Kathy Littlefield, Paula Sturgeon, Solange Whitehead

Kathy Littlefield, Paula Strugeon, Linda Milhaven

With one member termed out at the end of the year, the race for three Scottsdale City Council seats has begun.

Councilwoman Linda Milhaven is not eligible to run again, leaving an open seat up for grabs. 

So far, statements of interest have been filed by newcomers Paula Sturgeon and Tim Stratton and incumbents Kathy Littlefield and Solange Whitehead. 

Statements of interest are just that and don’t necessarily mean those who filed them intend to follow through on filing petitions with at least 1,000 signatures between March 7 and April 4 to get on the primary ballot. Filing a statement of interest is required, however, before hopefuls can start seeking those signatures.

City Council is expected to call during its Jan. 11 meeting for the Aug. 2 primary election and a general election, if necessary, for Nov. 8 for the purpose of electing three council members. Council members are allowed three four-year terms before limiting out.

Meanwhile, the race for two seats on the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board is off to a fast start as seven people have filed statements of interest. Among them is former board President Jann-Michael Greenburg, whose term expires at the end of this year along with board President Patty Beckman.

There is no primary election for school board candidates, who must file between June 11 and July 11.

Besides Greenburg, statements of interest have been filed by Robert Vaules, Jonathan Bakke, Andrea Keck, Amy Carney, Michelle Randall and Nicholas Horsch.

Milhaven has no plans at this point for what comes after her term ends in December, but Littlefield said she is looking to win her third and final term this year. 

She is in the process of getting her 1,000 signatures and figures she has about 400 so far. 

Littlefield points to Council’s tighter regulations on short-term rental properties as an accomplishment.

After a task force studied the issue, Council approved two ordinances last year reigning nuisance parties at short-term rentals.

Although Littlefield acknowledged that Milhaven took the lead on the project, she said the new regulations are something Council could be proud of as a whole.

As it was in the last council election in 2020, Littlefield, a retired computer business owner, sees development as the defining issue again. “You know me. You know what I stand for. I’m not going to change,” she said.

What she stands for is limiting building height and apartment density in proposed projects.

Case in point: Littlefield was the sole vote against the Kimsey project last April.

“I thought it was way too dense and way too tall,” Littlefield said. “I got a lot of kick back from citizens who did not want that, especially, oddly enough, from people who had businesses in the area.”

Council approved rezoning that will allow PEG Development to replace the two-story motel and four-story event center near Indian School Road and Marshall Way with a six-story, 168-room hotel and 190-unit apartment building.

Both new buildings will be around 76 feet tall, well above the maximum height of 36 feet allowed under the old zoning.

On the other hand, Littlefield voted for the only other major rezoning request the council saw last year – a 148-unit apartment complex known as The Miller near the intersection of Miller Road and 6th Avenue that was proposed by the Toll Brothers.  

The six-story building on 1.7 acres offered $400,000 in public art and eight workforce housing units without offsetting government subsidies. 

“I felt like we were getting enough back to make up for the height,” she said.

Whitehead figures she has about 300 signatures so far.

“In 2018, voters in every precinct elected me to bring community priorities to City Hall,” she said. “Working with residents these past three years, we have accomplished so much and have many reasons to celebrate. We have stopped the rampant up-zoning and restored the ‘Scottsdale Premium’ on development: lower heights, higher design standards, more open space and trees, and community buy-in. For the first time in 20 years, voters approved a General Plan, a 3-question bond package, and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve is protected saving taxpayers millions of dollars, too.” 

She sees development as a vital issue as well.

She voted for the Kimsey project and the Miller, explaining, “Both projects replace blight downtown.”

Whitehead said both projects met the three criteria development need to meet to get her vote: it needs to serve a need, offer a quantifiable public benefit, and it should earn public support. 

Unlike Littlefield, Whitehead, an electrical engineer by trade, said she heard overwhelming support for the Kimsey from business owners in the area.

“We turned an empty vacant bar with criminal activities into a $30 million project,” Whitehead said, adding that she is comfortable with the height.

“People say, ‘No more high rises, no more high rises,’” she said. “It’s not a high rise. It’s a six-story building. It’s a mid-rise.”

And the Miller project offers a vital walking corridor downtown, she noted. 

Another project, 9400 Shea, which called for 219 apartments in 48-foot buildings on 3.16 acres near the intersection of Shea Boulevard and 92nd Street, was pulled from the council agenda because it did not have enough support to pass. 

Sturgeon, a retired hospital administrator, said she started collecting signatures over the holidays and is sitting at just under 200 signatures.

She supports increased heights and density in certain areas.  “We need to make sure we’re not building 10-story buildings next to single-family homes with quarter-acre lots,” she said.

But focusing height and density downtown and around the airport and hospitals is needed to insure Scottsdale has affordable housing – which she called a cornerstone of her campaign. 

She has no solid suggestions on how to increase affordable housing in town, but says it must be a council priority.

“City leaders and staff have to get very creative in what we do … We have to get heads around a table and figure it out,” she said.

Supporting the Scottsdale Unified School District and maintaining the city’s high infrastructure standards are the other main points of her campaign. 

“I don’t want to be city councilor to tell (SUSD) Superintendent (Dr. Scott) Menzel what the curriculum should be. That’s his bailiwick, but I want Superintendent Menzel to feel supported where it is in our charter to do so,” Sturgeon said. 

Stratton did not return the Progress’ phone calls or emails.