City of Tucson
By Tara Kirkpatrick
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked global devastation, killed more than 3 million people and brought economies to their knees.
That was Mayor Regina Romero’s first year in office.
“It was an incredibly difficult year,” Romero said. ”It was very challenging and sad, but we were not going through it alone. We were going through it with the world and with other mayors throughout Arizona and the United States.”
The daughter of immigrant farmworkers, Romero made history as Tucson’s first female and first Latina mayor when she was elected in 2019. Just months later, she was in the trenches, making decisions on curfews and mask mandates as the region grappled with spikes of COVID-19 cases. Then, outrage over the death of George Floyd spilled into downtown Tucson as protesters damaged buildings. Romero was there afterward, helping to clean up the mess.
“What I’ve learned about leadership is that it is instinctual and it’s a combination of instinct and knowledge,” said the University of Arizona graduate. “Being able to tap into that has been an incredibly big learning experience.”
As the region rebounds, Romero is optimistic. “We all know that change, although challenging, creates opportunities,” she said. “The opportunity to innovate from one day to the next, especially in the City of Tucson. We are reimagining how we do business. We are learning to be flexible and resilient.”
A champion of climate protection, Romero is also excited about the city’s Million Trees Initiative, a pledge to plant one million trees here by 2030. “It’s such a simple and scientific proven way to clean CO2 emissions from our air,” she said. “There’s research that proves that planting trees and having an urban forest helps people be happier, helps them with depression. Planting trees has so many values.” For the first time in city history, an urban forestry manager has been hired to oversee the initiative, she said.
“There is so much to her leadership that I admire,” said City Councilwoman Lane Santa Cruz. “She is a master strategist when it comes to her solutions-based approach and that’s a skill that comes from deep listening. But one of the most important things I have learned from her is to be vulnerable and accept that in our journey we’re going to make mistakes, but it’s how we learn and respond that takes courage.
“I’m grateful that her North Star is deeply rooted in family and community and she brings so much heart and intellectual rigor to her role as mayor.”