Five high-impact leaders from throughout Arizona were honored Sept. 22 in Phoenix at the Flinn-Brown Convention, a celebration of civic leadership and public service hosted by the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership.
The individual winners of the Flinn-Brown Awards at the second annual Convention have made significant contributions to Arizona as state-government advisers, elected officials, agency executives, and policy experts—and have played important roles in strengthening their communities and the Flinn-Brown Network.
The Center, an initiative of the Flinn Foundation, and its flagship program, the Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy—which receives support from the Thomas R. Brown Foundations of Tucson—are dedicated to strengthening civic leadership in Arizona, especially at the state level. The Academy strengthens Fellows’ expertise in Arizona policy and politics and provides long term support through continuing education, Network activities and events such as the Convention..
The five award recipients recognized at the Convention included:
Jack Jewett Award:
Daniel Ruiz joined Flinn-Brown in 2015 as director of communications and public affairs for the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office. In 2015, he joined the Office of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey as director of media affairs. Since then, Ruiz has assumed roles as senior advisor on agency affairs and election policy, and most recently, as senior advisor to the Governor for communications and policy strategy. Currently, he is the Governor’s interim spokesman. He has also served on the Commission on Judicial Performance Review.
Network Builder Award:
Jaime Dempsey is the executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts. In her role leading Arizona’s state agency for the arts, she has led the Commission’s visionary planning initiatives that empower communities to activate creativity and co-create ideas to fuel Arizona’s future. With the Creative Communities Institute, she has built networks across the state and collaborated with Flinn-Brown Fellows to facilitate work for positive community impact.
Northern Arizona: Coral Evans
Coral Evans, a Flagstaff native, is a member of the inaugural Flinn-Brown cohort. She joined the Flinn-Brown Network as a Flagstaff City Council member and is now mayor of Flagstaff. Her initial run for mayor represented a milestone achievement in a community-based career over decades. Her organizing and community work built her presence in Flagstaff and prepared her for future service.
Jeremy Babendure founded the Arizona SciTech Festival and created the Chief Science Officers program at elementary, middle, and high schools across Arizona. Now expanding nationally, the program enlists schools and districts to elect CSOs to be the student voices for STEM. Babendure has engaged Fellows and others in rural areas to host the SciTech Festival, demonstrating how the Flinn-Brown Network can help move a big idea to communities large and small.
Karen Francis-Begay has served as the University of Arizona president’s tribal liaison for a number of years. Her work recently has been shaped by her participation in the development and implementation of the Arizona Board of Regents’ tribal consultation policy. Her Navajo Nation roots and work on numerous tribal policy issues have made her a frequent advisor for Flinn-Brown on advancing tribal participation and topics.
The Jack Jewett award is named for the retired Flinn Foundation President and CEO, who led the philanthropic organization from 2009 through 2017 and envisioned the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership.
In addition to announcing the awards, the Convention featured storytelling performances by Fellows and a keynote presentation by Public Agenda President and CEO Will Friedman, a New York-based leader in research and innovation regarding public opinion and engagement. Other sessions focused on working across perspectives, public-policy negotiations, and key ballot initiatives in Arizona.
The 2019 Flinn-Brown Academy will include 14 sessions at the Flinn Foundation on Fridays and Saturdays in February-May 2019. Every year, some 25 Arizonans are selected through a highly competitive process to join the statewide network of Flinn-Brown Fellows, now totaling more than 325 individuals.