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David Ortega helped build Scottsdale as an architect. Now he’s doing it from the mayor’s office.

Building Scottsdale
David Ortega helped build Scottsdale as an architect. Now he’s doing it from the mayor’s office.

Regional Profile, Regional Council

Scottsdale LogoDavid Ortega arrived in Scottsdale in 1978, fresh out of college with a degree in architecture. He apprenticed with Bennie Gonzalez, an internationally acclaimed architect known for his distinctive designs, including Scottsdale City Hall, Civic Center Library, and the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

“Working with him for five years gave me a very distinct awareness of Southwest contemporary architecture,” says Ortega, who is the newly elected mayor of the city of Scottsdale. Once on his own, Ortega went on to design numerous buildings that embodied the character of Arizona, including a number of Old Town Scottsdale landmarks.

“People expect landmarks and postcards when they come to Scottsdale, and my buildings really are that. I designed them so they would look like they’d been here for 50 to 100 years, and yet they’d have all the modern mechanical and space design to function,” says Ortega.

Among the mayor’s most favorite projects was restoring a 1915 church in Miami, Arizona, where his father was baptized. The project included replacing rotted metal domes with two 7-foot copper domes that Ortega ways will last “a couple of hundred years.”

“It was just very satisfying,” says Mayor Ortega. “The domes are dedicated to my mom and dad and I donated those to the church.”

Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church
David Ortega's father, Joe Alfred Ortega had been baptized in Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church and for that reason David donated the twin copper domes, one dedicated to his father, and the other to his mother, Rachel De Los Santos Ortega.

In Scottsdale, his architectural work put him in touch with the Scottsdale community on a variety of levels, ultimately leading to his interest in politics.

“Being a Scottsdale architect gave me a great foundation to get involved with downtown redevelopment issues, some transportation solutions, and then architectural guidelines for our unique environment here in Scottsdale,” says Ortega.

Scottsdale Mayor Ortega Swearing-in CeremonyAs mayor, Ortega says he is committed to equal rights for all, responsive city government and adoption of the citizen driven General Plan 2035 to support economic vitality. Priorities include tackling issues of affordable housing and homelessness and moving forward through the COVID-19 pandemic. He is looking forward to the implementation of a $319 million capital bond approved by voters in 2019.

“New parks, additions to our public safety facilities — it’s actually a city-wide stimulus plan. For me it’s a very exciting four- to eight-year build-out period. We also are improving the Civic Mall area with an outdoor amphitheater stage located between City Hall  and the Center for the Arts. It’s an exciting time to be an architect mayor and enthusiast of our city.”

Mayor Ortega also is committed to protecting the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve, a pristine 57-square mile area of Sonoran desert purchased when Scottsdale voters approved a tax in 1995.

"It is an awesome desert to experience, for all generations. There’s still some work to do to acquire all of the land within the boundary, but we want to make sure that it is accessible to the public,” says Ortega.

Mayor Ortega and the city Council are dedicated to safely moving forward with marquis events such as the Phoenix Open, Barrett Jackson car auction, and MLB Spring Training.

“People are itching to get out here, and we’re itching to enjoy our Scottsdale events. We are taking all Covid-19 safety measures, knowing that all of the Cactus League cities and Tribal nation will be ready for reduced attendance spring training to enjoy.”

While it’s a little known fact, there is another reason baseball is near and dear to the mayor’s heart. He was a walk-on first baseman for the University of Arizona baseball team.

“I never made first string and when architecture studies got too demanding, I departed, but they ended up taking the 1976 World Series."

In his spare time, Mayor Ortega and his wife, Rosemary Gannon, volunteer for numerous service organizations, including the Scottsdale Sunrise Rotary Club. For the past five years, Mayor Ortega has participated in the after-school reading program at Pueblo Elementary School, currently on hold during COVID.

"I miss being a reading coach. It’s not reading to kids — it’s not story time. We listen to them one-to-one as they read to us. Gradually, finding what they are interested in usually leads them to become avid readers," reflected Mayor Ortega, "Once I see a seven- or eight-year-old mind ignite, it’s a wonderful feeling.”

Published February 16, 2021

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