While many pools nationwide are facing lifeguard shortages, Tucson is making sure its pools remain fully staffed this summer.

In 2022, Tucson fell short of lifeguards, forcing city officials to make significant adjustments.

“Two years ago, we decided to reset the way we manage and retain staff because we only had 88 lifeguards and could only open 10 pools. The Mayor and Council said absolutely not; the public deserves better,” said Lara Hamwey, Director of Tucson Parks and Recreation.

To improve recruitment and retention, the city first increased starting salaries to $16.75 an hour, the highest for municipalities in the area. “We focused on creating a positive culture for the lifeguards, making them feel part of an organization,” Hamwey said.

The changes have been effective. Lifeguard and swim instructor Ethan Goodal said, “Two years ago, I saw an article about the lifeguard shortage. When I saw the new pay rate, my mom encouraged me to apply.”

Tucson’s efforts have led to increased pool attendance and program enrollments. “We’ve seen a large attendance in general pool time, learn-to-swim programs, swim teams, and aqua fit classes,” Hamwey said. “The public has responded positively to having all 20 pools open.”