New city manager gains perspective from hometown roots
When he was asked in January to serve as interim city manager, Andrew Ching didn’t expect to hold the job permanently.
Yet, the Tempe City Council quickly decided that they liked his performance and he agreed to officially continue in the role. On April 18, in a unanimous vote, the mayor and council appointed him as the permanent city manager.
His says his communication style appealed to the council, and he promises to remain open to employees and residents as well.
“I intend to continue to do what I have done throughout my career with the city, which is to be clear, prompt and accurate, and to take the time to explain my actions regardless of the audience,” said Ching.
At age 44, Ching is possibly the youngest ever Tempe city manager. As one of four appointed city officials who report directly to the Council, Ching says the transition is comfortable for him—especially since he’s had the same bosses for the last six years in his previous position as the city attorney.
“I took the interim position expecting to return to the City Attorney’s Office, but also knowing I would give the manager’s job my fullest effort,” said Ching.
“As a result, I did not apply for the job, which permitted me to give my complete attention to the tasks at hand. When the council asked if I would continue on a permanent basis, it’s an opportunity to serve my community at the highest level, which I could not pass up.”
Ching is truly homegrown, having lived in the city since the age of five. Ching, his wife and their two elementary school-aged children live near Broadway and Southern.
“We have such an amazing mix of people in Tempe from all walks of life—both long-time residents and those who are new to our city—who are very engaged in what the city is doing and how they can be a part of it, and who take a great deal of pride in their neighborhoods.
“I like that I get to live in the same city that I work for and to see the results of decisions that are made on a daily basis,” said Ching.
He graduated from McClintock High School in 1987, received his undergraduate degree at University of Arizona, and returned to Tempe to attend ASU’s School of Law.
His parents moved the household from Tucson to a home in Tempe, where they still reside. He was born the fourth child in a family of eight children, who all became good students, said Ching.
“In my family, I would say there was less pressure to excel than an expectation that one would always try their best in all things.
“I think this excellence came less from pressure and more from a supportive and nurturing family environment. We were lucky to have those sorts of parents.”
In addition to fond memories of his childhood, Ching says he admired his father’s professional work as a lawyer, whose aspiration was to serve the underprivileged.
“Early in his career, my Dad was nationally recognized for his groundbreaking work in legal aid for indigent persons,” explained Ching.
“When I decided to go to law school, I had a general sense that I wanted to do similar work, but instead focus on environmental law. But, after my first year in law school, I volunteered at the Tempe City Attorney’s Office, and I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided I wanted to practice in the area of municipal law.”
As city attorney, Ching says, he became familiar with the financial challenges the city faced during the recession. But, he added, he believes that the local business community now is poised to experience new growth opportunities.
“As manager, my job is to help council articulate its vision for the future, and to make sure we recruit and retain the right staff to implement that vision,” he said. “This means filling vacancies in key departments like Community Development and Community Services, and hiring an Economic
Development Director, so we can stay competitive in the region.”
“Another critical issue is strengthening the connectivity between north and south Tempe residents. We need to do a better job explaining how growth and new opportunities in one part of the city positively impacts everyone, and ensure that the city’s resources are to be allocated fairly to all regardless of zip code.”
As the city’s day-to-day organizational leader, he is ready to work with all the stakeholders of Tempe.
“As a professional, I am very inquisitive by nature. I tend to ask a lot of questions, because I believe it is through vigorous debate that ideas and concepts become better. I believe it is important to have good listening skills to go along with good communication skills.
“I want every level of the organization to have the skills and resources they need to succeed, and to be empowered to speak up if they don’t.
“Finally, I believe it is important to set a tone that we take the work of the city seriously, but that we never take ourselves too seriously.
“A good sense of humor and a healthy dose of humility are key.”
Although he is new to the job, he already sees a definite direction for Tempe’s future.
“My vision starts with the premise that Tempe is already a first-class city that has so much to be proud of—a downtown that was in decline until its leaders had a vision to make it the standard for downtowns; a dry river bed that its leaders had the vision to fill with water and create Town Lake as a top destination; and a multitude of civically engaged neighborhoods stretching the length of the city, who are linked to a system of parks, streets and transit that are unrivaled in the region,” said Ching.
“I see my job as building on that strong foundation, which means to not be satisfied with maintaining the status quo, but to always look for areas of improvement, driven by the constant belief that our best days are still ahead of us.”
Ching can be reached at 480-350-8403 or by email at Andrew_Ching@tempe.gov