Tom Rawles, elected last week to the Mesa City Council, said he is pleased to have the opportunity to serve Mesa, and is pledging to look at every level of spending at City Hall.
Rawles, 54, talked to the Tribune on Thursday, two days after returning from Cuba, where he conducted statistical studies on birds at the request of Grand Canyon University’s biology department. Rawles is a political science professor at the school, and a lawyer with a Phoenix law firm.
The former Maricopa County supervisor said his first objective is to find out where Mesa spends every dollar and why. He pledged to use the fiscal experience he gained as a county supervisor to help Mesa.
When Rawles kicked off his campaign last year for Council District 3, he called for cutting utility fees by at least $75 million a year. City leaders have said the decision was made a long time ago to fund Mesa’s government with utility fees.
"It’s certainly not a decision I was aware of," Rawles said.
Rawles said he plans to set up meetings with other council members and the mayor, and look at the organizational structure of the city’s workforce. Doing away with mid-level managers is one way to flatten structure, he said.
However, "I’m not in any way right now advocating laying off or firing of
anybody," Rawles said.
Rawles plans to ask City Manager Mike Hutchinson which city employees he can contact. City charter forbids elected leaders from interfering in city administration.
Mayor Keno Hawker said cutting utility fees could mean cutting services. Mesa formed a finance committee to look at all city revenue streams and expenditures, and the mayor invited Rawles to become familiar with the committee’s work.
Hawker called Rawles financially conservative, smart, and articulate, and said he is looking forward to working with him.
"I think his interest is in doing the best he can for the city," Hawker said. "If that’s the focus, we’ll get along fine."