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Born in Portugal, Wickenburg Mayor Rui Pereira moved to the U.S. in 1980 and grew up in Massachusetts. It was there he first heard the call to the West.

Regional Profile: Mayor Rui Pereira
“Wickenburg Chose Us”

Regional Profile, Regional Council

Wickenburg Mayor Rui Pereira Seeks to Preserve Western Lifestyle

Born in Portugal, Wickenburg Mayor Rui Pereira moved to the U.S. in 1980 and grew up in Massachusetts. It was there he first heard the call to the West.

Mayor Pereira and his wife, Cathy.“I grew up watching Westerns, so I was always attracted to the Western lifestyle and the West. When we ended up in Wickenburg when my wife became the general manager of Rancho de Los Caballeros, (a Wickenburg dude ranch), it was really by fate,” says Mayor Pereira. “We didn’t choose Wickenburg —Wickenburg chose us. I fell in love with the community and wanted to be an immediate member of it. I said to my wife, ‘Someday, I am going to run for Town Council and get involved in the ways this community should grow and the ways to preserve the Western heritage that we have here,’” says Mayor Pereira.

Pereira served on the Wickenburg Town Council from 2008-2012 and again from June 2016 through December 2018.  He was elected mayor in June 2019.

Pereira began his career in the hospitality industry, starting as a bell captain and continuing to expand his background to hotel operations. “I’ve always had an affinity for technology, so from operations I moved into the technology side of the hotel business. That afforded me the opportunity to travel all over world and see how other countries function, and see things I would never have seen if I’d been on my own.”

Mayor Pereira believes his travel experiences gave him a unique perspective that continues to serve him in his political role.

“I got to travel to places like Nicaragua in the 90s, when it was just coming out of being under a dictatorship for many years. I had the opportunity to go to Colombia during the drug wars when America was actually saying, ‘don’t travel to Colombia.’ I ended up going there and I experienced a country that was just absolutely amazing — very friendly, very welcoming. So that gave me a totally different view of how the world is and how the world works. It helps me consider issues from a variety of viewpoints.”

Today, Pereira’s travel includes visiting relatives in Portugal (currently on hiatus during pandemic), and traveling with his wife around the West in their RV. But most of his time is spent serving as mayor for his rural community of 8,000. His highest priorities are managing growth, attracting businesses so larger employers can come into Wickenburg, and creating affordable, workforce-type housing. 

West Valley mayorsMaintaining a balance of continued economic development while preserving the Western culture isn’t as difficult as one might think.

“Over the last 5 years or so, we have become known as the team roping capital of world,” says Pereira. “Team roping has become a huge economic development driver for us. It has brought in lots of new individuals who have bought real estate here. We have new individuals who have built small businesses here, everything from restaurants to other small businesses that work with the roping community. So that’s been a big attraction for us.”

Even COVID-19 has not caused too many disruptions for the roping competitions.

“The thing about roping, it’s not a spectator event so we don’t have a stadium full of people. It is mostly individuals who are entering the competition. The promoters of these events have really taken steps to make sure the events are safe. And the competitors are already distancing themselves, because they’re on a horse, so naturally they are about 6 feet away from each other,” he says.

Mayor Pereira refuses to take any personal credit for the town’s success, saying the Town Council works together to preserve the Wickenburg way of life.
“It’s a group achievement, not an individual achievement,” he says.

When asked what people may be surprised to learn about him, Mayor Pereira says many don’t realize he is Portuguese. “Most of them, when they listen to my accent, probably think I’m German or Russian,” says Pereira. “Other than that, because of my computer background, most of my friends think I’m a nerd. But I’m not. When I tell them that I’ve renovated a house or that I’ve rebuilt a bathroom or I’ve done something construction-related, they are all surprised that I know how to do that kind of stuff.”

But above all, Mayor Pereira enjoys working with his fellow townspeople, where his former career has served him well.

“One of the things about working in hospitality is, you have to enjoy working with people. That has given me a great way to be able interface with different individuals. So as mayor, when I’m out there and talking to people, that background has helped me a lot in this position.”

Published October 29, 2020

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