Acting City Manager Joshua Wright has been appointed to fill Chandler’s top job on a permanent basis.
After a closed-door meeting on July 20, City Council picked Wright from a group of four candidates who had interviewed with city officials earlier this month.
The exact terms of Wright’s new contract will be determined by Council Aug. 12.
“Joshua has proven himself as a natural and inspiring leader and I look forward to working alongside him to continue leading this community in the direction of innovation and excellence,” said Mayor Kevin Hartke.
At 38, Wright is Chandler’s youngest city managers to be appointed in recent years. The city’s last three managers were all considerably older and nearing retirement age at the time they assumed office.
Wright notably had the least amount of working experience among the four finalists, but he was the only candidate who had professional experience with Chandler.
A native of the East Valley, Wright graduated from the University of Arizona with a master’s degree in public administration.
In his application to the city, Wright predicted Chandler’s biggest challenge in the near future would be finding new ways to retain talented employees.
“We need to find creative ways to grow our own talent, including expanded internship programs and a clearer path to helping staff advance through the workforce into positions of greater responsibility,” Wright wrote.
Wright has said he plans to prioritize boosting the morale of Chandler’s 1,600 employees after a chaotic year that forced many employees to work from home or take on additional duties.
“It is no secret that the past year was one of the most difficult in history and there exist significant pockets of stress and fatigue throughout the organization,” Wright wrote in his application.
The council picked Wright over three candidates who collectively had decades of experience working in public service across the country.
Milton Dohoney, Sara Hensley, and Tom Hutka have all been shortlisted for managerial positions in other cities.
Dohoney, Phoenix’s assistant city manager, appeared to be the most familiar with Chandler’s current affairs, having presented a detailed plan to the council outlining how he’d spend his first 180 days as the new city manager.
Dohoney’s plan referenced the need to address local issues like affordable housing, aging infrastructure, and the lack of available land for future development.
“Chandler is about growth – which speaks volumes about possibilities for the local government and the community as a whole,” Dohoney said during the interviews with the public and city employees on July 14.
Hensley, a transplant from Texas, mainly worked in supervising recreational departments for various cities and currently serves as the interim city manager of Denton, Texas.
“I’ll not sit in an office all day. You’ll see me out in the field,” she said. “I don’t find it productive to be sitting all day.”
Hensley emphasized her commitment to equity and inclusiveness by conducting an extensive review of Chandler’s hiring practices and setting deadlines for improvements that she thinks are needed.
Hutka’s background included overseeing infrastructure and engineering projects for municipalities in Florida and Ohio.
The only finalist who has not lived in Arizona, he said his technical expertise in engineering can provide Chandler an outsider’s perspective.
“What I do promise you is a fresh set of eyes,” Hutka said. “I’ve worked an entire career to develop some of the very best eyes in local government.”
During the public forum, Wright presented himself as an ethical, independent leader who intends to distinguish his administration from the previous ones.
“I will be my own person,” Wright said. “I will not be afraid to make decisions. I will not be afraid to do the right thing.”
Wright came to Chandler in 2017 after spending several years as Wickenburg’s town manager.
He initially worked as an assistant manager who was responsible for overseeing Chandler’s development, human resources, and public works departments.
He’s been serving as the city’s interim manager since Marsha Reed retired in March.
Wright hasn’t made it to the top without garnering some critics.
Marvin Wessel, a local pilot, had few pleasantries to say about the new city manager after his plane was destroyed in a fire at the city’s airport in 2020.
Wessel, who has a pending lawsuit against the city, accused Wright of being misleading during conversations the two had about Wessel’s safety concerns regarding the airport.
In his application, Wright acknowledged having had to make decisions that weren’t always popular with the public, but insisted his actions have always been reasonable.
“I have often had to make unpopular decisions and deal with difficult situations,” Wright wrote. “However, my life decisions – personally and professionally – have always been fair and ethical.”