When Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner enters the room, he brings with him a distinct mix of friendly charm and intensity. The combination reflects his background as a nationally recognized attorney and civic leader who also is dedicated to his family and the community of nearly 13,000 he serves. Mayor Bien-Willner is the directly-elected mayor of the Town of Paradise Valley, having won reelection to a third term as mayor in 2022. Prior to his selection as the Town’s mayor, he served on the Town’s Planning Commission and on the Town Council for four years, including two consecutive terms as vice mayor. All of this work has been, and is currently done, as an unpaid volunteer. “I grew up in the Valley and in Paradise Valley. My wife Robyn and I met (while we were both working) in New York City,” says Bien-Willner. “We decided that we didn’t want to raise a family in New York, and I was able to convince her to come to Paradise Valley. And one day I opened up our local newspaper and they were asking for volunteers. I put in my resume…we thought this would be a good way to get a little more involved in a place that I love and also get reintegrated into the community.” From PV to NYC and Back After graduating from High School in Paradise Valley, Bien-Willner attended Claremont McKenna College on a four-year academic merit scholarship. He earned his law degree, also with an academic merit scholarship, from the University of Arizona. During law school, Bien-Willner worked as a research assistant for the U.S. Department of Justice. He went on to accept a position at Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP, a boutique firm specializing in complex litigation. He was soon transferred from the West Coast to the firm’s New York City headquarters. During his time at the firm, he won more than $1 billion in recoveries for his clients. Mayor Bien-Willner says his law background has served a useful purpose in his current role as mayor, especially when it comes to reviewing ordinances or contracts. “In my first term, the town faced a major lawsuit and I felt very comfortable in that environment and working through that, and we were able to successfully resolve it in a win-win,” he says, noting that he always took his obligation as an officer of the court extremely seriously. In fact, it is an obligation that carries over in all he does. “I see myself as a mayor, as a servant, and as a fiduciary to our citizens,” he says. “It’s ingrained in me to do things ethically and with integrity at all times.” Moving Forward in a Fully Built-Out Community When asked about his community’s greatest challenges, Bien-Willner says it is finding a way to keep what is best about his built-out community while continuing to move forward. “From a broader, county-wide level, I think it is keeping all of the great people we have here and attracting more great people. The Town sits in the middle of a growth area, and we have been for many years,” says Bien-Willner. “(Paradise Valley has) a rich tradition and character and our challenge is adapting as times change while keeping that core essence of our community that makes it a really special place.” Doing that takes “planning, teamwork, and listening, first and foremost.” Bien-Willner points to the widespread support and successful passage of the town’s recent general plan as an example of the community buy-in to walk the line between tradition and future progress. Other key accomplishments for Bien-Willner include the town’s status as one of the safest places in Arizona with an accredited police department, the fact that the town has paid down the pension fund debt, and a successful effort to reform state law around short-term rentals. He also recognizes the importance of integrating with the larger region. “There are some communities that have a clear identity that they’d like to preserve and enhance, like Paradise Valley. There are other communities that are growing and are defining what they may become. The common threads are that we are a region, and each part of the region offers different things. I think we have to accentuate those while cooperating with each other, so that there’s something for everybody.” Celebrating the Big and Small When asked what he enjoys most about his job as mayor, Bien-Willner says the satisfaction comes in the variety of activities, ranging from the big picture to smaller successes. “It’s really serving and working with others to build consensus and solve difficult problems. That’s kind of the bigger scale. If there’s one activity, and I hope this doesn’t sound corny, but its interacting with kids especially,” he says. He describes transitioning from having the Pledge of Allegiance read by councilmembers at meetings to bringing in youth to do it instead. “If there’s a student and they can be nominated by their schools or who’s done something exceptional in academics, athletics, or service to others, we invite that student in to lead the pledge and recognize them. And it’s things like that that really make me feel great about the job, because I think it’s an embodiment of what we do and really trying to inspire the next generation of servants and leaders for the community and to make them feel welcome at Town Hall.” What You’d Be Surprised to Know When asked what his fellow Regional Council members would be surprised to learn, Bien-Willner shares that his father is from Argentina and he was raised in a bilingual household. One of his great uncles, Sidney Kartus, was the last to homestead in the U.S. in the Town of Cave Creek. He was a state representative who helped negotiate Arizona water rights for the Colorado River during the time of Governor Hunt. In his spare time, Bien-Willner says he spends time with family, listens to music, and plays basketball for a men’s league once a week. If he could provide one gift to the Valley, he says it would be a “positive, safe, and prosperous future for all.” “Dream big and work toward that. I like to keep the big picture in mind as I’m doing this public service work because it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day. I think having that overall vision is important,” he says.