Commercial real estate broker and investor Ben Cooper was named Wednesday night as Gilbert’s newest town council member.
The 38-year-old will fill the seat vacated by Steve Urie, who resigned March 26 to run for the state House of Representatives in District 22.
“I’m excited about the opportunity,” said Cooper, who will serve the remainder of Urie’s term, which ends in June 2011. “I really do believe the best of Gilbert is here to come.”
Cooper will be sworn in at Saturday’s council meeting, when the council members will begin discussing how to make $6 million in cuts to balance the town upcoming fiscal year’s budget. Voters rejected a quarter-cent sales tax increase during Tuesday’s election, which would have brought in an estimated $5.1 million to the town’s budget.
Cooper said he will spend the coming days getting as much budget information as he can.
“We need to protect public safety,” Cooper said. “We have made substantial investments in services and we need to do our best to maintain those. That will be the challenge.”
Cooper was one of eight finalists and 31 applicants who were vying for the open council seat.
Mayor John Lewis nominated Cooper, and the council approved with a 5-1 vote. Councilman Les Presmyk cast the dissenting vote.
After last Wednesday’s finalist interviews, council members discussed the applicants during a closed executive session.
Lewis said he decided Cooper would be best for the seat because of his town experience.
“Ben provides insight and contacts and an understanding of how to make economic development occur in the town,” Lewis said. “He’s a very good listener and will be the type of person citizens can easily approach.”
Cooper has served as the chair of the Gilbert Economic Advisory Board, a member of the Vertical Development Advisement Committee and the chair of the Gilbert 2011 General Plan steering subcommittee.
He has also been a business consultant and was vice president of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
The Brigham Young University graduate owns a master’s degree from the Thunderbird School of International Management.
Cooper is no stranger to Gilbert town hall. His father, Kent, was the town manager for 19 years, retiring in 2002.
The Cooper family moved to Gilbert from Colorado when Ben Cooper was entering the seventh grade. He graduated from Gilbert High School.
“I feel a certain kinship with the town,” Cooper said.
Cooper applied for the vacant seat at the urging of his friends. He said it’s his “dream” to serve and give back.
Cooper and his wife, Milena, have three daughters: Ana, 7, Audrey, 5, and Allie, 3.