Chris Brady has been selected as the new city manager for Mesa, bringing new blood into a city headed for an uncertain future.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to appoint the 42-year-old Brady to replace Mike Hutchinson, who is retiring at the end of the year.
Brady, who has served as San Antonio assistant city manager for the past five years, will start Jan. 1.
Brady becomes just the fourth Mesa city manager — and the first hired from outside the organization — since the position was created 50 years ago. Although coming from outside the city, Brady, a Brigham Young University graduate and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, already has ties to the Valley. His wife grew up in Scottsdale, and her parents and sister live in Mesa.
"What a great city you have," Brady told the council and senior city staff members who had gathered for the announcement. "There are many people that appreciate the excellent level of services the city of Mesa offers, and I hope to work diligently to keep those services."
Brady will be tested in his first-ever job as a city manager, inheriting a looming budget shortfall of about $36 million; an uphill battle to convince Mesa voters that a property tax is needed; low staff morale, including the departure of many longtime employees; and a growing Hispanic population.
But Brady also will have the opportunity to hire a police chief, help turn Williams Gateway Airport into the thriving business area Mesa envisions, strengthen relations with a Hispanic activist group seeking more influence at City Hall and be a public face.
Council members say they were sold on Brady's enthusiasm, energy, his ability to attract economic development to San Antonio and a personality that lends itself to selling the city to its residents and prospective businesses, which will be a must as the council prepares to seek new taxes from voters next year.
"Being a good communicator is going to be vital," Councilman Rex Griswold said. "If Mesa discovered a cure for cancer, no one would know about it. We don't speak up for ourselves."
Brady was selected over Aurora, Colo., City Manager Ron Miller. Both finalists interviewed Tuesday with the council, which then in closed session agreed to hire Brady. Brady accepted despite being offered an increase in his San Antonio salary, Vice Mayor Claudia Walters said.
Brady said he no longer feels like an outsider because he's already had meetings with a number of city groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, Mesa Grande Community Alliance in northwest Mesa, police and fire unions, and the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens.
His hiring came shortly after the council was told about a Chamber of Commerce poll that shows a lack of support for a property tax and a discussion about where Mesa has spent its sales tax dollars.
"The key will be to take that discussion and get it out of this building," Brady said.
Brady has worked as a management analyst and financial analyst for Houston, followed by a term as assistant city manager in Bellaire, Texas, near Houston. He was hired by San Antonio in 1996 as assistant to the city manager, and promoted to assistant city manager in 2000.
In his current position, Brady was San Antonio's leader in handling about 40,000 evacuees from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He also negotiated to bring a Toyota manufacturing plant to San Antonio, a 1,000-room Grand Hyatt Hotel adjacent to the downtown convention center, a PGA Tour golf course and tournament, and was instrumental in bringing in private development to a former military base.
In San Antonio, Brady made $140,000 plus a nearly $6,000 annual bonus. In Mesa, Hutchinson earned $186,379 per year, including a 10 percent longevity pay bonus.
Mesa's national search for city manager resulted in 46 applications from 22 states. The city initially announced the names of five candidates, which were narrowed a week later to three finalists. The initial list included Mesa financial services manager Bryan Raines and Larry Olsen, a senior vice president for the construction and engineering firm Parsons. David Garcia, one of the three finalists, withdrew, saying Mesa was not a good match for him.