Thoughts from Dawn Wallace
There is nothing more lovely than November in Arizona. For locals, it is a long-awaited respite from the scorching heat of never-ending Arizona summer days. For our friends who escape here from the frigid winters of the Midwest, Arizona is the closest to paradise you can get to in a car. And while we get a little curmudgeonly about increased traffic and other little inconveniences, I celebrate our winter visitors, as they remind me to look with fresh eyes on the amazing beauty of the Grand Canyon State
Each November is also poignant to me for more personal reasons, as it is filled with special events and moments that trigger self-reflection on my life and purpose—birthdays, anniversary, Thanksgiving, the dreaded arrival of Elf on the Shelf. And that phrase we so often hear in November, “Elections have consequences,” specifically resonates with me because at various points in my life, outcomes of elections have deeply impacted my professional trajectory. I know that is true for many of you, too.
But the course of American elections have been for me even more than a primary determinant of my life’s work. They really are at the heart of my devotion to civic participation—because I am a child of immigrants.
My story is hardly different than many immigrant families. Brought to the United States as a small child, I quickly assimilated into American life, attending American public schools, embracing American traditions, adopting American culture as my own. Attracted by the promise of the American Dream, my parents pushed through profound cultural differences and built for us a new family tree in a brand-new world. Our road to citizenship was years-long and rocky, and for a time, my dreams of the fullest opportunity for a better life were curtailed. Ultimately, with the help of good people, we found our way. I became a citizen in 1996, just in time to cast my very first vote, in a presidential-election year, on my birthday.
During the suffrage movement, Susan B. Anthony said, “Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it.” This year, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, her prophetic words hit home for me again, especially as I thought about how my fortune has not been shared by over 100,000 Dreamers who live in Arizona.
As I did in my childhood and young adulthood, they identify as Americans, and as I did, they desire to live the immigrant’s dream, passionately longing to be messengers for democracy in a country that still shines globally as a beacon of hope.
On November 3, on an election night with record voter turnout, I saw my fellow American citizens, through their votes, once more amplify the core values of our country—liberty, equality and democracy—to a global audience. Our Dreamers are equally potent embodiments of these ideals. While their votes were absent on November 3, their spirit, grit, and determination still shone bright.
Past and Upcoming CivEx Webinars
Our sincere thanks to Dr. Sybil Francis and Kristi Tate from the Center for the Future of Arizona for moderating a conversation on the Young Talent Progress Meter. A special shoutout to our Fellows, David Martinez III and Zach Yentzer for sharing their unique perspectives. If you missed last month’s CivEx webinar—Young Talent Progress Meter: The Voice of Young Arizonans—presented by the Center for the Future of Arizona, you can view a recording on our website.
Please join us on Wednesday, Dec. 2, from 2:00-3:30 p.m. for our next CivEx: Arizona’s COVID-19 Ongoing Response and Recovery—On the Front Lines with Flinn-Brown Fellows in State Government.
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.
Ben Henderson currently serves as the director of operations and cabinet affairs for Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado. He has spent the last decade working in city and state government focusing on budgeting, economic development, and public administration. Ben lives in Denver with his fiancée and dog and is a huge marching-band nerd.
1. Describe your work and how public policy impacts how you manage your organization. I am the day-to-day liaison to the cabinet, managing all state-agency operations while fostering a one-team mindset across the entire executive branch. My days consist mostly of addressing the crisis of the moment. But I also work with agencies to build skills in performance management, process improvement, and professional development. Gov. Polis’s administration is laser-focused on our “Bold 4” policy priorities, including: Early-childhood education, which started with implementing free full-day kindergarten; Lowering the cost of health care; Achieving 100% renewable energy by 2040; Fiscal reform and economic development. It is my job to ensure that state agencies are aligned around these policy priorities and are implementing them successfully. I focus on the “how” after policy leaders have decided on the “what.” My team and I do this in lots of ways, but our primary tool is creation of metrics that ensure accountability towards the Bold 4, as well as another 250-plus administration key priorities. We track, report and publish these metrics on the Governor’s Dashboard.
2. How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your work? I began my position three days before Colorado’s first COVID-19 case. Needless to say, my plans and expectations for what my job would be went out the window pretty quickly thereafter. COVID-19 consumed everything we were doing, and my job became virus response all day, every day. We tapped into private-sector and military resources to build our emergency-response structure and worked around the clock to solve problems I couldn’t have fathomed just weeks before. We doubled the size of our public-health department. Our state lab typically spends $16 million a year but is now on track to spend more than $200 million this year. We saw unemployment rates higher than ever recorded, with a 1,200% spike in unemployment claims in early April. We transitioned more than 65% of state employees to telework in about a week-and-a-half. We now believe half of those folks may never come back to physically work in a state office again, and there are plans to sell off 1 million square feet of space. We have processed more than 250 executive orders on a wide range of issues. We made it easier to add surge capacity to our health-care system, protect and reduce the prison population, and allow county clerks to use technology to issue marriage certificates virtually.
I don’t need to tell this group that the impact of the virus on our culture is vaster than anything we understand yet. So far, Colorado is faring okay. We have won lots of battles and lost some others. We are proud of our use of science, and the data suggests that it has saved lives, especially our Dial Framework, which automatically ratchets social distancing up and down at the county level based on quantifiable metrics. This has been an exhausting year and it feels like we are only just now at halftime.
3. How has the Fellows Network been useful to you? First, I should point out that I know the Fellows Network is full of people fighting this virus every single day, and I am so thankful to all of you for your work and diligence keeping us safe. Beyond that, the Fellows Network has been incredibly useful to me in career development and personal growth. It is the foot in the door that helped me land in my current career path. I was recently hiring for a senior level position in Colorado state government and saw “Flinn-Brown” on a resume I was reviewing. Using the Network, it was easy for me to quickly confirm my original suspicions: this person was highly recommended, smart, and driven, and definitely deserved to be advanced to the next round.
4. What aspect of your public-service career has been the most rewarding and why? Helping real people. Public service is all about human interaction and being plugged into your community in a way that makes a positive impact. For me, those always appear as small human-focused moments. What comes to mind are conversations with neighbors about shared values, hearing from families who got assistance when they needed it the most, or helping team members achieve their goals.
Fellows in the News
Elvy Barton (Phoenix, 2013) was interviewed for a KJZZ story about forest management.
Tammy Caputi (Scottsdale, 2019) was recently interviewed by the Scottsdale Independent.
Pele Peacock Fischer (Phoenix, 2013), Trista Guzman Glover (Mesa, 2019), and Stephanie Parra (Phoenix, 2020) were selected as Arizona Capitol Times 2020 Breakdown Breakouts.
Luis Heredia (Phoenix, 2013) is co-chairing Senator-Elect Mark Kelly’s transition team which also includes Fellow Coral Evans (Flagstaff, 2011).
Lisa Schnebly Heidinger’s (Phoenix, 2012) book, “100 Years Grand,” was mentioned in Green Valley News.
Daniel Hernandez, Jr. (Tucson, 2011) and his sisters, Alma and Consuelo, were featured in a Politico article on bipartisanship in Arizona.
Michelle Kauk (Gilbert, 2019) was selected by the Arizona Capitol Times for the 2020 Women Achievers of Arizona in the Unsung Hero category.
Aaron Lieberman (Paradise Valley, 2017) was quoted by the Houston Chronicle regarding a bill he co-sponsored in the last legislative session.
Brendan Lyons (Tucson, 2020) wrote an op-ed for the Arizona Daily Star.
Chad Marchand (Tucson, 2011) was named Gaming Commissioner for the Colville Tribal Gaming Commission in Washington state.
Lea Márquez Peterson (Tucson, 2011) was recently interviewed by Cronkite News.
Christian Price (Maricopa, 2012) was featured in an article by AZ Big Media regarding plans for a new Exceptional Healthcare facility in Maricopa.
Kate Radosevic (Phoenix, 2020) and The Arizona Food Banks’ Friends of the Farm program was featured by AZ Big Media.
Raquel Terán (Phoenix, 2018) was recently featured in the online magazine The Appeal.
Janelle Wood (Phoenix, 2013) was chosen by Tempe Mayor Corey Woods to serve on the Tempe Public Safety Advisory Task Force.
Career & Professional Opportunities
Interested in being an Arizona Master Naturalist? The Maricopa County chapter of the Arizona Master Naturalist Association is taking applications for its third cohort, which begins in January. Learn more about the opportunity.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration is offering a $25 million grant to support response to the coronavirus pandemic through the Scaling Pandemic Resilience Through Innovation and Technology Challenge, which will fund organizations that support development, creation, or expansion of programs that accelerate technology-based economic development in pursuit of vibrant, innovative economies and economic growth, and respond to the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Learn more.
The Japanese Friendship Garden is accepting applications for an executive director. The nonprofit opened to the public in 2002 as a joint project between the city of Phoenix and its sister city Himeji, Japan. Learn more about the position.
Global Ties Arizona is accepting applications for president. This position seeks a professional interested in international relations to apply those skills to help shape U.S. foreign relations “one hand-shake at a time.” The president is responsible for the organization’s consistent achievement of its mission, strategic plan, and financial objectives. Learn more about the position.
Events and Conferences
Did you miss a previous CivEx? Now you can find webinar recordings on our website.
The State of Black Arizona is hosting the first African American Leadership Institute webinar series, “The Black Agenda: Leading for Legacy.” The series features five sessions designed to explore, discuss, and develop solutions for building, maintaining, and supporting black leadership in our state and beyond. Learn more.
Morrison Institute for Public Policy will host its annual State of Our State event virtually on November 23. Local and national housing experts will explore solutions to Arizona’s affordable-housing challenges and discuss strategies to increase housing security during the pandemic. Registration is free. Learn more.