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Get to know David Cavazos, the new Phoenix city manager. Cavazos talks about what his plans are for country’s fifth largest city, what it means to be the first minority to hold the position, and more.

José Cárdenas: David Cavazos was named the city manager of Phoenix back in November when Frank Fairbanks retired after nearly two decades in the position. He is the first minority to hold the highest-ranking non-elected position in Phoenix. Joining me in tonight's "get to know" segment is David Cavazos. David, welcome to "Horizonte."

David Cavazos: Good evening.

José Cárdenas: It seems fitting that you're one of the first guests on our first show, because you had a hand in the development of the ASU downtown campus.

David Cavazos: I was the project manager for the ASU downtown project, about a $230 million project. We had a great partnership with ASU and built good buildings and this is one we're particularly proud of. I'm excited to be here. This is my first time on the show here.

José Cárdenas: We're glad to have you and also know that you're the guy we send any complaints to.

David Cavazos: That's right. I get the complaints.

José Cárdenas: Before we talk about your new position, tell us about your background.

David Cavazos: Well, I've been in Phoenix for about 22 and a half years, grew up in a suburb of Chicago and went to graduate school back in Pittsburgh and probably was the coldest day. One of the nicest days in Phoenix, I applied for the position and selected for the management intern program and started at the bottom and worked really hard, through the ranks and now, of course, I'm city manager.

José Cárdenas: And filling big shoes. Frank Fairbanks, one the well regarded city managers in the country. In part because of the scope and magnitude of things you deal with when you're a city manager. Give us a sense of the job?

David Cavazos: First I want to say how great it was to work for Frank. He was a great teacher. I'm going to build upon his successes and before him, Margaret Andrews. The scope of the job is about $3.6 billion budget about 15,000 employees and we're working hard to manage the financial crisis and focused on the budget. We have, as you know, $245 million shortfall and right now we're working to make sure we balance the budget by April.

José Cárdenas: To give people a sense for what the job entails. Talk about the different entities that report to you.

David Cavazos: The city of Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the United States and so we have a police department with about 5,000 employees and a fire department, we have the Sky Harbor international airport. A water department. We have every service that a city provides and all of those departments report to one of the three deputies, the assistant city manager and myself, at the end of the day, I'm the day-to-day administrator for the city of Phoenix.

José Cárdenas: and I think a lot of people would assume those are positions that report to the mayor but that is not the form of government that we have here in the city of Phoenix.

David Cavazos: The city manager appoints all of the employees. The mayor and council appoint two people. One is the city manager and one is the presiding judge.

José Cárdenas: I want to talk about the budget problems we're facing. But before we do that, a little bit more about your personal background. You've been very involved in the community including some services with the hospital and the Arizona Mexico commission. Tell us about that.

David Cavazos: I'm proud of my service in the Hispanic chamber when you and I were both on the board together. And I was chairman of the Hispanic chamber in 2002. In 2004, I became a member of the Phoenix children's hospital board of directors and last March, I was elected the chairman of the Phoenix children's hospital. We're undergoing a magnificent project, $500 million expansion, and tripling the size of the hospital and it will be the largest free standing hospital when we're done and we're doing what we can to help the children in Phoenix get the best medical care possible.

José Cárdenas: One other thing before we move on to talk about the budget crisis, your selection was somewhat controversial. While it was a 7-1 vote, one negative was councilman Michael Johnson, who is well regarded, expressed concerns because of some prior incidents.

David Cavazos: It was 8-1. I'll take every vote I can get. I've known councilman Johnson for many years. He's a wonderful person, he's very concerned about what he's doing. He was concerned about the suspension I had related to travel. We had a long standing policy of business class travel and we've corrected that as a city and haven't had issues like that in over five years and I committed to Michael Johnson we would meet his expectations. Since that appointment, probably for the last two months we've had dozens of discussions and both committed to doing what is right for the city of Phoenix and I'm proud to work with him.

José Cárdenas: You both have a big job in front of you. The announcement that the deficit is $245 million.

David Cavazos: $245 million. It was worse than expected. We're in the third year of revenue declines and we're in the worst recession as you know since the great depression but working together, we'll resolve the budget. It's going to be painful and we're going to do the best we can to provide great services to the community but at the end of the day, we have to balance the budget. And we're going to have lots of input from the community, lots of presentations and we're looking for really good input on what is important to the community.

José Cárdenas: Can we expect to see cutbacks in fire and police protection?

David Cavazos: We have made tremendous reductions in a lot of different areas. One of the things that's most important to the city and public is public safety. There will be reduced at a much lower level than many of the other departments but at the end of the day, if they don't participate in the reductions we can't balance the budget. There will be cuts in every department, including police and fire.

José Cárdenas: When do you expect the budget to be approved?

David Cavazos: We're going to have a trial budget, José, presented to the mayor and council March 2nd. We'll have 30 days to work with the community and come back on April 2nd with the budget adoption. It's going to be a very ambitious and aggressive process. We have to do this before the next fiscal year. The sooner we balance the budget, the sooner we can start getting some of the savings from the reduced operations.

José Cárdenas: Some issues will involve battle with the state legislature, will it not?

David Cavazos: We're focused with dealing with the budget problems and we have to emphasize to the state, that one of the things we get is state shared revenue and we're working hard with governmental programs, and anybody that will listen -- please don't balance the budget on the state level on the backs of the cities. There are some provisions in there to make sure we get the state shared revenue. I'm glad you raised that point. We'll balance the budget, but we cannot afford to have any reductions in state shared revenue.

José Cárdenas: One of the messages that the legislature is hearing from some segments of the community, you can't cut your way out of this crisis. There are things you must continue to invest. Is that the same philosophy that the city of Phoenix shares?

David Cavazos: We have a situation where we have to balance our budget and the city manager has to make a recommendation for a balanced budget. If at the end of the day, the mayor and city council believe we should look at revenue options, that's the purview of the mayor and council and there will be discussions both at public hearings about possible increases in revenue.

José Cárdenas: What about on the positive side? Big announcements coming forward or things we can expect to see in your first year as city manager, providing hope that we're turning the corner?

David Cavazos: We're in a very fortunate situation. I have people tell me, wow, this is difficult. But I remind them how great our employees are. We've got a triple-A bond rating, we have a public that really cares about Phoenix, we have people who donate thousands of hours of volunteer time and we're going to continue to get into a cycle where we recover.

José Cárdenas: There's reason for hope.

David Cavazos: There's always reason for hope. We have to be realistic. We have to balance our budget, but Phoenix is going to do great. David, best of luck and thank you for joining us on our show.

David Cavazos: Thank you.

David Cavazos:Phoenix city manager;

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