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10 June 4 - 17, 2011 City manager from Page 1

“My wife and I had vacationed in Arizona over the years, and we liked the lifestyle,” recalls Dlugas. “When the job in Chandler became available in 1994, we looked into the schools, the housing, the quality of life and found it very attractive. This was a place we wanted to raise our family, and we’ve been very happy here.”

Local perspective

During the past 17 years working and living in the city, Dlugas has seen Chandler go through tremendous changes, from the population explosion to the bursting of the real estate bubble. He believes this fi rsthand experience and familiarity with the area give him an advantage in addressing the challenges now facing the city.

“It helps being a ‘local,’” Dlugas notes. “I have an understanding of the community and know so many people, and that’s given me a well-rounded view of the city’s needs and concerns. Someone from the outside wouldn’t have that.”

Dlugas will also rely on the perspective he gained during more than two decades working in parks and recreation divisions during his early career. “There’s a lot of interaction with the community when you work with parks and recreation,” says Dlugas. “Everyone pitches in to do what needs to be done. I remember years ago fi lling a swimming pool with rainbow trout at the end of the season to let kids fi sh and putting a lot of worms on hooks. That sort

Chandler BBQ from Page 1

For those who like to dine in, Chandler BBQ expanded onto the adjacent patio, which features climate controls and television for game days. Beer and wine is now served as well.

Orders not taken by phone can be placed at the counter. As guests enter, they are greeted quickly by the young, welcoming staff and, if they dine on the premises, Benson will stop by to see how their meal is going.

It’s evident that being known as “the neighbor- hood barbecue place” is important to Benson. There are local sports team shirts on the walls as well as historic photos of the San Marcos Hotel. Benson says he grew up in the great food culture of Chicago with his mother’s Mississippi-born cooking. He asserts that when he opened Chandler BBQ, he knew the recipes were going to refl ect his heritage, but be his own style.

“I grew up eating red beans and rice every Saturday with my Dad,” he explains. “But, I said

that this was not my Daddy’s kitchen, its mine. So I mixed the red beans with pintos and baby lima beans with my own spices. It is such a hit. I can’t make enough of those beans.”

The barbecued meats aren’t coated in a sticky, sweet bottled sauce. The chicken, pork, beef and ribs are kissed by Benson’s own blend. For those wanting more sauce, there are bottles of sweet and spicy blends on the tables, and diners can request extra with their take-out orders. In addition to sodas, there is a traditional sweet tea and unsweetened tea.

While he acknowledges barbecue and fi xings can’t be considered “health food,” Benson’s fare is healthier than most because it is made-from- scratch without preservatives, canned sauces or loads of sugar and mayo. The nature of real barbecue is that a lot of the fat drips off during the slow cooking process. True barbecue is not grilled, it is smoked in a pit. Benson uses mesquite wood

for a distinctive fl avor.

Open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, Chandler BBQ is located at 2040 S. Alma School Rd., and catering is available. Call 480-899-5600 or visit for more.

Joan Westlake is a longtime journalist and East Valley resident. She can be reached at

Quik Bite

Chandler BBQ Company SW corner Germann & Alma School 480-899-6300


negotiations, which are very time-consuming and require a lot of communication,” Dlugas says. “We hope to bring contracts to the council in June.” In addition to union agreements, Dlugas is busy

fi nalizing the city’s tentative budget for the coming fi scal year. And he has his eye on a number of administrative changes that will benefi t the city’s fi nancial health for years to come.

STSN photo

AT WORK: New Chandler City Manager Rich Dlugas is already at work as his office in City Hall, where he has been the interim city manager for a year.

of thing really builds camaraderie and taught me the importance of fostering relationships between city workers and the public. It’s an attitude of ‘we’re in this together and we can get this done.’”

Taking the reins

In his new role, Dlugas plans to use those communication and relationship-building skills to tackle a variety of thorny issues.

“My most immediate task is to complete union

“Looking at the long-term, there are organizational issues I would like to review and revise,” reports Dlugas. “I know we can fi nd more effi cient ways to get things done while offering the same level of service.” These and other fi scal concerns will likely dominate Chandler policies into the foreseeable future, but Dlugas is confi dent the city is on solid fi nancial footing and is committed to staying on a sensible path. “Chandler is better off than lots of other places in the Valley,” says Dlugas. “Past offi cials set sound policies, so we don’t have the budget problems other cities have. We’re at a better place, more fi nancially stable, and we’ve had 14 months of growth in local sales tax revenues. All in all, things are looking very positive for Chandler. I think we’ll get out of this current economic struggle quicker than most.”

Miriam Van Scott of Kerby Estates is a freelance writer and Chandler transplant from the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached at



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