July 2021 Network News

July 30, 2021

By Matt Ellsworth

Network News

Thoughts from Sara Larsen

Sara Larsen

Hello Fellows, 

In a recent meeting with members of the Civic Health Steering Committee, we posed the question, “Why is this work important to you?” We were seeking responses from the members whose work spans across the civic engagement spectrum.  While this question was directed to the Steering Committee members, it gave me an opportunity to reflect upon our work at the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership and my own path more broadly.

A few years ago, I transitioned my career into the philanthropic space, leaving behind years in state government and public policy work. However, I often think about what initially led me to public service—a combination of opportunity, interest, and mentors. The opportunity was in college; I was a student clerk for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah. I worked at the Department of Justice in Salt Lake City under two U.S. presidents, before and after 9/11, during the 2002 winter Olympics, and through the search for a missing girl from Utah, Elizabeth Smart. There are many stories from my time at DOJ but what left the biggest impression were the career public professionals. I met individuals whose entire careers were devoted to government service which enlightened me to the opportunities that existed within the public sector. This opportunity, paired with my interest in government and policy and a few great mentors with distinguished public service careers, put me on my path.

So now you know what got me into public service, but why stay in public service? James L. Perry, distinguished professor emeritus and chancellor’s professor emeritus at Indiana University, called it “public service motivation.” In short, he describes individuals with public service motivation as those who believe in our government institutions and are committed to the public interest and public goals.

I love the public sector because it can create efficiencies and have an impact in any policy area in which we work. But what I enjoy most is that we are all in it together. For desirable outcomes to exist, we must work with one another whether that is in our organizations, our agencies, or our communities. Our work here at the Center—the Civic Health Steering Committee, Flinn-Brown Fellowship, and other programs —takes collaboration from our colleagues, community partners, and networks. I love the collaboration because we exchange ideas and knowledge…and ultimately, I get to learn.

Now I would like to know why your work is important to you. Why do you do what you do? Please send me a note and share a little bit about what motivates you in your work.

Arizona Civic Health Partnership

Speaking of the Arizona Civic Health Partnership, we have a new video that features several of our partners and our collective work to activate the Civic Health Progress Meters. The Civic Health Progress Meters define, track, and measure Arizona’s progress on civic participation and connected communities, and offer the opportunity to frame conversations and prompt action by individuals and organizations throughout our state. To learn more, please visit our webpage

2021 Legislative Wrap-Up

Our thanks to Meghaen Dell’Artino of Public Policy Partners, Geoff Esposito of Creosote Partners, Jay Kaprosy of Veridus, and Lourdes Pena of Triadvocates for their insights on the 2021 legislation session. Thank you also for all the Fellows who attended the webinar! We had a fantastic showing. Please mark your calendars for the 2022 Legislative Preview on Dec. 8 at 9 a.m. 

Directory Update

As part of the Convention, we will be updating the Fellows directory. Please email dunderwood@flinn.org with any updates you would like to include. This would be a wonderful opportunity to submit a new headshot.  

Please refer to the online directory to verify your current information. 

Finally, we are always more than happy to help promote your work through social media, so please reach out to me if you would like us to publicly recognize a professional accomplishment, event or program with which you are involved.

Save the Date: 2021 Annual Flinn-Brown Convention

Please plan to join us on Nov. 12 at the Heard Museum for the 2021 annual Flinn-Brown Convention. We will feature keynote speakers and breakout sessions during the day, a lunch program celebrating our 10th anniversary and annual Fellows awards, and an early-evening networking reception in the beautiful Piper Courtyard.

Flinn-Brown Convention

Fellows Council Book Recommendations

Each month, we will feature book suggestions from our Fellows to create our virtual Network library. This month, our book recommendations come from members of our Fellows Council, Julie Katsel (2014) and Paul Perrault (2016). Julie’s selection is from author, Warren Rustand, the father of Flinn-Brown Fellow Brett Rustand.

Julie Katsel (2014)

The Leader Within Us: Mindset, Principles, and Tools for a Life By Design by Warren Rustand


CivEx Advancing Educational Equity Series: Educational Equity Indicators

Paul Perrault (2016)

The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life by Shawn Achor


Fellows Spotlight

Sarah Benatar

Sarah Benatar (Flagstaff, 2015)
Coconino County Treasurer
Twitter | LinkedIn Facebook 

1. Can you please describe your work and how public policy impacts how you manage your organization?

I often am asked this question as county treasurer. It is a unique and interesting public office. Although we are most known as property tax collectors, county treasurers also serve as the custodian of public monies for all taxing entities located within the county. From managing investment portfolios, ensuring tax dollars are safe and accounted for, and providing financial guidance to public entities, our work every day has significant impacts in the overall fiscal health of our schools, public safety, hospitals, water districts, fire districts, and so much more. Taxation is also fertile ground for frequent legislative change and intense political discourse, necessitating keen understanding and skill in building alliances, lobbying, and providing technical assistance to numerous other elected officials.

2. How has the Fellows Network been useful to you?

Being a part of the Fellows Network has allowed me to connect with colleagues across the state to work on public policy issues. For example, several legislators and governors’ office staff are fellow Flinn-Brown alumni, and the shared experience has enhanced my ability to connect and work with them.

3. What suggestions would you have for Fellows running for elected office?

Never forget about why you are running and the passion and values that drive you. Serving in elected office has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, and it will be for you too, if you run as yourself and let your values dictate whether you are elected, as opposed to allowing perceived electability to dictate your values.

4. What do you see as potential opportunities strengthening civic health in Arizona?

Civic health is all about citizens and their governments working together, and while there are many measures of this, of particular importance right now is confidence in institutions, which, according to the Center for the Future of Arizona, was as low as 33% nationally in 2018—and that was pre-pandemic. Regardless of political affiliation, citizen engagement is a universal value for any democracy. The opportunity lies in recognizing the data-driven nature of both defining civic health and improving it, and the greatest opportunity for public officials is being aware of this data and using it to improve constituent engagement and confidence. By building up confidence and trust, we can all work better together to create lasting positive changes in our communities and for our future.

If you missed a Fellows’ Spotlight, you can view them on the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership website now.

Fellows In The News

Arlene Alen (Port Townsend, Washington, 2013) was quoted in Peninsula Daily News regarding commuter flights from Port Angeles to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. 

Paul Allvin (Falls Church, Virginia, 2012) was quoted in a Patch article about George Mason University.

Scott Bartle (Maricopa, 2013) was recently elected to the board of directors of the Central Arizona College Foundation.

Michael Beller (Phoenix, 2017) was quoted in a Jerusalem Post article about the recent passing of the Holocaust Education Bill.

Stacey Button (Columbia, Missouri, 2011) was quoted in a Columbia Tribune article about a nursing scholarship her organization helped form in honor of a nursing student killed by gun violence.

Joel Edman (Phoenix, 2016) was quoted in a Washington Post article regarding Arizona election restrictions. He was also quoted in Ballotpedia News about implementing the single-subject rule for citizen initiatives.

Juan Francisco Padrés (Tucson, 2016) is running for Tucson City Council Ward 3.

Yan Gao (Seattle, Washington, 2019) is now budget assistant to the governor for the state of Washington.

Elyse Guidas (Phoenix, 2019) was quoted in a Phoenix New Times article about Farm Express, the mobile produce market her organization Activate Food Arizona operates.

Jenny Holsman Tetreault (Phoenix, 2011), one of the Most Influential Women in Arizona of 2020, will be honored on Aug. 25.

Joanne Keene (Flagstaff, 2016) was featured in a Red Rock News article about her recent transition to Sedona deputy city manager.

Dana Kennedy (Phoenix, 2016) was quoted in a Public News Service article about the results of a recent AARP survey.

Chris Kyselka (Gilbert, 2014) is serving as president of the Arizona State University Polytechnic campus academic assembly and as president of the ASU Faculty Women of Color Caucus.

Aaron Lieberman (Paradise Valley, 2017) has announced his bid for governor.

Lea Márquez Peterson (Tucson, 2011) was selected as one of the Most Influential Women in Arizona Business for 2021.

Reyna Montoya (Gilbert, 2020) was quoted in a KTAR news story about the DREAM Act.

Jay Schlum (Fountain Hills, 2011) was elected to the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Prescott Smith (Scottsdale, 2017) and his organization Technical Solutions were selected for the Sun Devil 100 Class of 2021. This is Prescott’s fourth year making the list.

Ryan Smith (Gilbert, 2013) was quoted in an AZCentral article about Flair Airlines’ expansion into Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

Nancy Steele (Cottonwood, 2019) and her organization Friends of the Verde River received a $40,000 4Rivers grant to continue to protect the Verde River ecosystem.

Benjamin Taylor (Phoenix, 2019) was quoted in a Baltimore Sun article regarding Derek Chauvin’s sentencing.

Carlos de la Torre (Tucson, 2013) was quoted in a Patch article about the renaming of Tucson’s Los Reales Landfill.

Career and Professional Opportunities

Aliento is seeking a leadership development program manager, an arts and healing program manager, and a development associate.

Arizona Sustainability Alliance (AZSA) is seeking an executive director.

The city of Buckeye is looking for an economic development project manager.

Global Water Resources, Inc. is hiring for a manager of utility acquisitions.

STRATEGY is looking for a director of state government initiatives.

Find other jobs in the public sector with Government Jobs and azstatejobs.

Events & Conferences

The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) is hosting its first Summer Learning Springboard July 26-30.

Arizona Town Hall and Vitalyst Health Foundation are hosting a forum, “How Should Arizona Spend Federal Pandemic Funds?”. Various sessions will be held July 29-Aug. 25.
The 2021 ENGAGE Nonprofit Conference will be held virtually every Wednesday in August from 8 a.m.-12 p.m.

The 2021 Rural Policy Forum will take place Aug. 4-6 in Sahuarita.

The Most Influential Women in Arizona for 2021 will be honored on Aug. 26.

Did you miss a previous CivEx? Now you can find webinar recordings on our website. View past events.