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Tempe, Ariz. -- Friday marks the 20th anniversary of the day that Neil Giuliano became Mayor of Tempe.

The city will celebrate by naming a park after him.

Giuliano served as mayor from 1994 through 2004. He was Tempe's youngest mayor and the first openly gay mayor of a major U.S. city.

Giuliano is credited with being a part of many landmark developments, including the opening of Tempe Town Lake, the groundbreaking of the Metro Light Rail and the Tempe Center for the Arts.

Starting Saturday, a park near the lake will be known as Neil G. Giuliano park.

"The park itself is the lakefront park area between the Mill Avenue bridges and stretching all of the way east to the Rural Road bridge," Giuliano said.

He said that the park is a mile long, and connects the entire Rio Salado pathway and parkway.

"It's going to be one where there's a lot of joggers and families walking along," Giuliano said. "There's picnic spaces along there and green space. Of course, there's the vista of the lake and the Papago buttes, which is pretty tremendous."

Giuliano joked that there's two reasons he's happy about the honor of the park named after him.

"No. 1 is that I'm pleased because I am not dead, but they're naming something after me," said Giuliano. "No. 2, I have not donated $1 million."

Giuliano said that people normally have to donate lots of money to have something names after them.

In all seriousness, Giuliano says that was just one part of a team of people that moved Tempe forward while he was in office.

"City council members, city staff members, people in the community. This was a real public-private partnership that has become a real success story," Giuliano said.

Current Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell will take part in the ceremonies at the park, which begin Saturday morning at 9:30.

Bob McClay, Reporter

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