By Brian Powell
Juan Ciscomani 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 new senior advisor for regional and international affairs for Governor Doug Ducey.
Ciscomani, a Flinn-Brown Fellow and member of the inaugural Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy cohort in 2011, has served on Ducey’s senior staff since being named director of the Southern Arizona Office in March 2015. Last month’s promotion expanded his role to lead not only the Southern Arizona Office but the Arizona-Mexico Commission in Phoenix and the governor’s offices in Mexico City and Hermosillo, Sonora.
This is the first time, Ciscomani says, the Mexico offices and 58-year-old Arizona-Mexico Commission, a nonprofit cross-border organization that promotes public-private collaborations, are being led from Tucson.
“I’m having a blast right now and have the opportunity to be part of something special and big,” Ciscomani says. “Working on trade issues with Mexico is such an important topic for the state and nation which the governor holds as a high priority and I have the honor and privilege to be the person he entrusted with that opportunity.”
Ciscomani met Ducey on the campaign trail. Previously, Ciscomani worked at the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce under President/CEO Lea Márquez Peterson, also a Flinn-Brown Fellow who served as an advisor to Ducey during his 2014 gubernatorial campaign.
Ciscomani offers a direct line of communication with the governor when meeting with business leaders and elected officials in both Arizona and Mexico and during public speaking appearances. When Ciscomani travels to Phoenix for senior-staff meetings, he informs the governor’s inner circle about what is happening in the state’s seven southern counties and Mexico, and then relays the governor’s message back.
The Tucson native graduated from the University of Arizona and worked for the university for eight years as a senior program development specialist with the Take Charge America Institute, which focuses on improving financial literacy among students.
In 2011, he was hired by the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as membership director, initially working in a tiny office with no salary and just two other employees with a mission to grow the chamber. Ciscomani led outreach efforts and launched affiliate Hispanic chambers in Sierra Vista, Douglas, and Nogales. He later served as vice president of outreach, and the chamber has since increased both its member businesses—which now tops 1,800—and size of its staff.
Ciscomani has served on the Arizona Civil Rights Advisory Board and the Pima County Commission on Trial Court Appointments, and ran for the Arizona Legislature in 2008.
When Ciscomani attended his first Flinn-Brown seminar, he remembers being impressed with his colleagues.
“Looking around the room and seeing the people in there, the top leaders in many industries, I felt humbled to be there and made the most out of it,” Ciscomani says.
Ciscomani says the Flinn-Brown approach to policy helped him screen and navigate major issues facing Arizona through a solution-based filter as opposed to a political one. Ciscomani cited the networking and established friendships as one of its top benefits as well.
The 2017 Flinn-Brown Academy is currently seeking applications from Arizona leaders. The deadline to apply is May 15 for the flagship program of the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership, created in 2011 by the Flinn Foundation.
Even with the many roles he is juggling for the governor on behalf of Arizona, Ciscomani’s life is not all work. He finds time to stay in touch with other Flinn-Brown Fellows and enjoys spending time with his family, including five children between the ages of 4 months and 8 years.
“There’s not a lot of downtime,” Ciscomani says with a laugh.