Mayor taps

The Mesa City Charter empowers the mayor to appoint people to the city’s boards and committees with council approval.

Mayor John Giles’ latest round of appointments features some notable picks, including a school principal for the Planning and Zoning Board and a social media executive for the Education and Workforce Development Roundtable.

Council unanimously approved Giles’ six recommendations during the Aug. 25 study session.

For one of the most significant seats, a vacancy on the Mesa Planning and Zoning Board, Giles appointed Jefferson Elementary Principal Genessee Montes.

The board makes recommendations on rezoning requests, site plan reviews and long-term planning, and Giles said he and the rest of the council puts considerable weight on the board’s vote.

“It’s really the exception that the city council doesn’t follow the recommendations for planning and zoning,” Giles said. “It’s happened, but there’s usually a long story that explains that. So we rely heavily on the recommendations of our boards.”

Montes does not work in land development, but Giles said that was part of the reason he wanted her on the board.

“You need people who understand development issues, and that’s why we have architects and other colleagues with that professional background, but you also need, very importantly, community perspective,” he said. 

Montes’ experience in education leadership will make her an outlier on the board, which is stacked with professionals who work directly in the building and planning professions.

“She stands out as a very, very good elementary school principal, but she’s also a resident of D6 (District 6), where a lot of our planning and zoning cases are located,” Giles said. “So she brings the perspective of someone who lives close by a lot of the projects that we’re talking about, as well as the perspective of a wonderful Latina in our community.”

Montes is taking over the seat of Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo, the director of community engagement for Maricopa Community Colleges, who is beginning a doctoral program.

Another noteworthy addition to Mesa’s voluntary boards is David Williams, the Southwest community development regional manager for Meta, formerly Facebook, which is currently building a 2.5 million square foot “hyperscale” data center in Mesa’s District 6, near Eastmark.

Williams will join the city’s Education and Workforce Development Roundtable, which coordinates the city’s efforts to develop its talent pool through higher educational attainment, including increased numbers of professional certifications and licenses.

Williams said he comes from a family of educators and worked on education and workforce issues for 10 years as deputy state director under U.S. Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico.

Two seats on Mesa’s education roundtable are reserved for executives of businesses with Mesa offices or locations.

“When you have one of the largest, most successful companies on the planet, that has a passion for education, come into your community with a lot of resources, it’s a luxury to be able to ask them to do that, to have that resource,” Giles.

In the short time it has been in Mesa, the company has already dipped its toes in workforce development. 

In April, Meta gave $50,000 to the Mesa College Promise, which covers tuition to Maricopa Community Colleges for any Mesa high school graduate.

Meta also recently launched the Hardhat in Hand program, in partnership with its data center contractor DPR Construction, Maricopa Community College’s Construction Trades programs and Chicanos Por La Causa.

Hardhat in Hand is an eight-week paid training program to get people new to construction into entry-level jobs with DPR, which will have up to 2,000 workers building Meta’s data center campus over the next four years.

Williams said serving on the education roundtable “just kind of lined up with our areas of interest.”

“For Meta, it’s not only traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) that we think about, but also the engineering piece of construction and hands-on sorts of things.”

Williams said the collaborative spirit of Mesa’s leaders has impressed him, and he’s “excited to learn from the other members” as well as bring his insights to the table.

Other appointments are:

Economic Development Advisory Board: Steve Henderson, a vice president for Commercial Metals Company, which operates a steel mill in southeast Mesa. CMC announced plans in 2020 to double the size of its Mesa operation.

Education & Workforce Development Roundtable: Jenny Robinson, a Mesa High science teacher.

Museum & Cultural Advisory Board: Gregory DeSimone, global sourcing manager for Katerra, Inc.

Parks & Recreation Board: Jeff Rush, director of managed services at United Rentals.

Residents of Mesa interested in serving on boards can visit mesaaz.gov.

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