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In January, League Deputy Director Tom Belshe stepped into the role of Executive Director. After receiving his BA in Economics and MPA from Brigham Young University, Belshe began his career right here at the League in 1993. Following a stint at the Arizona Department of Commerce where he served as one of the assistant deputy directors, he returned to the League in 2004 to become Deputy Director. Tom has been married to his wife Teri for 31 years, with three children.
As he begins his new role of League Executive Director, we hear from Tom on what he’s excited to tackle in this new role.
You have been on staff with the League for many years. What is your vision as you assume the role of Executive Director?
I am taking over a very unique and successful organization with exceptional staff and representing great member cities and towns that make me proud to say I represent local government. With as much success as we have enjoyed, it is the perfect opportunity to evaluate everything we are doing and how we are doing it. My vision is to have a strategic plan in place that adopts goals and strategies with which all cities and towns relate and more abundant and better data for our decision-making process. If you have a plan and good data, then you are nimble as an organization and can adapt to an ever-changing political and administrative landscape.
How does this build upon the work the League has done in the past?In its more than 80 years of existence, the League has built a reputation of being honest brokers of information related to how cities and towns operate, why they operate that way and how others can work well with them. As we gather more and better data, it will allow us to illustrate why cities and towns do the things they do and it will also enhance our ability to advocate for local decision making.
What are you most excited about as your tenure begins?I have the opportunity to take my 25 years of experience with this organization to strengthen those things that work, rework or jettison those things that don’t work or don’t make sense anymore, and to adopt new ideas or methods that present themselves. In reforming this organization for the future, we must not only look at what we are doing here in Arizona. It’s important that we seek out advice and support from the other 48 municipal associations across the country to benchmark some of their successes and learn from their challenges. In order to accomplish this, it is imperative that those who really govern our organization - city and town councils - share that vision. Our elected officials know their communities intimately. As we create that shared vision, we will be able to provide value to cities and towns in exciting new ways.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the organization in the near future?
The biggest challenge we face is not a new one for the League. We face a constant erosion of our local authority and local resources. Our hope is that we can find common ground and promote understanding of the critical importance of our role in the life of our citizens. Public safety, economic development and overall quality of life through the services we provide are areas of common ground that we hope to explore not only with Legislature but interested groups.
What opportunities do you see that are emerging for the League in the future?
I see an opportunity for us to proactively drive good policy on behalf of cities and towns. I see an opportunity for the League to raise the visibility of the critical role of local government. I see an opportunity for us to help model and inspire excellent city and town leadership. We can also develop and champion high quality solutions for issues confronting cities and towns. That all starts with a solid planning process that is accompanied by solid data.
Why is local control so important?
My experience has taught me that each of our 91 cities and towns is unique. People make choices about where to live based on the culture and character of the community. They choose leaders and duly elect them because they believe those leaders understand what they want from their city or town. Local decisions need to be left in the hands of those who understand and contribute to the efforts that make and keep our cities and towns so wonderfully unique.
Why is the League important to cities and towns in Arizona?
The League of Arizona Cities and Towns provides a collective wisdom and strength that no city or town could achieve on their own. That applies to our advocacy, training and education, and our efforts to create beneficial partnerships of all kinds. Bringing together cities and towns with diverse cultures and perspectives helps drive good public policy. Those programs and products that we develop on behalf of all cities and towns means that individual cities and towns don’t have to use valuable staff resources to accomplish the same thing. Every city and town can find a wide variety of valuable services and programs through the League. My hope is to not only maintain that value but to increase it in ways we may not have even contemplated yet.