A Conversation with the New Vice Mayor of Phoenix, Yassamin Ansari

Phoenix District Seven Councilperson and now Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari has already had a remarkable career in public service.

And she is only 30.

Opening of the Republic Service Garden at Hance Park. Photo from Vice Mayor Ansari’s social media.

The daughter of immigrants, the Stanford and Cambridge Graduate has made history by becoming the first Iranian American to serve in public office in Arizona.

A former senior advisor at the United Nations on climate issues, Vice Mayor Ansari has tirelessly worked on sustainability and affordable housing policy since coming onto the Phoenix Council in March 2021.

She is the youngest person to take a seat on the Phoenix Council.

Her efforts over the last year and a half, in close collaboration with Mayor Kate Gallego and other council members, helped lead to passage of Phoenix’s Climate Action and Transportation Electrification Action Plans.

Last month (January 4, 2023,) the Phoenix City Council elected her to become one of the youngest Vice Mayors in Phoenix history.

 

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Vice Mayor Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari at Nikola Motor. From Councilwoman Ansari Twitter Account

After being elected, Vice Mayor Ansari stated:

“Phoenix is facing a multitude of crises. We need to address homelessness, an affordable housing shortage, dangerous air quality, hiring and retention across our departments, from police to public works, with the urgency it demands. As Vice Mayor, I’m committed to working with all of my colleagues to prioritize these issues and make 2023 our most productive year yet. We also have innovative and exciting projects on the horizon: we’re updating our climate action plan, the Super Bowl is coming to town, and a historic $500 million General Obligation Bond will be heading to Phoenix voters. Every corner of our city is set to see new investments in their neighborhoods. We have tough but important work ahead of us. And I’m excited to continue advocating for responsible and sustainable growth that better serves all who call Phoenix home.”

Vice Mayor Ansari graciously took the time to discuss her new position and how she hopes to advance policy with it.

The questions and her responses are below.

Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari at the unveiling of the Woman, Life, and Freedom Mural in Phoenix on February 3, 2023. Photo from Vice Mayor Ansari’s Twitter Page.
  • Please tell the readers what are at least two reasons you sought the position of Vice Mayor.

“I’ve had such an incredible experience and it’s been a privilege to represent District Seven over the last two years. I have spent the last two years pushing issues like climate action and addressing homelessness. I think this year is especially important to address a wide variety of Phoenix’s challenges, especially on the climate and transportation electrification front. In 2023, we will be updating our climate action plan, and beginning to implement our EV (Electric Vehicle) roadmap. It’s just such an exciting year and I wanted to step up and take a bigger leadership role as we embark on an exciting year ahead. I would also just say that I think Phoenix as the fifth largest, fastest growing city in the country, there are so many exciting things happening when it comes to economic development and sustainability. Unfortunately, we are in the midst of an affordable housing crisis and I think the city has been playing a significant role, but there’s also a lot more opportunity for leadership to address some of these challenges.”

  • Please tell the readers what are at least two new duties that come with the position of Vice Mayor.

“It is mostly just when the mayor is not physically present, I get to step in and help run the council meetings. Last week I was able to swear in our newest Village Planning Committee Members and individuals who are being appointed to different committees. If the mayor is not there at all, even virtually, Then I would be running the meetings. Other than that, it’s mostly an opportunity to, have a little bit more of a bird’s eye view of everything happening across the city and again, if the mayor is unavailable, to attend a certain event or meet with somebody who is coming and wants to meet with the city of Phoenix, I would step up to take the lead.”

Mayor Kate Gallego with Phoenix Councilwoman and now Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari. Photo from Office of Mayor Kate Gallego

Do you consider this a partnership with Mayor Gallego now that you are the Vice Mayor?

“I’m here to support her just as I am when I’m a councilwoman. I think she’s a great leader for our city. I would just like to be as helpful as I can be in this new role as well.”

  • As Vice Mayor, what are at least two public policy positions you would like to promote and call greater attention to?

“First and foremost, addressing homelessness and building affordable housing. I feel strongly that the housing crisis is one of the most pressing challenges right now in the city of Phoenix and across the entire state. We are about 200,000 plus units short of affordable housing, so Phoenix is stepping up to build with urgency and as fast as we can. I’m also working on a new shelter in my district that will be at 22nd Avenue and lower Buckeye that will include 280 beds in an area that is surrounded by a city facilities. It’s a city owned property. What we hope to achieve here is not only to provide people with emergency shelter, but also case management and wraparound support. So, ultimately this year, I really want us to make a dent in getting folks off the street and into safe shelter, and hopefully after that into transitional housing and permanent housing. I also want to make sure that climate action remains at the forefront. With each passing year, Phoenix is getting hotter and hotter. Extreme heat is one of our most pressing challenges, and it’s imperative that we implement our climate goals as fast as possible in the city of Phoenix. We also have public safety challenges again, as we are a growing city. It is my intent that we ramp up and report back results of our community assistance program, which we invested $15 million in last year. I’m excited that we’ll be getting an update on that at our next Public Safety and Justice subcommittee meeting. In community meetings that I have had with my residents, whether it’s downtown or Laveen or Maryvale, residents are very excited about the fact that we will have trained social workers to respond to mental health crises. Those are three of my biggest priorities. There are more, but those are the three of the ones that are top of mind.”

Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari at the Laveen Community Parade on February 4, 2023. Photo from Vice Mayor Ansari’s Twitter Page.
  • Is there anything not covered in the first three questions that you’d like the reader us to know about being the new Vice Mayor of Phoenix? Please explain.

“I’m extremely proud to be one of the youngest Vice Mayors that the City of Phoenix has ever had. We have a very diverse city council that’s phenomenal and representative of our city. We also this past year went through the general obligation bond process at the City of Phoenix. The council approved $500 million worth of capital projects ranging from new fire stations, new parks, park renovations, roadway safety improvements, and I was able to help secure more than $110 million for District Seven. Now the most important piece of that is making sure that when it heads to voters in November 2023, that it passes. That will be another top priority, I think, not only for myself, but for the entire  council to see voters support the bond and then, get moving on actually building out some of these projects that in some cases, communities have been waiting  for decades.”

Like you said, you are one of the youngest Vice Mayors in Phoenix history. What are your long-term goals and ambitions?

“Right now, I’m focused on District Seven. There’s so many projects that we’re working on that I’m excited to see them come through. I would like to stay in public service and in elected office. So I will continue to pursue that for as long as my constituents will have me.”


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