Mayor Keno Hawker working as MAG ChairAlong with a penchant for fun, adventure and chocolate, former Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker leaves a legacy of transportation advocacy that forever shaped the Valley’s transportation system.

Mayor Hawker passed away at the age of 76 on October 21, 2022. He served two terms as mayor from 2000 to 2008. He served as chair of the MAG Regional Council from July 2004 to June 2006, and as vice chair of the Transportation Policy Committee in 2006.

Mayor Hawker also served as chair of the Regional Council Transportation Subcommittee in 2002, where he was a strong advocate for Proposition 400, a half-cent sales tax for transportation passed by voters in 2004.

Life Was an Adventure

In a 2003 MAG profile story headlined “Keno on the Go,” Hawker described his adventures piloting a plane, white water rafting, running a triathlon, captaining a charter sailboat, and traversing dangerous ice crevasses while mountain-climbing.

"You could probably sum me up that I've never found a toy that I didn't like," recounted Hawker during a MAG interview. "When they had that convention over at the Civic Center where it was ‘Big Boys and Their Toys,’ I think I was the first in line to get in," he laughed.

Hawker outlined just a few of the toys he owned at the time, from river rafts to airplanes and even a climbing wall in his front room. "You know I ride a unicycle, I if there's something out there that's a challenging activity, I've probably done it or am trying to learn how to do it,” he said.

Transportation Advocate

Mayor Hawker speaks at a transportation eventDespite his adventurous side, Hawker was serious when it came to his civic responsibilities. Along with his service at MAG and his mayoral terms, he sat on 16 different boards and commissions, ranging from the Williams Gateway Authority to the Mesa Baseline Rotary Club. But of all the issues he dealt with, transportation issues ranked among his highest priorities.

As a vital advocate for the passage of Proposition 400, Hawker specifically highlighted transportation safety, mobility, and the importance of local transportation priorities that are regionally planned.

"There needs to be a regionwide component so people understand that all of the municipalities are talking to each other and that there is a regional transportation component to go from one municipality to another, whether you're taking a freeway or a bus or light rail,” said Mayor Hawker prior to the passage of Prop 400. “The other component needs to be…local transportation priorities, where local municipalities create their own plan, showing their residents what transportation improvements they would receive locally that enhance regional mobility."

Another goal for Hawker was to promote and encourage a stronger link between transportation and land use planning, and "not do a land use plan and then after the fact think, 'oh, my goodness, how are we going to get people to and from that new development?' Have it all coordinated before the development is even approved," he said.

Not a Fan of Party Politics

Former Governor Janet Napolitano and Former Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker"I have never been one who has enjoyed party politics," Hawker told MAG. "Nonpartisan, I love, because then you represent your supporters, and not political party leadership. So if there was a nonpartisan race someplace I'd probably be interested in it, but partisan politics is just not my forte."

Hawker said he loved hard work while at the same time enjoying life and maintaining a hearty respect for his fellow Regional Council members.

"I appreciate them for their service. It's been fun. We take the issues seriously, but we don't take ourselves too seriously – and that's good."

Published October 28, 2022