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Former Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker dies

On Friday, Arizonans found out about the sudden death of former Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker.

Current Mesa Mayor John Giles recognized his predecessor as “a strong advocate for Mesa.”

“I’m saddened to hear of the passing of my friend Keno Hawker,” said Mayor John Giles in a statement Friday. “We served on the Mesa City Council together and he was very supportive of me as mayor. He led the city during some challenging times. He was a strong advocate for Mesa, and we continue to benefit from his leadership today.”

Originally from Portage, Wisconsin, Hawker previously served in the U.S. Army. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, he went on to serve the Mesa community as a councilmember for eight years where he worked alongside Giles.

Former Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker served as mayor from 2000 to 2008 and supported Proposition 400, which would provide funding for transportation projects.

Hawker also helped adopt the 2002 Mesa General Plan, which focused on business growth and job creation.

“I was always impressed by Keno’s financial acumen and vision for Mesa’s growth,” said Mesa City Manager Chris Brady in a statement Friday. “Keno’s leadership and understanding of city government guided me in my early days as a city manager. I will always be grateful that he gave me the career opportunity of a lifetime.” 

His successor, the city's new mayor Scott Smith, remembered Hawker by his self-proclaimed title, the "spreadsheet mayor."

"He was a libertarian in many ways politically and yet he saw a bigger picture and used a financial analysis method to approach things in government, which befuddled many people. Confounded them. But in many ways, resulted in significant accomplishments that every one of us here in the metro Phoenix area — not just Mesa — benefit from," Smith said.

He is survived by his wife and two daughters.

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Ignacio Ventura is a reporter for KJZZ. He graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and a minor in news media and society.