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Updated May 9, 2014 - 12:00 pm

Tempe to name park after former mayor Giuliano

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.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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