Town manager contender's experience primes him for Gilbert - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

Town manager contender's experience primes him for Gilbert

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Posted: Saturday, July 9, 2011 7:00 am | Updated: 11:50 am, Fri Aug 5, 2011.

Ask Patrick Banger to describe his most recent public-sector work in O’Fallon, Mo., and the municipality he describes sounds a lot like Gilbert.

During the interview process for Gilbert’s town manager, Banger touted the successes of O’Fallon, where he served as city administrator from 1998-2004. It has earned accolades for public safety and rates among Money magazine’s top 100 places to live.

“(Gilbert Mayor) John Lewis and I talked, and he said that Gilbert had the sixth-lowest crime rate in the nation (in its population category in 2010),” Banger said. “I reminded him that O’Fallon was No. 2.

“He said, ‘Well, No. 1 is still up for grabs.’ I said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ ”

It appears Banger, 42, will get that chance.

Gilbert officials have indicated that they are satisfied with the additional vetting and background check of Banger, the lone remaining finalist for the manager job. A hire could come as soon as Tuesday morning, when the Town Council has called a meeting to discuss the position.

In Banger’s mind, he is already in Gilbert, using such words as “us” and “our” to discuss its assets and challenges.

“There’s still a lot of great things to be accomplished in Gilbert,” Banger said. “There’s a lot of room for future growth and success. I feel like my background is a good fit for what they need in the next town manager. There are a lot of great economic development prospects, particularly in the biomed sciences area, to capture. You can build on the great industry they already have in Gilbert. It’s a great opportunity.”

Since 2004, Banger (pronounced BAN-jer) has served in administration for two homebuilding companies, then founded Banger & Associates, an O’Fallon-based consulting firm. But he has longed to return to public service, applying for manager positions in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Corpus Christi, Texas, in the last year.

“Being in the private sector for last seven years, I feel, has enhanced my skill sets in terms of efficiency,” Banger said. “In the private sector, there are no guarantees. In the public sector, there’s something rewarding about living and working in a community and doing whatever you can to make it a better place and provide opportunity and a better quality of life to residents. That’s a reward that goes beyond a paycheck.”

Banger’s wife, Belinda, consults nonprofit organizations in efficiency and fundraising and has provided services to the Valley of the Sun YMCA. With her husband employed by Gilbert, she plans to take over Banger & Associates.

Like Gilbert, O’Fallon is a fast-growing city that is generally conservative and anti-tax.

“In organizational leadership and economic development and fiscal responsibility, he got high marks,” Lewis said. “In challenging times, he showed that he could maintain service levels while not raising taxes, in a community that was growing rapidly. He has a team-oriented approach, which will be important here.”

Banger said his first priority will be Gilbert’s budget situation.

Future budget deficits loom, voters rejected a tax increase last year, and town officials have repeatedly said that savings-fund transfers cannot continue to be tapped to address the shortfall. A $6.9-million general-fund deficit is projected for fiscal 2012-13, rising to $15 million by 2014-15.

“When things are new and infrastructure is new and businesses and residents are moving into your town, there’s a feeling that it always will be this way. It’s not,” Banger said. “It takes creative thinking and careful planning to build a sustainable community.

“That’s built around economic development, the environment and social equality — serving needs of all the residents, not just a certain segment. That’s how you truly sustain a community for the future.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6301 or dzeiger@evtrib.com

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