October 2023 Network News

November 10, 2023

By Jessica Vaile

Thoughts from Dawn Wallace

Thank you so much to all the Fellows who attended the 2023 Flinn-Brown Convention last Friday. At over 125 strong, this was the largest number of attendees we have had since the Convention officially started in 2017. 

We were welcomed warmly by Paul Luna, president and CEO of the Helios Education Foundation, with powerful words about leadership and impact. Former Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers spoke eloquently about courage in the throes of turbulent leadership and our afternoon panel of state-elected Flinn-Brown Fellows gave us the nitty-gritty on the highs and lows of public service. We honored five of our Fellows for their remarkable contributions (see Fellows meet Fellows below), and by far, my favorite portion of the day was observing all of you connecting through table conversations. 

In lieu of my regular thoughts, I’d like to share an excerpt of the closing remarks by the Convention co-chair, Nicole Barraza (Tucson, 2020). 

The Power of Network

Nicole Barraza
(Tucson. 2020)

Today’s theme, “Leading Arizona: Celebrating Public Service and Navigating the Challenges” has showcased the personal testimony of those who have recently been and are still in the trenches of public service. We heard earlier today from a table report-out that Fellows discussed, what is public service

Public servants today pay too high a price to be in public service. We witness that every day on social media and in the news. However, we also heard today that “action is the antidote to despair.” So, keep that thought. I will come back to it in a moment. 

The Finn-Brown Network is 437 Fellows strong; we are leaders from every corner of the state, representing sectors of Arizona’s economy from industry and business to nonprofit and government. We are recognized leaders in our fields, with diverse expertise and perspectives, and varied political positions. Yet, there is a common and shared thread to all our work. We want a better Arizona. We might not agree on the policy that will get us there, but we share the same desired outcomes. 

When we applied to this program, we understood there was an expectation for respect, civility, and the development of relationships with those holding different perspectives. We made a commitment to expand our public service in one of the five designated areas: to run for state or local office, to become a policy advisor, serve on a board or commission, or become a state agency or university executive or lead a statewide organization. 

Today, I was heartened to hear the table report-outs. Fellows reported a strong desire to expand our commitment to public service by adding a sixth “unofficial” goal. Based on what we discussed today, the Network, individually and collectively, can become the champion of public service in Arizona. The Network can be the vehicle for civil discourse. We have an opportunity to lead on this issue and to lead by example. 

We can work to encourage healthy discussions and the vigorous debate of IDEAS by modeling that behavior, praising when we see it and calling it out when we don’t. As Mr. Bowers said earlier of the Network, “choose to use it.” Let’s use our voice, our agency, our spheres of influence to promote and support our public servants when they need it the most in the public square. Let’s ask ourselves how we can support others and show up for each other. Let’s tweet, post, share, write Op-Eds, letters to the editor, personal letters of encouragement in defense of civility, manners, and basic social norms. As Table 4 reported out, let’s go to meetings and be the friendly face in the audience that shows what civility looks like and model when we speak in call to the audience. Matt Gress and Jennifer Pawlik both highlighted that words of encouragement go a long way. At my table, Sarah Webber suggested drafting a Flinn-Brown code of conduct to raise the bar, set a standard and hold each other accountable. A code that sets the expectation about how we all engage in public service.

We are at a critical juncture. As leaders, it is time to push back and provide them with cover when they are under attack. By taking the ecosystem head on, the Network can play a leading role and be the model of civil discourse. Civil discourse does not have to be an element of a bygone era. Civil discourse does not have to be a nice-to-have, but a must have. 

The courage to be civil and to promote civility can be contagious. We just have to find the courage to start. 

Fellows Spotlight

Clare Aslan

(Flagstaff, 2017)

School of Earth and Sustainability
Northern Arizona University


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

I am the Director of the School of Earth and Sustainability at Northern Arizona University, as well as the Co-Director of the NAU Center for Adaptable Western Landscapes. In these administrative roles, I manage faculty and students in seven degree programs, to offer training to the next generation of sustainability professionals, environmental scientists, hydrologists, and geologists. I also lead a large research group focused on sustainability science. We conduct solutions-oriented research aimed at understanding how forests, rangelands, and water sources can be effectively managed in the face of accelerating environmental change.

The natural beauty and uniqueness of northern Arizona, with its canyons and forests, have long attracted students and scholars to this region, making the environmental and natural sciences a pillar of excellence within the university. NAU’s current strategic priorities include impactful scholarship, community engagement, and sustainable stewardship of resources. As the public university tasked with serving rural and first-generation students, as well as a recognized minority-serving institution, NAU is often the portal through which Arizona’s higher education policies interface with underserved communities. A major focus of my role is to connect with these communities by engaging students in transformative and experiential education, opening new growth opportunities for them and linking them with the remarkable ecosystems of northern Arizona. Through my administration, teaching, and research, I aim to make impactful careers accessible to a growing population of committed and dedicated new professionals. Meanwhile, my research links to Arizona’s public policy emphasizes resource management, sustainable agriculture, and fire preparedness and mitigation.

2. Do you have a favorite quote that is meaningful to you?

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” –Annie Dillard

This quote, to me, exemplifies the importance of mission-centered careers that aim to serve our communities and society. The challenges we face as a state and nation are immense. For me, daily work that aims to contribute to solutions has been essential to maintain my optimism and energy and motivation. The dream of higher education is to serve society by opening the doors of meaningful careers to all individuals. We strive to help our students channel their talents to achieve their dreams and contribute to their communities.

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

The Fellows Network has facilitated collaborations and networking across the three universities, allowing me to exchange ideas with Fellows at  the University of Arizona and Arizona State University and to connect with them over shared programs to elevate higher education across the full state. Beyond the university setting, I have been involved in the very active sustainability community in northern Arizona. Faced with escalating wildfire and flooding hazards, our community has been in the vanguard of efforts to confront the causes of climate change at a local level, taking essential and challenging steps to reduce carbon emissions. Many Flinn-Brown Fellows are in leadership positions in northern Arizona, and the network has been essential for advancing important dialogue over the past several years.

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

Economically, ethnically, and politically, Arizona is one of the most diverse states in the nation. Our counties and communities differ widely from one another. From Phoenix to Sierra Vista to Prescott to Tuba City, our landscapes and lived experiences span an enormous range of variability. Engaging all these landscapes and viewpoints in Arizona’s civic conversations and policies will help maximize the state’s resources and resilience. I see universities and higher education as an engine for this engagement. As our students learn more about the structure and foundations of our systems, they learn how they can play a role and make a difference. Expanding the ways in which our universities cultivate civic understanding and engagement is an emerging opportunity that we as a state are only beginning to tap.

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

Leadership Forward – A Better Arizona

Teniqua Brougton – Episode 2

We have released our second episode of our podcast, Leadership Forward for a Better Arizona. Teniqua Broughton, a 2013 Flinn-Brown Fellow, is Dawn’s guest on this month’s podcast. Teniqua shares figures about Black maternal and infant morbidity and mortality rates in Arizona, how she and others are working to address the causes, and how Flinn-Brown has helped her become the leader she is today.

You can check it out where you find your podcasts or on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO5r9nlzrLs

Next month, we will hear from Elvy Barton (Chandler, 2013), Water and Forest Sustainability Manager, who leads SRP’s efforts on water conservation and forest health initiatives essential for environmental sustainability, economic development and the overall well-being of both ecosystems and human communities.

Fellows Meet Fellows

We had more than 125 Flinn-Brown Fellows from across the state at the 2023 Flinn-Brown Convention on Nov. 3 at Helios Education Foundation in Phoenix. Thank you to all the Flinn-Brown Fellows and speakers who made this a special day with inspiring conversations about leading Arizona. Thank you to the 2023 Flinn-Brown Convention planning committee, including co-chairs Daniel Ruiz II (2015) and Nicole Barraza (2020), as well as Bill Regner (2018), Shane Leonard (2019), Blake Sacha (2017), Jennifer Pawlik (2018), and Ben Blink (2018).

Fellows at 2023 Flinn-Brown Convention

The Convention also featured a reunion of the 2013 cohorts, organized by Sarah Douthit(Fall 2013) and Annette Zinky (Spring 2013), and a sunrise hike led by Sara Rose Webber (2017). These events were well attended, and we greatly appreciate the efforts in organizing these gatherings.

Fellows at 2023 Flinn-Brown Convention

A special thank you goes out to our keynote speaker, the Honorable Rusty Bowers, former Speaker for the Arizona House of Representatives, our panel moderator, Hank Stephenson of the Arizona Agenda, and our panel of Fellows: the Honorable Morgan Abraham (2014), the Honorable Matt Gress (2015), the Honorable Joanne Osborne (2012) and the Honorable Jennifer Pawlik (2018)

Fellows at 2023 Flinn-Brown Convention

Thank you to 2011 Flinn-Brown Fellow, the Honorable Benjamin Graff, for emceeing this year’s Flinn-Brown Awards! Congratulations to our 2023 winners: 2011 Fellow Paul Brierley (Jack Jewett Award), 2014 Fellow Julie Katsel (Network Builder Award), 2013 Fellow Tim Elinski(Northern Arizona Champion), 2013 Fellow Elvy Barton (Central Arizona Champion), and 2020 Fellow Brendan Lyons(Southern Arizona Champion). Thank you for your service in strengthening our communities and the Flinn-Brown Network.

2024 Legislative Preview

Join us Wednesday, December 13 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. for a Fellows-only event featuring lobbyists Meghaen Dell’Artino of Public Policy Partners, Gaelle Esposito of Creosote Partners, Jay Kaprosy of Veridus and our newest panelist, Sabrina Vasquez of Peters, Cannata and Moody. Moderated once again by our Flinn-Brown Fellow, Zach Yentzer (Tucson, 2020), these capitol insiders will preview the 2024 legislative session, including legislation, the budget, and how the political dynamics of the upcoming 2024 election will drive topics and issues at the state capitol.

An invitation to this virtual event will be coming soon

Fellows Field Trips

During the Convention, it was suggested to me that field trips organized by Fellows for Fellows might be a great way to network and learn more about the innovative work that is happening in Fellows’ organizations. 

Image of woman on tech device

For our first Fellows field trip, Tim Gomez (Phoenix, 2023) has offered an opportunity for Fellows to tour ASU’s Dreamscape Experience at the Tempe campus. Dreamscape is an innovative virtual reality experience that many ASU students are using for different labs. While it has clear academic focus, Tim has also compared the experience to an entertainment excursion akin to a fun trip to Disneyland. The tour is approximately 60-75 minutes. He has also offered to pair this with a larger campus tour and perhaps Happy Hour on Mill Avenue. There is capacity for 12 Fellows, first come, first served. Please contact Tim Gomez at tgomez@asu.edu if you are interested.

I would encourage Fellows outside of Maricopa to let me know if there are opportunities for Fellows to visit and learn more about what is happening in greater Arizona. Please let me 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, or affinity group. This month we focus on Fellows in elected office.  

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 quarterly 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 from Clare Aslan (Flagstaff, 2017) and Nicole Barraza (Tucson, 2020).

Clare Aslan
(Flagstaff, 2017)
Brave the Wild River
by Melissa L. Sevigny

I recently finished Flinn Scholar alum Melissa Sevigny’s wonderful new book, “Brave the Wild River,” and I highly recommend it! Melissa sweeps the reader along on a beautiful, true-story adventure anchored in extensive research. The wonder and diversity of the Grand Canyon permeate the book, and it is a remarkable testimony to groundbreaking women scientists.

Nicole Barraza
(Tucson. 2020)
Becoming a Changemaker
Alex Budak

I recently read a book called, “Becoming a Changemaker,” and I couldn’t help but think that is what Flinn-Brown Fellows are. We are all changemakers. The author defines changemakers as those that lead positive change from where they are. Changemakers take action, believing that a brighter future and a better path forward is possible.

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.

Sophie Allen-Etchart (Phoenix, 2022) and Jenny Holsman Tetreault(Phoenix, 2011) were honored as Women of Achievement by InBusinessPHX. Holsman Tetreault was also featured on a 12 News segment about the 33rd Empty Bowls Fundraiser which supports Arizonans experiencing hunger.

Treasurer Sarah Benatar (Flagstaff, 2015) wrote an op-ed in the Arizona Republic about the impact of legislation that limits investing based on environmental risks.

Congressman Juan Ciscomani (Tucson, 2011) wrote an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star about the VA Emergency Transportation Access Act, which would prevent reimbursement rates for veterans’ emergency medical services from being cut before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has reviewed the impacts cuts would have on veterans’ health care.

Charlinda Haudley, Ph.D. (Tucson, 2022) is now a Stakeholder Outreach Coordinator for Central Arizona Project.

Daniel Hernandez Jr. (Tucson, 2011) wrote an op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star about the recent creation of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

Mignonne Hollis (Hereford, 2013) is now the Secretary for the Arizona-Mexico Commission.

Melissa Kotrys (Phoenix, 2023) was quoted in an Arizona Capitol Times article about the Choose Your Person initiative which aims to encourage more Arizonans to name and register someone as their power of attorney.

Councilwoman Nikki Lee (Tucson, 2018) recently hosted a town hall meeting to address street racing and street takeovers in Tucson.

Barbara Lang (Sierra Vista, 2015) is now the Health Director of Cochise County.

Melissa Lempke Lien (Phoenix, 2012) is now Director of Marketing and Communications for the National Health Care for the Homeless Council.

Brendan Lyons (Tucson, 2020) was quoted in a Daily Wildcat articleabout ADOT’s efforts to promote safe driving and prevent pedestrian fatalities.

Patick McWhortor (Cave Creek, 2011) was quoted in a KJZZ article about newly released data that shows the Arizona arts and culture sector generated over $1 billion in 2022.

Noah Mundt (Gilbert, 2023) is now the Chair of the Gilbert Planning Commission.

Rep. Jennifer Pawlik (Chandler, 2018) was quoted in an article in the Chandler Arizonan regarding over-optimism about Chandler’s water supply and management.

Diana Rhoades (Alaska, 2013) wrote an Alaska Native News articleabout a $1.7 million Mellon Foundation grant awarded to the Indigenous Place Names Project.

April Rhodes (Prescott, 2022) received the Excellence in Leadership award from the Prescott Chamber.

Kyle Sawyer (Chandler, 2017) was featured on a panel on Telehealth Challenges and Opportunities at the Local Level at the 2023 Arizona Telehealth Policy Summit.

Cynthia Seelhammer (Queen Creek, 2016) received the 2023 Next Generation Mentorship Award at the Next Generation Leadership Conference.

Councilwoman Julie Spilsbury (Mesa, 2023) was quoted in an article discussing a City of Mesa decision to convert the Grand Hotel into transitional housing.

Lisa Urias (Phoenix, 2011) was quoted in an AZ Family articleregarding the $1.3 billion economic impact of Superbowl LVII.

Lela Wendell (Phoenix, 2014) is now in New Mexico’s Early Childhood Education and Care Department as the Policy, Research, and Quality Initiatives Division Director.

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.

The Governor’s Office is seeking applications for the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. 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.

County School Superintendents make appointments to vacant school board positions until the next election can be held. The following offices have vacancies on several school boards:

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

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 and Professional Opportunities

Tucson Electric Power is hiring a Government Relations Representative.

Arizona Coalition for Change has an opening for a Senior Director of Policy, Advocacy, and Voter Engagement.

The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights is seeking a Staff Attorney for its Phoenix operations.

Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) is hiring a Government Relations Project Manager to lead local, state and federal intergovernmental relations efforts with MAG member agencies.

Maricopa County Assessor’s Office is seeking a Government Relations Liaison.

The Center for Arizona Policy is seeking a Vice President of Policy to drive the development and execution of the organization’s public policy strategy.

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

Local First has an opening for a Rural Development Coordinator to support the Local First Arizona Rural Development and Arizona Economic Recovery Center teams in their work addressing rural and tribal economic strategies. 

Hispanic Leadership Institute is currently accepting applications for its upcoming West Valley and Pinal County cohorts.

Events & Conferences

Venture Café Phoenix connects creators, entrepreneurs, investors, coworkers, students, and visionaries at its flagship program, the Thursday Gathering, to build a strong, inclusive and equitable innovation ecosystem. Check out the schedule of gatherings for November 2023.

Common Sense Institute is hosting an inaugural Free Enterprise Summit on November 14 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort.

Arizona Department of Health is hosting the Tribal Opioid & Substance Use Conference on November 15-16 at the Great Wolf Lodge in Scottsdale. 

The Walton Center for Planetary Health will hold the Carbon Summiton November 15-16 at ASU.

Arizona State University Center for Resilient Families is taking early registration requests for their 2024 conference, The Power of Parenting: Supporting Children Through Crucial Transitions, scheduled for February 2 in Scottsdale. 

The Taliesin Business and Policy Forum is hosting a series of conversations on global topics with local implications beginning on November 16 with “No Magic Bullet: Understanding and Addressing the Housing Crisis,” followed by three sessions in the spring of 2024. See the brochure here.