To say that much has occurred since the 2008 Leaders of the Year in Public Policy Awards event is quite an understatement. An economic meltdown leading to a near-depression, the election of the first African-American to the U.S. presidency, a changing of the guard in the Executive Tower and chaos in the Legislature while attempting to deal with Arizona’s worst budget deficit ever are just a few of the tumultuous events that mark the past 12 months.
So, it’s not surprising that some of last year’s honorees also have had some major life changes.
Arts & Humanities
Sen. Barbara Leff
Currently serving her third term in the Senate, Sen. Barbara Leff, a Republican from Paradise Valley, headed the Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee during the last regular session. Leff was also appointed as president pro tempore of the Senate in August, after Senate President Bob Burns booted Sen. Pamela Gorman, a Republican from Anthem. (Sen. Steve Pierce temporary filled the slot.) Hopefully, Leff, who’s noted for her advocacy for small business and the arts, will be able to back up Burns’ labors to finally resolve the FY2010 budget and close the billion-dollar hole.
The former chief operations officer of UnitedHealthcare, Eileen Klein was tapped by Gov. Jan Brewer to head her budget team this year, serving as deputy chief of staff for finance. She says not everyone fully grasped her decision to return to public service, especially during such bleak times.
“Thankfully the executives at my company understood the call to action. Many others, however, thought I was crazy to leave a corporate post to return to the state, especially during the most challenging time in the state’s modern history,” she says.
However, this isn’t Klein’s first state rodeo – she has served in several capacities in state government for the past couple of decades, including the administration of Jane Hull. She remains optimistic about the state’s fiscal future.
“I’m looking forward to getting the state back on track financially and positioned securely for even greater growth in the future. I feel blessed to be in a position to collaborate with the top minds of the public and private sector, to help make good decisions to put us on the right path,” says Klein. “It will take a while, but I am confident the state will emerge stronger than ever.”
Gov. Janet Napolitano
Second-term Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano is now former Governor Napolitano. She headed off to the Beltway to join the Obama administration. Napolitano was sworn in to her new job as head of the Department of Homeland Security on Jan. 21, 2009, the day after President Obama’s inauguration. She left the state’s worst-ever budget shortfall to her successor, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, to solve.
Rep. Mark Anderson
Mark Anderson, a longtime Mesa legislator, ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for the 5th Congressional District in an attempt to unseat then-freshman Congressman Harry Mitchell. Anderson lost to former Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert, who in turn failed to prevail against the popular Mitchell. Today, Anderson is enjoying his job at the Arizona Department of Education, where he directs the certification rules and procedures unit.
“I am fortunate to be working with some wonderful people in the certification unit and am also involved in policy work at ADE,” he says.
Sid Wilson, manager, Central Arizona Project
David S. “Sid” Wilson retired last May from the Central Arizona Project after 14 years as general manager. However, he’s not quite ready to resort to a daily dose of golf: he’s engaged in several ventures. CAP spokesperson Kathryn Schmitt notes that Wilson is a “wonderful man who is continuing his leadership efforts into the nonprofit world.” Wilson has also kept his mind sharp in the area of water policy; he wrote a white paper for the Little Hoover Commission about Arizona’s approach to water management while vacationing right after his retirement.
Just like a passel of other Napolitano appointees, Jan Lesher followed her boss to Washington. Lesher, formerly the director of the Arizona Department of Commerce, is now the chief of staff for operations for the Department of Homeland Security. Lesher also served as Napolitano’s chief of staff for several months in 2008 following the departure of Dennis Burke.
Anita C. Murcko, MD, medical director, clinical informatics and provider adoption, AHCCCS
On the other hand, Anita Murcko hasn’t gone anywhere – she’s still with the state’s Medicaid program. Murcko directs the implementation of the AHCCCS Health Information Technology (HIT) initiative, which aims to “improve delivery of health care services and quality of care with reduction of health care costs.” In other words, streamline record keeping, provide seamless and coordinated care and, most importantly in these days of budget deficits, save health care dollars.
Tim Schmaltz, CEO/coordinator, PAFCO
Tim Schmaltz is working overtime these days. The head of Protecting Arizona’s Family can be seen haunting the halls of the Legislature lobbying to prevent further cuts to Arizona’s safety net. “The economy has taken a toll on families,” says Schmaltz. “We spent the session fighting against cuts.”
He notes that PAFCO is also training more advocates to hit up legislators and the Governor’s Office to battle for reinstatement of child care, health care and disability service dollars.
Chuck Foy has been busy since winning his 2008 award. In April, he departed from his old job at the Arizona Public Employees Association, where he lobbied on behalf of government workers.
Foy, a former police officer, noted in an e-mail that he’s working on a new venture, which he has yet to reveal. However, it’s a sure bet that the new gig will involve Foy’s long tenure as an advocate for labor and public employees.
Mark Holleran, CEO, Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS)
Mark Holleran is still actively engaged in delivering services to the Valley’s homeless, and has seen his clientele increase over the past year, just like others in this article. Holleran is busier than ever delivering services to a growing number of individuals and families.
“Due to the ongoing economic crisis, demand for emergency support services is at an all-time high,” says Holleran. “It’s important to remember that there are those whose day-to-day crises are much greater and more chronic than our own.”
Sen. Bob Burns
Senate President Bob Burns did not respond to an e-mail asking for information about what he’s up to, no doubt because he’s busy putting together yet another attempt to resolve the FY2010 state budget.
Through one regular and three special sessions, Burns did his best to hold an increasingly fractious Senate together, which no doubt left little time to spend with his kids and grandkids.
Former director of the Arizona Department of Transportation Victor Mendez also followed his former boss to the Beltway. Mendez is now head of the Federal Highway Administration. While at ADOT, Mendez accelerated the construction schedule for the Valley’s freeway system, spearheaded the widening of I-17 and launched the widening of the Superstition Freeway, to cries of joy from commuters in the East Valley.
Steve Lynn, VP UniSource Energy Corp. and Tucson Electric Power
Last year’s volunteer award winner Steve Lynn is still actively engaged in giving back to the community. He just completed a term as chairman of the Downtown Tucson Partnership, and has become chairman of the Early Childhood Development and Health Board. And he has joined the board of the Downtown and Development Board in Tucson.
What keeps Lynn going? “With the current economic situation, the need for volunteers has never been greater,” he says.
Amina Donna Kruck, director of advocacy programs, ABIL
The Arizona Bridge to Independent Living is continuing with its mission of aiding people with disabilities to become independent through achieving self-sufficiency. Amina Donna Kruck, the 2008 Unsung Hero, is still very busy with her work of advocating for the disability community.
ABIL delivers workshops on subjects ranging from home modification to accommodate wheelchairs, to Social Security’s “Ticket to Work” program, which gives individuals with disabilities the opportunity to work while keeping their health benefits.
Late Sen. Jake Flake
On the one-year anniversary of his June 2008 death, which resulted from complications being thrown from a horse, the late Sen. Jake Flake, a Republican from Snowflake, was honored on the Senate floor.
Sen. John Huppenthal read a memorial resolution lauding the long-time rancher/legislator for his years of dedicated state service. Also, a bust of the late senator was placed in the Arizona Capitol Museum.
Flake’s passing leaves just two cowboy legislators: Democrat Rep. Jack Brown of St. Johns and Republican Sen. Steve Pierce of Prescott.