What most notably stands out about your leadership style or what is an example of leadership success you can share with our readers?
In politics, there is always a temptation to focus on the short-term. I try to think longer term and plan for the type of city we want to leave our kids. I have worked for a more diverse economy with jobs in areas such as healthcare and semiconductors. (And those jobs are great, since at least my kid is often better at electronic devices than his mother!)
I have really enjoyed my work on Phoenix’s citywide transportation plan through 2050, which was the largest local government commitment to transportation infrastructure in the country when it passed in 2015. Transportation 2050 has helped us improve our bus and rail system while also dramatically cutting down on potholes.
I have also worked with my fellow mayors and other partners to work on a regional plan that will go to the voters soon and will help our county for decades to come.
What impact has COVID-19 or the disruptions of the past 18 months had on you as a leader?
COVID has been painful, and hard for all of us. The pandemic began during my first year as mayor. One of things the pandemic pushed me to do was to broaden the group of people who help me make decisions. I am thankful for groups that range from the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce to ASU health faculty to small businessowners and fellow mayors who have shared their expertise. I have tried to put the health and safety of this community first in my decisions, and I couldn’t do that without partners.
On a personal note, in the past months I have lost my mom, my grandfather, my family dog and many good friends. I know many families who have been impacted much more deeply than I have. I am grateful for the people who have been kind on hard days, or tolerant when my son slammed the laptop shut during a Zoom meeting. Perhaps because the family cat or kid now wander into meetings, I think I have become more conscious of other people’s personal lives, and I appreciate that many people have done the same for me.
What do you feel we can be doing as a business community to empower economic growth here?
From global companies headquartered in Phoenix to our small businesses, from our recognized universities to schools and neighborhood workforce development partners, and from our researchers to entrepreneurs, Phoenicians tackle solutions as a team, and that is what companies discover when they come here.
Everyone talks about our big win in attracting Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation, which in itself is incredibly significant; however, if you remove TSMC from the equation, we still experienced our largest year of capital investment — and that was all during the pandemic.
We are systematically strengthening our pipeline of talent, working with our schools and universities to ensure programs can meet the future needs of the businesses we are attracting, and implementing workforce upskilling and reskilling programs, even dedicating federal funds to help displaced workers pivot into new careers.
In 2014, when I was a councilwoman, the average annual salary for a job the city attracted was $36,000. Today, that figure has doubled to more than $72,000. My work with our partners in economic development has brought about growth in advanced manufacturing, electric vehicles, unmanned systems and aerospace, bioscience and healthcare, advanced patient care, implantable devices, and important R&D. We are growing the jobs important to a sustainable future for the health of our city and for the families who are proud to call Phoenix home.
What is new and notable for your company’s near future that will impact our economy?
I am very excited for some of the investments we will be making to improve life for Phoenicians. We are going to make upgrades to the airport that should make it easier to get to the airport and shorten wait times on the tarmac.
We are going to make major investments in training workforce in key areas such as advanced manufacturing, electric vehicles and healthcare. I know a lot of people are making decisions about where they want to work, and the city wants our residents to have rewarding career options in our community.
We are also introducing several important affordable housing opportunities from grants to nonprofits to an expansion of our hotels to housing programs. One of my favorite projects is with U.S. VETS, where we have found a great space for our veterans to call home in Phoenix.
My work on infrastructure and climate lays an important foundation for the future of Phoenix. Last month, at COP26 (the UN Climate Conference) in Glasgow, I was named Public Sector Co-chair of the 50 Liter Home Coalition (50L Home), a collaborative of private, public and civic leaders who aim to reinvent the future of urban water use through innovations that reduce carbon emissions and promote water security.
Additionally, I am the North American Vice-chair of C40 Cities, a group comprised of 97 mayors, half from the global north and half from the global south. I have shared with global leaders and policy makers the aggressive approach Phoenix is taking on circular economy, clean light rail construction, electric vehicle manufacturing and others, and to how these approaches will grow good-paying, green jobs.
Now, with President Biden’s infrastructure plan, Phoenix is at the forefront of climate mitigation with EVs, trees and transit. It will mean better and safer transportation, streets and bridges, and, most importantly, it means jobs. We are building a Phoenix that works for everyone and raising the quality of life for all Phoenicians.
Name of Leader: Kate Gallego
Position of Leader: Mayor
City Name: City of Phoenix
No. of Years as Mayor: 8
Main Local Office Address: 200 W. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85003
Phone: (602) 262-7111
Number of offices in Greater Phoenix: 1
City Nationally Headquartered: Phoenix