Skekerjian while to her credit is for repealing 5 cents of Tempe property tax she is a Nazi Police State thug like Mayor Hallman. She is against letting any topless bars do business in the city of Tempe. And she was involved in helping get Mayor Hallman get elected.

Shekerjian expands passion for Tempe into council run

Jahna Berry The Arizona Republic Feb. 15, 2006 12:00 AM

Onnie Shekerjian made a name for herself working to ratchet up the quality of Arizona's schools. Now she wants to use that passion to improve the city.

"I see incredible potential in Tempe," said the self-employed researcher and mother of three who is running for an open seat on the City Council.

"We've got something really, really good here. But author Jim Collins has a great statement. He says, 'Good is the enemy of great.' And we always need to be careful that we are always self-assessing and pushing ourselves to be a little bit better."

Shekerjian, 47, has been active in Valley and state school issues for years, from spending 16 years as a classroom volunteer to helping co-found the Kyrene Parents Association in 1991. She says her local activism was spurred by her frustration as a parent when she felt the Kyrene Elementary School District didn't keep parents fully informed as it prepared for a round of budget cuts.

"It was a grass-roots effort," said Barb Hahne a friend of Shekerjian's who also was active in the Kyrene parent group when it formed. Classroom size and other district issues spurred the group to survey about 700 parents and present the findings to the School Board. While the group is no longer active, Shekerjian still fields calls from parents who want help navigating the education system, Hahne said.

"She's great at what she does," she said. "She delves into issues. She takes her time, she's patient."

That led to years of activism in school issues, including a brief 1998 stint as a Kyrene governing board member to serve out the term of another member who resigned. In 2003, she was president of the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, the body that oversees the state's 500 charter schools.

There's a tougher application process because of Shekerjian, said the board's current president, Kimberly Contreras-Mosher.

"We used to be known as the wild, wild West where you could write your name on a napkin in crayon to get a charter school," Contreras-Mosher said.

Shekerjian pushed for tougher oversight, supporting a proposal to close schools for lackluster academic performance, but she took heat during her leadership of the board for old problems in the system, Contreras-Mosher said. "She held her head high and did it with grace."

Shekerjian was born in Ohio. She graduated from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale and later earned a degree in dental hygiene.

Shekerjian's name is a mouthful. She shares her husband's Armenian last name, which is pronounced "shuh-KER-jin." Her first name, which is pronounced AH-NEE, was her aunt's nickname.

Shekerjian has lived in Tempe for 18 years.

Since she hit the campaign trial, Shekerjian has won supporters in high places. Although Mayor Hugh Hallman has not officially endorsed a candidate, his wife is Shekerjian's campaign co-chairwoman. Shekerjian also worked on Hallman's campaign.

While the candidate said she and the mayor don't agree on everything -- she said she opposed one proposal he made related to Arizona State University student housing -- they see eye to eye on many things.

That includes the mayor's recent push to roll back a nickel increase in the city property tax, for which she has energetically stumped.

"I bring with me a fresh perspective and if people want things to continue to grow and change, then you want something with a little fresh perspective." And she rejects the idea of just being a rubber stamp for Hallman's views.

"I don't think the mayor would want a yes-person."

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