Flinn-Brown Fellow Ryan Smith builds cross-government partnerships for Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport

December 22, 2022

By Jessica Vaile

Ryan Smith
(Mesa, 2013)

Director of Communications and Government Relations
Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport

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1. Can you please describe your work and how public policy impacts how you manage your organization?

I am the Director of Communications and Government Relations at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. The airport is impacted by every level of government and is a shining example of how public-policy decisions can have amazing positive effects on the community, or can stymie growth and bog down economic development. Gateway has experienced tremendous success over the past few years because our six member governments, the state of Arizona, and federal agencies such as the FAA have invested time, money and their collective power to foster growth that benefits the entire region. Elected leaders from every level have played a key role in making this happen.

2. Do you have a favorite quote that is meaningful to you?

My favorite is: “The true measure of success is to plant trees under whose shade you will never stand.” For me, that defines in a very simple way what selfless service is.

3. Is there a book you would recommend to the Fellows?

One of my favorite books is Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, by John M. Barry. I love this book because it details our nation’s complicated history with politics, race, and how we should be taking care of those that need help the most, how we often fail miserably, and how those mistakes have shaped our nation.

4. How has the Fellows Network been useful to you?

There is always a connection with someone who has had the opportunity to go through the program. It’s a common bond and easy way to say, “Hey, you and I understand how the sausage gets made…Can you help me with XYZ?”

5. What do you see as potential opportunities strengthening civic health in Arizona?

Having a split government for the first time in over a decade will be a good learning exercise for our elected leaders. For most of them, this will be the first time navigating this type of governing, and I am hopeful that leaders from both sides will rise to the occasion to accomplish the important work that Arizona voters desire and deserve.

If you missed a Fellows Spotlight, you can view them on the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership website now.

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