May 2024 Network News

May 31, 2024

By Jessica Vaile

Thoughts from Dawn Wallace

It’s been a crazy busy month at the Center!

Our biggest news was the announcement of the 2024 Flinn-Brown Fellows – 28 remarkable individuals who are now part of other prestigious Flinn-Brown Network. The 16th cohort includes leaders from nine counties, spanning the private and public sectors, elected officials, nonprofit founders, physicians, lawyers, educators, and more. We gave them a big shoutout on our social media, and it was gratifying to see the positive reactions from the Network. The new Fellows will be at the Convention on Aug. 16, and I highly encourage you to attend and meet them in person.

We also hosted our first-ever state Civics Bee, where 16 middle schoolers from Tucson, Yuma, Gilbert and Queen Creek competed to represent Arizona at the National Civic Bee in Washington, D.C., in the fall. I had the pleasure of judging along with Flinn-Brown Fellow, the Honorable Jennifer Pawlik, and I can tell you, we were super impressed with all the students’ knowledge and presentations. 

In other exciting news, our team laced up our hiking boots and took a road trip to the newest state park, Rockin’ River for a morning of nature and camaraderie among Fellows. Thanks to Fellow Sarah Webber for organizing this fantastic experience, and to the Verde Valley Fellows, Bill and Janet Regner and Tim and Ruth Ellen Elinski for preparing an awesome breakfast. It was wonderful to spend time with everyone who joined us for this first field trip of the year.

We also had a record breaking CivEx with nationally recognized polling expert Mike Noble, founder and CEO of Noble Predictive Insights. His presentation, which had one of the highest attendance of any CivEx, covered national, state and local races, the different perspectives on voter behavior, and the issues integral in the 2024 election cycle. Given this positive feedback, we plan to have him back closer to the election to share more insights. Please watch here.

Finally, I’d love for each of you to consider nominating a Fellow for our annual Flinn-Brown awards that will be presented at Convention this year. Please submit the name of the nominee and 50-100 words describing why the nominee should receive the award. Nominations will be shared with the Fellows Council for final selection. This is a wonderful way for the Network to celebrate the impact and fellowship that exists amongst all of you!



2024 Flinn-Brown Convention

The 2024 Flinn-Brown Convention will be held Friday, Aug. 16, at On Jackson, 245 E. Jackson St., in downtown Phoenix. Register here

When you register, please do not forget to respond to the questions about pre-convention activities and Convention day programming. 

Fellows Spotlight

Jane Strain

(Sierra Vista, 2013)

Cochise Community College Governing Board Member

“The biggest impact of Flinn-Brown … for me is through the people. The fact that you can use that network to launch yourself into all sorts of other fields, like working with nonprofits, working with veterans, running for office, or being on any staff. I think it gives you that exposure, a lot of skills for all those things.” 

Strain is an Army veteran, retired educator, respected civic leader, and activist for a range of organizations. She experienced two pivotal moments in the American history: desegregation of public schools and integration of the U.S. military.

Strain was born and raised in Texas where she went to college and taught at an all-Black school where she witnessed desegregation. 

She left teaching to join the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and spent 21 years in the military — 17 in Germany. Eventually, WAC was integrated with the male units. 

After Germany, she and her two sons moved to Sierra Vista where Strain was stationed at Fort Huachuca. Retirement came shortly after. 

“My mother from Texas kept calling me, asking me when I was coming home. I said, ‘Mom, I have made Sierra Vista my home.’”

As a single parent, Strain was involved with organizations related to her children’s activities including the National Parent Teacher Association and Sierra Vista Soccer League. Through this community involvement, she was asked to serve on the Cochise Community College Governing Board. 

Strain started her college career at a community college, so, of course, she said yes.

“I just remembered those days and remembered how lost I was. I was a single working mom with these two little boys. And I knew someday if I didn’t kill them before they got to 18, there was always a possibility that they would need to go to Cochise College,” she said with a chuckle.

Strain is committed to serving her community and utilizes the Flinn-Brown Network to get even more involved.

“The difference Flinn-Brown really made for me is the network of the people. You know, there’s lots of people, so there’s always some level of conflict, but we get along and we learn from each other and call each other. It doesn’t work if you don’t take advantage of it,” she said.

“You’ve got to get to know people and you’ve got to reach out, treat them nicely. We all have wildly different things we’re doing, but it’s good to have this kind of statewide level of folks that are cognizant of civic engagement. I think it’s important.”

Strain’s involvement with several veteran organizations has convinced her that statewide education for those involved with nonprofit boards would benefit civic growth in Arizona. 

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the big boys with the Boys and Girls Clubs or a little tiny mom and pop that made a 501(c)(3) to rescue cats. They are passionate and dedicated volunteers, and they get no training,” Strain said.

 “Plus, you can think of that training as a launch pad into government or political work. You could get a lot of experience on how policy works at a nonprofit level and then run for office or get a job working with one of the big guys like Salvation Army, American Red Cross or nationwide veteran organizations.”

Strain is running for her fifth six-year term on the Cochise Community College governing board. Such long terms may sound overwhelming, but Strain sees the elevation of community colleges “from “redheaded stepchild” to a highly sought-after higher education option as its own reward.

“Being in the commencement ceremonies and handing that diploma to 500 students, that’s powerful. That’s worth all the meetings and fighting over property tax,” Strain said. 

“It gets in your blood, and it’s a commitment that you want to see through. And then you get to mentor and coach somebody to come behind you. You don’t just say, ‘Hasta la vista, baby,’ because there’s knowledge and insights that you should pass on.”

Strain has a rich history in her community and continues to blaze an honorable path with humility. She leads change and is grateful for the reach she found through the Flinn-Brown Fellowship.

If you missed a Fellows Spotlight, you can find them here.

Leadership Forward – A Better Arizona

Nicholas Vasquez, M.D.: Episode 8

Nicholas Vasquez, M.D. (Chandler, 2016) shares his perspective on the intersection of medical practice and public policy, the impact of social determinants of health from the viewpoint of an emergency room doctor, and why playing chess can feed the soul in during the eighth episode of the Leadership Forward for a Better Arizona podcast.

You can listen on our YouTube channel, Apple Podcast or any of the platforms below.

Next month, the podcast features Lisa Schnebly Heininger (Phoenix, 2012), who will speak to her decades of experience as a reporter in print, radio, and television and as the author of 10 books related to Arizona history, politics and culture.

Fellows Meet Fellows

Kathryn Leonard (Phoenix, 2016), the Honorable Jennifer Pawlik (Chandler, 2018), Pete Kim (Scottsdale, 2023), Joe Citelli (Phoenix, 2019), the Honorable Nikki Check (Jerome, 2012), Sarah Rose Webber (Scottsdale, 2017), the Honorable Janet Regner (Clarkdale, 2017), Lenay Dunn (Phoenix, 2017), Brittney Kaufmann (Phoenix, 2014), Sophie Allen-Etchart (Phoenix, 2022), the Honorable Bill Regner (Clarkdale, 2018), Paul Brierley (Phoenix, 2011), the Honorable Ruth Ellen Elinski (Cottonwood, 2014), Noah Mundt (Gilbert, 2023), the Honorable April Hepperle(Prescott Valley, 2023), Fletcher Montzingo (Phoenix, 2017) at Rockin’ River Ranch State Park for our first Fellows Field Trip. 

Paul Brierley (Phoenix, 2011) and Cynthia Aragon (Phoenix, 2015) connected at an Arizona District Export Council roundtable with the U.S. Trade Representative.

Fellows on Capitol Hill! The Honorable Alex Arboleda (Phoenix, 2018), the Honorable Juan Ciscomani (Tucson, 2011), and the Honorable Benjamin Graff (Phoenix, 2011) met to discuss Arizona’s Colorado River allocations. 

Buna George (Yuma, 2023), brand-new Fellow Lorraine Stofft (Yuma, 2024) and the Honorable Reetika Dhawan(Yuma, 2022) celebrated first-generation graduates at Arizona Western College.

Jerry McPherson (Phoenix, 2022) and Katelyn Harris Lange (Phoenix, 2020) attended the Valley of the Sun United Way’s Workforce and Education Showcase. 

Elaine Kessler (Gilbert, 2018) and the Honorable Jennifer Pawlik (Chandler, 2018) met up at the East Valley Partnership Annual Meeting on the Future of Workforce.

Derrick Rochwalik (Phoenix, 2018), the Honorable Fernando Shipley (Globe, 2011), Mayor Mila Besich (Superior, 2019) were spotted at the Phoenix Global Forum opening dinner. 

Alberto Olivas (Phoenix, 2011), the Honorable Christine Thompson (Phoenix, 2017) and Luis Heredia (Chandler, 2013) at the ASU Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service Student-Mentor Appreciation Dinner. 

Fellows Field Trips

Our next field trip is out of this world. Join Mayor Becky Daggett (Flagstaff, 2014) and Joanne Keene (Flagstaff, 2016) on Friday, Aug. 9, for a tour of the new Lowell Astronomy Discovery Center. 

Huge thanks to Sarah Rose Webber (Scottsdale, 2017) for organizing our first Fellows Field Trip to Rockin’ River Ranch State Park, and to Verde Valley Fellows Mayor Tim Elinski (Cottonwood, 2013), the Honorable Ruth Ellen Elinski (Cottonwood, 2014), the Honorable Bill Regner (Clarkdale, 2018), the Honorable Janet Regner (Clarkdale, 2017), and the Honorable Nikki Check (Jerome, 2012) for the amazing breakfast cookout. 

Fellows Lists

Each month we feature a Fellows list in a specific employment sector, public policy area, affinity group or region. This month, we focus on Fellows in Economic Development

While we try very hard to keep up to date on Fellows’ activities, we recognize that we may have missed someone. Please let Dawn know and we will happily update the list.

Fellows Directory Updates

Help us keep our Fellows Directory accurate and updated!  We update our online directory monthly and print hard copies twice a year (July and December).  Please take a moment to complete this surveywith your current information. You can also upload a new headshot to this Google Drive folder

Please contact Jennifer if you have problems accessing the survey or uploading a photo.

Fellows Book Recommendations

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 Jane Strain (Sierra Vista, 2013).

Jane Strain
(Sierra Vista, 2013)
What the Fact?
Finding the Truth in All the Noise
by Dr. Seema Yasmin

“What the Fact? Finding the Truth in All the Noise,” Dr. Seema Yasmin 

“It’s all about discernment. We have to be smarter now than ever, be intelligent enough to discern the truth from all the B.S. we’re fed. We’re given so much information, it’s important to know what is true and what is not.” 

Fellows In The News

We are happy to promote your work through social media, so reach out if you would like us to recognize a professional accomplishment, event or program with which you are involved.

Carlos Alfaro (Scottsdale, 2024) is quoted in an Arizona’s Family article about tours that the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office provides of the county’s Tabulation and Election Center in downtown Phoenix.

Christian Baca (Portland, 2020) is now Design Strategist at the Lab at OPM. 

Jeremy Babendure, Ph.D. (Chandler, 2012) wrote an opinion piece for the Arizona Daily Star about the impact of the National Rural STEM Learning Summit on students in rural areas. The summit is being held in June in Tucson.

Elvy Barton (Chandler, 2013) discusses the water conservation benefits of intentional forest thinning in this short piece from KJZZ. 

Michelle Beaver (Phoenix, 2024) wrote a column, “Disinformation is a Threat to Elections,” for The Astorian news site in Oregon. Read it here

The Honorable Mila Besich (Superior, 2019) and the Honorable Kevin Hartke (Chandler, 2014) co-wrote an article for Arizona Capitol Times with the Honorable Douglas Nicholls about Arizona cities and towns driving the push for affordable housing.

The Honorable Mila Besich (Superior, 2019) has received a special citation by the Mining and Mineral Education Foundation as part of their 2024 American Mining Hall of Fame ceremonies.

Breanne Bushu, Ph.D. (Phoenix, 2016) graduated from the University of Arizona with a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy.

Vance Bryce (Safford, 2024), executive director of the Graham County Chamber of Commerce, is quoted in this Eastern Arizona Courier article discussing his selection for Flinn-Brown and what he is planning to do with this experience. 

Tony Cani (Phoenix, 2014) and Matthew Benson joined Mark Brodie on KJZZ’s Friday NewsCap to discuss where Arizona Republicans want voters to focus. Listen to the show here.

The Honorable Juan Ciscomani (Tucson, 2011) will be a featured guest at the first State of Economic Development forum. Read more about the event here.

The Honorable Becky Daggett (Flagstaff, 2014) and the Honorable Coral Evans (Flagstaff, 2011) are quoted in a beautiful Flagstaff Business News piece honoring the life and impact of the Honorable Paul Babbitt, Jr.

Jaime Dempsey (Phoenix, 2013) is now the Founder of Welcome Strategies. 

The Honorable Reetika Dhawan (Yuma, 2022) and Diana Gomez (Yuma, 2016) both spoke at the Arizona Western College San Luis Learning Center’s fifth multilingual student expo. Read the article from KAWC here.

David Engelthaler, Ph.D. (Flagstaff, 2022) was interviewed for an Arizona Republic/ article about new variants of COVID-19 that are showing up in Arizona. 

Deborah Gonzalez, Ph.D. (Phoenix, 2012) is quoted in a Burn City Sports article about the Fiesta Bowl’s $5,000 donation to the Herrera School of Performing Arts and Dual Language for Teacher Appreciation Week.

Adam Goodman (Paradise Valley, 2023) has been named one of the Phoenix Business Journal’s 2024 Most Admired Leaders. Read more about Goodman and the other winners here.

The Honorable Matt Gress (Phoenix, 2015) is featured in this article from the Herald Review highlighting three Arizona newsmakers.  

The Honorable Mary Hamway (Paradise Valley, 2012) is featured in an article from the Arizona Digital Free Press about her and the other two mayoral candidates for Paradise Valley.

Stephanie Healy (Tucson, 2011) is quoted in a KGUN article about the return of Movies in the Park and the summertime event’s expansion into Sierra Vista and Benson.

Dana Kennedy (Phoenix, 2016) is quoted in this article from about the passing of House Bill 2764 which holds reforms surrounding assisted living facilities treatment of the elderly. 

Barbara Lang (Sierra Vista, 2015) is quoted in a KGUN package about the importance of interacting with the community when trying to build a strong healthcare workforce. 

The Honorable Nikki Lee (Tucson, 2018) cut the ribbon for a new dog park at Lower Lincoln Park in Tucson. Read more about the new puppy park here

Kathryn Leonard (Phoenix, 2016is quoted in this KJZZ article discussing Randolph Townsite Historic District being added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Honorable Aaron Lieberman (Paradise Valley, 2017) and Lorna Romero Ferguson joined Mark Brodie on KJZZ’s Friday NewsCap to discuss border security ballot techniques we may see in the Legislature. Listen to the show here.

Magdalena Loucks (Stamford, 2011) is now chief executive officer of Stamford Public Education Foundation.

David Martinez III (Phoenix, 2011) is quoted in a piece from ASU News touching on the 2024 West Coast Nonprofit Data Conference and the importance of professionals coming together to improve research tactics. 

Michael Meaney (Tucson, 2015) is now Entrepreneur in Residence at AImpower. 

Reyna Montoya (Gilbert, 2020) is quoted in a Fronteras article about how DACA recipients in Arizona will be eligible for Affordable Care Act coverage later this year. 

The Honorable Cameron Moses (Lake Havasu City, 2024) is given a shoutout in this Havasu News articleabout his acceptance to the Flinn-Brown Fellowship.

The Honorable Stephanie Parra (Phoenix, 2020) has been named Woman of the Year by the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The Honorable Pearlette Ramos (Avondale, 2018) is featured in a spotlight from the Daily Independent. Read it here

Aaron Rottenstein (Tucson, 2018) has been named to the 2024 Forbes Best-in-State Wealth Advisors List. Read more about Rottenstein and the other awardees here

Jack Schwimmer (Phoenix, 2020) has been named director of development for Rosie’s House. Read more about Schwimmer’s career in music here.

Rodney Short, J.D. (Yuma, 2024) and Lorraine Stofft (Yuma, 2024) are featured in this KYMA package about their Flinn-Brown acceptance. 

Christina Spicer (Phoenix, 2013) is quoted in an article from the Arizona Digital Free Press about the 35 local girls from the Arizona Cactus-Pine Council who have been awarded the Gold Award, the Girl Scouts’ highest honor. 

Benjamin Taylor, J.D. (Phoenix, 2019) is quoted in a Fox 10 Phoenix article where he provides legal expertise on the 2023 Preston Lord case.

The Honorable Raquel Terán (Phoenix, 2018) is highlighted in this piece from the Daily Independent which introduces the candidates for Congressional District 3.

Alec Thomson (Phoenix, 2019) is featured in a package from 12News about the partnership with Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Arizona Lottery to help local businesses. 

Lisa Urias (Phoenix, 2011) is quoted in this Gila Valley Central article about the Arizona Office of Tourism Listening Tour which was created with the intent of making sure Arizonans hold their own narrative. 

Heath Vescovi-Chiordi (Tucson, 2023has been named the Economic Developer of the Year by the Arizona Association for Economic Development. Read more about Vescovi-Chiordi’s accomplishments here.

The Honorable Tara Walter (Florence, 2024) was given a shoutout by Pinal Central surrounding her acceptance to the Flinn-Brown Fellowship. 

Jason Zibart (Benson, 2024) is quoted in this article from the San Pedro Valley News-Sun discussing his role in Benson and how he plans to utilize his Flinn-Brown experience. 

Board and Commission Openings

Serving on a board or commission is a great way to influence public policy on issues where you have expertise or a passion to serve. 

The Governor’s Office is seeking civically engaged Arizonans to appoint for trial and appellate court judicial nominating commissions. Commission members include attorney and non-attorney members. The group reviews statewide Commission on Appellate Court appointments. It also looks at trial court appointment commissions for Maricopa, Coconino, Pima and Pinal counties. 

The Governor’s Office has more than 200 boards and commissions. Applications are accepted through this standard application. To apply, complete the application on the website.  For a list of vacancies, please see here

Most Arizona counties and cities have boards and commissions with frequent vacancies:

Check local websites for more opportunities.

To share specific opportunities, contact Jennifer Papworth.

Career & Professional Opportunities

Applications are open for the fourth cohort of the Nature Conservancy’s  Urban Heat Leadership Academy

Applications are open for the seventh cohort of the  2024 Hopi Leadership Program

The Arizona School Boards Association is searching for its next executive director to continue the growth and progress of the organization. 

The Haven in Tucson is hiring a Native and Indigenous Service Manager to oversee the day-to-day operations of the Native Ways team. 

Greater Phoenix Leadership has director-level positions open for Community Infrastructure & Special Projectsand for the Social Impact and Racial Equity Advancement Project.

Stand for Children is hiring an Arizona School Board Engagement Director to develop and execute an effective outreach and impact plan. 

Mi Familia Vota is accepting applications for a Civic Engagement Manager to be the Arizona lead strategist in creating a year-round multi-faceted voter engagement strategy.

The Goldwater Institute is seeking a major gifts officer

The Children’s Action Alliance is hiring a director of early childhood policy

The SciTech Institute has positions open for an AZ STEM Ecosystem Project Manager and a Chief Scientist International Program Coordinator

Social Ventures Partners Tucson is looking for a president and CEO. Apply here

Events & Conferences

The 50th Annual Arizona Rural Health Conference will be held June 4-5 in the High Country Conference Center in Flagstaff. Learn more here

LISC Phoenix launches the “What’s Possible” book tour on June 10 at the Walton Center for Planetary health at ASU. 

Education Forward Arizona is hosting a webinar on How to Participate in the Upcoming Elections, with Flinn-Brown guest speakers Gina Roberts (Scottsdale, 2019) and Amanda Burke, Ph.D. (Phoenix, 2022) on June 11. 

The Arizona State Historic Preservation Office is partnering with the Arizona Preservation Foundation and the city of Prescott to host PreserveAZ, Arizona’s annual Heritage Preservation Conference  June 25-28 at the Hassayampa Inn.  

Registration is open for the Local First Arizona’s  17th Annual Rural Policy Forum Aug. 7-9 in Clarkdale. 

Registration is open for Arizona Impact for Good’s  UNITE 2024 Nonprofit + Grantmaker Conference Aug. 15 conference in Mesa.  

The Arizona Office of Tourism hosts the 2024 Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism Aug. 21-23 at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. 

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Manufacturers Council hold the Summer Policy Summitin Flagstaff Aug. 22-23. 

League of Cities and Towns annual conference will be at the Arizona Biltmore Aug. 27-30. Sponsorship registration is open. Participant registration opens later