As she prepares to take office next month, the newest Mesa City Council member just wants everyone to get along.
Julie Spilsbury, a mother of six who will be sworn into her first elected position in January, prides herself on getting along with just about everyone and wants to serve her constituents in District Two.
“I love people, I love talking to people, I love listening, I truly want to represent everyone in my district, not just the people who look like me or go to my church,’’ Spilsbury said.
Spilsbury grew up in Mesa and graduated from Mountain View High School.
She believes that she parlayed her deep connections with the community through volunteer positions in Mesa Public Schools into her election as a political novice, ousting Councilman Jeremy Whittaker by a 55-45 percent margin.
It didn’t hurt that Spilsbury recruited by Mayor John Giles and won the endorsement of most other council members, who sometimes clashed with Whittaker over city finances and downtown redevelopment projects, such as the ASU@mesacitycenter building now under construction behind City Hall.
“I’m definitely not a puppet. I am opinionated, but I do it with respect,’’ Spilsbury said during her campaign. “I think I was asked to run because I am easy to work with.’’
Spilsbury and her husband Jeremy operate a tree service business and have a busy household, with one daughter coming off a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mission in Chicago and a son headed to a mission in Denver.
She said she has been going through an orientation period since her election, meeting once a week with City Manager Chris Brady and with city department heads.
“He brings a different department head each time. They say, 'I’ve heard you’re nice.’ I don’t want to be known as just being nice and nothing else. No one will be afraid to talk to me.’’
The way Spilsbury looks at her life, she is starting a new phase, a new job representing the residents of a district encompassing east-central Mesa east of Gilbert Road.
It’s a job she is taking seriously, attending a series of Zoom meetings every week to educate herself and immerse herself in issues facing the city.
“That’s what I’ve done, I’ve been a mother for 23 years. That’s my favorite job,’’ she said.
Spilsbury said she has been following Mesa city council meetings closely as part of her education and her campaign.
She said she is certain that she can make a significant contribution to the council.
“It’s been very clear my voice hasn’t been represented on the council. It’s the voice of a mother, someone who has been in the trenches,’’ Spilsbury said.
While her children were attending Mesa schools, Spilsbury would volunteer and serve in a wide variety of capacities.
She said she has demonstrated an ability to work with just about anyone, a trait she believes will serve her well on the City Council.
“I’ve been in the schools and served in just about every significant position you can imagine,’’ Spilsbury said. “I know people in every neighborhood in my district.’’
She recalled that one of her missions during that period was to motivate MPS to remove Instagram and Facebook from school-owned computers, saying social media can have a negative impact on children as a vehicle for bullying and can distract them from completing their work.
“I want the technology used for school,’’ Spilsbury said. “I don’t want to give them (students) any more reason to be on a computer than they need to be.’’
Spilsbury said she eventually prevailed, with MPS installing better filters on their computers.
“I’ve had people tell me, just worry about your own kids,’’ she said. “I want all kids to be safer.’’
Spilsbury also is trying to build relationships with other council members and had dinner recently with Councilwoman Jen Duff and her fiancé, Ivan Martinez.
“We need that. We need that more than ever,’’ Spilsbury said. “I’m an in a unique position to make that happen.’’
She said residents of her district have not given her a list of suggestions or goals that they would like her to accomplish.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t pay much attention to local politics,’’ Spilsbury said.
“They trust me,’’ she said. “She’s smart, she’ll represent my values.’’
Fundamentally, Spilsbury said she has no conflicts with the general direction of city leadership.
That view is in stark contrast to Whittaker, a consistent critic who took strong exception to campaign donations to council members by developers, adamantly opposed to what he considered the city’s over-reliance on utility revenue, and fervently opposed the ASU@mesacitycenter project on grounds that the city should not subsidize ASU through bargain rents.
City officials are hoping the ASU building will reinvigorate downtown by giving birth to a high-technology oriented Innovation District, serving as a magnet for the creation of new jobs and attracting students and young professionals.
“They know my values and what’s important to me,’’ Spilsbury said, referring to District Two residents. “I think our city is doing great and I want to stay with that.’’
Spilsbury said her own list of priorities include helping small businesses survive and bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting improved educational opportunities and promoting Mesa’s Neighborhood Cleanup Program, in which the city drops off dumpsters for volunteer cleanup campaigns.
“We have a lot of neighborhoods that could use some work,’’ Spilsbury said. “I love the idea of one street at a time, we can change some of these neighborhoods.’’