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Mesa Mayor Scott Smith: 'We created a leaner, smarter city'

PHOENIX -- Mayor Scott Smith of Mesa, Ariz., in a piece for The Ripon Society, pointed out his city's struggles and how he's tried to address them since he took office.

Smith said many mayors during the recent recession had to make tough budgetary decision and work across the political aisle to find solutions.

He said Mesa city government was seeing "unprecedented shortfalls" in revenue and large budget deficits.

We faced this crisis using a measured, common sense approach that completely changed the way we do business in Mesa. In doing so, we created a leaner, smarter city; but at the same time we also sought out new opportunities upon which we could build a brighter future.

In 2009, we implemented the largest reorganization of city government in Mesa's history, reducing the budget nearly 20 percent and significantly reducing the workforce. We restructured, reorganized and refined our processes. We held ourselves accountable for maintaining a high level of service throughout the recession, which we were able to accomplish by being creative and innovative. We made the conscious decision to not survive during the crisis, but to thrive.

Smith, who was elected to office in 2008, points to five successes he's seen in the city as mayor: Attracting five liberal arts universities to establish a campus in town; extending the light rail three miles through Mesa's downtown; beginning commercial airline service at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport; building five new fire stations and two new police stations; and getting voters to approve a $70 million bond to improve city parks.

"These public investments have attracted millions in new private investment, which forms the foundation for long-term economic growth and improves the quality of life in our community," the mayor wrote.

Smith said Mesa is the 38th largest city in the U.S. and has nearly half a million residents.

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that promotes Republican principles and ideas such as "keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people."

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