Mayor Kate Gallego is the second elected female mayor in Phoenix history and, at 42, one of the youngest big city mayors in the United States. Over the past couple years, she has prioritized growing the local economy, expanding education and career opportunities, and building an inclusive and sustainable future in Phoenix. She invested in the nation’s first publicly funded Office of Heat Response and Mitigation, and she was recently named the President of the Democratic Mayors Association, leading a conference of 30,000 mayors across over 500 U.S. cities.

In the following Q&A, she talks about her commitment to public service, the transformative power of being a mom, and the small habits that help her thrive.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?

Mayor Kate Gallego: I stretch and grab a glass of water. It wakes me up every time! Then, while everything’s still quiet, I look at what’s on tap for the day and take some time to think about the people in Phoenix to whom I am accountable. It keeps me grounded and reminds me why I’m doing what I do. For me, the morning is all about starting the day with a clear head and a heart full of purpose.

TG: What gives you energy?

KG: Phoenix has so many spectacular mountain parks. I love going on hikes and taking in the view at the top. Looking down over the city from these mountains not only energizes me, but it also reminds me of the people I serve. It puts everything into perspective and makes challenges seem more surmountable.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?

KG: Spending less time on social media. It’s almost like a superpower these days!

TG: Name a book that changed your life.

KG: Hope and Despair in the American City by Gerald Grant. It showed me how cities can positively shape lives –– especially our kids’ futures. It helped me see how cities that don’t run the local schools can still do really important work to improve our kids’ lives.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?

KG: My phone charger is in the hall outside my bedroom. I have my phone set to ring for some people, like the city’s police chief, in case of an emergency. Otherwise, I try to ignore it at night.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?

KG: I am a big fan of lists, so I usually find something that needs crossing off. Or, if I’m lucky, I squeeze in a quick call to a loved one.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?

KG: I typically come back from travel feeling really tired. It’s hard to eat well when I travel, and I often don’t have time in my schedule to exercise. When I return home, it’s important that I reset and make a plan for the week ahead, often with a home-cooked meal and quality time with my family.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?

KG: I have been eating too much junk lately, and I recently got a warning from my doctor. Now, I am trying to track my eating on an app and plan more of my meals ahead of time. This one’s a struggle for me, but we’re all works in progress! 

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.

KG: Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” This quote really resonates with me because I truly believe in the power of community and local government to affect real change.

TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?

KG: I know that I am most thoughtful in the morning, so I try to tackle my most mentally challenging tasks then. I save tasks like cleaning for later in the day when it is okay if I am not concentrating as intensely.

TG: What advice would you give your younger self about reducing stress?

KG: I’d tell my younger self, “Mistakes happen, and that’s OK.” I used to lose sleep over every little error, but I’ve learned that it’s not the end of the world. In fact, those mistakes have made me a stronger and more understanding leader. They remind me that I’m human, just like the people I serve, and that we all grow from our missteps. So, take a deep breath and move on ––  most folks aren’t dwelling on it as much as you think! 

TG: Do you have any role models for living a thriving life?

KG: My dad is my role model. He finds joy in work, stays active, and never misses family time. He’s my living manual for a balanced life.

TG: What’s your personal warning sign that you’re depleted?

KG: Aching joints. When they start talking, I know it’s time to listen and slow down!

TG: When you notice you’re getting too stressed, what do you do to course correct?

KG: I try to really focus on getting enough sleep.

TG: What’s a surprising way you practice mindfulness?

KG: I try to eat really mindfully, which means I’m not looking at my phone or reading a book during mealtimes. I get more fuel and energy out of my meal if I can be present.

TG:  How do you reframe negative thinking?

KG: I am lucky to have a job where we get important things done every week. I remind myself to focus on the wins and not just the challenges.

TG: What brings you optimism?

KG: Seeing the people of Phoenix pull together and work hard to create a better future fills me with such optimism. Over the last two years, we’ve made meaningful strides in growing our economy, bringing in higher-wage jobs, and expanding education and career opportunities. It’s not just about numbers; it’s about folks making positive changes in their lives and our community thriving as a result. Every success story, big or small, makes me proud to be a part of this city and excited about where we’re headed. Together, we’re building something special, and that’s truly inspiring.

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your sleep. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how do you sustain this habit?

KG: I recently got a new pillow that came with instructions about how high it should be. It turns out that I have been using pillows that have way too much stuffing my entire life, and using a smaller pillow has really helped me sleep better. 

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve the way you connect with others. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how do you sustain this habit?

KG: I prioritize time on my schedule on Mondays to say thank you to people who have done good work and write notes to city employees or others I want to recognize. I genuinely enjoy it, and I find most people appreciate the recognition.

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve your focus. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how do you sustain this habit?

KG: I really like listening to white noise to help me focus. I first downloaded an app to help me get work done on airplanes, but now I find it also helps me when I need to write at work, where we have pretty thin walls.

TG: What was the biggest turning point in your life?

KG: Becoming a mom transformed my life, shifted my perspective, and deepened my commitment to public service. My son helps me stay grounded and focus on what really matters. He’s a daily reminder of the long-term future I’m trying to build for Phoenix. It’s not just about my family; it’s about our entire community. My experience as a mother drives my decisions as Mayor, focusing on a strong, inclusive, and sustainable future where every child in our city has the opportunity to thrive.

TG: What’s your secret time-saver in the morning?

KG: It’s a simple thing but I recently bought a hanging jewelry case. Being able to see everything helps me spend less time searching, so I can get on with my day while still feeling put together!

TG: What’s your evening routine that helps you unwind and go to sleep?

KG: My evenings are my time to disconnect from the day and spend time with my son. I force myself to put away electronics and focus on being present.  I love reading a bedtime story and hearing about his day while he is still young enough to want to tell me about it! That time together is priceless to me.

Featured image: courtesy of The Office of Mayor Kate Gallego


  • Mayor Gallego is the second elected female mayor in Phoenix history a​nd one of the youngest big city mayors in the United States. In November 2020, she was returned to office with the highest number of votes ever cast for a mayoral candidate in Phoenix. A graduate of Harvard University, she earned an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. She was elected to the Phoenix City Council in 2013, representing south Phoenix and the city’s downtown core. Prior professional pursuits include strategic planning and economic development for one of Arizona’s largest utility companies and service in state government, as part of the governor’s team.