March 2024 Network News

March 27, 2024

By Jessica Vaile

Thoughts from Dawn Wallace

 March is All Women’s History Month

Throughout history, women have stood as pillars of resilience and ingenuity, shaping human civilization through remarkable acts of courage. From impressive leadership in political and civic life to groundbreaking invention, women have continuously defied societal constraints and become trailblazers in various areas including scientific discovery, governance, business, arts and culture, law, and academia. Beyond the well-known figures, countless others have made significant contributions, fundamentally altering the lives of those around them.
In commemorating Women’s History Month, a recent staff meeting at Flinn prompted us to reflect on women we admire. There was no shortage of iconic historical figures mentioned, but to my great surprise many colleagues highlighted everyday women in their lives who influenced and inspired them through wisdom, love, and mentorship.

During this exchange, I shared a personal story of an attorney who guided my family through the challenging pathway to citizenship. Her name escaped me, yet I vividly remembered the pro bono legal aid she provided to my mother and me, a gesture that ensured significantly brighter prospects for my future.

Following this anecdote, a colleague encouraged me to find this attorney and express my gratitude. With a little sleuthing and aided by my mother’s meticulous recordkeeping, I learned we were not the only family she cared for through her generosity. And equally importantly, it was clear that throughout her professional career, she was a fierce advocate for immigrant families, even amid what I discovered was a tragic, personal loss.

This experience affirmed a profound truththe true impact of women in history transcends the confines of textbooks and archives. It resides within the exchanges of everyday interactions, through acts of kindness and sacrifice. As we honor the prominent, pioneering women that are often associated with Women’s History Month, let us also please celebrate those whose quiet heroism leaves an enduring imprint on the lives they touch.

The Fellowship Returns

I am excited to report that we had a very successful turnout for the 2024 Flinn-Brown cohort. We received 110 applications representing applicants from more than nine counties. Total applications were 24% higher than 2023, with 40% of applications received from applicants outside of Maricopa County.  

We continue to draw interest from all levels of government, with 50% of our applicants self-reporting from the public sector. Our data shows a slight uptick in the number of applications from the nonprofit sector and from the private sector, including individuals who are self-employed.

In January, our team traveled to Cottonwood, Flagstaff, Tucson, Yuma, and Sierra Vista for in-person info sessions, with two additional held in Phoenix. We also conducted six virtual info sessions with over 160 individuals attending in-person and virtually. However, our greatest recruitment tool continues to be Fellows:

  • 83%, or 91 of our 110 applicants reported having learned about the Fellowship through a Fellow.
  • 36%, or 80 of the 220 endorsement letters came from Fellows. Of those, 13 Fellows wrote two or more letters. 
  • 14 applicants had both of their endorsement letters written by Fellows.

I want to extend my gratitude to the Fellows who assisted us in reviewing applications for the 2024 cohort of the Fellowship: David Garcia (Phoenix, 2011), Audra K. Thomas (Fountain Hills, 2011), David Longoria (Phoenix, 2012) Julie Erfle (Phoenix, 2013), Demion Clinco (Tucson, 2013), Randi Dorman (Tucson, 2014), Sean Price (Litchfield Park, 2014), Jonathan Gelbart (Scottsdale, 2015)  Mattie Lord (Phoenix, 2015), Kathryn Leonard (Phoenix, 2016), the Honorable Chris Glover (Mesa, 2016), the Honorable Candida Hunter (Kingman, 2017), Travis Schulte (Gilbert, 2017), Elaine Kessler (Gilbert, 2018), Ben Blink (Phoenix, 2018), Gina Roberts (Phoenix, 2019), Councilman Matt Herman (Casa Grande, 2019), Heather Patenaude (Kingman, 2020), Julie Euber (Tucson, 2022), and Jerry McPherson (Phoenix, 2022). Fellows were paired and collectively recommended five applicants to be considered for an interview.

On April 16-17, the Selection Committee will interview 45 applicants and select about 25 for the new cohort. We will announce the 2024 cohort on May 15.

2024 Flinn-Brown Convention

We are excited to share that the 2024 Flinn-Brown Convention will be held on Friday, August 16, at On Jackson, 245 E. Jackson Street in Phoenix. 

The Fellows Planning Committee has been hard at work developing the program for the Convention. Here are some highlights!

  • Pre-Convention Reception on Thursday, August 15 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the FOUND:RE hotel. We will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2014 cohort and invite all Fellows to join us for an informal get-together to launch Convention!
  • We will also be securing a block of rooms at the FOUND:RE for out-of-town Fellows or local Fellows who attend the reception the night prior and want to shorten their commute on Convention Day.
  • Convention hike on Friday, August 16 on a Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area Trail. Hosted by Sarah Rose Webber (Phoenix, 2017). More details to come.
  • Fellows are also organizing an informal happy hour after the Convention concludes at the Duce, 525 South Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85004.
  • Save the dates are scheduled to land in your inbox on May 6 along with the link to nominate a Fellow for the 2024 Flinn-Brown Awards.

If you have any questions, please let Dawn know.

Fellows Spotlight

Nikki Check

(Jerome, 2012)
Yavapai County Board of Supervisors Candidate 

“The Flinn-Brown community is something that I continue to draw on mentally. Knowing that there’s this group of people who really do want to find bipartisan solutions and focus more on what people have in common than how they’re different from each other…I still draw upon the concept. That was the Flinn-Brown cohort.” — Nikki Check

Nikki Check is an Arizona native who has spent most of her life in Yavapai County—a county she hopes to serve soon as an elected official. Check, a former mayor of Jerome, is currently running in the primary for Yavapai County Board of Supervisors District 3 with the hope of giving her son’s generation a reason to stay in Arizona.

The 2012 Flinn-Brown Fellow at one time studied agriculture at Yavapai College and Prescott College and then headed to a policy internship in Wisconsin. 

She returned to Arizona when asked by a friend to help fix up an old stagecoach stop built in 1860. The summer turned into a staycation when Check was called to labor in the wine industry. “It was very romantic…it’s really fun to weed whack and pound posts into rocky soil. I got to do the best part with a smile,” Check said.

Check went on to serve as mayor of Jerome from June 2012 to November 2014. In 2016 she was a candidate for District 6 of the Arizona State Senate. 

“I don’t think I would’ve been able to say yes to it without my Flinn-Brown experience and knowing what a big need there was at the state legislature. I was about 1,700 votes away from getting that race,” Check says. “And although that was difficult, it really was a success in the scope of things. It was a top-three race and I learned an incredible amount.”

After Check’s 2016 race, she endured a health crisis which resulted in her losing her short-term memory. It took a couple of years for her to recover, but Check’s tenacity was ever stronger. 

“I feel as though people look at politics and political offices, as though you have to have a perfect life or be a perfect person to even consider holding office. And there’s some merit to that because you’re in a position to be scrutinized at every level, however, I think what’s more important than striving for perfection is really understanding how holding a political office can feed into your purpose,” she said. 

Check is proud that she has allowed herself to be an authentic person while becoming vulnerable to the process of being a public servant without letting her vulnerabilities impede her ability to serve. 

In 2009, Check helped found the Southwest Wine Center at Yavapai College and later became director of viticulture, helping build the industry she said is special to Arizona’s uniqueness while cultivating sustainable economic opportunities.  

Check says that one of the lessons she learned throughout her viticultural endeavors melds with a message she took away from her Flinn-Brown experience: If you’re trying to do something all by yourself, you’re not going to get very far.

“I came to understand the power of that kind of process and it now feeds into my desire to do that at a political level. I think that is truly the sentiment that is necessary to make progress with policy,” Check said. “It was an incredible experience and that legacy lives on in the many students who have graduated and planted their own vineyards and have their own wine labels. It’s just a true joy to be able to look back and think that I was a part of opening those doors for so many people.”

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

Leadership Forward – A Better Arizona

Adam Goodman: Episode 6

Adam Goodman (Paradise Valley, 2023), president of Goodmans and chair of Greater Phoenix Leadership’s public policy committee, discussed shaping his third generation furniture business to impact and better the community, while offering his perspective on “conscious capitalism”, print journalism, community service and the open primaries in the sixth episode of Leadership Forward for a Better Arizona.

Not mentioned in the podcast: Goodman is the newest member of the Flinn Foundation Board of Directors—and the first Flinn-Brown Fellow to join the board.

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

Next month, the podcast will feature the Honorable Lea Márquez Peterson (Tucson, 2011), Arizona Corporation Commissioner, on her deep family roots in southern Arizona, her entrepreneurial journey and advocacy for the business community, emerging issues in energy and water policy, and the lessons learned from running for elected office.

Fellows Meet Fellows

Avery Xola (Queen Creek, 2022), The Honorable Brian Garcia (Tempe, 2018), and Gina Roberts (Scottsdale, 2019) promote youth civic education at the Arizona Civic Coalition’s Civics Night at the Museum.

Civic engagement in Action! Tucson Fellows Kevin Volk (2022) and Charlinda Haudley (2022) canvas for signatures.

Our Verde Valley Fellows went all out for St. Patrick’s Day! The Honorable Nikki Check (Jerome, 2012), The Honorable Bill Regner (Clarkdale, 2018) and The Honorable Janet Regner (Clarkdale, 2017).

 First class Fellows from the very first class! Lisa Urias (Phoenix, 2011) and the Honorable Coral Evans (Flagstaff, 2011).

We have always been impressed with Mayor Kevin Hartke’s (Chandler, 2014) commitment to a good Flinn-Brown picture, but we especially applaud Deanna Villanueva-Saucedo’s (Mesa, 2014) willingness (and courage) to agree to stop traffic in Washington D.C. to get the perfect pic!

Mayor Mila Besich (Superior, 2019) and Councilman Fernando Shipley (Globe, 2011) join forces as signers of the Good Neighbor Agreement, a first of its kind collaboration to build stronger communities in Arizona’s Copper Corridor.

Fellows who brunch together, stay together! David Martinez III(Phoenix, 2011), Luis Heredia (Phoenix, 2013) and the Honorable Raquel Terán (Phoenix, 2018) meet up at the one●n●ten Fresh Brunch event.


Fellows in the wild

Please register to join us on Wednesday, March 27 at 2:00 p.m. for an online CivEx to learn more about the Pima County Prosperity Initiative, a regional effort to reduce generational poverty and increase opportunity and assets for low-income families.

Flinn-Brown Fellows Julie Katsel (Tucson, 2014) and Tamara Prime(Tucson, 2014) will host the event, featuring panelists Bonnie Bazata, Ending Poverty Now program manager for Pima County; Tisha Tallman, CEO, Primavera Foundation; Pima County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Rex Scott, Liz Morales, assistant city manager, city of Tucson, and Flinn-Brown Fellow Heath Vescovi-Chiordi (Tucson, 2023) economic development director, Pima County.

You can learn more on this topic here.

If you have an idea for a CivEx webinar that you would like to host or a topic you would like to learn more about, contact Dawn.

Fellows Field Trips

We are delighted to share that Flinn-Brown Fellow Sarah Rose Webber(Phoenix, 2017), Deputy Director at Arizona State Parks and Trails, has planned a Fellows Field Trip to Arizona’s newest state park! Please join Sarah and our Verde Valley Fellows, Tim and Ruth Ellen Elinski, Nikki Check, and Bill and Janet Regner, for a welcome breakfast at the park ranch house followed by a guided tour/river trail hike of the Rockin’ River Ranch in Camp Verde on Friday, May 10. Breakfast will be served at 9:30 a.m.

Fellows are encouraged to suggest or offer opportunities for Fellows to visit and learn more about what is happening in Greater Arizona. Please let Dawn know if you are interested in providing a field trip opportunity.

Fellows Lists

Each month we will feature a Fellows list for a specific employment sector, public policy area, affinity group, or region. This month we focus on Fellows in Environment and Natural Resources.   

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 (October and May).  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 recommendations come the Honorable Nikki Check (Jerome, 2012).

The Honorable Nikki Check
(Jerome, 2012)
The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic
by Martín Prechtel

The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic by Martín Prechtel

This story is really a story of hope. It is a story of how you can rebuild a culture out of what we have now, in the modern world. It is a hopeful story, a powerful one and good for political folks to read because his [Martín Prechtel] life was incredibly political.

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.

Elvy Barton (Chandler, 2013), Salt River Project Manager of Water and Forest Sustainability, has helped to announce a five-year plan between SRP and the National Forest Foundation to aid with forest restoration projects and the NFF’s Wood for Life program.

Treasurer Sarah Benatar (Flagstaff, 2015) received the 2023 Controller of the Year Award.

Mayor Mila Besich (Superior, 2019) contributed to an Arizona Republic opinion piece on the housing crisis in Arizona.

Tony Boone (Sierra Vista, 2019), Sierra Vista Tourism and Economic Development Director, was quoted in an article discussing Blackstar Orbital opening a satellite landing site in Sierra Vista.

Paul Brierley (Phoenix, 2011) was a keynote speaker for the BioSolutions Conference & Expo in Visalia, California, where nearly 300 attendees gathered.

Teniqua Broughton (Phoenix, 2013), CEO of the State of Black Arizona, had interviews with Phoenix Magazine and the Phoenix Business Journal about her nonprofit.

Congressman Juan Ciscomani (Tucson, 2011) visited Vista Grande High School in Casa Grande to speak with the students about his journey to Washington D.C. Read the article here.

The Honorable Demion Clinco (Tuscon, 2013) wrote an opinion piece for the Arizona Daily Star regarding the future of transportation in Arizona.

The Honorable Coral Evans, Ph.D. (Flagstaff, 2011) was honored by Arizona List at its 20th anniversary celebration recognizing 20 women who have helped to shape Arizona.

Sean Goslar (Tucson, 2020), regional manager of immigration services at Chicanos Por La Causa, helped to host a resource fair in Nogales at the beginning of March for prospective U.S. citizens.

Diana Gomez (Yuma, 2016) joined Dr. Roy C. Nelson on an episodeof KAWC’s Arizona Edition, hosted by Lou Gum, to discuss COVID-19 in Yuma County and looking at loneliness as a mental health crisis.

Deborah Gonzales (Phoenix, 2012) gave a statement about the implementation of all electric school buses in the Phoenix Elementary School District.

Mignonne Hollis (Hereford, 2013) wrote a piece for the Arizona Capitol Times on the future of the aerospace industry in Arizona.

Brittney Kaufmann (Phoenix, 2014) went on KJZZ to discuss the doctor shortage that Arizona is facing.

Joanne Keene (Flagstaff, 2016), Flagstaff deputy city manager, sat on a panel at the winter Arizona City/County Manager’s Association conference in Sedona titled, “Asking the Necessary Questions: How to Navigate Bond and Ballot Initiatives.

Dana Kennedy (Phoenix, 2016) discussed a dead bill that would have improved care in assisted living facilities with AZ Family. Read the article here.

Andy Kvesic, J.D. (Scottsdale, 2018) was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article about the recent interest some Wall Street investors have taken in Arizona’s Alternative Business Structures.

The Honorable Aaron Lieberman (Paradise Valley, 2017) spoke with Chuck Coughlin about border policies on an episode of Politics Unplugged with AZ Family.

Jerry McPherson (Phoenix, 2022) was appointed to the Commission on African American Affairs for Arizona.

John Molina (Apache Junction, 2012) was quoted in an articlediscussing House Bills that will make Arizona foster homes and sober living houses safer for local communities.

Reyna Montoya (Gilbert, 2020) and Christina Spicer (Phoenix, 2013) have been named recipients of the NCAA Final Four community awards along with three other ASU alumni.

The Honorable Stephanie Parra (Phoenix, 2020), ALL In Education executive director, spoke at a Chicanos Por La Causa event, Latina Leadership Conversation II.

Blake Sacha (Gilbert, 2017) was quoted in an article discussing the options Arizona voters hold coming into the presidential elections.

Prescott Smith (Scottsdale, 2017) was named the Vice President of the Scottsdale Railroad & Mechanical Society for 2024.

Edgar Soto (Tucson, 2022) is running for Pima County Board of Supervisors.

Christina Spicer (Phoenix, 2013) was quoted in an article discussing the annual Bring Home the Cookies 5K in Glendale hosted by Girl Scouts Arizona Cactus-Pine Council in partnership with the State Forty Eight Foundation.

The Honorable Jane Strain (Sierra Vista, 2013) was honored by Rep. Juan Ciscomani at the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C. Read about it here.

Benjamin Taylor, J.D. (Phoenix, 2019) joined 12News to discuss the laws about how and when you can defend yourself and your home from intruders, according to Arizona state law.

Alec Thomson (Phoenix, 2019), CEO of the Arizona Lottery, announced that the AZ Lottery has provided $25,000 in funding for Arizona-based nonprofits in partnership with the State Employee Charitable Campaign.

Lisa Urias (Phoenix, 2011), CEO/EDD of the Arizona Office of Tourism, has announced an exciting partnership with the Arizona Lottery to encourage Arizonans to explore the diverse ecosystems of the state. Learn more here.

Kevin Volk (Tucson, 2022) wrote an opinion piece regarding the presidential election process for the Arizona Daily Star.

Rachel Yanof (Tempe, 2018) joined the Board of Directors at Jobs for Arizona’s Graduates (JAG).

Annette Zinky (Phoenix, 2013) was elected to the Arizona School for the Arts Board of Directors.

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. Arizona Togther for Impact helps connect their nonprofit clients with potential board members, and hosts training and information sessions.

The Governor’s Office is seeking applications for the Arizona Historical Society. Applications are accepted through the standard application.

The Governor’s Office has over 200 boards and commissions. To apply for any vacancy, 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

The Children’s Action Alliance is hiring a Director of Early Childhood Policy.

The Marshall Foundation is seeking a new Executive Director with a talent for building and maintaining relationships, a business mindset, a strong work ethic, and a proven commitment to equity, especially in higher education.

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

Greater Phoenix Leadership (GPL) is seeking a Social Impact and Racial Equity Advancement Project Director.

One Arizona is seeking an Executive Director to lead their coalition of non-partisan, nonprofits focused on civic engagement.

Events & Conferences

The University of Arizona Freedom Center is hosting a debate on the topic Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) Now and in the Future on April 3 from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at the Heard Museum. The debate features former White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Robert Gibbs as moderators with a distinguished panel of state and national experts. RSVP here

Project Citizen is looking for in-person volunteer judges and timers for the 2024 Project Citizen Showcase in late April and early May. 

Healthcare professionals, educators, leaders, and workforce development partners are invited to attend the second annual Arizona Healthcare Workforce Summit on April 4 and 5 at ASU at SkySong in Scottsdale.

The city of Tempe and Arizona Heritage Center will host the 2024 Arizona Good Business Summit on April 16.

Local First Arizona is accepting suggestions for topics and presenters at the 17th Annual Rural Policy Forum on August 7-9 in Clarkdale and Cottonwood. Registration will open later this spring.