The 35U began with a vision to inspire the leaders of tomorrow by telling them about the leaders of today. With millions of people involved in government, education, business and community service across the country, it sometimes may be hard for the 35U to connect to leaders individually simply due to an age barrier. The 35U to us is any young adult from the ages of 18-35 in this country. These individuals have a voice – they can vote, serve, and most importantly, they can make a difference for future generations.
Today’s Q&A feature is Robert Uribe, Mayor of Douglas, Arizona. Robert was elected Mayor of Douglas, Arizona in May of 2016. At 31 years old, this election made him the youngest Mayor in Douglas, Arizona’s history. Robert worked as a youth educator in Manhattan until he and his family moved to Arizona in 2005. Robert continued working with children as a coach at Phoenix Country Day School. In 2010, Robert met his wife, a Douglas native, Jenea who was completing her education at Arizona State University (ASU). The couple immediately began their entrepreneurial journey with the creation of an online boutique. In 2012, the couple moved to Douglas and opened Galiano’s Café, the only neighborhood coffee shop in town. From that point on, the duo has immersed themselves in the binational arts and cultural scene of Douglas and Agua Prieta, Mexico. For the 36th Annual Governor’s Arts Awards, Robert and his wife won the small business category. Out of 91 cities in the state of Arizona, Galiano’s Café in Douglas was nominated and won the award. Robert is an inspiration to the youth in Arizona that want to get involved in government and public service.
We caught up with Robert to find out what leadership means to him and what advice he would give to the next generation of leaders.
Why did you choose this career path?
I was fortunate to get to know many people in my community through our cafe and when several residents encouraged me to take the lead I was honored. I wanted to show my gratitude to a community who took me in as their own and do everything possible to lead in a way that propels Douglas into a more prosperous future.
Who inspired you to get involved?
Members of the Douglas community encouraged me to run for office. When my wife Jenea and I opened Galiano’s Cafe in 2012, residents were inspired by the way we transformed the location into a contemporary, vibrant space with the mission to promote healthy eating and local art. Eventually customers began encouraging me, “Robert, if you were able to transform your business into a successful coffee shop, can you imagine what you can do for Douglas if you were the Mayor ?” Those words were everlasting, so I took a leap of faith and ran for the mayor’s chair in 2016 and won.
How do you define a leader?
A leader is someone who has Courage, Integrity, Humility and Vision. As a leader it is your responsibility to empower others to get involved and work strategically in the direction of progress.
What projects are you currently involved with in the community that engages the next generation of leaders?
As a binational community, Douglas AZ is at the forefront of Trade, Commerce, National Security, and the U.S-Mexico relationship. Yet, we are overlooked and exploited by parochial thinking and exaggerations of the border. Notwithstanding, we’ve recently assembled the first City Youth Council in our community which provides a platform for our young people to get involved with issues they are interested in and affected by. The CYC allows young leaders to develop their understanding of government and leadership skills on a binational level.
What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders who want to get involved?
Anything is possible with courage, integrity, humility and vision … I went from being a barista to becoming the mayor of a binational community. Nevertheless, the process wasn’t easy. People laughed at me and said I wouldn’t stand a chance; they said I didn’t have any political experiences, and that I would fail. However, that did not discourage me or distract me from pursing a vision, nor shouldn’t you. Be bold, be brave, and be ready to fail. What happens after failure can define your character and your true purpose.