Flinn-Brown Fellow Tammy Caputi’s determination leads to successful business, service to Scottsdale

July 1, 2024

By Jessica Vaile

Fellows Spotlight

The Honorable Tammy Caputi

Owner / President, Yale Electric West, Inc.

Councilwoman, City of Scottsdale

(Scottsdale, 2019)

“The conversations we had at Flinn-Brown were so deep and definitely got me used to speaking across the aisle, and speaking with people who have wildly different opinions, in a polite and courteous way. It was a real exchange of knowledge and information and opinions. There was no toxicity; it was just total respect and the understanding of other people. I learned so much.” — The Honorable Tammy Caputi, Scottsdale City Council

Tammy Caputi is the president and owner of Yale Electric West, Inc., a lighting and electrical supply distributing company. From the beginning, Caputi never let the demographics of her predominantly male industry be a crutch, or something that could define the success of her business.  

The 2019 Flinn-Brown Fellow and Scottsdale City Councilwoman attributes some of that determination to her time at Wellesley College, a renowned women’s college outside Boston. 

“Being surrounded by incredible, intelligent, powerful women, looking to my left and right and seeing that the smartest people in the room were women, that changed my life in a thousand different ways,” Caputi says. “It gave me so much confidence and it helped me find my voice.” 

Caputi later received an MBA from Simmons University in Boston. She was then told by her father that she was more than welcome to work for his company there and that she would be taken care of, but the business would go to her brothers. 

That made Caputi’s next choice clear. She moved back to Arizona, where she had been working after her bachelor’s degree, and started her own business.  

More than 22 years later, Yale Electric West Inc., is still running strong by supplying light fixtures and electrical materials for commercial construction projects in the Greater Phoenix area.

Meanwhile, Caputi’s compassion for Scottsdale and Arizona has driven her time as a Scottsdale City Councilwoman. Caputi, who is seeking her second term on the council this fall, felt there was a need for open-mindedness and balance. 

“We have a winning formula in Scottsdale. It’s highest amenities and open space, strongest property values and lowest property taxes. That’s an amazing balance to achieve. And the only way we do that is with a vibrant economy,” Caputi says. “I take the long-term view and right now I’m really proud of the work we’ve done.” 

Utilizing the Flinn-Brown Network to see how people in other cities deal with local issues has been one of Caputi’s favorite things about the Flinn-Brown Fellowship. She said being able to trade ideas, gain new perspectives, and have an expert in just about anything at your fingertips is a gift that keeps on giving.

But that ability to work so well with others stems from something deeper.  

“We have a tendency to get into our echo chambers and Flinn-Brown really forced us to get into a room with people who don’t all think exactly like you do. And that is usually the best way to break down those barriers,” Caputi said. “You realize that you do have things in common, that you’re all working towards the same goal and that the other person isn’t necessarily the enemy.” 

Caputi was not in a calm stage of life throughout her Flinn-Brown Fellowship. She was taking care of her young children, participating in two fellowships, running her business, training for the Boston Marathon and being there for her sick father, but she still came out of it with the sense that opportunities like Flinn-Brown are exactly what Arizona needs to kindle strong communities. 

“We need more of what Flinn-Brown presents. I can’t think of any other organization that’s providing that space for people of all opinions to get together and have civil dialogue. I don’t know if anyone else is doing that and we need so much more of it,” Caputi says. 

If change happens at the wrong time with no warning, it can be uncomfortable. However, any thriving community needs to be okay with change and put in the work to make sure that the members of said community have a say in what happens, Caputi says. 

“That’s what I love about municipal politics. I’m close to the people. I can make impactful changes on people’s lives for the better. And I have to continually remind myself that there’s always going to be that percentage of people out there that aren’t happy, but you just have to look at the greater good and the things that you’re doing for the majority that move the needle and make people’s lives better,” she said. “I have three daughters. It’s imperative to me that they inherit a world that is better for them than it’s been for me. I refuse to go backwards.” 


Book Recommendation:

Each month, we feature suggestions from Fellows to create a virtual Network library about public-policy issues, the practice of leadership, professional development and other areas worth sharing. This month’s recommendation comes from the Honorable Tammy Caputi.

Broad Influence: How Women Are Changing the Way America Works
by Jay Newton-Small

When women are just a token in a group, they tend to be quiet and mimic whatever’s happening with the dudes who are running the show. In fact, some of those women tend to outman the man. When you start to get a tipping point—a certain percentage of a group that’s women—that’s when the culture can start to change because women feel safe, and you can start finding your voice and speaking up.

View all Flinn-Brown Fellow profiles here.