2018 District 17 Candidates

The Gilbert Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the following candidates:

          LD 17 Senate – JD Mesnard
          LD 17 House (2 seats) – Nora Ellen, Jeff Weninger

There are 1 Senate seat and 2 House seats available on the August primary and November general elections.  Each candidate was invited to provide bio information as well as answers to questions regarding their candidacy platform.  You’ll find an alphabetical listing of those candidates who responded to the questionnaire and below that information you will find all candidates’ answers to those questions.  A personal interview and candidate forum took place to determine the Chamber’s final endorsements.

Nora Ellen
*Endorsed by the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce*

Community of Residence: Living in Chandler, Arizona

Business: Noel Enterprises, LLC and Realtor with Revelation Real Estate

Occupation: Real Estate Investor and Realtor

Education Background: University of Northern Colorado and Covenant College

Brief summary of employment history: Self-employed in Real Estate investment and sales

List of community organizations you belong to: Chandler Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Valley Association of Realtors, Board Member of the Pregnancy Care Centers of Chandler and Gilbert

How long have you lived in the District? Living in District 17 since 2016

Select the position for which you are running: Running for District 17 State House

JD Mesnard  
*Endorsed by the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce*

Business: Mesnard Enterprises LLC

Occupation: Professor/Small Business Owner (Investor/Consultant)/Charities/Church-networking

Education Background: Master of Business Administration, Master of Public Administration

Brief summary of employment history: Investor/Small Business Owner (2005-Present); Professor (2006-Present); Arizona State Senate, Policy Advisor (2002-2009)

List of community organizations you belong to:

How long have you lived in District 17? 12 years

Select the position for which you are running: District 17 Senate

Jennifer Pawlik

Community of Residence: Chandler

Business: Education

Occupation: Executive Trainer

Education Background: Bachelor’s of Science, Elementary Education; Masters of Education, Instruction & Curriculum

Brief summary of employment history: 17 years elementary teacher, 5 years graduate level instructor

List of community organizations you belong to: LD 17 Democrats, Flinn-Brown Fellow

How long have you lived in the District? I’m a native Arizonan, I’ve lived in the district 10 years.

Select the position for which you are running: District 17 House

Jeff Weninger
*Endorsed by the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce*

Community of Residence: Chandler

Business: AZ Sandwich Shops Inc.

Occupation: Restaurant Owner

Education Background:

Brief summary of employment history:
Started Dilly’s Deli in 1993 
Started Floridino’s Pizza and Pasta in 1996

List of community organizations you belong to: Childhelp, Chandler Chamber of Commerce

How long have you lived in the District? 15 years

Select the position for which you are running: District 17 House

1. Give three (3) of your qualifications/skill sets that make you a leading candidate for the Arizona Legislature. Explain why these qualifications make you a better candidate than your opponents.

Nora Ellen: As the Vice Mayor of Chandler, I have a track record of success in keeping the commitments I made to Chandler. While serving on council, I worked in growing the economy, attracting and retaining businesses and jobs, having a strong public safety department and beautiful neighborhoods and parks. I started Operation Welcome Home in Chandler to honor our Veterans. I worked to have a 100 year plan for water and to keep our AAA Bond rating with all three rating agencies. I also have many years in serving as a commissioner in Chandler and volunteering in many charitable organizations and activities.

JD Mesnard: Principles, experience and accomplishments.  I am a strong supporter of the free market and businesses.  I support reducing the tax and regulatory burden on businesses and taxpayers, though not in a way that undermines our ability to afford important state services (such as education and public safety).  I have sponsored legislation to do so during my eight years in the Arizona House, showing that I am committed to these principles.  I have done more to advance tax reform that most if not all of my colleagues, receiving numerous recognitions and awards (particularly from the business community), thus demonstrating that I am an effective legislator.  Finally, I had the honor of being selected Speaker of the House, a role which I believe I fulfilled exceptionally well (based on others' feedback), despite the historic issues facing the state and legislature during my time in this post.

Jennifer Pawlik:  I am a patient listener, I am a problem solver, and I am willing to collaborate with those I may not agree with. In many instances, I am not convinced that those in the majority party are interested in listening to those with differing opinions or collaborating with those on the other side of the aisle. Because most legislative districts are comprised of diverse people with unique perspectives, some voices are not being heard. Ideally elected officials would listen to stakeholders, collaborate with their colleagues (in both parties), and problem solve to make Arizona the best-run state in the country.

Jeff Weninger: A. Legislative Experience – I believe that my experience and knowledge in these four years as a legislator will allow me to continue to get things accomplished for my constituents. This is not an easy process and institutional knowledge is an advantage.
B. Business Experience – I have owned and operated restaurants in Arizona for 25 years. This experience is valuable because I experience first hand how laws and regulations can hurt business owners. A few examples are building codes, zoning process, parking regulations, health inspections, fire inspections, minimum wage, health insurance and mandated sick leave.
C. Thinking outside of the box – Since I have arrived at the legislature I have put forward and passed legislation that is out of the ordinary but very important in my opinion. Most of this legislation deals with creating a welcoming environment to new technologies and businesses. A few of these bills dealt with crowdfunding, blockchain, fintech and digital currencies.

2. What is your vision for the State in 20-30 years?

Nora Ellen: My long term vision for Arizona is that we are an innovation and opportunity focused State that has a world class education system, free trade, highly skilled workforce, good infrastructure and we are globally competitive with increasing commerce. In addition, to have a regulatory and taxation system that supports this kind of vision and enables our residents to have quality lives and strong families to enjoy the freedoms that we have now.

JD Mesnard: I love this part of the state and want to see it grow and flourish.  This means creating an economic environment conducive to job growth, ensuring we have a quality education system for our kids and keeping criminals off the streets so that our families are safe.  I believe those to be the top three most important priorities for the state.

Jennifer Pawlik: My vision of the State of Arizona in 20-30 years revolves around a world-class, well-funded public education system. Businesses will choose to relocate (and remain) in Arizona because there will be a well-educated workforce and excellent schools for the children of their employees. Because the population will be so well-educated, many innovative solutions will be devised to address issues of drought, solar power, air pollution, and mass transit. Education will be the priority because it will touch all aspects of a future society.

Jeff Weninger: My vision is for Arizona to be the entrepreneur capital of the United States. I envision a state that has a well educated workforce from our K12 and university system. It is also a state with a low tax and low regulatory environment that is the tech hub of this great country.

3. What are the top two (2) priorities you would push to accomplish during your term as a member of the Legislature and why do you believe these are important to accomplish?

Nora Ellen: My top two priorities are to make sure we have the policies in place to have a strong economy and revenue needed to meet my vision above. I believe one way this happens is reducing the cost of doing business and having tax policies to attract and retain businesses. My other priority is making sure there is proper funding so our students are educated for entrepreneurship, working for emerging companies and ready to enter the workforce. Note: I do believe we need to prioritize mandates as there are outdated and useless mandates burdening our educators without a process to change this.

JD Mesnard: I will continue to pursue the priorities listed above.  In particular I want to continue focusing on the economy which is largely driven by small businesses, since this has an impact on other important areas like education and crime.  To that end we must always be looking for ways cut back on the regulatory burden and red tape so that innovation can thrive and entrepreneurs and job creators can succeed.  I also want to ensure that our tax policies create a system that is fair, simple, predictable, consistent, efficient, transparent, broad, low, unobtrusive, business-friendly and family-friendly.

Jennifer Pawlik: My top priority is properly funding the public school system-PK-16. By this, I mean paying the teachers and support staff a livable wage, providing modern technology and/or books, and properly maintaining school facilities and buses. My second priority is addressing issues of childhood poverty including hunger and healthcare access. Both of these priorities are vitally important because the children of today will be the leaders of tomorrow. As our current leaders age and retire, I would like the next generation to be prepared for challenges that may not even exist today.

Jeff Weninger: A. Making Arizona the go to place in the United States for blockchain development (We are well on our way).
B. Continue to create an atmosphere that is welcoming to business and startups large and small.

4. What do you believe is the preferred way to accomplish funding for education (at all levels) and what should the role of the State be in that funding? 

Nora Ellen: The preferred way to fund education is re-authorizing Prop 301, (and SB1390 just passed), with local property taxes, tax credit donations, federal programs, State Trust Lands, bonds, overrides (depending on the district financial history), and economic growth. I do support allowing the colleges to generate non-taxed income through research and publications by teachers, staff and students. The role of the State should be to determine the best practices for funding per student and hold the districts accountable for how the money is budgeted. I think we also need to look into consolidating different areas to save money.

JD Mesnard: Education funding occurs mostly through a mix of local property taxes and state funds.  Between the two I prefer that education be funded more through state funds so as to keep property taxes as low as possible (while Arizona's residential property taxes are relatively low, seniors on finite incomes feel the effects of property taxes more than most, as do businesses, which have a higher property tax assessment ratio altogether).  Consequently I regularly advocate for reforming and restructuring the tax code (to be clear, I do not support net tax increases in the name of "tax reform").  A state-oriented system also improves the opportunities for additional school choices for parents.  The state's current role in funding is mainly in equalization – that is, in making sure adequate levels of funding are achieved regardless of the ability of local property taxpayers to fund it.

Jennifer Pawlik:  In 29 of the last 30 years, the legislature has cut taxes. Corporate and personal income taxes, as well as property taxes, are extremely low while sales tax is quite high. Revenue in the general fund has been further reduced by private school vouchers and many tax credits. This is a terribly divisive issue where both sides appear unwilling to work with the other side. Clearly, collaboration between parties and compromise on both parts will be necessary to correct the issue of not having enough revenue to provide for necessary services in the realm of education, healthcare, and prisons.

Jeff Weninger: I believe this is a complex problem and the answer is to come at it from many different directions. First off I support the Governor’s 20x2020 proposal. This isn’t the finish line but a 20% raise in less than two and a half years is significant. Add the additional assistance being restored and it is a lot more. In addition to that we need to continue to find revenues for education and other agencies. Finding efficiencies and unique revenues can do this. For example Airbnb is a new revenue that brought in 11 million dollars in its first year.

5. If elected to represent the District, who would you consider to be your stakeholders and how would you propose to represent them?

Nora Ellen: The stakeholders in my district are the business owners, entrepreneurs, educators, the faith based community, charities, aviation community, city leaders, developers, medical community and senior citizens. My way of representation is to begin with being available to listen to the needs and desires of my residents and stakeholders. I do work to take these needs and implement or revoke policies that can bring about the quality of life my residents want to enjoy. I believe in communicating the issues with those that can make a difference to bring positive change.

JD Mesnard: I would consider my stakeholders to be the voters in my district first and foremost, as well as others impacted by government action, proposed legislation, etc.  I would continue to maintain an open-door, open mind and a listening ear, as well as honesty and transparency in my actions and decisions.

Jennifer Pawlik: The stakeholders are those who live in the district or own a business in the district. I intend to have an open door policy where I regularly meet with stakeholders. Because legislators do not typically have an office in the district they represent, I would be willing to meet with people in public spaces within the Town of Gilbert, the City of Chandler, and Sun Lakes communities.

Jeff Weninger: I have many stakeholders in Legislative District 17. A few of them would be district residents, businesses, business groups, non profits, schools, police, fire, Town of Gilbert, Chandler and Sun Lakes.

6. What experience do you have with complex budgets? 

Nora Ellen: I have many years of experience in working on complex budgets, such as the 6 fiscal budgets I have worked on in the City of Chandler that have been approximately $8,500,000-$900,000,000 each fiscal year. Every budget I have worked on and approved has been structurally balanced. I am on the MAG Transportation Policy Committee with a multi-billion dollar budget. I have also been a financial officer and worked on the budget for my local church for many years which was around $300,000 per year. I recently enjoyed attending one of the Chandler Unified School District’s budget workshops.

JD Mesnard: I spent eight years as a legislative policy staffer and, now, eight years as an elected official involved in the state budget.  Furthermore, as Speaker of the House I oversaw and negotiated the budget at the highest level.  I am intimately familiar with the components and complexities of the state budget.

Jennifer Pawlik: I do not have experience with complex budgets, but I am a quick learner. When elected, I will be one of 90 legislators, so I will be part of the team, not a lone individual in charge of the budget.

Jeff Weninger: I have considerable experience with budgets. First I have experience with budgets as a business owner. Every year we make a budget and hold our management team accountable for hitting those budgets. I also have considerable experience with budgets within government. I worked on 8 budgets as a city councilman for Chandler and 4 budgets as a state representative. Part of the Chandler budgets were during the recession and some were with growing revenues.

7. How would you propose to interact with the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce and how do you see your respective roles on issues that may come before the State Legislature?

Nora Ellen: I have been fortunate to be a member of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce for about 8 years and have served on the Board of Directors and Public Policy Committee. I appreciate the importance and influence of the chambers, including the EVCCA. I will continue to be available and look forward to the opportunity to work together for the benefit of our businesses and community.

JD Mesnard: I interact with my constituents in a variety of ways: phone calls, emails, letters, meetings in person, town halls, HOA meetings, district meetings, association meetings and others that occur.  I have attended and spoken to the Gilbert Chamber on multiple occasions and always enjoy doing so!  I rarely ever turn down an invitation and appreciate the interaction with groups tremendously.

Jennifer Pawlik: As with question number 5, I hope to have open and regular communication with the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce and the Chandler Chamber of Commerce. Regarding respective roles, I anticipate that I will be able to call the Chambers (and they will be comfortable calling me) for insight on their positions on various issues and the impact of my vote will have on the district. I hope that I will be invited to the same events as my Republican colleagues so that I can continue to learn more about the communities that I will represent.

Jeff Weninger: I would continue to come and update the Chamber in person as well as always being available to you. The Gilbert Chamber and their members should always have easy access to their elected representatives.