Fellows Profiles

Ricky Hernandez

2018 Fellow | Assistant Vice President, Financial Operations, Alumni & Development, University of Arizona | Pima County

Ricky Hernandez serves as assistant vice president of University Alumni & Development Program Financial Operations for the University of Arizona Foundation. He manages and controls the coordination of all accounting, budgeting, auditing, and financial operations functions to ensure the financial integrity of the University Alumni & Development Program.

Hernandez, a 2018 Flinn-Brown Fellow from Tucson, has worked in public finance for over 18 years in Arizona—in both K-12 and higher education in roles that required him to be a strong steward and advocate for the resources that support educating Arizona’s students. [Read more]

Robert Navarro

2017 Fellow | Deputy Director of Operations for Support Services, Arizona Department of Child Safety | Maricopa

Robert Navarro serves as deputy director of operations for support services for the Arizona Department of Child Safety, which includes oversight of the department’s budget, business operations, comprehensive health plan, and information technology to ensure the front-line staff and vendors have the tools needed to serve Arizona families effectively and efficiently.

Navarro, a 2017 Flinn-Brown Fellow from Chandler, supports opportunities for the public to engage in learning about government programs and services, as well as the government itself, to drive a more constructive conversation regarding civics in Arizona. [Read more]

Kathryn Leonard

2016 Fellow |  State Historic Preservation Officer | Maricopa

Kathryn Leonard was appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey in September 2016 to the role of state historic preservation officer, where Leonard administers the State Historic Register and the State Historic Preservation Act and works with both state and federal agencies to help conserve and enhance Arizona’s rich heritage. 

Leonard, a 2016 Flinn-Brown Fellow, has found that most people agree that we have a beautiful state with rich history that is worthy of preservation. She believes historic preservation projects and initiatives provide the perfect backdrop for civic engagement as the very enterprise of preservation is to make the past relevant for the future. [Read more]

Sarah Benatar

2015 Fellow | Coconino County Treasurer | Coconino

Sarah Benatar, a 2015 Flinn-Brown Fellow, was elected as Coconino County Treasurer in 2016 and again in 2020. Benatar says serving in elected office has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of her life, and all Flinn-Brown Fellows running for office should remember the passion and values that drive them.

Benatar’s office collects property tax, manages investment portfolios, and serves as the custodian of public monies for all taxing entities located within Coconino County, impacting the overall fiscal health of its schools, public safety, hospitals, and water and fire districts. [Read more]

Blaise Caudill

2014 Fellow | Public Affairs Analyst, Southwest Gas Corp. | Maricopa

Blaise Caudill, a 2014 Flinn-Brown Fellow, is a public affairs analyst for Southwest Gas Corporation. Caudill serves as a problem-solving catalyst for the utility’s customers and provides education on what Southwest Gas is doing on key emerging issues within energy such as renewable natural gas and carbon-negative energy.

Caudill says the favorite aspect of what he does is being able to genuinely engage with and meet people from all walks of life. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University and a master’s degree from Arizona State University. [Read more]

Karen Francis-Begay

2013 Fellow | Assistant Vice Provost for Native American Initiatives, University of Arizona | Pima

Karen Francis-Begay is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and Assistant Vice Provost for Native American Initiatives at the University of Arizona. Francis-Begay, a 2013 Flinn-Brown Fellow, coordinates and supports the Native student programs and Native faculty and works closely with Enrollment Management, Student Success & Retention Innovation, and Faculty Affairs.

Public policy has been a vital part of her career in higher education. She graduated from the Eller College of Management at UArizona in public administration and earned a master’s degree in American Indian studies, and now is close to completing a doctorate in higher education. [Read More]

Joanne Osborne

2012 Fellow | Member, Arizona House of Representatives | Maricopa

Rep. Joanne Osborne, a 2012 Flinn-Brown Fellow from Goodyear representing Legislative District 13, talks about the importance of listening to people’s concerns and being a part of the community as one prepares to run for office.

Osborne, who previously served on the Goodyear City Council, is a supporter of a bill to benefit the state’s parks, trails, and historic places. She is also a supporter of the Flinn-Brown Network, which she credits for success in her first run for the Arizona Legislature. [Read More]

Daniel Hernandez

2011 Fellow | Member, Arizona House of Representatives | Pima

Rep. Daniel Hernandez, a 2011 Flinn-Brown Fellow, talks about his role as a state legislator and discusses the importance of the Flinn-Brown Network.

Hernandez said one of his favorite hobbies is helping people explore running for office, whether it is a school board, municipal, county or state office. Hernandez, who represents Legislative District 2 in the House serving alongside Flinn-Brown Fellows, said he is constantly working with other Fellows on legislation and community partnerships. [Read More]

Alberto Olivas

2011 Fellow | Executive Director, Pastor Center for Politics & Public Service at Arizona State University | Maricopa

Alberto Olivas, a 2011 Flinn-Brown Fellow from the inaugural cohort, talks about his role as executive director of the Congressman Ed Pastor Center for Politics & Public Service at Arizona State University.

Olivas said a high priority for the Pastor Center is to keep the congressman’s legacy alive by engaging students from across the ideological spectrum and from all disciplines to engage each other effectively and learn how to work through differences to achieve common ground objectives. [Read More]

Ben Henderson

2014 Fellow | Director of Operations and Cabinet Affairs at Colorado Governor’s Office

Ben Henderson currently serves as the director of operations and cabinet affairs for Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado. He is the day-to-day liaison to the cabinet, managing all state-agency operations while fostering a one-team mindset across the entire executive branch.

Ben has spent the last decade working in city and state government focusing on budgeting, economic development, and public administration. He lives in Denver with his fiancée and dog and is a huge marching-band nerd. [Read More]

Kate Morley

2018 Fellow | Deputy General Manager, Mountain Line| Coconino

Flinn-Brown Fellow Kate Morley enjoys promoting public transportation across northern Arizona, which she says enables her to play a role in a wide range of issues facing the state and actively engage on them.

Morley is the deputy general manager of Mountain Line, which provides transit service in the Flagstaff area. In her career as a planner and transportation executive, Morley has been motivated by getting people physically active and improving health. [Read More]

David Martinez III

2011 Fellow | Director, Capacity Building & Community Engagement, Vitalyst Health Foundation | Maricopa

Flinn-Brown Fellow David Martinez III serves as director of capacity building and community engagement at Vitalyst Health Foundation, working with community-based leaders, organizations, and coalitions to increase capacity and civic participation and improve the health of Arizonans.

Martinez (2011), a University of Arizona graduate, previously worked for the Center for the Future of Arizona and St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and is involved with the Arizona Community Foundation’s Center for LGBTQ Philanthropy and the Desert Botanical Garden. [Read More]

Lisa Urias

2011 Fellow | Managing Partner, CoNecs North America | Maricopa

Lisa Urias launched Urias Communications in 2006 to provide strategic advertising, public-relations, and creative services to various Fortune 1000 clients, large nonprofit organizations, and government agencies throughout the U.S. and in Mexico.

A member of the first Flinn-Brown cohort, Urias (2011) also serves as a board member of Greater Phoenix Leadership, Arizona Community Foundation, and the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. [Read More]

Kevin Bonine

2014 Fellow | Director of Education and Outreach, University of Arizona | Pima

Flinn-Brown Fellow Kevin Bonine  is director of education at Biosphere 2 and a science-faculty member in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Arizona. 

Bonine (2014) writes about how he serves southern Arizona nonprofits, the K-12 education system, and UArizona, the impact of COVID-19 on Biosphere 2 and Tucson, the value of the Flinn-Brown Network, and how his work advances the biosciences, research, and a culture of innovation and creative excellence. [Read More]

Sarah Douthit

2013 Fellow | Chief Probation Officer, Coconino County Adult Probation | Coconino

Flinn-Brown Fellow Sarah Douthit, the chief probation officer for the Coconino County Adult Probation Department in Flagstaff, answers questions about her profession, public policy, the Flinn-Brown Network, the benefits of art, and the impact of COVID-19.

Douthit (2013) has held a variety of positions in the criminal justice system in Arizona and is an active member of the American Probation and Parole Association. She is dedicated to servant leadership in Arizona to promote successful outcomes and healthy communities. [Read More]

Jessica Rigler

2019 Fellow | Assistant Director, Arizona Department of Health Services | Maricopa

Jessica Rigler (2019), who has worked for the Arizona Department of Health Services since 2008 and in her current role as an assistant director since 2018, is responsible for leading the state’s preparedness for an infectious disease outbreak and sharing critical information with the public. 

She has previously led public health responses and public messaging pertaining to the Zika virus, opioid prevention, the 2014 Ebola outbreak, vaccines, the West Nile virus, and the recent Hepatitis A outbreak in Arizona. [Read More]

Sarah Coles

2017 Fellow | Family Physician; Assistant Professor, Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix | Maricopa

Dr. Sarah Coles is caring for the residents of Arizona in countless ways. Coles (2017), a Flinn-Brown Fellow, is a physician, educator, curriculum developer, policy expert, a member of state and national boards, and overall advocate for patient health.

Coles splits time between seeing her own patients as a family-medicine primary-care provider and running the primary-care programs as a faculty member for the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix on the campus of Banner University Medical Center-Phoenix. [Read More]

Diana Gomez

2016 Fellow | Director of Public Health, Yuma County | Yuma

Diana Gomez has spent a lifetime living in—and a career serving—Yuma County.

Gomez (2016) has worked for the county’s public health district for 22 years, including the last seven as chief health officer. The Flinn-Brown Fellow oversees efforts to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, advocate health policies, enforce public health law, and protect against environmental hazards. [Read More]

Chad Marchand

2011 Fellow | Vice President, National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development | Pima

Chad Marchand (2011) is a businessman and economic developer, a broker and networker, a community and civic leader, and a multi-degreed student with a zeal for spreading educational opportunities for Native Americans.

The Flinn-Brown Fellow is director of business development and the Community Development Financial Institution Program for the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development at its national headquarters in Mesa. His dedication to Native Americans and indigenous people has led him to pursue jobs working alongside entrepreneurs and businesspeople and assisting tribes impacted by climate change. [Read More]

Marie Raymond

2017 Fellow | Human Services Manager, City of Tempe | Maricopa

The success of young children has been a passion for Marie Raymond through a career that has taken her from the Rhode Island Philharmonic to the cities of Scottsdale, Mesa, and Tempe.

Raymond (2017), a Flinn-Brown Fellow, oversees education and senior services for the city of Tempe as human services manager and is active on the national, state, regional, and local levels promoting early childhood education. [Read More]

Matt Walsh

2013 Fellow | Intergovernmental and Legislative Liaison, U.S Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, Ft. Huachuca | Cochise

Matt Walsh (2013) describes Fort Huachuca, where he serves as the executive liaison assistant to the installation Commanding General on federal and state-level public-policy issues, as “not on the beaten path to anywhere.”

The Flinn-Brown Fellow, a civilian employee for the past 25 years at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista in southeastern Arizona, has spent the past 15 years in a role that elevates awareness and provides education about the United States Army installation and its assets to Arizona’s policymakers from the Governor’s Office to the Arizona Legislature to the U.S. Congress. [Read More]

Joe Hughes

2014 Fellow | IManaging Director, Global Government Affairs, American Airlines | Maricopa

Since being elected as a Safford city councilman at a young age, Joe Hughes has been immersed in the inner workings of all levels of government.

Hughes (2014) has spent most of his career working in government relations representing transportation and construction interests, currently working for American Airlines, and is a fixture in the state’s leading business and policy organizations. [Read More]

Candida Hunter

2017 Fellow | Senior Director of Tribal Affairs, First Things First | Maricopa

Candida Hunter remembers, when she was a young mother, meeting a First Things First representative during a visit to the Hualapai community in northwestern Arizona. The staffer’s personal interest, so genuine that she asked to take a photograph of Hunter’s 2-year-old daughter, caught Hunter’s attention.

The positive experience remained with Hunter (2017), who went on to serve on a First Things First Hualapai Tribe Regional Partnership Council and in 2014 was named the senior director of tribal affairs for the statewide system. She works out of her Kingman and Phoenix offices. [Read More]

Drew John

2014 Fellow | Graham

Arizona Rep. Drew John (2014) talks about his constituents as the coaches, family, and friends he grew up with.

The fourth-generation Arizonan and Flinn-Brown Fellow, who is serving his first term in the Arizona House of Representatives and planning a run for the state Senate this fall, sees his role as one of protecting the interests of Arizona’s rural counties. [Read More]

Jaime Dempsey

2013 Fellow | Executive Director, Arizona Commission on the Arts | Maricopa

From the time she was very little, Jaime Dempsey (2013) knew she was an artist. She trained as an actor and in vocal music and graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in theatre. But while in college, a nonprofit leadership class and the pursuit of a social anthropology minor changed her direction.

Dempsey, a Flinn-Brown Fellow, is the executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, leading the state agency that provides grants to arts organizations, artists and community groups, promotes public access to the arts, and leads statewide initiatives. [Read More]

Coral Evans

2011 Fellow | Mayor, City of Flagstaff | Coconino

Coral Evans (2011) to this day describes herself as a community organizer, someone who likes advocating for neighborhoods that she says are being overlooked, impacted negatively by policy decisions, or in need of services.

The Flagstaff native, whose family first arrived in northern Arizona nearly a century ago, was elected to the Flagstaff City Council in 2008 and again in 2012. In 2016, she ran for and was elected mayor of Flagstaff. [Read More]

Joanne Keene

2016 Fellow | Deputy County Manager, Coconino County | Coconino

Joanne Keene learned early on, as a legislative intern in the governor’s office and broadcast journalism student, that she was drawn to public policy and its importance and impact on the state.

In the two decades since graduating from Northern Arizona University, Keene (2016) has worked for Coconino County, NAU, the Arizona Governor’s Office, U.S. congressmen, the Arizona Department of Water Resources, and in the private sector. Keene has also been appointed to state boards and commissions and serves on the boards of statewide and regional organizations. [Read More]

Cynthia Aragon

2015 Fellow | Chief of Staff, Arizona House of Representatives | Maricopa

By 2014, Cynthia Aragon had worked alongside lawmakers at the Arizona Legislature for several years—but had never actually voted for any of them.

But that year, she became a United States citizen and exercised her right to vote for the first time. Aragon (2015) is the chief of staff for the House Democratic Caucus and a one-time community organizer who has worked on many high-profile issues in Arizona. [Read More]

Sharon Carpenter

2016 Fellow | Policy Advisor for Natural Resources, Arizona House of Representatives | Maricopa

While a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, majoring in aviation environmental science, Sharon Carpenter (2016) never envisioned working at the Arizona Legislature.

But she needed to have an internship to graduate, and received an email advertising an internship program with the Arizona Legislature. She applied and was accepted, and today plays a key role by providing sophisticated research and analysis to the legislators as an Arizona House of Representatives legislative research analyst. [Read More]

Juan Ciscomani

2016 Fellow | Senior Advisor for Regional and International Affairs, Arizona Governor’s Office | Pima

Juan Ciscomani (2011) started his day with a breakfast event in Tucson, met with agricultural leaders in Yuma for lunch, and attended a program in Phoenix that evening with the Mexican ambassador before driving back to his Tucson home.

Welcome to the life of the senior advisor for regional and international affairs for Gov. Doug Ducey. Ciscomani, a Flinn-Brown Fellow, has served on Ducey’s senior staff since being named director of the Southern Arizona Office in March 2015. [Read More]

Cheyenne Walsh

2013 Fellow | Founder, Cheyenne Walsh PLC | Maricopa

Cheyenne Walsh (2013) knows that in the public’s mind, lobbyists are not very well thought of.

But she doesn’t view the role in a negative way, and not just because it’s a career she loves, representing clients at the state capitol, ranging from Fortune 500 companies to small independent businesses to trade and professional associations. [Read More]

Teniqua Broughton

2013 Fellow | Executive Director, The State of Black Arizona | Maricopa

For Teniqua Broughton, a leader in the Valley’s arts and African-American communities, her true passion is exposing others to the programs.

Broughton (2013) is the founder and CEO of VerveSimone Consulting, serves as director of The State of Black Arizona, is a longtime Desert Botanical Garden board member, creator of its Monarch Society and Council for young and mid-career professionals, and a former manager at Arizona State University Gammage. [Read More]

Diana Rhoades

2013 Fellow | Public Policy & Community Engagement Strategist | Out-of-State

Diana Rhoades (2013) has long been an advocate on behalf of parks and wildlands—whether it’s a large national forest or a small neighborhood park—through a career spent crafting public policy and strategic messaging.

As a National Park Service Urban Fellow for Tucson and Saguaro National Park, Rhoades’ mission during her two-year term is to introduce people who may have never visited a national park to new outdoor experiences, promote a national park’s health benefits to city dwellers, and reach out specifically to Latino and other minority communities. [Read More]

Gilberto ‘Gil’ Villegas

2014 Fellow | Chief Financial Officer/ Director, Yuma County | Yuma

For most of his life, Gilberto “Gil” Villegas rarely had politics on his mind.

The Yuma County deputy chief financial officer, who runs the operations of the county finance department, says after participating in Flinn-Brown he emerged as a political devotee. Villegas (2014) also serves as treasurer of a Yuma nonprofit organization that provides educational and literacy services to those aged 16 and older. [Read More]

Kim Hartmann

2015 Fellow | Chief Executive Officer, KCH Solutions, LLC | Maricopa

Over a cup of coffee, an associate told Kim Hartmann (2015) that she had heard being on the Scottsdale Unified School District governing board was the most thankless job in the world. Hartmann responded: “Absolutely, you are right, but it’s also the best job I have ever had.”

Her first time running for office earned her a seat on the five-person SUSD governing board that oversees 30 elementary, middle, and high schools, and more than 24,000 students. [Read More]

Stuart Noggle

2015 Fellow | Chief Technology Officer, Woz ED | Pinal

Stuart Noggle, who is from a rural northeastern Arizona town bordering the Navajo Nation, has been a multifaceted leader in his community.

Noggle (2015) has worked to inspire students and teachers at the Sanders Unified School District and was named the 2012 Apache County Teacher of the Year for his efforts. Noggle runs an organization to benefit local youth, serves as an information-technology consultant, and has promoted positive developments in and around Sanders. [Read More]

Amanda Stone

2015 Fellow | Intergovernmental Affairs Director, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality | Pima

As a college student, Amanda Stone (2015) went door-to-door in polluted neighborhoods, providing information and guidance to families affected by contamination.

She was then a community-outreach intern with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. Today, more than two decades later, Stone is the chief policy and legislative affairs officer for the state agency, working with the governor’s office, legislators, and stakeholders on specific bills and the agency’s budget. [Read More]

Brett Rustand

2011 Fellow | Vice President, Crest Insurance Group | Pima

After nearly a decade of service in the U.S. Army, Brett Rustand returned to Tucson in 2008 ready to move on to the next phase of his life.

But as time went by, the retired Army captain began to see military veterans who were struggling, and he felt a need to help those suffering from mental-health and physical challenges. Rustand (2011), an insurance executive, has served on the Veterans Advisory Commission of the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services and is active in nonprofits assisting veterans. [Read More]

Lea Márquez Peterson

2011 Fellow | Arizona Corporation Commissioner, Arizona Corporation Commission | Pima

Lea Márquez Peterson likes owning and running her own business. And she enjoys promoting businesses both big and small, helping them expand their workforce and market.

Márquez Peterson (2011), president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce since 2009, is an influential Arizona business leader who was a close advisor to Doug Ducey’s gubernatorial campaign, and later appointed by the governor as co-chair of the Arizona Zanjeros business-ambassador organization. [Read More]

Mignonne Hollis

2013 Fellow | Executive Director, Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation | Cochise

From the time Mignonne Hollis was a senior at Tombstone High School—graduating-class size: 28—she believed the key to her success was to make connections outside of Cochise County. She would attend events in Tucson and Phoenix to seek out scholarships and other opportunities.

Today, her mindset is much the same, as Hollis (2013) spends her time promoting the economic-development interests of the rural southern Arizona county she still proudly calls home as executive director of the Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation (AREDF). [Read More]

Kevin Hartke

2014 Fellow | Mayor, City of Chandler | Maricopa

You can call Kevin Hartke pastor, director, or vice mayor, since his days include at once ministry, municipal policymaking, and leading a social-service initiative, among many other roles.

Helping people is the simple motivation for his multi-faceted career. Hartke (2014) began his ministry at the Trinity Christian Fellowship in Chandler in 1985 and has been the senior pastor since 1992. His service there is magnified by directing For Our City Chandler, a faith initiative bringing faith communities, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and governments together to solve community issues and improve quality of life. [Read More]