AZ Republic: Learning about Mesa through leadership

AZ Republic article

Community News                              Friday, April 1, 2016

By Jill Adair, Special for The Republic | azcentral.com

I’ve lived in Mesa for more than 40 years and I realized lately that I am learning so much about Mesa that I didn’t know, including challenges that the city or my neighbors face and resources that make a positive difference in people’s lives.

Many of my Mesa Leadership classmates feel similarly.

“I’ve lived in this town since the mid-90s and I’ve learned more in these few months than all those years,” said Lynn Runyan, a class member and senior planning analyst with Salt River Project.

She said she has been impressed with tours of local nonprofit agencies and the resources they offer to the less-fortunate in the community.

“Helping those in poverty, women and children – that’s where I would like to make my contribution,” Runyan said, considering her volunteer opportunities after the class is over.

Class member Morgan Sarager, a customer service analyst with SRP, said he’s learned a lot, particularly about how the city needs to operate effectively now while also being prepared for the future.

“It takes a coordinated effort to make sure the daily functions of the city are completed, but leaders must always have the future in mind when making important strategic decisions,” he said.

“I’ve also learned the importance of building healthy relationships with those whom we work with,” he said. “We may not always agree with each other but having the ability to build positive working relationships and focus on common goals is an important leadership skill to possess.”

Each month our Mesa Leadership class focuses on different topics. A recent class, which was held at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, focused on sustainability and development.

Brian Sexton, public information officer with the airport, highlighted the growth and potential for the area in the far southeastern part of Mesa.

“Allegiant Air is the anchor for Gateway,” Sexton said, assuring the class that the airlines is planning to stay and grow where it’s been since 2007 – in Mesa.

We also heard from Kevin Thompson, city councilman from District 6, who spoke about leadership perspectives on priority initiatives.

He said his focus since he joined the council a year ago has been on economic development and envisions a manufacturing corridor along Elliott Road near the airport.

He said that with increasing residential development in his district, the “big push” is for a new fire station in the area and more police.

“It’s our job on city council to ensure that our residents are safe, and feel safe,” he said.

Class members toured the airport as well as the adjacent Arizona State University Polytechnic Campus, including the Aviation Simulator Building, Startup Labs, and Laboratory for Algae Research and Biotechnology.

In addition to these monthly classes that run through April, Mesa Leadership offers tours – sometimes two a week – for class members to learn firsthand about community challenges.

Lyn Gorton, a class member and event lead for American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Greater Mesa, said his perspective has been broadened through these experiences.

“There are a lot of people in Mesa who need some form of help,” he said. “This is not obvious from a general public point of view, but I have had my eyes opened to a lot of things going on behind the scenes in our city.”

Mesa Leadership also requires and helps provide an opportunity to spend a day with a local leader of the class member’s choice to observe leadership in action. Class members have spent part of a day with the mayor, city council members or leaders in local business.

Sarager, who was recently in Washington D.C., was able to shadow Congressman Matt Salmon, R-Dist. 5, while there.

“I think what benefited me most was being reminded that we can all do great things, no matter what our aspirations may be,” he said.

Jill Adair is a Mesa resident and journalist participating​ in Mesa Leadership, a 10-month program to cultivate leadership through education, exposure to the community and interaction among class members. 

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