New Surprise manager rose up through ranks
Resume lists work as police officer, city administrator
The new city manager of Surprise, Mike Frazier, has a long resume of municipal service. After rising through the ranks as a Phoenix police officer, Frazier became police chief in El Mirage, then police chief in Surprise, before crossing into administration as Surprise’s assistant city manager in 2015.
There’s a faded picture of Mike Frazier from when he was 22 and graduating the academy to become a police officer in Phoenix.
He’s standing up straight, donning a pressed blue uniform with a wide grin and a gun on his hip.
Frazier said that young man in the picture had always wanted to be a police officer, but had no idea what career he had ahead of him.
The Surprise City Council appointed Frazier as the new city manager on Tuesday.
After rising through the ranks in Phoenix, he became police chief in El Mirage, then police chief in Surprise, and then crossed into administration as Surprise’s assistant city manager in 2015.
Frazier will now replace four-year Surprise City Manager Bob Wingenroth, who announced his resignation last month.
Those who know both say Frazier’s personality and police background will lead him to take a more hard-line approach to managing the city and he will demand more accountability. But his doggedness and strict approach have won him only friends in the past.
“He held us accountable, but you could tell he treated us with dignity, with respect,” said Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams, who worked for Frazier in the 1990s and 2000s. “He has this infectious way of making you want to come in and do a good job.”
Frazier enters his role as the Surprise City Council undergoes a transition.
On Tuesday, during the council meeting in which the council appointed Frazier, Mayor Sharon Wolcott announced her resignation. The council will now appoint a council member to fill her spot.
This means there will soon be a new mayor, a council vacancy, and one other outgoing councilman, since Chris Judd defeated Councilman Todd Tande in the primary election in August.
After Wolcott announced her resignation, Frazier told The Arizona Republic that he doesn’t think this puts the city in an unstable position.
“I think we’re on a good path,” he said. “We’ll keep rolling on this journey.”
Frazier said his background has prepared him for anything.
“Not much intimidates me,” he said. Councilman Skip Hall said Frazier is well-regarded by city employees, which will make for an easy transition.
Frazier made $4.79 an hour during his first year on the Phoenix Police Department in 1975.
His annual city manager salary will be $230,000, under the contract approved by the council.
He said he got into policing because he felt like he could help people. He didn’t stay an officer for long. After four years, he took a test and
scored high enough to receive a promotion. A series of promotions during the next three decades eventually led him to become the department’s executive chief, which put him second in command.
“The opportunity to have a greater impact kept me advancing,” he said.
When he worked in Phoenix, he said, he was always the last one to leave the building at night. He believes hard work yields good results.
During his time running the investigative unit, he said, he created a program that targeted a high-crime area.
“We crushed crime in that area,” he said.
Andy Anderson, a retired assistant police chief in Phoenix who worked alongside Frazier, said he isn’t surprised by Frazier’s appointment as city manager.
He’s always been driven and passionate about his work, Anderson said.
“It’s the best thing that could happen to Surprise,” Anderson said. “Not only for the employees, but for the city itself.”
In 2007, Frazier retired from the Phoenix department and was appointed as police chief in El Mirage.
When he got there, he said, the department was in shambles. The Maricopa County Sheriff ’s Office had been running the department, and the city was transitioning back to having its own leadership.
“We built a professional police department,” he said. “It wasn’t there when I got there. We put policies in place, we created beats, we started having community events. We really bridged the gap with the community.”
When the police chief spot in Surprise came open in 2011, Frazier said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
As city manager, Frazier said, he will work on accountability. He said he has always thought about things methodologically.
“I have always believed you could put all the programs into place, but if you aren’t monitoring it, you haven’t accomplished anything,” he said. “Everybody will tell you they are busy, but you have to wonder, ‘Are you busy doing the right things?’ ”
He said he thinks the city is generally headed in the right direction.
He called Surprise a “diamond in the desert.”
Mike Frazier is rising yet another step in his career in municipal service, this time to the position of city manager at Surprise City Hall.