Mesa Mayor Scott Smith was recently selected as the president of the U.S. Mayor’s conference. Smith will talk about his new role and what it means to the Valley and Arizona.
Ted Simons: The U.S. conference of mayors is made up of over 1,300 mayors from around country, the organization works to promote city agendas on a national level, and helps provide mayors with the tools they need to do their jobs. Mesa mayor Scott Smith was recently elected president of the U.S. conference of mayors. He joins us now. Good to have you. Congratulations. That's a good things right?
Scott Smith: I think it's a good thing. It's a good thing I believe for Arizona, it's a good thing for the valley and for Mesa. Because we have a voice. We have a voice, and when we represent cities, we're actually not representing this entity, we're representing citizens. And I think that's one thing we try to make clear at the -- In Washington, is that cities are the -- that level of government which is closest to the people. And so what we do in cities affects people directly instantly. And that's a unique perspective in politics.
Ted Simons: You'll now get to what, set the agenda? What does this mean?
Scott Smith: I have my priorities, and we have certain things on the agenda we will emphasize. But the conference is a group of as you said, 1,300 mayors, we have resolutions, the bipartisan group, though as a Republican I'm not -- It's a lot more Democratic mayors than Republican mayors of big cities. But the conference itself has a certain resolution, but I have my individual priorities.
Ted Simons: You referred to this, the importance of having a unified voice in Washington.
Scott Smith: Mayors are Republican, democrat, and independents. But on really city issues, those issues that are -- That affect cities, it's hard sometimes to tell the difference, because mayors have a tendency to concentrate on getting the job done. As mayor La Guardia famously stated years ago, there is no such thing as a -- There's no difference between a Republican pothole and a Democrat pothole. That's why I like mayors. They oven, most often put their philosophical differences aside because they're focused on solving problems that relate to cities. And so most of the things we do are very bipartisan.
Ted Simons: How do you get that bipartisanship going? Republican, democrat, east, west, north, south -- How do you get everyone together?
Scott Smith: It's hard, we're a bipartisan group filled with very partisan people. What I do, which I try to do, you focus on the things you agree on. We agree on so many more things than we disagree on. And usually those things are safe neighborhoods, quality education, a great job, and having a future. We may disagree on exactly how to get there, but mayors especially agree on the need to create great cities. And there's a lot of areas you can agree on there.
Ted Simons: And with those areas you agree on, how do you approach a national politician, an agency, where ever you're going, and say, here's what we need, help us.
Scott Smith: We talk about the people it affects. We talk about our citizens. I've learned one thing in being in Washington, the road from Washington policy to main street Mesa or Phoenix or anywhere is very, very short. And what happens in Washington, what happens with those agencies and the regulations, impact people directly. That's what we're back there telling the citizens in Washington. The representatives in Washington. Sometimes they are so disconnected from the impact of their decisions. We're not. Mayors, people know who we are. They're not shy to tell us what they think. We can't kick things down the road, so when we make decisions, our citizens know, you just went over one with the Coyotes. Believe me. That's a direct impact to the citizens of Glendale, to the Valley, and people know about it. And when they run into Mayor Weiers or in a grocery store, they're going let him know exactly what they think about his decision. Politicians don't get that often that type of interaction. So mayors have a unique message and a unique perspective.
Ted Simons: You had you a recent meeting at the White House, with the commerce department officials, talk to us about A, why that meeting was important, and B, what came of it.
Scott Smith: We were in the White House talking about jobs. We were talking about what we can do as cities to promote higher level advanced manufacturing because we know that to build a long-term healthy economy we need to build these manufacturing. But they're not the same manufacturing jobs they were 20 years ago. And so we were talking about ways we can work through that, and I mentioned an example whey in Mesa with able engineering, aerospace, that was recently opening a facility at the airport. Before I know it I get a call from the White House and they ask if we would be OK if the acting secretary of commerce would come out and help us to celebrate this opening and use this company as an example of what can happen when we focus on high-tech, when we focus on innovative strategies and able is a great story. Three guys started it, it now has over 400 employees, it exports to over 50 companies, it's a great example of what we can do in our cities to build a strong economy.
Ted Simons: As far as the conference of mayors is concerned, you're there with all these other folks, now getting to set the agenda, but you're also just there mingling, listening, talking discussing. Can you learn from other cities?
Scott Smith: I've learned from every mayor in every city I've talked with. It's interesting that you get there and you find out that whether you're talking to a large city mayor, from Philadelphia, who preceded me as president or a smaller city in the south, you have the same issues. Very similar. But different approaches. I learned long ago it's -- That you need to borrow, steal, do whatever you can, great ideas, and we have done that. I've watched styles of leadership, I've watched -- Brought home actual ideas to things like iMesa, was an idea that I got and nurtured at the U.S. conference of mayors.
Ted Simons: Other issues like immigration, which may be more Arizona specific, Phoenix and Mesa and all Arizona cities specific, how do you get that path, maybe some folks in Iowa and some folks in Minnesota who aren't quite as interested in that?
Scott Smith: Everybody is interested in immigration. That's one area that I believe I can have a unique voice. One thing I've learned people from other areas of the country want to know about is they want to know Arizona's perspective. They've seen the reports, they've seen the wild stories out of Arizona, but they want to sit down and understand why we have these unique perspective. I'm going to do whatever I can to -- And I have done in the last two years, to talk about Arizona and our unique perspective on immigration.
Ted Simons: I was going to say, it's also an opportunity to showcase Arizona. And say what's going right out here.
Scott Smith: I hope so. That leaves a great deal of responsibility on me. I think it's a unique opportunity for us to say, listen, let's have a normal discussion. Not a sound bite, but here are Arizona leaders, here's an Arizona mayor and we can talk about what Arizona really is like. What Arizona, don't take the 15 second sound bite, let's talk about things like immigration. Talk about our economy. Talk about EPA. And how it impacts us. These are issues that people want to know what Arizona thinks. Believe it or not, we're important to this country. We have been a leader for either on the wrong side or the right side on many issues in our history this, is one area I think we can step up and be a leader in a good way.
Ted Simons: This is a one-year term?
Scott Smith: One-year term.
Ted Simons: Your vice-president is Kevin Johnson.
Scott Smith: K.J.
Ted Simons: K.J. from Sacramento. All right.
Scott Smith: He's working with me. He's a big advocate of changes in the education system, another area mayors have stepped up.
Ted Simons: Congratulations. And good luck to you. Thanks for joining us.
Scott Smith: Thanks for having me.