Celebration Plaza, a permanent water feature and monument wall near the center of Tumbleweed Park, is a place where the Chandler City Council recognizes organizations or individuals for their civic leadership, public outreach and outstanding personal service and commitment to the community.
Celebration Plaza features a fountain and a decorative wall used to display brass plaques honoring those chosen for inclusion. The plaza is at the center of Tumbleweed Park, which is located on the southwest corner of McQueen and Germann roads.
The public can submit nominations for inductees to the Cultural Development Department each year, from February 1 through April 30. There is no fee to submit a nomination:
Celebration Plaza nominees can be:
- Community leaders whose outstanding personal service has resulted in significant and enduring contributions to the community (support for this recognition should include endorsements from other groups, neighborhoods, or organizations).
- An individual or individuals who has made exceptional contributions to the City of Chandler.
- An individual or individuals who has added to the quality of life for Chandler residents through their involvement or financial contribution to short or long-term city projects or activities.
- An individual who has demonstrated leadership, innovation and creativity, which have made Chandler a better place to live and work.
- City of Chandler employees killed in the line of duty.
- Nominees cannot be individuals holding an elected City of Chandler office or serving on the Chandler Museum Foundation or Parks and Recreation Board at the time they are either nominated or approved for inclusion in Celebration Plaza.
Celebration Plaza selection process:
- On an annual basis, the Chandler Museum Foundation will solicit nominations from the public of individuals or groups for recognition in Celebration Plaza.
- Nominations can be submitted on the official online or paper form below, or the requested information can be provided on a one-page letter (typed preferred) via the Chandler Museum staff.
- Nominations must be returned to the Chandler Museum between February 1 and April 30 each year.
- There is no nomination fee. The City of Chandler will assume all costs for the creation and installation of the recognition plaque in Celebration Plaza.
- A subcommittee comprising two members of the Chandler Museum Foundation and one member of the Parks and Recreation Board will evaluate the nominations and make a subsequent recommendation to the Chandler Museum Foundation.
- The Chandler Museum Foundation shall approve or disapprove, all or in part, the recommendation(s) made by the subcommittee.
- Up to two individuals or groups can be honored each year.
- The Chandler Museum Foundation shall forward its recommendation(s) to the City Council, which may accept the names all or in part, or return the recommendations to the Foundation for further review.
- The final decision will belong to the City Council.
- Each nominee or his/her representative will be contacted and asked to submit a pre-determined amount of text for the 12" by 12" plaque.
- Only text will be included on the plaque, no symbols or images are allowed.
- The Chandler Museum staff will have final approval for the text inscribed on each plaque.
- Nominations do not carry over to subsequent years. Nominees who are not selected for induction to Celebration Plaza can be re-nominated each year.
Nomination forms are also available at the Chandler Museum or by calling 480-782-2877.
Return the paper nomination form to:
Mail Stop 305
P.O. Box 4008
Chandler, AZ 85244-4008
Hal “Tex” Earnhardt, Jr.
From humble beginnings to heading an automobile dealership empire, Hal “Tex” Earnhardt, Jr., left an imprint on Chandler’s history. In 1951, at the age of 21, he became the youngest person ever to own a Ford dealership. At first, he sold a single automobile per month. Over time, he grew Earnhardt Auto Centers into 23 dealerships across Arizona and Nevada. Tex was known for his philanthropy and his popular catchphrase: “That ain’t no bull!” (2021 Inductee)
Architect Glenn McCollum designed approximately 500 structures over the course of his 37 year career. He opened his firm in 1954 and designed schools, churches, commercial buildings, government buildings (including one of Chandler’s City Hall buildings), and residences. Most of his designs are classified as Mid-century modern style. He served a term on Chandler City Council, and spent 27 years on Chandler’s Planning and Zoning Commission. (2021 Inductee)
- Evangeline “Eva” Serrano
Eva Serano came to Chandler with her parents, Mary Basha and Raymond Felix, in 1930. After marrying Ernie Serrano in 1952, she worked in the family’s clothing business before founding Serrano’s Mexican Restaurants in 1979. Eva’s recipes, developed over years of raising eight children, are at the heart of the popular restaurants’ dishes. Serrano’s is the oldest continuously owned business in Chandler and Eva was a major part of its success. (2018 inductee)
- Officer James Robert Snedigar
Jim Snedigar came to the Chandler Police Department in 1995 with a wealth of experience, including service in the U.S. Army 3rd Ranger Battalion. As an officer, he modeled community policing concepts and embodied the noblest principles of policing; his fellow officers respected him for his professionalism. Snedigar served the department as a Field Training Officer and then as a member of the Neighborhood Response Team. In 1998, he was selected to serve on the Special Assignment Unit (SAU). On Friday, April 16, 1999, Officer Snedigar responded to a request for SAU personnel to assist with a search for three armed robbery suspects. While leading the team, he was mortally wounded. In addition to his dedication to his job, he took and active role in numerous community projects that positively impacted the residents in Chandler’s traditional neighborhoods. He was also a prominent figure during the W. Steven Martin Toy Drive to provide Christmas gifts to Chandler families. Jim Snedigar’s service and dedication left a legacy for all Chandler Police Department personnel to follow. We honor Officer Snedigar for making the ultimate sacrifice for the people of Chandler. (2016 inductee)
- Kenneth Thomas
Mayors and councilmembers have an enormous influence on the development of a community and former Chandler Mayor Kenny Thomas served during a crucial time of immense growth when annexation battles literally defined the shape of the City. Thomas first came to Chandler in the 1940s, when he bought a house on Tulsa Street and joined his brother’s meat locker business. In 1964, he began his 15-year political career when he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the City Council. He served as a councilmember until 1970, when he unsuccessfully ran for Mayor. Re-elected to the Council in 1972, he successfully ran for Mayor again in 1976. While he was Mayor, Thomas engaged in political battles with Phoenix, Tempe and Gilbert in an effort to expand Chandler’s borders. His time in local politics came to an end during a 1979 recall election in which several councilmembers lost their seats. Though Thomas never returned to politics, he was able to dedicate more time to his favorite pastimes, including photographing our local Tumbleweed Tree, which he has documented nearly every year since 1957. Mr. Thomas passed away this year on October 16, 2016. (2016 inductee)
- Chandler Chamber of Commerce
For more than 104 years, the Chandler Chamber of Commerce has advocated for Chandler's businesses and community. Over the past century the Chamber has supported better roads, lighted streets, flood control, fire protection, and tourism promotion. Today, this organization continues to better the community encouraging primary job growth, promoting the importance of small businesses, and working with the State legislature and other elected officials to ensure Chandler's economic conditions remain an advantage to its businesses. The Chamber Community Foundation Leadership Institute has trained more than 830 people in leadership qualities. Those people have gone on to sit on countless Chandler nonprofit boards and committees, as well as improve their leadership techniques in their businesses. The Chamber holds more than 530 mentoring sessions each year on everything from marketing plans to startup advice, business law questions to signage, parking to development, and more. The Chamber's Women in Business Program empowers women with personal and professional development through monthly luncheons and mentoring events. The Young Executive Series develops future business leaders to serve the community. In short, the Chamber of Commerce, with its efforts in education, development, technology and advocacy, has been a part of Chandler's success for more than a century. (2016 inductee)
- Officer David Payne
Officer David Payne began his law enforcement career with the Chandler Police Department in 2007. In 2013, he was assigned to the Traffic Section DUI Enforcement Team. David had a passion for removing impaired drivers from the roadways. During his career, he arrested hundreds of intoxicated motorists to help make a safer community. On Oct. 31, 2014, Officer Payne made the ultimate sacrifice while working DUI Enforcement when he was struck and killed by an impaired driver. David was killed in the line of duty performing the work he loved. In 2015, David was honored posthumously by the Chandler Chamber of Commerce with the James R. Snedigar Community Service Award in recognition of his service to the citizens of Chandler. (2015 inductee)
- Chandler Kiwanis Club
The Chandler Kiwanis Club has roots in the community that go back nearly 60 years. The main focus of Kiwanis is children. To this end, the club annually donates thousands of dollars for scholarship grants to high school seniors, as well as funding for youth programs at the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and Salvation Army. The Club has adopted Ryan Park, volunteering dozens of hours annually. It has been a major funding source for the Reading is Fundamental literacy program and is now the main outside funding source for the annual Battle of the Books program, both held at Chandler Public Library locations. In recent years, the Club has paid for copies of the U.S. Constitution to be placed in classrooms of newly opened Chandler Unified School District schools. Over the years, members have routinely been seen throughout the community ringing bells for the Salvation Army, painting houses and building ramps for the poor and elderly, donating blood and performing many other acts of kindness that add to Chandler's great quality of life. (2015 inductee)
- Coy Payne is a long-time Chandler resident, former teacher and administrator, former City Councilmember and Mayor. He has been a community leader for many years. Coy grew up as part of a poor, farmworker family in the historic "south Chandler" neighborhood, experiencing racial segregation for many years. Coy graduated from Phoenix's all-black George Washington Carver High School (the only school he could attend) at the top of his class in 1949. He attended Arizona State University briefly, then served in the Korean War, in the Army's combat infantry. By 1954, he married a Chandler girl -- Willie Woods Payne -- and re-entered ASU using the G.I. Bill. Coy earned a Bachelor's degree in Education and began teaching at Chandler's Winn Elementary School. He continued with the Chandler Unified School District and eventually served as Chandler Junior High's assistant principal. While a teacher, Coy became involved in civic service by joining the first Human Relations Commission in the early 1960s. He also helped create and head Chandler's Housing Authority, which developed and oversaw the first public housing in the City. He then served on the Parks and Recreation Board and was instrumental in establishing the swimming pool and other amenities at Folley Park. Coy then joined the Chandler City Council in 1982. He served on the Council until 1990, when he completed a successful campaign for mayor. This election placed him in the history books as the first African American mayor in Chandler and in the state of Arizona. He served as Mayor until 1994. (2013 inductee)
- Chandler Lions Club has been dedicated to serving the Chandler community through humanitarian service programs that improve the health and well-being of fellow community members. The group has provided thousands of free eye exams and eyeglasses to needy K-12 students helped build the first hospital in Chandler, provided for disabled individuals to attend Camp Tatiyee, and collected and recycled thousands of used eyeglasses for missions to third world countries. The group also furnished a major picnic ramada at Arrowhead Park and has co-sponsored and produced the annual Fourth of July Festivals at Tumbleweed Park. Lions Club volunteers have given of their time, talents and efforts to support the disabled and the needy, and to make the community a better place. (2013 inductee)
- Chandler Compadres have contributed to the disadvantaged kids and families of the East Valley for over 30 years. The Chandler Compadres is a nonprofit service organization that was established in 1980. A dynamic organization, the Compadres consists of 40 active members and over 60 life members. Compadre members are civic-minded business and community leaders. This organization embodies dedication, vision, heart and passion. The first project taken on by the Compadres in 1980 and continuing today as a sustaining member, is the Boys and Girls Club. Chandler Compadres' other charitable donations have included hosting an annual awards dinner for high school students meeting academic excellence, sponsoring youth teams throughout the City and funding emergency shelter and homeless children's programs. The Compadres have and continue to support numerous youth organizations including the YMCA, Christmas Family Food Basket Project, youth sports leagues, summer at-risk programs, Thanksgiving dinner at the Boys and Girls club and a toy drive for needy children and families. (2012 inductee)
- John H. Dick spent almost the entire 86 years of his life making significant and long-lasting contributions to the City of Chandler as well as to those around him. In 1953, after completion of military service and law school, John moved to Chandler where he enthusiastically served the City and surrounding areas. Serving as a City of Chandler Prosecutor and City Attorney, John helped to uphold the vision of Chandler as a City where families could enjoy residing in a safe and wholesome environment. (2012 inductee)
- Najeeby Basha was one of the most forceful and enterprising businesswomen and philanthropists in the history of Chandler. Her family emigrated from Lebanon in 1897 and took up residence in New York City. In 1901, Najeeby married Najeeb Thomas Basha and in 1910 she persuaded him to go west to Ray, Arizona, for a better life. In 1920, Najeeby moved seven of their eight children to Chandler where she and her husband opened a general merchandise store on Boston Street. In June of 1932, Najeeb died and Najeeby was left with dependent children, doctor bills, a store to run and the Great Depression. That same year, Najeeby converted the merchandise store to a grocery store and, thus, became the founder of the first in a chain of Bashas supermarkets. Najeeby's charity was legendary in depression-era Chandler, and she set a precedent for the Basha family that continues to this day. The homeless and hungry of the 1930s knew they could always show up on Najeeby's doorstep for a warm meal. When World War II arrived, Najeeby invited servicemen from the surrounding air bases to the family's house for dinner and even chauffeured them to various destinations when they lacked transportation. (2011 Inductee)
- Jerry Brooks, a longtime Chandler resident, former councilmember and mayor from 1984 to 1988, was instrumental in helping to create high standards and quality development during Chandler's rapid growth period. It was Jerry's vision and desire to help create a recognizable and unique community in which Chandler residents would be proud to live. Mr. Brooks was essential in the implementation of Chandler's first development fees. The fees initially helped to expand water production, storage and distribution. Jerry had significant input in the creation of the Chandler Center for the Arts (CCFA). He can be credited with rallying public support to build the facility as well as the development of an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between the City and the Chandler Unified School District for its shared use. This agreement saved substantial taxpayer dollars. Through the years, Jerry always looked out for the best interest of the City and its residents. He finds value in Chandler's history and believes there is much to be learned from the past. (2011 Inductee)
- Patti Bruno's commitment to Chandler and the many community organizations operating within it is extensive. She has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Chandler and its citizens and continues to do so while changing lives every day through the many organizations that she supports. Further, Patti served eight years on the City Council and was highly regarded as a fair and practical representative. (2010 Inductee)
- Lowell Huggins has been known as a constant advocate for the community, whether in his barbershop or in his office. A longtime member of this community, Lowell first came to Chandler in 1956. In 1965, he began his career in law enforcement as a Chandler Police Officer and served in that capacity until 1985. Lowell's reputation of being an advocate for the citizens of Chandler grew over the years as his barbershop was known as Chandler City Hall ''Two." Anyone could walk into his barbershop to seek assistance or advice regarding City government. This past September, the Office of the Governor of Arizona commended Lowell for his 35 years of dedicated service to the City of Chandler and the State of Arizona. (2010 Inductee)
- Detective Carlos Ledesma lost his life in the line of duty on July 28, 2010. Detective Ledesma was serving as a member of the department's Narcotics Unit when he was shot and killed during a narcotics operation in Phoenix. Carlos was dedicated to the community and lost his life serving it proudly. (2010 Inductee)
- Dave McDowell is an excellent example of an individual who strongly believes in serving his community. Dave dedicated 25 years of service to the Chandler Community Services Department where he oversaw the design, construction and operation of many of Chandler's parks and recreational facilities. In addition to, and outside of his long career and exceptional contributions to the City of Chandler, Dave has provided community service through various groups and activities. Dave has served as an active member of the Ojo Rojo Lions Club in Chandler since 1986. He has held every leadership position in the club and in 2000, he received the Melvin Jones Fellowship in honor of his community service. (2010 Inductee)
- Marty Wright was an engaged and dedicated Chandler citizen who gave his all for his community for over 30 years. After moving to Chandler in 1978, Marty quickly became involved in his newly adopted city through his active participation in the Lions Club, Faith Community Church and various Chandler youth sports programs. Marty became an integral part of the community supporting community activities both monetarily and through personal involvement. (2010 Inductee)
- Eddie Basha, Jr., is honored for his leadership in Arizona's business community and for his many decades of good works on behalf of the people of Chandler. He is Chairman of Bashas' Family of Stores, which was founded in Chandler by his father and uncle in 1932. Since the company's inception, Bashas' has given back more than $100 million to the communities it serves. The family-owned and -operated grocery chain has 130 stores and is still headquartered in Chandler. (2009 Inductee)
- Chandler Service Club is a non-profit local charity that was formed as the Chandler Service Guild in January 1933 by eight local women: Louise "Sue" Beer, Elizabeth "Betty" Blake, Pearl Bouton, Frances Marian Johnson Edwards, E. Josephine Stiles Eikenberry, Eleanor Fogal, Gladys "Babe" Madison, and Helen Newhouse Handley Pernell. These women organized to feed hungry school children in Chandler at the height of the Great Depression. Since then, the group's mission and membership changed, but not its commitment to Chandler. Over the past 75 years, they have donated countless volunteer hours and given more than a million dollars in grants, gifts and scholarships to Chandler and members of the community. Their signature endeavor is the Flower Girl Program, an educational and scholarship program for high school senior girls. Today, Chandler Service Club has more than 100 members. (2008 Inductee)
- Lenford C. Calley, the Chandler Superintendent of Public Works from 1941-1959, was killed in an automobile accident on a return trip from a City of Chandler gravel pit. His responsibilities included street development and maintenance, the waterworks, parks, sewers, garbage collection and street sweeping. Calley guided the infrastructure development of 20-25 subdivisions and saw water department connections increase from 324 to 21,000 during his time of service. (2007 Inductee)
Officer Robert J. Nielsen joined the Chandler Police Department shortly after graduating from Arizona State University. As a young, energetic, and athletic officer, his peers gave Nielsen the nickname "Moose". Officer Nielsen proudly wore badge #445 and served the people of Chandler from 2000 until June 12, 2002. Officer Nielsen gave his life in the line of duty while driving to a call for assistance. (2007 Inductee)
Henry Salinas founded Improving Chandler Area Neighborhoods (ICAN) in 1991. Through ICAN, he created an institution that addressed problems facing youth in the poorer areas of the City. Salinas helped youths achieve a new appreciation for life by showing them the importance of obtaining an education, learning new skills, and having people in their lives who cared for them. His dedication and creativity have improved the lives of many young people and strengthened neighborhoods in Chandler through ICAN. (2007 Inductee)