Our top women lobbyists list really identifies five tenacious professionals whose communication skills, character and depth of knowledge about the issues important to their clients makes them stand out.
They just happen to be women.
“Sometimes in war they talk about who is in the foxhole with you — well, these are the people you want,” says Gibson McKay, a director with lobbying firm Veridus. “They get it done.”
The Arizona Capitol Times asked the lobbying community to provide expert opinions and name the top five female lobbyists in Arizona. The following list was compiled purely based on who received the highest number of votes.
Many women lobbyists received votes, but the consensus of opinions from survey respondents was best summarized by Kristen Boilini, who was recognized as one of the top five: “I think, whether you’re a male or a female lobbyist, the most important asset is reputation. It’s the value and ethics brought to the issue.”
Here are the top five women lobbyists in Arizona, as determined by the lobbying community:
Lobbyists touted Wendy Briggs’ tireless work ethic and ability to provide her clients with accurate, well-rounded information when they named her one of the state’s top women lobbyists.
“I’ve always admired the professionalism and equanimity Wendy Briggs brings to her work,” says Laurie Lyles, president and chief executive officer of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.
Briggs, who has been lobbying for 18 years, founded her firm, Veridus, three years ago. Veridus represents clients such as CVS, American Express and AT&T for their Arizona operations.
“I have always found Wendy to be a tireless advocate for her clients, as well as a delight to work with,” adds Richard Foreman, a lobbyist with Southwest Gas.
Briggs, 46, says her method on the job is one of communication and understanding, trying to approach any given topic from all sides of the discussion.
“I guess a lot of my effectiveness has to do with being honest and telling both sides of any issue,” she says. “It’s really just being sincere and being able to get along with people.”
Others say those qualities make Briggs one of the state’s most formidable lobbyists, effectively representing clients from a variety of industries.
“Wendy is normally very sharp and can hang with the big dogs on any issue,” says Tom Farley, CEO of the Arizona Association of Realtors.
Briggs says that there are some gender issues that specifically affect women in her profession, but insists that they’re no more prevalent than they are in any other American industry.
“There are challenges for women in a variety of different professions and settings,” she says. “But doors will open if you have the attributes of working hard, being candid and being professional.”
Barbara Meaney co-founded Triadvocates public policy firm with two other people in 2002.
Now, with 10 employees, the firm is a major player in Arizona, serving a varied and distinctive clientele.
Meaney, 41, broke into the lobbying field 13 years ago after working as a law clerk in both Washington D.C. and Arizona.
Gibson McKay, a lobbyist with Veridus, listed Meaney when identifying colleagues whom he calls “the top women lobbyists in the state of Arizona, bar-none.”
“I am proud to have worked with all of them in one capacity or another,” McKay says. “And you can say that, without a doubt, they are ethical, the most knowledgeable and they all live by the notion that your word is your bond.”
Meaney says her candidness and listening skills make her an effective lobbyist.
“Listening is sometimes overlooked in what we do,” she says. “It helps listening to different views and managing them. Also, honesty, at the end of the day, is really all you have.”
Laurie Lyles, president and chief executive officer of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, is another colleague who threw her support behind Meaney.
“She’s effective because of her passion and tenacity,” Lyles says. “She represents her clients with determination and professionalism, and that’s why I voted for her.”
Meaney says she’s most proud of working on some “really challenging, complex issues” at the Capitol on behalf of Intel Corporation and Verizon Wireless.
“I’m really proud of representing these companies,” she says. “And I’m proud of the policy measures we’ve been able to run through the Legislature on their behalf.”
Janna Day’s biggest strength as a lobbyist, colleagues say, is her ability to approach legislators on both sides of the aisle and inform them about issues with knowledge and finesse.
“She has a pleasant way about her,” says Martin Shultz, vice president of government affairs with Pinnacle West Capital Corporation. “She goes to both sides of the issue, whether Republican or Democrat. That’s a really stand-up thing”
Day, a director with Fennemore Craig, agrees that a lot of her skill comes from her personality, but doesn’t discount her expertise on the law and politics.
“I think I have a good combination of skills,” she says. “I have legal training, I’m politically savvy and I have good people skills.”
Shultz says Day, 41, can draw out the key points from any issue with little to no effort, making her a valuable asset to the profession.
“She’s articulate,” he says. “She can summarize complicated issues in paragraphs, even sentences. That’s key to lobbying.”
Tom Farley, CEO of the Arizona Association of Realtors, says Day’s knowledge about clients’ specific issues makes her extremely valuable in government relations, and confirms her savvy in the political arena.
“She knows her stuff, she knows the candidates and who’s going to win and why,” he says. “She doesn’t show her cards. She’s just effective.”
Day says she doesn’t worry about whether or not she’s an effective female lobbyist, but rather how she measures up against everyone at the Capitol. Still, she says, she’s very happy to be recognized for her work by others in the field.
“I think it’s a great honor,” she says. “I really admire all of the other female lobbyists and their skills, so it’s just an honor.”
Kristen Boilini says her gender doesn’t really play a role in her lobbying approach. It’s all about what she can bring to the table for a client.
“I think, whether you’re a male or a female lobbyist, the most important asset is reputation,” she says. “It’s the value and ethics brought to the issue.”
Lobbyist Barry Aarons, principal of The Aarons Company and a close colleague of Boilini’s, echoes similar sentiments.
“She’s even-tempered, efficient and knowledgeable,” he says. “She has great communications tools, which all go to making a great lobbyist, woman or man.”
Boilini says she’s especially proud of her organization, KRB Consulting, and their work on two bills from last year, SB1306 and SB1307. The bills were crafted to address protection for human egg providers in infertility cases and treatment of human embryos.
“The original bills had really good intent, but the unintentional consequences would make it really hard on infertility doctors,” she says. “We came out with two bills that please everyone. If they hadn’t been changed, it would’ve driven infertility (treatment) out of the state of Arizona.”
Boilini was one of the five women lobbyists identified by Nick Simonetta, who also works for KRB Consulting. He called her one of the “no-brainer top fives.”
“That is, just look at each of these women’s background in this arena, their depth of experience and tremendous, continuing success and level of accomplishment,” Simonetta said of all of his choices. “They are each also class personified, truly good people and utter professionals.”
Boilini says she’s excited to be selected by her colleagues at the Capitol as one of the state’s top five women lobbyists.
“Any time that you’re honored by your peers… well, it’s the highest honor,” she says.
Stevens & Stevens
Susie Stevens learned the vital tricks of the lobbying trade from her father and mentor, the late Charlie Stevens, who was known for the professionalism and honesty he brought to his work.
Clearly, her peers say, those traits rubbed off on her.
“Susie learned lobbying etiquette from one of the best, and then added an unmatched work ethic and an excellence for policy,” says Marcus
Dell’Artino, a lobbyist with FirstStrategic Communications & Public Affairs. “And don’t even get me started about her tenacity.”
Stevens, 41, has been lobbying for 15 years. She is president of her namesake firm, Stevens and Stevens, P.C.
She says she deserves some credit for the recognition she’s receiving, but modestly passes a lot of it off to her colleagues.
“I’m very persistent and really enjoy working with people,” she says. “But I’m fortunate to enjoy the people I work around.”
Tom Farley, CEO of the Arizona Association of Realtors, agrees.
“Who doesn’t like Susie?” he says. “(She has) good relationships and knows her stuff.”
Stevens says she’s proud of many accomplishments in her career, including her diverse client list, which includes the Western States Petroleum Association, the Alliance Beverage Distributing Company and the Arizona Physical Therapy Association.
“In general, I’m most proud of the fact that I’ve retained many of the clients that my Dad had,” she says. “I’ve earned their trust and kept them, and also added other great clients to the list as well.”
Stevens is thoughtful about her position as a woman in the lobbying field, lending some weight to the idea that a woman can bring a unique approach to certain situations.
“I do think sometimes women have an intuitive ability to really kind of see where everyone’s coming from and get the big picture,” she says. “There are a great number of female lobbyists, any one of which could rightfully be in the same position.