Newsroom | Regional Profile: Mayor Kevin Hartke

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He’s a pastor, a politician, and a people person. Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke has been serving the city of Chandler almost since the day he arrived in the Valley 30 years ago.

Chandler Mayor a “People Person”

Regional Profile

He’s a pastor, a politician, and a people person. Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke has been serving the city of Chandler almost since the day he arrived in the Valley 30 years ago. He says he immediately recognized Chandler as the “city where I am supposed to invest my life.” 

“To me, that meant, ‘how can I best serve the people where I am?’ Being mayor is a great opportunity to provide jobs, to hear people who are feeling disenfranchised, to make sure that the hopeless have a voice,” says Mayor Hartke.

Incredibly, the road that brought him to the top job in a dry desert city went through a few snowbanks. 

This cold-climate photo of Mayor Hartke was taken near Weavers Needle in the Superstition Mountains.“With our climate here, my fellow Regional Council members would probably be surprised to know that I used to love living where it was 60 below, where plastic bags shattered in the wind because of the cold. I used to mush dogs and fix snowmobiles and it was just a totally different lifestyle and a totally different climate,” says Hartke. “I honestly loved it as much as I love this one.”

Hartke grew up in St. Louis and received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Missouri. He planned to become a doctor. But after applying to a few medical schools, he had a window of free time and ended up serving with an organization that worked with indigenous peoples in northern Minnesota and across northern Canada. He ended up staying there for five years. 

“At the heart I’m a people person. I love working with people and helping solve their problems. The same skills that I would have applied as a doctor, I decided to use to solve people’s social issues rather than medical issues,” says Mayor Hartke. 

The experience led him to seek a master’s degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. After receiving a job offer from a church in Chandler, Hartke moved to the Valley. He immediately became active with numerous humanitarian and civic groups, and became director of the nonprofit, “For Our City Chandler.” He served as lead pastor at Trinity Christian Fellowship in Chandler from 1985-2018, and still works for the church part time. 

Hartke served on the Chandler City Council from 2008 through 2019, when he was elected mayor. He has served on the MAG Continuum of Care Regional Committee to End Homelessness, as well as on the MAG Economic Development Committee.  

“Jobs bring a whole lot of solutions to everything else. If you can get people working, it takes care of a lot of the other issues. Being able to be in a job-centric city like Chandler has been key in helping me reach those goals,” he said.

While jobs can help lift people out of homelessness, Mayor Hartke says there is one social challenge brought about by greater prosperity. As the cost of living rises, it can become harder for those who are barely scraping by to find affordable housing.

“It doesn’t always take a whole lot for someone who doesn’t have a safety net of people or a financial safety net to bounce them out. One bad health story or losing a car might result in a whole cascade of losing a job, losing a home,” he says. 

Along with his passion for social issues and economic development, Mayor Hartke cares deeply about transportation issues. He calls the extension of Prop 400 one of his top priorities. He believes the next transportation plan will need to have a lot of built-in flexibility.

“To be the best planners we can be, we are going to have to live with a little bit more uncertainty, because we’re not fully sure of what the transportation needs are going to be,” says Hartke. “What is the future of our roads in 10 years, and what will we need to change with emerging technologies, whether it is autonomous vehicles or other things? We know things are going to change, so we can’t just sock everything away so firmly that we don’t have the flexibility to make those adjustments.”

Mayor Hartke says he is a collaborative leader who spends less time worrying about who gets credit “as opposed to let’s get some things done together.”

In fact, Mayor Hartke discovered another practical leadership skill in the cold north, while training sled dogs.

“When you’re starting off on a project, there’s a lead dog, but not all dogs want to follow it. I have waded into the middle of dogfights and broken them up. But I’ve also noticed that once you turn around and the dogs sense that they are going home, they pull together a whole lot better, and they work as a team better. It’s important to keep vision and the sight of where you’re going in front of everybody. Then it’s a lot easier to get them to pull together with all they’ve got.”

Published July 29, 2019