Growing up in Tempe, Joshua Wright always knew that he wanted a career that would enable him to serve the greater good.
“I thought that meant I needed to work for a nonprofit organization,” Wright said. “I was headed down that path and did a few internships, but ultimately local government found me and it has been a tremendously rewarding experience.”
Recently, Wright was officially named Chandler’s city manager, replacing Marsha Reed, who retired in March 2021. He was promoted to the position after serving as acting city manager since March and assistant city manager since 2017. He previously served as town manager of Wickenburg for five years and worked five years at the town of Marana as an assistant to the town manager and director of strategic initiatives.
“Through a five-month recruitment process, we interviewed a number of great candidates for the city manager position and ultimately selected the internal candidate, Joshua Wright,” said Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke. “Through his role as assistant city manager and in his recent acting position, Joshua has guided the city through many challenges and has led the city to record-setting successes, including the largest private investment project in Arizona’s history with Intel.”
A graduate of the University of Arizona, Wright holds a master’s degree in public administration and bachelor’s degrees in psychology and religious studies.
“I am a ‘service first’ kind of person,” Wright said. “What inspired me to go into local government — and what continues to inspire me to work in this career — is the opportunity we have as public servants to do good in the lives of our community members.”
Wright shared that he had no knowledge of local government until graduate school at UA. In fact, he never really thought about how a city operated. “I’ve never been interested in politics or particularly opinionated about most policy issues, but I am interested in finding small, lasting ways to make the world a better place,” he said.
So, what exactly does a city manager do?
The best way to describe the role of city manager, Wright said, is to use a corporate analogy: A large corporation has a board of directors, and they in turn appoint a chief executive officer to manage the day-to-day affairs. In municipal government, the mayor and city council are the elected board who set the vision and policy direction of the organization. They in turn hire a politically neutral, professional administrator to implement those policies and supervise municipal services — the city manager.
The city manager also prepares the annual budget for the city council’s approval.
“In Chandler, I oversee most of our approximately 1,700 city employees and a budget of just over $1 billion this fiscal year, including such services as police, fire, transportation, parks and recreation, libraries, airport, water, sewer, garbage and recycling, and many more,” he explained.
Unlike the corporate world though, the mayor and council have to run for reelection, so Wright is guaranteed new bosses every so often. “As such, part of my job is helping facilitate a shared direction for the city while presenting professional recommendations for addressing complex policy issues,” he said. “I bring a good mix of experience, creativity, and enthusiasm to this new role.”
Outside of work, Wright is on the board of the directors for the East Valley Jewish Community Center — a community he was a part of growing up — and he and his family have been members of Temple Emanuel of Tempe for decades. With life now beautifully full circle, his children are active in the EVJCC as well.
“All of my free time is dedicated to family activities,” he said. “My wife, Melissa, who is also Jewish, and I have been married 16 years and we have two incredible kids: Caleb, 9, and Hannah, 5. They are your typical kids these days with too many hobbies: basketball, soccer, dance, coding, drum lessons, you name it. It’s exciting to watch them grow up and find their own passions and life achievements.”
Wright also recently started working on a doctorate through Valdosta State University in Georgia, which has been a long-time personal goal. When it comes to blending the personal and professional, Wright noted that he’s always been surprised at the small number of fellow Jews he’s met in local government.
“It’s [local government] a great career that I’ve found to be highly consistent with Jewish values. In particular, I remember my parents telling me when I was a kid that one of the highest forms of tzedakah is when the giver and the receiver do not know each other,” he said. “I get to do small acts of kindness every day, like building a new park or providing resources for our police officers and firefighters to keep the community safe, that will hopefully positively impact people for many years to come. I don’t know those people personally, and they don’t know me. But I like it that way because it’s about doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do, not because you expect to be thanked or receive something in return.”
Wright highly encourages those involved in the Jewish community to also be involved in their local governments because he believes it is a great way to put the faith’s principles into practice. JN