By Srianthi Perera

More than 240,000 people choose to hang their hats in Gilbert.

A wise decision, apparently. Awards and accolades continue to pour in: Gilbert has been deemed the second safest U.S. city, the best city to raise a family, the best Phoenix suburb and the #1 place to live if you’re trying to save money.

Gilbert’s average household cost for property tax, sales sax, water, wastewater and sold waste services, at $1,418, in the lowest in the region.

During Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels’ digital state of the town address recently, an audience of residents, town staffers, dignitaries and business people reinforced, individually, just why they “#chooseGilbert.”

The “close community vibe,” “good schools” and “dining opportunities” were among the reasons cited by a mix of people while relaxing outdoors, participating in community festivals and during milestone events pertaining to their businesses.

“It’s a great place to be. If you’re not here, you should definitely move here,” said Olympic athlete Alex Naddour, who was born and raised in the town.

“There’s a real sense of community here,” remarked Gio Osso, owner of Nico Heirloom Kitchen, which opened in the Heritage District recently.

“It’s so welcoming, it’s one of the deciding factors any time you’re opening a bar or restaurant,” said Dierks Bently, whose Dierks Bently’s Whiskey Row restaurant is being constructed in the same vicinity.

Daniels introduced the 20-minute documentary-style video at the Harkins SanTan Village 16 to an audience of residents, business representatives and town staffers.

Among them also were Town Council members from Chandler, Queen Creek, Mesa, Tempe, Maricopa and Apache Junction; representatives from agencies such as League of Arizona Cities and Towns, Greater Phoenix Economic Council, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority; Gilbert school boards and charter schools; and Gilbert Chamber of Commerce.

“There are so many wonderful things that Gilbert has engaged in and we cannot do it alone. We need you, we need your businesses, we need your input in your education system, we need you as citizens to continue to be engaged and walk with us down this path,” Daniels said, addressing them moments before the video began. “We’ve come so far and we still have so much to do.”

The video took a storybook approach to highlight the theme, #chooseGilbert.

Daniels’ young daughter, Kate, led viewers to various chapters of Gilbert’s story, loosely based on the “Choose Your Adventure” book series.

Town Manager Patrick Banger, a resident of Agritopia, outlined his reasons for living here: “The neighborhoods are clean, safe and beautiful, but living here won’t break the bank,” he said.

Town Council member Brigette Peterson noted: “Even though we have 240,000 residents, it still feels like a small town.”

A small town that has achieved much.

Unemployment in Gilbert, at 4.2 percent, is the lowest in the region.

With a AAA bond rating from Moody’s and Fitch agencies; continuous economic development including Rivulon, the 250-acre mixed-use complex at the corner of Gilbert Road and the AZ 202 and the up market dining establishments in the Heritage District; and the recreational opportunities to come with the new, 272-acre Gilbert Regional Park to be developed at Chandler Heights Basin, Gilbert is on a roll.

“Helping Gilbert grow has been such an adventure, and now we’re looking forward to the next chapter. The choices that generations of community leaders have made have led to national and international recognition,” Daniels said.

The movie theater setting, the opportunity to pose for photos with the mayor and the lively video seemed to have imparted a desirable effect on the viewers.

“I thought it was very well-prepared and made me feel good about living in Gilbert,” said Paul Norbert, who attended with his wife, Ann.

“I choose to live and work in Gilbert, and watching this video about all the accomplishments of the Town makes me extra proud to be a Gilbertonian,” said Kayla Kolar, executive director of the Gilbert Historical Museum. “I love the people; love the history of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going.”