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Meet the Men of Chandler 2020

14 Men Making an Impact on Chandler

Tom Dwiggins

Chief, Chandler Fire Department

Chandler is very lucky Chief Tom Dwiggins never outgrew his boyhood excitement for big red trucks, bright lights, and screaming sirens!

“I learned the value of empathy from my mother at a very young age and it is what has expanded my view and taught me to value and appreciate what people go through on a daily basis,” he says. “As a leader, this is my foundation and what provides me perspective and clarity when I’m faced with a difficult decision or situation.”

The Chief says the most rewarding part of his job is serving the men and women of the Chandler Fire Department.

“These professionals spend their entire career serving people they have never met in what we call ‘the worst day of their life moments,’ and they do it with pride, compassion, professionalism and love for our community, even if that means the end of their own life. I think it’s appropriate that my life’s work should be to serve them.

“My wife is my rock. Twenty-eight years in public safety can be difficult on your soul. She understands me and can help me make sense of things when others can’t. She is the perfect fit for me in an imperfect world. She conveys stability and calmness and gives me balance when I see things that I want to forget but never will, and struggle to understand why life can be so cruel at times.”

Something you might not know about the Chief is that he is a three-time Arizona State champion in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. One of his personal goals is to receive his black belt soon, and compete to win the Masters World Championship.

As a coach at the Gracie Barra gym in Chandler, the Chief loves developing the future athletes in this sport. Another thing you may not know is he has a twin sister who also lives in Phoenix.

Mark Stewart

Owner, Concept2Completion and Chandler City Councilman

If you know Mark Stewart, you know he is everywhere—literally! As an entrepreneur and a City Councilman, he wears many hats. Stewart finds Chandler an amazing community and does his best to participate in as many events as he can, blending it all together with the purpose of serving.

“I am an entrepreneur and an activator. I see things that need to be done and jump right in to do it. I enjoy it. Most of us have a really small circle of influence and it is important to do good where we can. While I have a million things going on at once, it is exactly where I want to be.”

When asked how he finds a life balance, Stewart says, “I stay centered in a common purpose. Family comes first and it always has. In my family we talk about purpose quite often. My family knows that my purpose is to show what good self-governance can look like in action. They are part of this journey with me.”


Sean Duggan

Chief of Police, City of Chandler

 

It’s the 100th anniversary of the Chandler Police Department, and we are lucky Chief Duggan is at the helm, especially in these very trying times. His resume and experience are impressive, including a master’s degree from Arizona State University and graduation from the FBI National Academy. Before joining the Chandler Police Department in 2014, he had served the Scottsdale Police Department for 27 years. He has also served on many state and national committees and boards.

Duggan’s father was a police officer in New York City, and at an early age he knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“Was I a kid who wanted to be Chief? No. It’s the greatest honor that can be bestowed on me professionally.”

His reward comes from the daily community interaction his position affords him.

“I strive to connect often with constituent groups in order to strengthen a variety of community sectors. I feel lucky to work in a profession where giving back is actually part of the job description. In this job, there are opportunities everyday to make a difference.”

The top priority for the Chief is to “identify, develop, and promote leaders who will play a significant role shaping our culture and ensuring we meet the challenges of 21st century policing. Our department’s leadership team has been in a constant state of transition over the past few years due to retirements. My empowerment style of leadership has proven to be a successful formula in mentoring the next generation of leaders from within.”

Many have inspired the Chief throughout the years.

“My uncle, Richie, was a customer service manager at Madison Square Garden when I was growing up. I learned a lot from him about customer service and moments of truth; treating each encounter as an opportunity to earn trust and support from the community.”

Gilbert Meraz

Owner, Rita’s Burritos

 

When the pandemic hit, Gilbert Meraz made the first Facebook post offering items from his restaurant—toilet paper, eggs, rice, and beans to those in the community with a need. And that is who Gilbert is in a nutshell!

“We are big fans of giving food to anyone that could use the help,” he says. “We love to support our local schools. We feed several homeless groups a couple of times a month, and we do two blood drives a year in front of the restaurant.”

When Rita’s (named after Gilbert’s mother) opened four years ago, Gilbert wanted something different for his staff outside of the late night, Sunday, and holiday hours that most restaurants have. The decision was made to “flip the script somewhat” and so they are not open at those times, giving employees more family time.

“If you told me 6 years ago that I would own a burrito restaurant in Chandler, Arizona, I would have laughed in your face. It was never my dream to own my own business.”

John Anguiano

VP, National Bank of Arizona

 

“I like to think that I am a person that is always willing to lend a helping hand and give people a good laugh,” John Anguiano says.

And once you meet Anguiano, this sums him up perfectly!

By focusing on giving back to his community, “I have always positioned myself, in my professional and nonprofit work, to be in a place to help people. I find comfort and peace in helping others, and making a positive and impactful difference in our community.”

He does so by serving on various Chandler Unified School District boards, volunteering for Downtown Chandler Community Partners, For Our City and the City of Chandler. He also serves on the executive board for Newtown Community Development, which helps low-income families find affordable housing.

“I still own my very first car—a 1968 Mustang that my parents bought for me when I was 15 and a freshman in high school. My father drove the car once I went into the Marine Corps, and my son drove it while he was in high school. My father passed before my son was born, so I like to think that it connects the three of us—a special bond that is captured in an old car.”

Dr. Craig Gilbert

Asst. Superintendent, Chandler Unified School District

 

Dr. Craig Gilbert is a homebody. He loves to work in his yard and bike along the canals with his family. You might be surprised that this is the same guy responsible for supervising seven junior high schools, six high schools, and two alternative schools totaling over 21,000 students!

As one of seven children of a blue collar assemblyman who never missed a day of work, he believes it is important to work hard, stay grounded, and put God and family first.

“Education is changing, especially with the recent events, so it is imperative to continue to grow as a leader and support other administrators in the school district to ensure we are prepared for what the future brings,” he says. “To know that I play a part in implementing changes to enhance what we are doing for students and staff, creating access and opportunities while CUSD grows, is very rewarding.”

His words to live by?

“Be yourself and know what you stand for. Dare to get out of the boat! Opportunities will be presented and you can’t let fear hold you back.”

Peter Sciacca

Entrepreneur, Importer, Developer

It has a long, interesting road for Peter Sciacca to get to where he is today. At age 20, he found himself a broke Grand Canyon University student delivering pizzas to make ends meet. When his application for school loans was declined, he was desperate for other income. Being a risk-taker, he moved to Taiwan to teach English. Over the next two decades, he started a business, married, had two amazing boys, and relocated back to the U.S., where he earned both his BS and MBA.

The Asian business allowed him to open a retail glass shop, diSciacca, in downtown Chandler, where he was also buying and redeveloping dilapidated properties.

Who has influenced Peter?

“I am eternally grateful to my father, Peter, who served in WWII and was a cabinet /custom furniture maker. He taught me to cook, have a strong work ethic, showed tough love, and kicked me out at age 17. I never looked back and was determined to make him proud.

“My cousin, Frankie, in San Diego, showed me what real passion and development should look like—take risks and pick good partners so you can recover from anything.

My mother, Edith, who prayed over me, for me, and reminded me that God is in charge.

My brother Stephan, OCD, fiscally Conservative—my opposite.

My amazing wife, partner, mother of my children, Sigrid. Smarter, kinder, more patient than me. Say no more."

 

Garrett Brolsma

District Executive Director, Valley of the Sun YMCA

Garrett Brolsma has always wanted to help others. He and his sister were raised by a single mother, and he saw the hardships she struggled with. That later inspired him to work for the YMCA to help support as many families as he could.

Brolsma says determination is his strongest trait—and he used that to help turnaround failing YMCAs in both Texas and Florida, before heading to the Valley of the Sun several years ago.

That determination has also helped when his family has gone through challenging times, including when his daughter, Sula Grace (now 2), was born with a rare heart condition that required two open-heart surgeries.

At the YMCA, Brolsma leads the day to day operations, staff team, advisory board and annual fundraising campaigns.

Outside of work, he volunteers with For Our City Chandler, is on the board of Chandler Rotary, and contributes to the mission of the Family Advisory Council for Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Zeferino Banda Jr.

Owner, Banda Group International, LLC

After serving eight years in the Air Force, Zeferino Banda Jr. worked full-time in high-tech, simultaneously earning a master’s degree, his Certified Safety Professional designation, and helping raise his young family.

After years of working for corporations, he decided to branch out on his own. He launched Banda Group International, LLC, which provides environmental health and safety services. Today the Chandler company employs over 100 people, and has offices in New Mexico and Tennessee.

He comes from a large Hispanic family, and says his parents were his inspiration.

“Because of the work ethic they both instilled in me, their faith in God, and their love of family, they provided all of us a great foundation,” he says.

He gives back by serving on the board at Homeward Bound, and on the advisory committee for ICAN, where he served on the board for three years. Through his company, he also supports nonprofits in New Mexico and Tennessee.

Ted Huntington

CEO, Empowering Breakthrough and Community Programs Manager, ICAN/CCYSA

Ted Huntington’s career path was shaped by his childhood experiences and the people who supported him. There were mental health and substance abuse challenges in his family, that led to him into the foster care system for a period in his life.

“It was faith, family, friends, teachers, coaches, etc. that provided me support tools and compassion,” he says.

Huntington has made a career of helping people. He’s worked as a police officer and a pastor, while leading multiple task forces and coalitions. He serves as the community programs manager for ICAN: Positive Programs for Youth, where he empowers teens, parents and community members with hope, resiliency, and success tools.

He is married to his wife, Maria, and they have four biological adult children, one grandson, and a number of spiritual adult children from a result of pastoring at Sunshine Acres Children's Home in Mesa.  

Huntington also serves on Governor Doug Ducey’s Youth Prevention Sub-Committee, and the Chandler I Am Project.

Additionally, he and his wife recently launched Empowering Breakthrough, a new business/ministry, of which he is CEO.

“I believe our true character is demonstrated by how we live and others experience us. That is what I would like to be known for," he says.      

Edward (Ed) Salanga

Partner and National Chair of the Litigation & Dispute Resolution Group, Quarles & Brady LLP

Ed Salanga always tries to lead by example.

“For my team, I don’t want to ever ask someone to do something that I haven’t done, or wouldn’t be willing to do,” he says.

In addition to his positions at Quarles & Brady, he has also served as both a member and co-chair of various committees within the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation.

In 2012, Salanga was elected president of the City of Chandler Industrial Development Authority, and today serves as a director. He is also a past-director of the Northern Arizona Advisory Board of the American Lung Association of the Southwest, a member of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Fellows Program, and has been honored with the Top Pro Bono Attorney award by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education. 

He calls his father—a Filipino immigrant who finished his medical training in the U.S. and became a leader within his organization (the Cleveland Clinic), where he practiced medicine for nearly 40 years—his inspiration and role model.

David Specht

Producer, improvMANIA Comedy Club and Vice President, Chandler Youth Theatre

“He is everywhere in Chandler, from Chandler Chamber events, he has appeared in City Recreation videos, and even was part of the Mayor’s city address,” wrote David Specht’s nominator.

Indeed, he is. In 2014 he opened ImprovMANIA Comedy Club, and in 2018, launched Chandler Youth Theatre under the ImprovMANIA umbrella (it became its own nonprofit in 2019). In addition to performing himself (he played Dr. A.J. Chandler during last year’s ChandLore event) and running his business, he also gives back. He’s busy mentoring youth groups by teaching improv workshops, presenting workshops at schools, and speaking with students during career days. He also volunteers at Camp Tatiyee, a camp for those with cognitive and/or physical disabilities, in Show Low each summer.

Financially, last year, ImprovMANIA donated over $15,000 worth of tickets to nonprofits for fundraising. Plus, Chandler Youth Theatre has a scholarship program.

One fun fact? Specht never participated in theatre or comedy until he was an adult, saying he had been too shy.

“That surprises most folks, but I think it's inspiring.”

Brandon Bagley

Owner, AlphaGraphics Chandler|Gilbert|Scottsdale

“I’ve always felt that the more time spent doing things outside my business (volunteering for ICAN or serving in leadership roles within AlphaGraphics Corporate), the more energetic and inspired I am when I return to my business,” says Brandon Bagley.

Bagley opened AlphaGraphics because he loved the idea of helping other companies grow and establishing relationships.

He enjoys being a part of the community, and has been a financial contributor as well as on the board at ICAN: Positive Programs for Youth for the past 10 years. He is also involved with the Chandler Compadres, and a sponsor of the Chandler Education Foundation.

He launched an AlphaGives campaign, where he sent out a request for nonprofits to submit for grants, awarding about $10,000 total to six local organizations.

Bagley, who has been honored with many awards including Alpha Graphics’ first-ever Community Impact Award and ICAN’s Henry Salinas Society Hero Award, says, “I’d like to believe that my friends/clients would say that I’m always willing to help in any way that I can.”

Mike Bianco

CEO, AvAir

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States and Arizona issued a stay-at-home order, Mike Bianco, CEO of AvAir, handed each of his employees $500 bonus to spend at small and local businesses in the community. 

Bianco was the first employee of AvAir, which was launched in 2000 by his brother-in-law. Today, it has 2,400 customers in 118 countries.

The most rewarding part of what he does, he says, is seeing his team happy. 

“Whether we host a group workout or provide lunch from a local food truck, they’re always excited to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company. The happier they are, the more I want to do for them,” he says.

He also volunteers with the community, and is a member of The Thunderbirds.

He and his wife, Candace, are also involved in People Acting Now Discover Answers (PANDA). 

Bianco is a strong believer in the laws of attraction and manifesting and lives by the quote from Albert Einstein, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.”

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