Q&A: SnugZ CEO Brandon Mackay on Mayoral Run
Brandon Mackay is looking to add mayor of a rapidly growing western U.S. city to his résumé, which already includes CEO, president and owner of a quickly growing promotional product business.
The 38-year-old Salt Lake native, who owns the Salt Lake City-based SnugZ USA, will face current City Councilman Jim Miller on the ballot for mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah Nov. 5. The selected candidate will be sworn in Jan. 6, 2014.
Saratoga Springs has a full-time city manager who runs the city, with the mayor, who has no veto power and only votes to breaks ties, presiding over City Council at evening meetings occurring twice a month.
The city, which incorporated on the northwest boarder of Lake Utah in 1997 and became a city four years later, has been Mackay's home for almost five years, and is less than 40 miles from his company's headquarters. From 2000 to last year, the city has grown from about 1,000 residents to more than 21,000, according to the U.S. Census, and with 400 yet-to-be-developed acres, has an expected population of more than 70,000 by 2030, according to the city.
Failed interactions with government as a resident and business owner pushed Mackay to seek the seat. If elected, he hopes to lead the city in the right direction, and improve interaction between its government and residents.
Promo Marketing: How did you get involved in the promotional products industry?
Brandon Mackay: I got involved in the business just as a kind of an in-between job. My original dream was to be a paramedic. It was a layover until I could start fire-academy school in the fall [of 1994]. The rest is history. Never got out of here.
PM: How did you work your way up to owning 100 percent of the company?
BM: One little tiny baby promotion at a time. I went from [working on the dock] to a warehouse manager. From a warehouse manager, I got the opportunity to work into an entry-level I.T. position. Then I went from there back to the warehouse and did some operations management there, and then went from there to operations overall for the company, and then from that point I went to the role [of CEO and president] I have now.
PM: Why did you decide to run for mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah?
BM: I originally got interested in it because we [at SnugZ USA] were looking for a new place to move our corporate headquarters, and I solicited four different municipalities around Salt Lake-where we are right now. And I looked into Saratoga Springs as one of them because, I mean obviously that's where I live, and I couldn't get any feedback from them. I couldn't get any info from them, I couldn't get the mayor to call me back, I couldn't get anyone from economic development to call me back and that kind of stuff, so I just became really frustrated with it and started wanting some answers.
They finally answered me back and said we don't have any zoned space for you right here right now. So at that point, I was like that's kind of funny because the building we were looking to build was a $10 million building, so I started asking around and trying to get a [feel] of who was running the city, and just kind of figured out that they were kind of out of their league, so that's how I got interested in running for it.
And then after that, there were some residential issues that came up. The owners of some high-density [housing] then wanted to put high-density housing inside a [Saratoga Springs] neighborhood, so that was kind of the tipping point for me.
So a lot of it had to do with my business and my business relocation, and some of it had to do with some personal feelings that I had as a resident.
PM: What have your campaign efforts been like?
BM: I did a lot of little cottage meetings, so individual meetings in their homes; I've engaged the local clubs, which would be the Kiwanis Club and the organized clubs within the community; I've used the local paper as a resource to get my name out, my message; and I've used a lot of promotional product yard signs and a lot of promotional product decals and magnets and things such as that. And then last, social media has been really helpful because you can connect with so many people so fast.
PM: You were quoted as saying you felt you were a "long shot" to win this race, do you still feel that way?
BM: Yeah, I think it's because I don't play the little political-circle game. I think it leaves you in a position where you're a long shot, so those who typically run for mayor or run for a City Council position-it's part of an identity, it's part of what makes them so hollow as a person. For someone coming from private sector into the political sector, I think they're a little handicapped. They don't have as great as opportunities because they spend all of their waking hours in the private sector.
PM: Do you still work lower-level positions occasionally, and would you utilize that hands-on practice if elected mayor?
BM: Yeah, we still do that quite often. Obviously, we don't get the luxury of doing it all the time now because of our size. We still participate in a lot of the production roles just so we can be more insightful when we process improvement.
I would like to understand the role of [Saratoga Springs'] staff better. You have the City Council and the mayor-they're all part-time people, but then you have staff and they're all full-time, so I would like to understand the individual role of staff and get a better idea of how they work and operate and what their mindset is to help the citizens.
PM: What are some issues you'd like to see resolved at the city level?
BM: Well, I'd like to see the culture between the citizens and the City Council better. I'd like to see some emphasis in trying to mend some bridges so to speak between the citizen and the City Council. Sometimes City Council gets very heavy handed. Like in most politics, they forget who and why they were elected to represent.