Flinn Foundation names state-government executive Dawn Wallace to direct civic-leadership program

March 18, 2020

By Matt Ellsworth

PHOENIX—Dawn Wallace, a public-policy expert who has advised Republican and Democratic governors and guided policy development in both houses of the Arizona Legislature, is joining the Flinn Foundation as its new Vice President, Civic Leadership. 

Wallace succeeds Nancy Welch, who retired in December after guiding the Flinn Foundation’s statewide civic-leadership program from its launch to broad recognition as Arizona’s premier initiative preparing leaders for state-level public service. 

Wallace will begin her new role March 23. The application for the 2020 cohort of the Flinn-Brown Fellowship will open two weeks later, on April 6. 

Wallace served in linchpin roles in the office of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey for more than four years. She led the development of the Governor’s P-20 education agenda and directed its initiatives at the Governor’s Office of Education, served as a policy liaison from the governor’s office to executive departments, and planned and managed all of the governor’s large public events, from school visits, to Ducey’s second inauguration ceremonies in 2019, to the memorial service for U.S. Sen. John McCain at the Arizona State Capitol. 

Most recently, Wallace completed a short-term role as the education-policy advisor to the president of the Arizona State Senate. Her previous experience includes a stint as director of government relations for the Maricopa County Community College District and policy-advisor roles in the Arizona House of Representatives and State Senate. 

In the latter positions, she facilitated state-budget planning, provided policy guidance and research on education initiatives, and helped manage the state’s Legislative Internship Program. As part of Arizona’s 2012 centennial celebration, she led production of “Kids and the Capitol: The Arizona Legislative Centennial Civics Project,” a bipartisan multimedia education initiative featuring retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and many state leaders. 

“Over her career, Dawn has modeled public service at its best,” said Flinn Foundation President and CEO Tammy McLeod. “She possesses deep policy knowledge, an ethical grounding, and the implementation skills to deliver tangible benefits to the people of Arizona. Across our philanthropic programs, we’re going to learn from her every day.” 

Although especially well known for her education-policy expertise, Wallace entered state service as a budget analyst, first for Gov. Jane Dee Hull, then in the administration of Gov. Janet Napolitano. 

Wallace holds an MBA, with an emphasis in accounting, from the University of Phoenix, and a bachelor’s degree in history from Arizona State University. 

At the Flinn Foundation, Wallace will lead a cross-cutting, statewide program to strengthen civic leadership in Arizona, especially at the state level. The foundation’s cornerstone initiative in this area is the nonpartisan Flinn-Brown Fellowship, which prepares emerging and established leaders to enter state-level service as elected officials, state-agency executives, policy advisers, members of state boards and commissions, and leaders of statewide organizations affecting policy. The Fellowship launched in 2011 under a partnership between the Flinn Foundation and the Tucson-based Thomas R. Brown Foundations.  

“Advancing Arizona requires developing leaders who understand our state policies and political dynamics, and who are committed to working across perspectives,” said Sarah Brown Smallhouse, president of the Thomas R. Brown Foundations. “Dawn Wallace is herself such a person and we believe she will bring valuable expertise to the civic-leadership program. Flinn-Brown Fellows will surely gain from her broad experience.” 

Through the Flinn-Brown Fellowship’s exclusive seminar series, Fellows engage in deep learning about Arizona policy and politics and make connections to top state leaders and policy experts. They join the powerful Flinn-Brown Network, which now includes more than 350 Fellows representing all walks of life and political perspectives. Each year, 25-35 Arizonans from throughout the state are selected for the Fellowship in a competitive process. By virtue of the Flinn and Brown foundations’ philanthropic commitment, there is no cost to participate in the Fellowship. 

The Flinn Foundation is a privately endowed philanthropic grantmaking organization established in 1965 by Dr. Robert S. and Irene P. Flinn to improve the quality of life in Arizona to benefit future generations. In addition to strengthening civic leadership in Arizona, the foundation works to advance the state’s bioscience sector; supports the Flinn Scholarship, a merit-based college scholarship program; and provides grants in arts and culture.