Mesa mayor’s ‘NextMesa’ vision acknowledges what is great, areas needing improvement

Mesa Mayor John Giles

Mesa Mayor John Giles is living proof that seizing a spontaneous opportunity can have a historic impact.   

Mayor Giles was content with his work throughout his four years as a Mesa City Council member, and never thought he would hold a public office again.  He was satisfied managing his own law firm alongside his son-in-law, as well as working on a total of 25 boards and committees within his community.   

Scott W. Smith stepped down from his position as Mesa’s mayor to run for governor in 2014 though, giving Mayor Giles the choice to step forward and help his community in a new way.  It took some reflecting to warm up to the idea of running for mayor, but he eventually decided it would be the perfect job for him. 

Five years later, Mayor Giles has led his home town to be the 19th best-run city in the United States, according to statistics from Wallethub.  The next best Arizona city on the list is Phoenix, at 34th.   

Mayor Giles was born and raised in Mesa and educated by the city’s public-school system. He said his parents were “very unselfish people, very engaged in the community,” and “I was lucky to grow up in a good family.” His father was an elementary school principal, which he said made education a priority in his family.    

After graduating from Westwood High School, Mayor Giles went to Brigham Young University and received an undergraduate’s degree in political science, his campaign bio said.   

Mayor Giles went on to serve a two-year Mormon mission in Korea before coming back and receiving a graduate’s degree in law at Arizona State University.  From there, he went on to a 25-year career as an attorney.   

Mayor Giles worked at various Valley law firms before starting his own firm, the Law Office of John Giles, in 1995.  His son-in-law, Spencer Dickson, joined the office after graduating from ASU himself, changing to the name to Giles and Dickson.  Mayor Giles said the firm is still alive and well after he handed the keys to Mr. Dickson, and, “that’s likely where I will be hanging out when I’m done with my mayor gig.”   

Mayor Giles was elected to Mesa’s City Council in 1996 and had a number of notable achievements while there.  He said he was proud of his work in creating the Mesa Arts Center and multiple swimming facilities across town. He also worked to pass a law to require fluoridation of Mesa’s water supply.   

While on City Council, Mayor Giles also served as vice-mayor to Mayor Wayne Brown.  He said Mayor Brown had health issues at times, leaving him to gain some mayoral experience himself.   

Since his election, Mayor Giles has taken strides to bring Mesa to where it is today.  His vision for the city, which he calls NextMesa, involves celebrating areas in which the city is great, but also acknowledging and working on areas that need improvement.  He said, “If we are satisfied, we are probably back-sliding instead of getting better.”   

One aspect of the city Mayor Giles is working to improve is education.  He said education is “one of our core values as a city,” but the city “is trending in the wrong direction” in education attainment.   

To help solve the problem, Mayor Giles has pushed to increase the presence of higher education in the community.  He said he reached out to ASU, leading to the building of what ASU’s official announcement calls a “world-class hub for digital innovation,” scheduled to open in fall 2021.   

Mayor Giles has also worked to revitalize Downtown Mesa. He cited the addition of the new ASU building, the Mesa Arts Center and the light rail as things that have improved the quality of life as well as the economy in the city.  He said the process of making Downtown Mesa an attractive place to live is an “overnight sensation that’s decades in the making.”  

Mayor Giles works with Mesa’s Chamber of Commerce to help the local business community grow.  Sally Harrison, president and CEO of the Chamber, sai he provides support by “attending events and meetings, like our TV show Mesa Morning Live, ribbon cuttings and meetings involving education and policy.”  She spoke highly of his personality, saying he is fun, knowledgeable and supportive.   

Melissa Randazzo, who handles public information for the office of the mayor, said, “it’s considered a part time position being mayor here, but it’s definitely full-time for him.  There are days when you have council meetings, and that’s when you expect to see them, but he’s here every day, all day.  He has an open-door policy, so he’s really easy to work with.” 

Mayor Giles is a family man with a wife of 35 years, five kids and eight grandkids.  He said about his wife, “She helps keep me humble and reminds me what’s important.”

Editor’s note: Casey Flanagan wrote the above article for a JMC 301 intermediate reporting and writing class at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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