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 Winners: People & Places

Is your child’s teacher an everyday hero? Is the guy who serves up your morning latte a bastion of good old-fashioned customer service? See your picks below.

Best School Mascot
READER PICK

Andrew Sanchez - Chandler High’s ‘Scruffy’ the Wolf

Best School Mascot Yes, that’s Andrew (As “Scruffy”) on the cover of this edition; it was, after all, behind the mask of Scruffy this year that he found his “voice.” The quiet, autistic student spent much of his high school career with his head down, not socializing with classmates. But with encouragement from his mom, Andrew tried out to play the role of the school’s sports-loving, team-encouraging wolf this year. Now, it’s his job to bring the crowd to a roar. And they love him. Read the full story of how Andrew and Scruffy became one in the same at evtnow.com/scruffy.
Behind the mask of Chandler High School’s mascot, Scruffy, Andrew Sanchez found his “voice.”
The quiet, autistic student spent much of his high school career with his head down, not socializing with classmates, a common characteristic in autistic youth.
But with encouragement from his mom, Andrew, 19, tried out to play the role of the school’s sports-loving, team-encouraging wolf this year.
He not only won a chance to put on the school’s costume, he won the hearts of the school. So many votes came into the East Valley Tribune’s Best of 2013 for “Scruffy” that the Chandler High School mascot won the title, “Best Mascot.”
And it wasn’t just that votes came in for “Scruffy,” the character’s name. Most votes for other school mascots came in the same way. What was notable for Andrew’s nominations is that so many came in naming him — the young man behind the mask.
“We tease him about he and Scruffy have become one person. For an autistic person, socializing is the hardest thing. … now, he’s completely out of his shell. He does best with his mask on. He can be someone else and no one knows even outside the suit,” said his mom, Traci Kine, a teacher at Chandler High. “They asked him to open outside his scope of things. I’m so impressed. You wouldn’t get me out in front of crowds.”
It took a little convincing to get Andrew to tryout at first, she said.
“I wanted to him to try something to get involved this last year. His dream job is to be a Disney character at the park. I said, ‘This would be good training,’” Andrew’s mom, Traci Kine, said.
But after the auditions, the cheer team sponsor, Brianna Barcelo, went to Kine and told her that Andrew was selected as the school’s No. 1 Scruffy for the year. Two students are used during the fall football season because weight of the costume doesn’t mix well with Arizona’s temperatures.
“When it came to tryouts, he had the whole routine put together. He was in character from the minute he was in the costume,” Barcelo said. “Andrew is at every basketball game, football game, even Yuma. He’s shown up at soccer and baseball. We’ve never had a mascot that involved.”
Andrew perfected the role so much that during a national cheerleading competition this spring, he was given a chance at the “best mascot” title. Even a shot at the title means beating dozens of other students nationwide, Barcelo said.
So with the cheer team, Andrew’s entire family — grandparents included — loaded up for the drive to Anaheim for the competition.
Andrew won fourth place.
So impressed were the Disneyland folks upon hearing the story, that Andrew and his family was given a private meeting session with many of the characters.
“They told me about the internship program there,” Kine said, speaking of the summer employment program available to young adults. When Kine expressed some doubts, the staff assured her, “He’d do fine.”
“I just know I’m moving to California in a few years,” Kine said of helping her son make his dreams come true.
Andrew is one of Kine’s three autistic children who have gone through Chandler High School.
“They’re so big on unified sports and integrating them with typical peers. That he really has friends, real friends, it touches me. You don’t see that everywhere,” Kine said.
Several cheerleaders agree.
“He’s really shy at first, but once you get to know him, he’s energetic. He’s really sweet,” said cheerleader Kayla Brown, 16. “Andrew always brings energy to the games. He’s always dancing for us. … he’s a great personality.”
Andrew surprised Barcelo one day when he walked into practice, put his arms around some of the girls and said, “Hello, ladies!”
“He was shy and really didn’t talk. Now that he’s the mascot, he loves the girls,” Kine said. “Now, he’ll walk in and act like he’s Mr. Suave.”
It didn’t take much to get Andrew back into character when he posed for Tribune photos for the “Best of 2013” edition. Still shy to speak, he did sum up his experience well.
“I’m hanging it up, but I’m going to miss him so much,” he said.
[-- Story by Michelle Reese, Tribune] Location: 350 N. Arizona Ave., Chandler
Information: (480) 812-7700 or mychandlerschools.org/chs

Voter Comments:

“Inspires fear in rival schools”
“4th Place at USA National Competition in Anaheim.”
“Becoming our school mascot has brought (Andrew) out of his shell. He has the most school spirit and the community loves him!
“Cute and Scary at the same time.”

Runners Up:

Jaguars of Desert Ridge High (Mesa, Gilbert); “Gary” the Gator of Gateway Pointe Elementary (Gilbert); Jackrabbits of Mesa High; Arizona State University’s Sparky (the old one!) (Tempe)
Best EV Politician
READER PICK

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith

Best EV Politician Readers obviously think a lot of Mesa’s mayor, giving him this honor again in 2013. But what makes this year intriguing is that Smith is at the heart of the ultimate “Will he?” or “Won’t he?” question. That is: run for governor. While readers undoubtedly would be a bit saddened to see their leader head for downtown Phoenix, having a homegrown Mesan win the governor’s seat would be interesting. For now, Smith will have to settle for being the belle of the “Best Of” ball again.
Information: (480) 644-2388 or mesaaz.gov/mayor

Voter Comments:

“The best mayor in the East Valley.”
“We can see the change in our city.”

Runners Up:

U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (Mesa); Jenn Daniels, councilwoman (Gilbert); John Huppenthal, Arizona superintendent of public instruction (Chandler); David Schapira, school board member, former state senator (Tempe)
Best EV blog
READER PICK

The Phoenix Real Estate Guy

Best EV blog As the company website for Gilbert’s Thompson’s Realty Group / eXp Realty, “The Phoenix Real Estate Guy” is a must-read for anyone looking for day-to-day information on the Valley real estate market. We’re not talking about the minutia of home prices and mortgage rates — all that’s there, too — but rather how to get the most out of your home sale, or purchase, and things that truly affect you as a homeowner. If only every business or industry could be this good — and this honest — at communicating.
Location: Gilbert (and Valley-wide)
Information: PhoenixRealEstateGuy.com

Voter Comments:

“Soooo funny!”
“Simply awesome!”

Runners Up:

AZ Pet Professionals (AZPetProfessionals.com; includes pet tips and advice, invite-only referral network of pet services, more) (Chandler/Valley-wide); Why Did I East This? (WhyDidIEatThis.com; “An Arizona buffalo wing blog,” giving an East Valley spin on beer and bites) (East Valley)
Best Bartender
READER PICK

Marie Simpson - The Hub Grill & Bar

Best Bartender Sure, they work for tips, but that still doesn’t prevent some self-dillusioned “stud” from leaving their phone number on the bill. Still, there are tons of servers, bartenders, “mixologists” (whatever you want to call them) who care about gratuities — which they should, it’s their job — and a few who also care about their customers’ experience. Marie Simpson at The Hub caters to the latter, and while the gratuities are a given, there’s something to be said for truly knowing the business one is endeavored in and wanting to know, “How’s life?” The Hub’s location caters to longtime residents in East Mesa, sports fans catching games on their 35 big-screen TVs, palates looking for a solid selection of craft beers, and Superstition hikers in search of sustenence during the drive home.
But what’s the hurry? Grab a seat and tell your story. Someone is there to lend her ears
Location: 1925 Sossaman Road, Mesa
Information: (480) 718-5440 or hubgrill.com

Voter Comments:

“She knows her business.”
“Great attitude and great service.”

Runners Up:

Meggin Dahse, San Tan Flat (Queen Creek); Andrea Eardsman, Champions Sports Saloon (Gilbert); Kristen Walters, Boulders (Tempe); Chance Sinclair, The Hub Grill & Bar (Mesa); Pamela Matthews, Red, White and Brew (Mesa) James Swann, Whole Foods (Chandler); Jimmy Downy, Casey Moore’s (Tempe)
Best Elementary School Teacher
READER PICK

Jessica D’Ambrosio - Higley Elementary and Middle School

Best Elementary School Teacher D’Ambrosio, an eight-year elementary teacher cares about making a difference in the future of her students and the community. She promotes a “can-do” attitude in her classroom and recognizes students who take their education seriously. Apart from teaching, D’Ambrosio also loves art and charity, working to help needy students, as well as a second-grade cancer survivor.
Location: 3391 E. Vest Ave. Gilbert
Information: evtnow.com/higleyelementarymiddle

Voter Comments:

“She enjoys teaching and is always happy.”
“She is a disciplined yet innovative teacher that expects her students to excel, and she does it all with a smile!”

Runners Up:

Dawn Harrington, San Tan Learning Center (Gilbert); Kami Nikolaus, Meridian Elementary School (Gilbert, Mesa); Jennifer Zeigler, Higley Elementary and Middle School (Gilbert); Kelleen Meister, Christ the King Catholic School (Mesa); Jina Kim, Houston Elementary School (Gilbert); Audrey Askins, Chandler Traditional Academy — Independence (Chandler)
Best Coffehouse Barista
READER PICK

Brian Bergeson - Bergies Coffee Roast House

Best Coffehouse Barista A good cup of coffee starts with a good roast.
At least that’s what the East Valley’s favorite barista, Brian Bergeson, said.
“You roast slow and you roast steady — but not too slow,” said Bergeson, who owns Bergies Coffee Roast House with his brother, Bruce Bergeson, and his wife, Linda Bergeson.
But beyond creating a great coffee blend, the three have also tried to create a great atmosphere — a place where people want to hangout.
“It’s a cozy, bohemian coffee shop, not a sterile one,” said Bergeson, named by readers as the “Best Coffeehouse Barista” when “2013 Best of East Valley” ballots were tallied. “Some are sterile, some are edgy and some are cozy. We’re cozy.”
It’s become a spot for regular meetings — youth groups, book clubs, bible studies and more — with plenty of outdoor, shaded seating amongst the overflowing flowerbeds.
“The best part is getting to know the people,” he said about working at the shop. “You get to know some customers’ drink, but some people you get to know quite personally.”
Bergeson said there’s something special about working in the early morning.
“It’s great to know that they got their coffee and are off to start their day,” he said. “I see some people every single day.”
The location doesn’t boast a drive-thru, but with the town’s help a few years ago there is ample parking to make it a little more convienent, he said.
“You’ll go a little way out of your way to get certain things,” Bergeson said. “Getting a really good cup of coffee, for some people, is one of those things.”
It’s not open until midnight, but it does offer free wi-fi for customers and weekend live music, he said.
“We’ve found our little niche,” he said, and that compliments the rest of the historic district of downtown Gilbert.
And while there have been some questions from customers to put another location farther out east, Bergeson doesn’t believe that’s going to happen anytime soon.
Instead, they’re currently focusing on getting a larger, additional space to place a three-time larger roaster, Bergeson said.
“Trying as hard as I can (to find a spot) in Gilbert,” he said. “I have to find a location that meets the criteria of zoning.”
It’s roasting coffee that led the brothers to open the location nearly four years ago, first experimenting by making specialty blends in a hot-air popcorn popper, eventually moving to a small roaster before buying the small commercial Diedrich roaster when they opened their business. Local resturants that serve their coffee also have their own, special Bergies blends that can be bought at the shop.
However, if they were to open another retail location, Bergeson thinks it would be in another historic location.
Bergies is located in the small 1919 home that once sat behind the Claire family’s sheet metal shop — the original concrete floor of which is now the store’s patio.
“The wooden floors are like a rollercoaster,” he said, arching his hand up and down to demonstrate the buckling of the hardwood floors.
But that charm is what makes the place feel so cozy, he said.
[ -- Story by Stacie Spring, Tribune]
Location: 309 N. Gilbert Road, Gilbert
Information: (480) 497-3913 or bergiescoffee.com

Voter Comments:

“Home-grown, friendly, good coffee.”
“You can tell (the owners) just love their shop. They know their customers by name and they have great coffee.”

Runners Up:

Sam Clark, LoFi Coffee (Mesa); Maverick Broderick, Dutch Bros. (Mesa); Troy, Coffee Cove (Gilbert); Zach, Coffee Rush (Gilbert); Denise O’Connor, Starbucks (Cooper and Warner, Gilbert); Emily, Starbucks (Elliott and Alma School, Chandler)
Best Middle School Teacher
READER PICK

Tessa Osborne - Higley Elementary and Middle School

Best Middle School Teacher A 7th- and 8th-grade teacher originally from Michigan, Osborne has been teaching at Higley for six years. Her favorite part about teaching is being able to help her students become more responsible and mature. Osborn is proud to be part of the school and be able to collaborate with a great faculty and work with wonderful students.
Location: 3391 E. Vest Ave. Gilbert
Information: evtnow.com/higleyelementarymiddle

Voter Comments:

“Knows how to get the best behavior and learning out of middle schoolers, patient.”
“She is energetic and has a great rapport with her students!”

Runners Up:

Benjamin Calvert, Connoly Middle School (Tempe)
Best High School Teacher
READER PICK

Tony Garcia - East Valley Institute of Technology

Best High School Teacher In his law enforcement class at Mesa’s East Valley Institute of Technology, Garcia gives his students a foundation in crime scene investigations, physical training, tactical operations and procedures. It’s a rigorous, tough course that operates like a police academy and prepares high school students for advanced degrees, the military, and careers in the criminal justice system. Along the way, Garcia, and his teaching partner Thomas Bunch, instill in teenagers a sense of honor, courage, and commitment. Most importantly, says 18-year-old Kelly Condon, EVIT’s law enforcement students learn the importance of teamwork.
“I’m a do-it-myself person,” Condon, one of 33 girls in the 86-student law enforcement program, said in a recent interview. “But here, I’ve learned to be part of a team … It’s family — and you need your family because you can’t do it by yourself.”
So when it came time to vote in the Best of East Valley competition, EVIT’s law enforcement family closed ranks and made sure one of its own would be named Best High School Teacher.
Location: 1601 W. Main St. Mesa
Information: (480) 461-4000 or evit.com

Voter Comments:

“Prepares students for the life after high school.”
“Teaches how to respect and have integrity.”
“Has taught me everything I know. Knows how to adjust teaching to best fit my learning.”

Runners Up:

Thomas Bunch, EVIT (Mesa); Traci King, Chandler High School (Chandler); Annette Mickle, Mesa High School (Mesa); Cheryl Williams, Chandler High School (Chandler); Jon Howell, EVIT (Mesa)
Best Private School
READER PICK

Christ the King Catholic School

Best Private School A parochial non-profit school which started in 1964, Christ the King Catholic school has provided education to students for nearly five decades. Located in Mesa, the school has always promoted academic excellence in students by providing an encouraging environment. Knowing the evolving nature of society, the school expands its education process in order for students to be prepared. The school also has the honor of being recognized as one of the top elementary schools by the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.
Location: 1551 E. Dana Ave., Mesa
Information: (480) 844-4480 or ctk-catholicschool.org

Voter Comments:

“Small school, small classrooms, excellent teachers.”
“Excellent faith-based education, igh test scores.”
“Fantastic staff and principal. Great parental involvement.”

Runners Up:

Seton Catholic High School (Chandler); Valley Christian High School (Chandler); St. Mary-Basha Catholic Elementary School (Chandler).
Best (District) Public School
READER PICK

EVIT

Best (District) Public School The East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa isn’t like any other school in Arizona. Established in the 1990s, EVIT educates students — mostly juniors and seniors — from high schools in 10 school districts, as well as charter, online and home schools. At EVIT, they are immersed for two and a half hours a day (four hours for cosmetology and massage therapy students) in classes that can lead to a career right out of high school, college, or a job that helps pay for their higher education. Nearly 40 programs include aviation, automotive, culinary arts, health careers, radio, fashion, and more. At two campuses — the Main Campus at 1601 W. Main Street and the East Campus at 6625 S. Power Road — EVIT offers about 40 occupational programs, such as aviation, automotive, culinary arts, health careers, radio, precision manufacturing, fashion and interior design, firefighting, law enforcement and more.
For high school students, it’s all free. Tuition-based adult education programs are also offered.
EVIT students have a 98 percent graduation rate and 2 out of 3 go on to college. In most EVIT programs, more than 90 percent of students get a job, go into the military, or go on to college.
Ask the students what they like best about EVIT and most will tell you the instruction is relevant to what they want to know and do, it’s hands-on, and every day they get to be on a campus where all of the students have chosen to be.
Location: 1601 W. Main St. Mesa
Information: (480) 461-4000 or evit.com

Voter Comments:

“EVIT is a school kids want to attend, not a school they have to attend.”
“Every kid in high school should be taking advantage of this!”
“My daughter absolutely loves it and has learned a lot in the medical field.”

Runners Up:

Chandler High School (Chandler Unified School District) (Chandler); Gateway Pointe Elementary School (Higley Unified School District) (Gilbert)
Best Charter School
READER PICK

San Tan Learning Center

Best Charter School Starting out as a small private kindergarten and preschool in 2006, San Tan Learning Center has grown quite a bit since then, now offering Montessori Pre-K, elementary school and middles school instruction, as well as programs for gifted students. Founders Kris and Rita Sippel created the school, which started with about 100 students, to serve a need for public instruction options in the Gilbert area. Today, more than 500 students in grades K-8 learn under San Tan’s award-winning faculty.
Location: 1475 S. Higley Road, Gilbert
Information: (480) 222-0811 or santanlearningcenter.com

Voter Comments:

“Great programs, facility and teaching staff!”
“We love the administration and programs!”

Runners Up:

Academy with Community Partners (Mesa); Learning Foundation and Performing Arts (Gilbert, Mesa); Edu-Prize (Queen Creek, Gilbert)
Best College
READER PICK

Arizona State University

Best College A facelift and costume change for Sparky the Sun Devil made waves, but that’s hardly the only thing that’s put ASU in the news. With four legitimate campuses (including two in the East Valley), ASU has again ascended to the top spot on the list of largest public universities in the nation. The university started the 2012-13 school year with 60,169 students enrolled, but don’t let the number fool you: Sun Devils come to do more than play. Hundreds of National Merit and National Hispanic scholars and an average entrance GPA nearing 3.5 have proven that, be it for business, education, journalism, public affairs — you name it — ASU really is one of the nation’s top universities.
Location: Tempe and Mesa
Information: (480) 965-2100 or www.asu.edu

Voter Comments:

“Was recently rated among the best universities worldwide in the US News and World Report.
“So many successful graduates.” “It’s the Sun Devils, man!”

Runners Up:

Mesa Community College (Mesa), Chandler-Gilbert Community College (Chandler); Northern Arizona University (Chandler, Mesa)
Best Local Band
READER PICK

36 Cents and a Dream

Best Local Band With a pocketful of loose change and the hope of making it big, Heli Lanz found a name for his band and a dream to pursue.
Lanz, Troy Dixon and Jason Pataska make up 36 Cents and a Dream, an East Valley-based band with a large following. Their latest accomplishment, aside from being selected “Best Local Band” once again by “2013 Best of East Valley” voters, is the release of their second album. Their music is a mixture of blues and rock and roll, with the band taking inspiration from everyone from Jimi Hendrix to James Blunt to Fun. “To me, when it comes to writing, it’s like a release of tension,” says Lanz. “It’s being able to speak the unspeakable or to express what you have a difficult time otherwise describing or putting in words.”
But while their music may convey some deep emotions, Lanz says they’re live shows are all about having fun. Lanz is a self-described “ham,” saying he and his band members love to engage the audience and just have a good time when they’re on stage. Their set list at local bars and restaurants like The Monastery, Long Wong’s, Flanny’s Bar & Grill and Yucca Tap Room features the band’s original songs, as well as covers of well-known favorites.
But the best part about performing live? For Lanz, it’s when someone mistakes their original music for something they’ve heard on the radio.
“We wrote the songs so they could be on a radio station ... so that they would have a familiar vibe to them,” says Lanz. “It’s really cool to have somebody tell you that they thought they had heard your song before (because) to me, as writer, means I’ve done my job; I’ve written something accessible and recognizable.”
Information: 36 Cents a Dream’s second album, “Lucid Change,” is now available on iTunes. To listen to their music and check out their list of upcoming shows, visit 36CentsAndADream.com or their Facebook page.
[-- By Ellen Kuni, Special to Tribune]
Location: Tempe, Valley-wide
Information: 36centsandadream.com or evtnow.com/36centsfacebook

Voter Comments:

“Great original material and covers. Versatile, funny, in sync.”
“The bluzy vocals and intracate musical arragenment are a great change of pace.”

Runners Up:

Static (dance, R&B, hip hop, funk, and more) (Mesa, Valley-wide); Throb Zombie (punk rock) (Tempe, Valley-wide)
Best Real Estate Agent
READER PICK

Kenny Klaus

Best Real Estate Agent Leader of a stable of local real estate professionals, this repeat winner has been a licensed Arizona realtor since 1999. Together, his Kenny Klaus Team has more than a century of experience and regularly ranks in Keller Williams North America’s Top 20. He keeps in touch with clients via a website, Facebook page, Twitter handle and blog, where team members give perspective on local market activity.
Location: Keller Williams Realty, 2919 S. Ellsworth Road, Suite 133, Mesa
Information: (480) 354-7344 or klausteam.com

Voter Comments:

“Very knowledgeable, great negotiator, motivated.”
“Kept me informed from start to finish — easiest house sale ever. VERY happy.”
“Honest, Positive, Friendly!”

Runners Up:

Bill & Cindy Flowers, Keller Williams Integrity First Realty (Mesa); Bill Salvatore, Realty Executives (Gilbert); Matt Dunshie, Realty One Group (Gilbert); Barbara Eggbert Keller Williams Realty (Mesa); Dan McNulty, Arizona Elite Properties (Gilbert)
Best Place to Work
READER PICK

Keller Williams Integrity First Realty

Best Place to Work It’s been called “one big family” and a group of “fun, successful people helping each other.” In an industry as volatile as the real estate industry has been in recent years — especially in Arizona — that’s saying something. This repeat winner is doing it right, placing an emphasis on people, cooperation, and customer service. And the with the housing market looking like it’s rebounding, we can’t wait to see what’s next for this group.
Location: 2500 S. Power Road, Suite 121 Mesa
Information: (480) 854-2400 or integrityfirstrealty.com

Voter Comments:

“The people make this a great place to work. Everyone is compassionate, caring, and truly willing to help. They want to see you succeed.”
“Great education and training.”

Runners Up:

Zion & Zion Public Relations (Tempe); East Valley Institute of Technology (Mesa); Higley Unified School District (Gilbert)
Best East Valley Landmark
READER PICK

Salt River Wild Horses

Best East Valley Landmark Mesa’s majestic Mormon Temple or Tempe’s popular Town Lake commonly come to mind as landmarks for the East Valley.
But this year, when voting for “Best East Valley Landmark,” during “2013 Best of East Valley” balloting, Tribune readers selected a living one as diverse, independent and family-oriented as the East Valley itself: The approximately 100 “wild” horses that live along the lower Salt River north of Mesa in the Tonto National Forest.
Known by supporters as the Salt River Wild Horses, these multi-colored bands of stallions, mares, colts and fillies have a following of more than 25,000 on Facebook and a dedicated group of wildlife enthusiasts who photograph them and have made it their mission to protect them — regardless of how the federal government defines “wild.”
“It’s a little hard to believe wild horses still exist in our world of technology where the bottom line is profit — but it’s true. And Right here in the East Valley is one of the best locations, if not the best, in our country to view wild horses living in their natural habitat,” said Becky Standridge, who has led the charge to protect the horses.
Standridge has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in technology. She worked more than 16 years for Intel Corp., first as a graphic specialist, then a technical developer, and finally as a software engineer. After discovering the Salt River horses, she became a full-time photographer and wild horse advocate.
“My knowledge about the wild horses has come from on-the-job training and the wisdom of some awesome friends,” she said. “I really enjoyed my years at Intel and I am now enjoying my dreams come true by being able to photograph wild horses.”
The horses live in strong family units, or bands, that range in size from two to 16 horses. Tubers and kayakers often spot them in or near the river. They’ve also been spotted from Granite Reef snorkeling for river grass, passing picnickers at Coon Bluff and crossing the river at Pebble Beach.
Standridge and other volunteers track and catalog the horses, share photos, monitor their welfare and document it all.
“We have observed a stallion rescue a filly from drowning, a mare courageously challenge a robust stallion that threatened her foal and we have saved a new-born foal from drowning,” she said. “We have seen stallions rise to, and fall from, dominance; and life joyously begin and sadly end.”
Controversy has followed the horses nearly as closely as the photographers who love them. Are they wild mustangs protected by federal law? Or, are they merely feral horses whose growing numbers need to be controlled? And, does the federal Bureau of Land Management have plans to round them up — and even send them to slaughter?
Federal officials have always denied that last question. And Standridge acknowledges that the Forest Service appears to have “temporarily suspended a plan to remove the wild horses immediately last year.” Despite that, she maintains the Salt River horses are still at risk.
“They have stated that there will be no Wild Horse Territory in the Tonto National Forest,” Standridge said, but added that there are “many good people at the Forest Service and even more outside the Forest Service that support the continued existence of these wild horses so we are going to continue to work to protect the Salt River wild horses.”
Research by Standridge and other volunteers has shown “the Salt River wild horses are indeed mustangs that are the descendants of horses that were brought to this country by the Spanish,” she said, adding that it’s also possible some came from the U.S. Cavalry when General George Crook was in the area helping the Pima Indians and the Cavalry reportedly were breaking wild horses for service.
“It is possible someone could have turned loose or abandoned a domestic horse at the river but the probability of the horse being able to survive is very low,” she said. “Domestic horses generally do not know how, nor do they have the strength or stamina, to survive in the wild.”
Standridge has begun steps to create a nonprofit group called Preserving the Salt River Wild Horses that would subscribe to the creed “It’s all about the horses,” while giving due attention to the public’s needs and desires, she said. To support the group’s efforts, “like” its Facebook page “Salt River Wild Horses.”
“Wild horses win the hearts of so many people because of their beauty, power and grace,” Standridge said. “They symbolize freedom and are the living history of America’s Wild West.”
And now, they also are a living landmark for the East Valley.
[-- Story by CeCe Todd, Special to Tribune]
Location: Lower Salt River area
Information: http://evtnow.com/saltriverhorsesfacebook; saltriverwildhorses.com; http://evtnow.com/saltrivershorsesstory1; evtnow.com/saltriverhorsesstory2

Voter Comments:

“They are beautiful, natural resource”
“There is nothing more magnificent than animals allowed to roam free in their natural habitat.”
“Absolutely gorgeous!”

Runners Up:

Mormon Temple (Mesa); Downtown Water Tower (Gilbert); Tempe Town Lake (Tempe)