2013 Best of the Capitol

As guests strolled along the red carpet at the Phoenix Art Museum for the Arizona Capitol Times 2013 Best of the Capitol awards event, a sense of excitement and anticipation filled the air. For the first time in the contest’s seven-year history, “Best of” winners were not announced until the night of the event.

As the winners were revealed, the record crowd of more than 300 attendees was treated to the comedic stylings of event emcee Russell Smoldon, hilarious videos featuring “Best of” honorees and a surprise appearance by Gov. Jan Brewer, who won the category for Best Elected Official — Republican.

The 2013 winners list showed a mix of perennial “Best of” winners such as Durant’s for Best Place to Impress a Client and Best After-
Hours Hangout to new winners in new categories such as Genevra Richardson of GovGroup for Best Lobbyist Under 40 — Female, and Glenn Hamer of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Best Powerbroker.

As the Capitol community left the event, with the lucky few clutching their 2013 Best of the Capitol winner certificates, the scheming for the 2014 awards is undoubtedly already underway. It’s never too early to start because it’s always campaign season in Arizona.

Cheers to all the 2013 Best of the Captiol nominees and winners.

— Josh Coddington, Special Sections Editor

— Profiles were written by Josh Coddington and Don Harris.

Photos from the ceremony

2013 Best of the Capitol winners and nominees:

Best Elected Official – Republican

Winner: Gov. Jan Brewer
Nominees: Treasurer Doug Ducey, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, Rep. Heather Carter, House Speaker Andy Tobin

Despite, or even possibly because of the six-month battle within the Republican Party over her proposal to expand Arizona’s Medicaid program, Gov. Jan Brewer was selected as the 2013 Best Republican Elected Official.

Providing some insight into why Brewer was chosen this year may be the comments made by the bipartisan coalition that attended the bill signing ceremony for the fiscal 2014 budget. Fellow nominee GOP Rep. Heather Carter is certainly a fan. “You have been heroic and, even more importantly, a rock star…It’s a historic achievement, and the honor of a lifetime to be by your side as you make it the law of our land,” she said.

House Democratic Leader Rep. Chad Campbell added: “It was one of the boldest things I’ve seen. The governor coming out on day one was immensely exciting for all of us on the Democratic side of the aisle… and I think we got that done because we worked together.”

Mesa Mayor Scott Smith says he hoped to win because it will help save the Arizona Capitol Times money since the paper won’t have to buy a “whole new plaque.” Smith won last year.

In seriousness, he touts his effectiveness in helping the city rebound from the economic downturn. “I believe that over the past five years, we’ve fought the good fight in advancing the interests of Mesa and Arizona taxpayers,” he says. “We’ve also demonstrated how a community that is down on itself can be renewed and once again develop that desire to be great.”

Carter, who was also nominated in this category, prefers to focus not on why she was nominated, but the fact that she was nominated. “Let me take this opportunity to say thank you for selecting me!”

She says the best officials focus on the needs of the state first. “A top-flight Republican elected official always asks ‘How will this policy/proposed legislation improve Arizona?’”

Best Elected Official – Democratic

Winner: Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton
Nominees: Rep. Chad Campbell, Sen. Robert Meza, Sen. Anna Tovar, Sen. Steve Gallardo

In taking home the honors for Best Democratic Elected Official, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton says the traits that make for a good Democratic elected official are the same ones that make for a good Republican elected official.
“(The traits) are the same — integrity, listening skills and always act in the best interest of the city I represent,” he says.

He cites his love for public service and being active in the community as the reasons why he thinks he was nominated in this category — and staying up-to-date on the latest goings-on at the state Capitol, of course. “Most importantly, I just renewed my subscription to the Arizona Capitol Times,” he says.

His second consecutive victory in this category may be a bit bittersweet, however, since last year he and fellow Mayor Republican Scott Smith both took home Best Elected Official honors. And this year, Smith fell just a bit short. “I won last year with Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, and if he wins this year and I don’t, it’s like Laverne without Shirley,” Stanton says.

Nominee Rep. Chad Campbell says he was nominated likely because he’s been “fighting for Democratic values for seven years” at the state Capitol. He adds that he doesn’t do his job for awards.

“I get a little uncomfortable with this category as I don’t serve to win contests or get accolades. I’m only serving to make my community a better place as are the vast majority of elected officials in this state,” he says.

Nominee Sen. Steve Gallardo, well-known at the Capitol for his fiery, outspoken approach to raising awareness or debating issues he’s passionate about, says a lawmaker doesn’t need to be in leadership to lead.

“You do not necessarily need to be in leadership or in the majority to take the lead on issues that may have an impact on our constituents. It has been my position to take the lead when I see a need or a void when vital issue comes before us.”

Best Debater – Republican

Winner: Rep. J.D. Mesnard
Nominees: Sen. Rich Crandall, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, Sen. Andy Biggs, Rep. John Kavanagh

Despite the highly contentious COW sessions over the Medicaid expansion this year, winner Republican Rep. J.D. Mesnard says his most memorable debate occurred during a 2012 floor session about a provision in one of his jobs bills.

The debate stuck with him because despite its heated, back-and-forth nature, he says one of the bill’s opponents later told him that through the course of their debate, he had come to like the provision.

“It was pretty neat to be able to persuade someone in that way, particularly someone who typically holds a political view quite different from my own,” Mesnard says.

He thinks he was selected for this category because as speaker pro tempore, he has done a good job of communicating the Republican perspective from the House floor and advocated for not only his own bills, but those of his GOP colleagues.

Rep. John Kavanagh says he is a natural to be nominated in this category because his roots in the Big Apple simply won’t allow him to not speak on issues. “I am an argumentative ex-New Yorker who cannot remain silent, especially on controversial issues. However, I have weaned myself down from cynic to skeptic.”

The House Appropriations Committee chairman says top three qualities of a superb debater are: knowledge, communications skills and “the ability to choose stupid opponents.”

Lastly, Kavanagh says if he is chosen as the winner in this category, he won’t let it alter the qualities that got him the nomination in the first place. “If selected, I promise to argue over the decision,” he says.

Best Debater – Democratic

Rep. Chad Campbell
Nominees: Sen. Steve Farley, Rep. Ruben Gallego, Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, Sen. Steve Gallardo

Winner and House Minority Leader Chad Campbell considers himself to be one of the more vocal Democrats at the Legislature.

He cites his battles with Rep. John Kavanagh in the Appropriations Committee as reason enough why he is a premiere debater. “If any of the voters disagree with me, please tell them to call me and I’d love to deba, uhhh, discuss it with them,” Campbell says.

The Phoenix Democrat had his eye on the “Best Twitter Account” category, and questions why Rep. Ruben Gallego snagged a nomination. “It’s one of the world’s great mysteries,” Campbell says. “It ranks right up there with the Bermuda Triangle and why my wife married me. His grammatical mistakes alone should have ruled him out of that category.”

In Campbell’s view, the three most important qualities or traits of a superb debater are: Stay on message, use humor sometimes, and never make up stuff.

Sen. Steve Gallardo modestly says he was nominated “for my artful talent to persuade my colleagues, my relentless pursuit of equitable legislation and my passionate discourse.” Or, it could be because Art Hamilton and Alfredo Gutierrez are no longer in the Legislature, the Phoenix Democrat says.

Gallardo recalls many of his memorable debates, and includes every one he ever had with former Sen. Russell Pearce. Among the qualities of a great debater, Gallardo says, “Most importantly, always remember you’re right and they’re wrong.”

Nominee Sen. Steve Farley of Tucson says a most memorable debate involved his amendment to a legal tender bill, tacking on the Five C’s — cotton, copper, cattle, citrus, and climate. “Under my amendment, you could buy auto parts with a bag of oranges and pay sales tax with a tangerine.”

Best Committee Chair

PLUS: See what happens when these committee chairs adjourn (video)

Winner: Rep. Heather Carter
Nominees: Sen. Michele Reagan, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, Rep. Justin Pierce, Sen. Don Shooter

Winner Rep. Heather Carter, who serves as chair of the House Health Committee, says the most important traits of a good committee chair are to be informed, fair and respectful. She adds that the committee process is vital for lawmakers to be able to properly vet legislation.

“The work we do in committee is the best opportunity to really dive into the issues of proposed legislation. Health policy is extremely complex, every committee meeting I learn something,” she says.

Her most memorable meeting as committee chair is actually one that never occurred. “It’s one that didn’t happen. I wish we had the chance to hear the Medicaid bill in the House Health Committee.”

Nominee Don Shooter, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, reveals his three specific rules for effective committee chairmanship. The first is ability to sort out the difference between “horse crap and roses so you’re less likely to get hornswoggled.”

The second is to possess a 3-minute egg timer to “limit rambling testimony.” The third — and some would argue most important is to “have a habit of concluding the peoples’ business before happy hour ends.”

He adds he should win simply because he’s good at the job: “My record reflects efficient handling of significant issues and bills in a compassionate and principled manner, plus I’m a good guy, so that should qualify me.”

Nominee Michele Reagan, chair of the Senate Elections Committee, tries to let as many people as possible testify in her meetings, but says sometimes using a timer to limit testimony is necessary. As chair, it is also imperative to remain open to opposing points of view, she says.

Her most memorable committee meeting involved a bill relating to the Arizona Boxing Commission. “Rep. Cajero Bedford asked if she could feel the arm muscles of the guy that was testifying when we were hearing a Boxing Commission bill! Only Olivia could have gotten away with that!”

Best Dressed – Male

PLUS: See Sen. Jack Jackson, Jr. and Rep. T.J. Shope’s thrift shop outing (video)

Winner: Sen. Jack Jackson, Jr.
Nominees: Garrick Taylor, Bob Stump, Michael Vargas, Rep. T.J. Shope

As last year’s Best Dressed champion, Sen. Jack Jackson Jr. says he and his chief fashion consultant/husband made a conscious effort to defend his title during the 2013 legislative session. And he was successful.

“My husband db Bailey and I make a conscious effort every day to turn it out sartorially,” he says. “We look at the upcoming week’s political and social events and collaborate on ensembles that are appropriate for the occasion and temperature. You have to be creative to look stylish in 110 degrees!”

On his lawmaker’s salary, Jackson isn’t afraid to shop at Last Chance and Goodwill, which combine low prices with the thrill of a treasure hunt. “We manage to pull my looks together on the modest salary of $24,000,” he says. “It really gets those endorphins flowing when you can score an $800 Hugo Boss blazer at Last Chance for $42 or excavate an Emanuel Ungaro jacket at Goodwill. Thrift shop, baby!”

Jackson says the key to any good outfit is neckwear. The right piece can “really set off an outfit and be a great conversation starter,” he says. “We call that ‘leading with the neck.’”

Nominee Garrick Taylor, senior vice president of government relations and communications for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, describes his personal style as “fairly pedestrian,” but reveals he does, in the style of a former president, pay attention to his feet when dressing.

“My socks are a different story. I think people get a kick out of them,” he says. “It is worth noting that my first gig in politics was as a volunteer for Bush/Quayle ’92. George H.W. Bush is another fan of nifty socks.”

His thought process when getting dressed during the legislative session focuses on potential power and influence — of his socks. “This year it’s been something along the lines of ‘Does this pair of socks convey the need for TPT reform? How about support for the Common Core standards?’”

Best Dressed – Female

Winner: Sen. Michele Reagan
Nominees: Sen. Kimberly Yee, Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford, Kristin Cipolla, Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai

Sen. Michele Reagan chalks up her win as Best Dressed Female to her bravery in selecting the occasional outlandish outfit.

“Anyone who dares to go out in public with a bright yellow dress and a purple wig deserves to at least be nominated,” she says. However, there’s more to the story of this apparent assault on the eyes. Reagan was wearing the getup while participating in the National Kidney Foundation Arizona’s Dancing with the Stars fundraiser in February.

She reveals that she actually plans her outfits each day around her shoes and that her most important accessory is a handbag. When she’s not doing dance competitions where extravagant outfits are the norm, she says looking good at the Capitol is important to her. “It shows respect for your district,” she says.

Nominee Sen. Kimberly Yee says dressing to show respect for the office she holds is a priority for her, but it has gotten a bit more challenging lately to fit into her usual ensembles. “I am still trying so hard to fit into my little dress suits with a growing baby bump,” she says.

Her secret for looking her best when she knows she’s going to be photographed is wearing matching accessories and a particular color. “I always wear suits, heels and a matching necklace and bracelet. I wear red on picture days.”

Kristin Cipolla, legislative liaison with the County Supervisors Association of Arizona, still listens to her mother for fashion advice and guidance. And that advice includes what to wear and why to wear it.

“When I was a kid, my mother always used to say ‘It’s all in the presentation,’ meaning dressing appropriately on any given day, provides you with the confidence you need to get things done and if you don’t, at least you looked good,” she says. “My mother also likes to tell me to wear more animal prints.’ Yes, I still listen to my mother.”

Best Shoes – Male

Winner: Jim Norton
Nominees: Sen. Jack Jackson, Jr., Rep. T.J. Shope, Michael Preston Green, Bob Stump

Lobbyist Jim Norton of R&R Partners figures the most likely way he got nominated and won this category was that a bunch of his friends got together “over a beverage” and decided “wouldn’t it be hilarious if…”

However, he says knowing he is nominated in this category has made him “self-conscious” about the two pairs of black shoes he wears “far too frequently” and has resulted in a financial windfall for his “shoeshine guy/feel good therapist, Friendly G.”

He says if you count sports shoes, dress shoes, casual shoes, animal slippers and flip flops, he owns 12-13 pairs of shoes, however “some of them are unrecognizable as footwear.”

As far as the notion of footwear sending a message, he has a positive take on what his unchanging, and in-need-of-polish shoes, say about him. “People will think ‘Glad to see Norton hasn’t fallen victim to the consumerism culture of shoes defining him. He is really quite a down-to-earth, swell guy.’”

Nominee Michael Preston Green’s shoe collection has gotten smaller by a third, since he recently donated 30 pairs to Goodwill. The remaining 64 pairs, are still quite impressive and worthy of recognition, he says. He adds that he wants “to ensure that the Honorable Bob Stump does not win because my shoes deserve the honor.”

Green counts 11 pairs of mostly ostrich skin and kangaroo skin cowboy boots and two pairs of “tuxedo patent leather shoes” in his collection. His philosophy in choosing which shoes he will wear on a given day is rooted in continuously mixing it up. “I believe it is best for your shoes and feet that you never wear the same pair of shoes more than once a week.”

Best Shoes – Female

Winner: Sen. Katie Hobbs
Nominees: Sen. Michele Reagan, Beth Lewallen, Genevra Richardson, Sen. Olivia Cajero Bedford

Sen. Katie Hobbs says she’s a bit confused as to why she would be nominated in the Best Shoes category, since she doesn’t spend a lot of money on shoes in the first place, although she also reveals that she owns “about 40” pairs.

She says if she wins, however, it will be a victory for those that appreciate frugality. “If I win, it will be a victory for thrifty girls everywhere,” she says.

Sen. Michele Reagan says she has the support of a previous “Best of” winner, U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. And especially since Sinema’s heels are clicking up and down the halls of Congress these days, Reagan feels like it’s her turn to take the mantle in “Best Shoes.”

“I have really made a concerted effort in this category for the past several years, yet victory has eluded me,” Reagan says. “Sinema isn’t at the state Capitol anymore. She is even pulling for me!”

Nominee Beth Lewallen, legislative liaison for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, used her skills in communicating in legislative-speak to provide an estimate of the number of pairs of shoes she owns. “JLBC’s estimates put it between 10 and 100, with a high growth rate,” she says.

She adds that she doesn’t really know what her shoes say about her, since “most pairs are from foreign countries.” Although she does like the message shoes can send. “I think shoes, like all accessories, communicate someone’s personality without words.”

Nominee Genevra Richardson thinks she was nominated because of her ability to remain stylish while pregnant. “I’m always rocking a 4-
inch heel, even at six months pregnant. Shoes make the outfit!”
And when a girl has a great pair of shoes, watch out. “Marilyn Monroe said it best. ‘Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world,’” Richardson says.

Best Hair – Male

Winner: Danny Seiden
Nominees: Rep. Chad Campbell, Marcus Dell’Artino, Joe Kubacki, Michael Preston Greene

Danny Seiden can’t pinpoint any one particular reason as to why he would be chosen for Best Hair because, he says, there are so many obvious choices.

“Have you seen my hair? You may as well ask why the Sistine Chapel is considered a work of art, or why a sunset is considered beautiful. I’m not sure there is enough space in your newspaper to properly answer this question.”

Seiden, the special assistant for policy and legislation at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, says history is on his side. He won a best hair award while in high school at age 18. “My hair, like a fine wine, has only gotten better with age.”

As far as the answer to the age-old question of what the hair says about the man, Seiden says his message is universal. “It says a lot. It tells you whether he is ready to work or have a good time — or in my case both.”

Last year’s ironic Best Hair winner, House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, says his economically friendly follicle situation should appeal to conservative “Best of” voters. “One bottle of shampoo will last me all year,” he says.

He adds his status as 2012 Best Hair champion and his effortless style holds sway with “Best of” voters. “It’s the reason I’m the defending champion. I never have a hair out of place. Can any other nominee say that? I didn’t think so…”

Michael Preston Green of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck credits his nomination to a list of stylists who have cared for his locks over the years. Those include “Jay Sebring of Beverly Hills, the stylist for the stars, Stan the Man of the salon at the Phoenician and my present stylist known as Hair Daddy aka Darren Brown at the Area 51 Salon.” He adds, “Real experts in the growing, caring for and styling of hair are rare, but worth the money.”

Best Hair – Female

PLUS: See the best hair nominees’ makeover (video)

Winner: Jessie Armendt
Nominees: Sen. Katie Hobbs, Amy Love, Sen. Brenda Barton, Diane McCallister

Four minutes and two seconds is the precise amount of time Best Hair winner Jessie Armendt spends on styling her hair each day because that is exactly the amount of time it takes to play the song “Ice, Ice Baby” by ’90s rapper Vanilla Ice from start to finish.

“More time to focus on policy, less on hair,” says Armendt, a lobbyist with Arizona Governmental Affairs.

She says that women with purple hair likely have the most fun. “Purple hair is like riding a jet ski. Everyone has the most fun when riding a jet ski.”

She also suggested adding Best Eyebrows, Best Mountain Climber, Best Baker and Best Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as categories.

Nominee Amy Love says she should win mainly because people fear change — and she won this category last year. The legislative liaison for the Arizona Supreme Court resisted offering an opinion on which hair color has the most fun, offering the safest answer possible. “Stereotypes have been known to injure, but so have redheads,” she says. “To be safe I’ll say ginger.”

After considering it, she reveals she’s really punk rock. “Deep down, I secretly wish I could have a mohawk.”

By far, Rep. Brenda Barton has the longest hair of all the nominees in all this year’s “Best of” categories. She says if she wins, she won’t cut it for another year and will wear it down on awards night.

She surmised she was nominated for this award by surprising onlookers at the Capitol earlier this year. “It took the breath away of many who have become accustomed to seeing my hair worn up.” She also credits her look for this recognition. “How many women over 55 can wear their hair as long as I and pull it off in style?”

Best Lobbyist – Male

Winner: Jim Norton
Nominees: Don Isaacson, Jeff Sandquist, Doug Cole, Michael Preston Green

Winner Jim Norton of R&R Partners has two theories of why he was nominated.

“I’d like to think it’s because after 18-plus years of doing this, I might actually have learned a thing or two about lobbying,” he says. “But the truth is more likely that I make good fodder for Don Isaacson’s dominance in this category.”

Norton adds, “Because Don Isaacson has held this honor for more years than I can count, we need to relieve him of that pressure. Besides, his comeback story next year could become a made-for-TV movie.”

To be successful, Norton says, “In all seriousness, the best lobbyists represent their clients to the best of their ability, reflect the values of those clients, and remember that our actions are a reflection on those clients and must be handled with great care.”

He prefers this category to another he was nominated in: “Best Shoes.”

Nominee Don Isaacson of Isaacson & Moore says, “I’ve always wanted to win the “Best Shoes” and “Best Ties” category, but have never been nominated.”

On his colleagues, Isaacson says, “All of the other candidates are excellent lobbyists and each deserves to be the winner in this category.”

Isaacson stresses honest advocacy and persistence, and says most people don’t realize “the difficult tasks of lobbying and the satisfaction of developing a solution that is good for your client and the state.”

Michael Preston Green of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck humbly suggests he is “the best male lobbyist and have been for many years.” But, he adds, “The truth is that I am just honored and privileged to be considered by the people I work with … because I am getting older and there are so many outstanding younger lobbyists.”

Best Lobbyist – Female

Winner: Wendy Briggs
Nominees: Gretchen Jacobs, Kathy Senseman, Molly Greene, Janna Day

Winner Wendy Briggs says her colleagues at Veridus “relentlessly pressured clients, friends, other lobbyists, and pretty much anyone with an email address and a pulse, to vote for me.” Apparently, it worked.

Before the results were in, Briggs longed to win “because I have never won and I am not particularly good at anything else.” In keeping with full disclosure, Briggs identifies what most people don’t know about lobbyists: “We are not nearly as charming, nice or self-deprecating as we try to appear.”

But disclosure ends when she was asked to describe her approach to convincing lawmakers to see an issue her way. An astounded Briggs replies: “That is a trade secret. I cannot believe you honestly think I would answer this question. Is this a trick or something?”

Nominee Janna Day, of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, says lobbying is sometimes described as “gentle pressure relentlessly applied.” She notes that lobbyists are everywhere, representing all types of interest groups — not just a handful of special interests. She adds, “Lobbyists are a critical piece of the information flow in the Legislature.”

Salt River Project’s Molly Greene describes lobbying today: “There’s very little wining and dining and far too many late night sessions of reading bills and researching legislative and legal history.” The nominee mentions mentors, including Don Isaacson and Randie Stein, who she previously worked with “and benefited from their expertise and strategic approach to challenges.”

Nominee Gretchen Jacobs, of Arizona Governmental Affairs, on why readers should have voted for her, says, “I am reminded of my friend’s slogan who ran and won his election for student body president in college: Vote for me because it just doesn’t matter.”

Best Lobbyist Under 40 – Male

Winner: Jeff Gray
Nominees: Jeremy Browning, Ryan DeMenna, Jay Kaprosy, Todd Baughman

Winner Jeff Gray’s path into lobbying started all the way back during his senior year at Northern Arizona University, when he submitted his application to be a legislative intern — after deciding not to — only after being asked to by the program coordinator so the school would provide a sufficient number of applicants.

He was accepted as an intern in 2000 to the administration of Gov. Jane Hull. In two years he was serving as her director of legislative affairs. He says although what he is doing now is completely different than what he set out to do after it college, he still sees some similarities.

“I had initially planned after I graduated college to become a crisis negotiator with a police department,” Gray, of R&R Partners, says. “Some would say that I didn’t end up that far off.”

His approach to lobbying is to make arguments about the issues, not about the person on the other side. “I learned early on in my career not to take politics personally,” he says.

Nominee Ryan DeMenna, of DeMenna & Associates, reveals he really had no choice in becoming a lobbyist, since his father Kevin has been involved in every legislative session in Arizona since 1979.
“It was unavoidable. Lobbying is in my blood,” he says. “In fact, my baby shower was held in the old Senate majority caucus meeting room in 1983!”

Nominee Jeremy Browning, of GovGroup, boasts a perfect attendance record for every session day for the past five years — by his own accounting. He says what helps him be successful is always being there and knowing where to find answers if he doesn’t already have them.

He also suggested a new “Best of” category he’s sure he’d dominate: “Best Capitol Tech Geek.” “During floor session or committee hearings, you can find me fixing someone’s computer, teaching Twitter 101, dishing out useless and unsolicited technology recommendations, all free of charge,” he says.

Nominee Todd Baughman, of Policy Development Group, originally trained as an accountant. He started at an accounting firm right out of college before joining former Sen. Jon Kyl’s 2006 campaign and getting bitten by the political bug.

He says religion plays a major role in how he approaches his job. “What guides my lobbying method and decisions at the Capitol more than anything else is my faith in Christ,” he says. “Personally, that’s how I try and filter my interactions with other lobbyists and members.”

Best Lobbyist Under 40 – Female

Winner: Genevra Richardson
Nominees: Ann Seiden, Jen Sweeney, Sara Sparman, Allison Bell

After having worked “every job” in politics and eventually landing her first lobbying gig in Arizona with Larry Landry, winner Genevra Richardson decided to switch her sights from becoming a campaign consultant to becoming a lobbyist. And she’s glad she did.

“I find representing various issues and clients to be challenging and never boring,” Richardson, owner of consulting firm GovGroup, says. “I really enjoy the business side of lobbying and I absolutely love my job.”

She says that as a lobbyist younger than 40 she takes the opportunity to continue to learn from the “extraordinary” talent pool of lobbyists at all age levels at the state Capitol.

Nominee Jen Sweeney, who lobbies for the Arizona Association of Counties, is happy that a public sector lobbyist got a nomination. “As a general rule, it’s usually the private sector lobbyists who are nominated for these awards — might be time for a shout out to the public sector,” she says. She adds that the quality of the information, as opposed to age, is what defines an effective lobbyist. “Reliable information presented succinctly is a hallmark of this business and providing that is possible at any age,” she says.

APS lobbyist Allison Bell jokingly says that her lobbying team is driven to succeed because they are “forever trying to impress” former Pinnacle West lobbying heavyweight Marty Shultz. She adds she “isn’t the best lobbyist, but the luckiest” in getting the opportunity to work with Best Dressed nominee (and fellow APS lobbyist) Michael Vargas and 2012 Best of the Capitol event emcee (and fellow APS lobbyist) Jessica Pacheco.

Kutak Rock lawyer and nominee Sara Sparman says the advantage to being a lobbyist younger than 40 is that she has unlimited energy and is “usually underestimated.” She jokingly says the liability is that “it’s really hard to relate to some of the old geezers in office.”

She requests a sympathy vote for the numerous bills she and colleague Marc Osborn dropped this session. “We started off running two simple insurance bills and all of a sudden we’re responsible for half of the bills dropped this session,” she says.

She summed up the sentiments of all the nominees by saying that lobbying is really about a desire to make things better in Arizona. “I want to make a difference in the lives of all Arizonans and see lobbying as an opportunity to bring about significant, positive change in public policy,” she says.

Best Capitol Staffer

Winner: Keely Varvel
Nominee: Wendy Baldo, Victor Riches, Tami Stowe, Garth Kamp

The winner of Best Capitol Staffer — House Democratic Caucus Chief of Staff Keely Varvel — says the key to being successful at her job is working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure her members are well-prepared while also fostering and maintaining good relationships.

“My work is mostly behind the scenes, but the fact that what folks do see looks organized for the most part means I am doing it well,” she says.

She adds that the key to establishing a cohesive front for her caucus members is communication, and more specifically, an abundance of meetings. “In the House Democratic caucus, we have a lot meetings; I mean, like, A LOT of meetings,” she says. “But the result is that our caucus is almost always unified and on the same page.”

She gives credit for her nomination in this “Best of” category to those around her. “It is all about the team effort. I wouldn’t be in the running for ‘Best of’ anything if it weren’t for my rock star colleagues on the Democratic staff and awesome caucus members.”

Nominee Victor Riches, who serves as chief of staff to the House Republicans, echoes Varvel’s sentiments about the tireless House staffers.

“I would just say that my nomination the category of ‘Best Staffer’ is a reflection on the entire House staff. I am very proud of the hard work demonstrated day in and day out and am fortunate to be surrounded by so many dedicated individuals.”

Tami Stowe, policy adviser to the House Republicans, says there are many traits that make a top-notch staffer, but one of the most important is honesty. She chalks up her nomination in this category to constantly getting better at her job.

Rising Star – Male

Winner: Rep. J.D. Mesnard
Nominees: Rep. Mark Cardenas, Sen. Bob Worsley, Rep. T.J. Shope, Rep. Tom Forese

Winner and freshman legislator J.D. Mesnard isn’t sure why he was selected, but suggests it might be because he tries to be respectful, reasonable, helpful, honest and open with those around him. That’s probably why he managed to get “some pretty significant bills across the finish line.”

Showing he also has a sense of humor, Mesnard says he should have been nominated in every other category, especially for “Best Women’s Shoes.”

To be considered a rising star in politics, Mesnard cites a familiar maxim. “You can accomplish great things if you don’t care who gets the credit,” he says, adding, “That may be true, but in order to rise to the level of a star in politics, you’re probably going to need to be the one getting the credit! That’s politics 101!”

Rep. Mark Cardenas, a Phoenix Democrat also nominated as a rising star, boasts of a non-political accomplishment: “In the last year, I beat J.D. Mesnard in basketball. Also, I overcame a fear of the ocean (that’s where sharks live) and went fishing for the first time. Then, I built my own potato gun in case of a shark attack.”

Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, offers his take on becoming a political star. “In today’s world,” he says, “it seems that shouting the loudest and having the most extreme ideas will make you a star in an instant, which is why I’m somewhat humbled by the fact that I have been nominated for this.”

Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, says he probably was nominated when people “found that I was unafraid to focus on realistic goals and solutions rather than becoming bound up in ideological party creeds and dogma.”

Rising Star – Female

Winner: Sen. Katie Hobbs
Nominees: Sen. Kelli Ward, Lorna Romero, Rep. Victoria Steele, Rep. Stephanie Mach

Winner Sen. Katie Hobbs, a Phoenix Democrat, says it would be “stellar” to win the “Rising Star” award two years in a row.

Of her nomination, she says, “I hope it’s because I’ve shown myself to be an effective legislator.”

She credits two mentors — U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and state Rep. Lela Alston — for pointing her in the right direction. “In my freshman term, it was more important for me to be seen as someone who was effective and could work across the aisle, not someone who just grabbed headlines. I’m not someone who needs to talk all the time, just when it matters.”

When she’s not at the Capitol, Hobbs still serves the public. “I’m a social worker, so my whole career has really been in public service,” Hobbs says.

Lorna Romero, director of legislative affairs for the governor and a 2008 graduate of Arizona State University, says she was nominated to “lower the average age of the other nominees.”

The only other category the nominee longed for was: “Best Justin Timberlake Fact Checker” To reach the level of “Rising Star,” Romero says she needs a ladder.

As a newcomer to the Senate, nominee Kelli Ward, a Republican from Lake Havasu City, concedes that occasionally she is afraid, but adds, “I am still willing to act boldly, I am not politically correct at all times, I can think on my feet most of the time, I am a hard worker, I have an open door policy, I am genuine and truthful, and I am energetic and happy.”

Best Power Broker

Winner: Glenn Hamer
Nominees: Doug Cole, Jim Norton, Cathi Herrod, Sean Noble

Winner Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is known by some in the field as “The Hammer.”

Taking no personal credit, Hamer gives tribute to a strong board of directors and staff, and considers himself “a cog in the machine.” As a result, he says, the chamber has “helped build a coalition of business support for major legislation that has passed over the past several years.”

Hamer does give credit to fellow nominee Jim Norton and his team at R&R Partners for their outstanding work over the years. He also thanks the governor and supportive legislators for making Arizona one of the top six states to do business in, according to Chief Executive Magazine.

Hamer notes that some of the contenders, including Norton, were nominated in several categories, and says, “I would not want anyone to get injured by an exploding ego.”

In politics, the one with the most power is “the elected official with the best ideas and the ability to rally support,” Hamer says.
Nominee Norton of R&R Partners didn’t think readers should have voted him as the No. 1 powerbroker. “They should select my client, Glenn ‘The Hammer’ Hamer,” Norton says.

The real powerbrokers, Norton says, are “those who are articulate, work hard with integrity, and are consistent, even when the politics have shifted away from their positions.”

Nominee Sean Noble, a political consultant, says he’s not sure what a powerbroker does. “Over the past 15 years, I’ve dedicated my life to getting good people elected and advancing ideas that make Arizona a better place, so that should count for something,” he says.

Best Political Operative

Winner: Chuck Coughlin
Nominees: Danny Seiden, Rodd McLeod, Sean Noble, Constantin Querard

Winner Chuck Coughlin cites his ability to get under people’s skin while remaining unpredictable as the reason why he won Best Political Operative. “I’ve pissed enough people off in my life; they are no longer sure what I will do.”

He says having smart people working around him is important to his successes in the Arizona political arena, but surprisingly advised Arizona Capitol Times readers to cast their votes for someone else. “They shouldn’t (vote for me). There are many more qualified hacks than me.”

For nominee Danny Seiden, his recognition as an effective political operative is partly a reflection of the elected official for whom he works, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “When you work for an elected official, your success depends a lot on the official, and it just so happens I am fortunate enough to work for one of the best,” he says.

Seiden says he “truly cares not just about winning, but about how I win,” and offered the following insight about acting as an effective operative: “The only gadget I need is my brain, and my secret weapon would probably be the fact that I pray about everything single issue I work on.”

Nominee Constantin Querard, a GOP consultant, says successful operatives do two things. “Do what you love for who you believe in, and never, ever call yourself a political operative.” And in true bare-knuckles fashion he says Arizona Capitol Times readers should select him as Best Political Operative or else he’ll “have to primary them.”

In a nod to this year’s winner, Querard says that when he really needs to get things done, he dons a Chuck Coughlin mask.

Nominee Rodd McLeod, who most recently ran Kyrsten Sinema’s successful campaign for Arizona’s 9th Congressional District, had a simple reason why he should win: he’s due. “I need a win here, folks. I have not been called the best of anything since I was named Employee of the Month at Papa Keno’s Pizzeria in Lawrence, Kansas, in October 1994,” he says. “And back then, I immediately ate my winnings.”

Best PR Person

Winner: Matthew Benson
Nominees: David Leibowitz, Jason Rose, Kurt Davis, Barrett Marson

Gov. Jan Brewer’s spokesman Matt Benson manages to keep a sense of humor amid all the political turmoil he sees from the Ninth Floor. Benson says he doesn’t know why he was nominated, but adds, “It’s an outrage.”

Benson notes that he’s “a two-time loser — I think I’m due.” Then he says, “Seriously, people, I’m not leaving until I get this award. I can be here all night.”

Without revealing any deep, dark secrets, Benson says the most important job a PR person performs is custodial: “I clean up the mess.”

Asked about the toughest PR disaster Benson successfully navigated, he says, “I’ll spare you the ugly details, but it involved a public scene with Lorna Romero (Brewer’s director of legislative affairs) at lunch. Let’s just say, when she says ‘medium-well,’ she means it!”

On a serious note, Benson says, “It is an honor to be mentioned in the same breath with the true PR professionals nominated in this category. I’m proud to represent Governor Brewer, and am always mindful that my success is because of her.”

Cynical Kurt Davis, a founding partner in the firm FirstStrategic Communications & Public Affairs and a member of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, figures he was nominated “because someone wanted to force me to buy a table and sell tickets to the ‘Best of the Capitol’ event.”

Nominee David Leibowitz, founder of Leibowitz Solo, suggests that once again people have gotten him confused with Jason Rose. “That happens a lot,” he says.

Jason Rose, president of Rose+Moser+Allyn Public & Online Relations, says of PR, “This is a challenging business that requires innovation and edge to keep the phones ringing.”

Best PR Firm

Winner: R&R Partners
Nominees: Scutari & Cieslak, FirstStrategic Communications & Public Affairs, Gordon C. James Public Relations, Rose+Moser+Allyn Public & Online Relations

In the highly competitive field of public relations, winner R&R Partners has a knack for seeing the total landscape when it comes to approaching client challenges and communication needs.

“As a full-service agency, you will never see R&R approaching a client challenge from a single lens,” says Matt Silverman, vice president and managing director. “The public relations team’s 360-
degree approach has consistently helped build and protect brands time after time.

“From managing crisis communication campaigns to executing creative PR stunts, R&R is no one-trick pony,” he says. “We have lots of innovative strategies coupled with deep media relationships and a firm understanding of how we can tell stories to make news.”

Offering advice to anyone in the market for a PR firm, Silverman says, “Look for a trusted partner. The keyword being partner, where your ethics align and the firm has proven results. The agency should be looked at as an extension of your team.”

The firm declines to discuss its toughest challenges, citing confidentiality concerns. “You hire R&R for our discretion as well as expertise,” Silverman says. R&R gives “a shout out” to its team of professionals. “Without them,” he says, “we’re just four walls, and we like our walls filled with awesome, innovative people.”

Nominee FirstStrategic Communications & Public Affairs facetiously suggests that it was selected in the PR category because Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton wants to make sure Wes Gullett, the firm’s partner, is busy winning awards and won’t have time to run for mayor again.

Jason Rose of Rose+Moser+Allyn Public & Online Relations credits the firm’s range for its nomination — from “Amy’s Baking Company to producing America’s largest polo event, with quite a bit of politics sprinkled in between.”

Best Twitterer

PLUS: See the Best Twitterer nominees try stand up comedy (video)

Winner: Robbie Sherwood
Nominees: Rep. Ruben Gallego, Rep. Andy Tobin, Jason Rose, Barret Marson

Winner Robbie Sherwood, director of Arizona operations for Strategies 360, gives a frank assessment of why sending messages and quips at 140 characters at a time has been a successful and enjoyable platform for him.

“I’ve always been a nosy smart-ass who loves to gossip,” he says. “I’ve been really fortunate to find not just one job, but three where those qualities have not been (strongly) held against me. I think I was selected because I’m clearly having fun, and it’s a natural extension of what I’ve been doing since I was sitting in the back of kindergarten class making fart noises.”

He says while Twitter can be a quick way to get in trouble for politicos, he still believes there are more upsides if it is used properly. “It gives politicians a platform to inform, engage and listen to voters without a traditional mainstream media filter.

Those that do it well (Scott Smith, Katie Hobbs) clearly author their own tweets, which gives real and valuable insight into their personalities.”

Nominee Jason Rose says his Twitter followers likely enjoy his tweets, comprised of “business and political news and insight, salted with a little humor.”

As far as the opportunities and downfalls Twitter affords politicians, Rose names both successful use of the platform — by Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker — and failed use of the platform — by former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Rose adds that he believes that just about any “unfiltered branding opportunity is constructive, including for elected officials.”

When asked to identify his favorite three tweets so far in 2013, Rose revealed just how much he cares about his messages. “That’s like citing one of your children for similar recognition,” he says.

Best IE/Ballot Campaign

Winner: No on Prop. 204
Nominees: Building Arizona’s Future, No on Prop. 121 (Save Our Vote), Yes on Prop. 117, Yes on Prop. 119

The 2012 ballot Proposition 204 would have made permanent the state’s temporary 1-cent sales tax hike — passed by voters in 2010 as Prop. 100. As the results rolled in on Election Night, however, it was apparent early on that the No on Prop. 204 campaign had won the multi-million dollar battle. When all the votes were tallied, the no vote was at 65 percent. At the time, Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey, who led the No New Taxes, No on Prop. 204 campaign, said it was a good night for Arizona taxpayers and called his side’s argument “more persuasive.”

Ducey recalls the effort after he learned No on Prop. 204 was nominated for a “Best of” award. “The defeat of Proposition 204 was accomplished by building a broad and diverse coalition of opposition, raising the necessary resources to get out the message and educating voters about the consequences of Prop. 204,” he says.

He adds that for any ballot campaign to be successful, it needs an effective leader. “All campaigns need a strong leader to raise funds, mobilize grassroots organizations and educate voters.”

Tony Bradley, chairman of the Save Our Vote (No on Prop. 121) campaign, echoes Ducey’s assertion that a successful campaign needs a strong leader and to mobilize supporters.

“In order to be successful you cannot rely on people who simply support your position, you have to actually get people on the ground who are willing to do something about the issue,” he says. “The No on 121 campaign was able to build a coalition of diverse supporters and was able to give them the tools and messaging they needed.”

Ultimately, he says, successful campaigns have a plan to win. “If you don’t have a plan and if you don’t have the resources necessary to execute that plan, you will not be successful.”

Prop. 121, which would have changed Arizona’s primary elections to a top-two system, was defeated by 34 percentage points in 2012.

Best Grassroots Effort

Winner: Restoring Arizona
Nominees: No on Prop. 204, Team Awesome, No on Prop. 121 (Save Our Vote), The Rise of South Phoenix

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry-led Restoring Arizona committee, which advocated for Gov. Jan Brewer’s ultimately successful proposal to expand the state’s Medicaid program, was selected as the 2013 Best Grassroots Effort because it included a wide-ranging and bipartisan coalition of groups.

“It represented an unheard of coalition of Valley organizations including, but not limited to, the business community, the health care community, nonprofits and advocates,” says Anne DeGraw, a government affairs associate with Molera Alvarez. “It also supported a bi-partisan effort to bring health care to Arizona’s neediest populations.”

She says the key to success for any grassroots effort is getting people motivated and invested in the idea. “Gathering people who are willing to donate their time and resources to a cause that is greater than themselves or their organization is the most important component of any grassroots campaign,” DeGraw says.

Antonio Valdovinos, co-founder of nominee Team Awesome Arizona, says the volunteer group that encourages the Latino community to vote and become active in politics is being recognized for its work in getting Latinos elected in races in Phoenix, Glendale and Avondale.

He thanked team members’ families for supporting their efforts and said the group’s “sheer commitment to serve others who have made the decision within themselves to serve our communities” is why it has found success.

Tony Bradley, chairman of the Save Our Vote (No on Prop. 121) campaign, says despite being outspent, his effort truly was grassroots, in that he was able to tap into a huge grassroots network of people who were opposed to the measure, which would have changed Arizona’s primary elections to a top-two system.

“The No on 121 Committee was outspent by a margin of 3 to 1, yet we were able to tap into a huge grassroots network of people opposed to 121 to effectively get out our message,” he says.

The proposition, which counted politicians of all stripes as supporters, was defeated by 34 percentage points in 2012.

Best Candidate Campaign

Winner: Kyrsten Sinema for U.S. House
Nominees: Jeff Flake for U.S. Senate, Bob Worsley for Arizona Senate, T.J. Shope for Arizona House, Ethan Orr for Arizona House

U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s spokesman Rodd McLeod says the campaign faced back-to-back hurdles in 2012 — a competitive primary and a tough general election in a swing district. On top of that, the campaign had to overcome more than $3 million in negative TV ads, McLeod says.

“Under that pressure, we won our primary by ten percentage points and our general election by four,” McLeod says. “We did this by building on Sinema’s strong grassroots network, doing patient and careful outreach to voters across Maricopa County and staying disciplined.”

McLeod recalls that conventional wisdom throughout much of the race was that Sinema was not the right fit the district. “The truth is that she is the perfect fit for the district, because it is well-informed, highly educated, urban/suburban and politically thoughtful,” he says. “A successful campaign starts with a great candidate who really listens to people, cares about people, and can relate to them, McLeod says.

The Democratic congresswoman isn’t one to take breaks in the midst of a campaign, but during her congressional bid she completed three marathons and is currently training for her first triathlon.

Rep. T.J. Shope, a Republican from Coolidge, offers a couple of reasons why his campaign was nominated. “I’d like to think that it was because people really liked me going into the race.”

But, he says, the truth probably is that few people expected him to win in a district where Republicans were outnumbered by Democrats by 9 percentage points without running a single-shot campaign. Shope’s philosophy is to “treat everybody, even your opponents, with respect.”

Best After-hours Hangout

Winner: Durant’s
Nominees: Crescent Ballroom, Rose & Crown Pub, Angels Trumpet Ale House, Switch Restaurant & Wine Bar

Upon hearing her restaurant was nominated again for multiple categories in Best of the Capitol, Durant’s Owner and General Manager Carol McElroy gave credit to the long-standing establishment’s “discerning, great guests.”

She adds that the other nominees in the category show that Phoenix’s restaurant scene is diverse and alive. As far as her restaurant as an “after hours hangout,” she says “everyone needs to eat, drink, plan and plot.” And the annals of Arizona political history reveal that statement to be true.

Some lawmakers are also known to frequent nominee The Rose & Crown Pub, located on the corner of Adams and Seventh St. in downtown Phoenix. Wednesday night is popular as it is Team Trivia night, where teams compete for gift certificates to the bar. Also, on any given night, bartenders choose a random letter from the alphabet and write it on a chalkboard in the English pub’s lobby. Any patron whose last name begins with that letter gets one pint of beer for 25 cents.

Sharry Englehorn, owner of nominee Angels Trumpet Ale House, located on Second Street between Garfield and McKinley, revealed that while she appreciates the nomination, she doesn’t consider the establishment an “after hours” place and wished the other nominees the best of luck.

“We lock up at midnight and get heckled for it! We just want to keep this a fair vote and we wish well for the other nominees,” she says.

Best Place to Impress a Client

Winner: Durant’s
Nominees: Elements at Sanctuary, Capital Grille, The Arrogant Butcher, Gallo Blanco

Durant’s continues its dominance as the go-to place with Best of the Capitol voters, as it has once again been chosen as Best Place to Impress a Client. While complimenting all the nominees, Durant’s Owner and General Manager Carol McElroy chalks her restaurant’s dominance up to “consistently great service, privacy and discretion.”

And she isn’t joking about the “discretion” part. When asked whether anyone famous has ever bellied up to the bar or dined on one of the establishment’s fine steaks, McElroy simply replied “Everyone who comes to Durant’s is famous.” It is a fair assumption, however, that the 60-year-old restaurant with the famous back door entrance has seen its share of famous patrons.

Torri McFarland, restaurant sales manager with nominee The Capital Grille, suggests guests try a dry aged steak, which she promises has “outstanding flavor and tenderness” and reccomends pairing it with one of the restaurant’s 300 bottles of wine.

She says the establishment strives to provide exemplary service, consistently great food and that the staff “desires to go above and beyond to ensure a perfect and gracious dining experience.”
And when diners depart, the staff hopes they have had an all-
encompassing great time. We strive for each guest to remember their experience with a smile, warm heart and a satisfied appetite,” McFarland says.

Nominee Elements at Sanctuary invites guests to enjoy not only the Asian-inspired menu from Food Network celebrity and Executive Chef Beau MacMillan, but “world-class service” and “spectacular scenery” through floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides of the restaurant.

For the more epicurean guests, she suggests the restaurant’s private dining room XII, which features views directly inside the kitchen. With an insider’s view, diners can see how the restaurant’s Ahi tuna tartare, wild escargot and honshimeji spring roll or mustard-crusted Colorado rack of lamb is prepared.

“Elements takes the guesswork out of impressing clients,” says Alison Bontrager, the resort’s PR & marketing coordinator.

Best Capitol Lawn Event

Winner: SRP Day at the Capitol
Nominees: Arizona Food Marketing Alliance Day at the Capitol, Arizona Pipe Trades 469 Annual Lunch on the Lawn, Arizona Game and Fish Department Day at the Capitol, Arizona Association of Realtors Ice Cream Social

For many reasons, the Salt River Project’s Day at the Capitol has become the highlight event of the legislative session.

It provides legislators and their entire staff, including security, custodians and interns, with an opportunity to learn how SRP benefits Arizona’s economy, says J. Manny Tarango. “The event also offers hands-on educational booths featuring information on reducing utility costs, traditional and fossil fuel resource features, and opportunities for participants to take a picture overlooking Roosevelt Dam or with a real, live bald eagle,” Tarango says.

The event includes a brief formal program and great food, says Tarango.

The secret to staging a successful, well-attended event on the Capitol lawn, says Tarango, is that SRP invites the entire legislative staff and offers personal touches. “We are lucky that we have a built-in following and the event reputation speaks for itself,” he says.

The Capitol event, which SRP has been putting on for 15 years, illustrates the “operational aspects of SRP as a low-cost and reliable power and water provider to ensure a sustainable future for Arizona,” Tarango says.

Arizona Food Marketing Alliance Day at the Capitol, which the AFMA has been hosting for nearly 20 years, features exhibitors from major grocery chains and convenience store operators who provide a nutritious luncheon.

Arizona Pipe Trades 469 Annual Lunch on the Lawn is considered one of the more relaxed events where elected officials can casually mingle with constituents. The event provides promotional materials to educate lawmakers about private construction trade labor organizations.

Arizona Association of Realtors Ice Cream Social enables Realtors to increase their understanding of the Arizona political landscape, and as a result, directly save homeowners money.

Best Awards Event

Winner: Arizona Kidney Foundation’s Dancing with the Stars
Nominees: Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry Heritage Awards, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s Athena Awards, Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts’ Governor’s Arts Awards, Valle Del Sol Profiles of Success

Featuring a lineup of political luminaries, winner Dancing with the Stars Arizona 2013 was an odds-on favorite in this category.

Stellar performers Sen. Robert Meza, Sen. Michele Reagan, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, Surprise Mayor Sharon Wolcott, Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot, and Kelly Dalton, deputy chief of staff to Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, supported the event and the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona.

Gail Gilmartin, the foundation’s director of special events, says the most important factor in staging a successful awards event is communication with the participants.

“Allowing the ‘Celebrity Star Dancers’ to know what our expectations of them were going into the event, what their personal time and financial commitments would be and most of all, how the community would benefit from their hard work,” Gilmartin says.

This year’s event was the highest attended in the seven years of its existence.

Catherine “Rusty” Foley, executive director of nominee Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts’ Governor’s Arts Awards, says the reason the event has been successful for 32 years is “the quality of the award recipients and the degree to which they represent the best in their field.”

Nominee Valle Del Sol Profiles of Success is a statewide recognition event that honors Latino champions for their advocacy, leadership and service to community, says Carlos Galindo-Elvira, chief development officer of the organization.

Katie Whitchurch, vice president of corporate relations for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says the nominated Heritage Awards dinner honors a distinguished individual whose accomplishments and commitment to Arizona are recognized statewide, nationally and internationally. This year’s honoree was Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Alice Cooper.

Best Cocktail Party

Winner: Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Governor’s Reception and Legislative Kickoff
Nominees: Politics on the Rocks, Veridus Purple Party, Rural/Metro Ambulance Reception at the Ritz Carlton, “Men of Emerge” at Copper Blues

Katie Campana of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce says that the time of year the organization’s Governor’s Reception and Legislative Kickoff is held may play a part in why the event was chosen as Best Cocktail Party.

“It’s the best time for the business community and Legislature,” she says. “It’s the time when the slate is clean and they are all friends, or at least friendly.”

She cites ample parking and easy access to the bar as the keys to staging a successful event. She touts her event as also having a great mix of guests, including business leaders, lawmakers and, of course, the governor.

Sharon Hossler, of Veridus, says the firm’s Election Night Purple Party is the “ultimate pre-party” for guests of all political stripes to display how much they know — or don’t — about how a particular race might shake out once the polls are finally closed.

“The Veridus Purple Party has become the place to mix and mingle for banner carriers from both sides of the aisle as the polls close each election,” she says. “It is the place to share that last tidbit of polling information or publicly proclaim that final prediction.”

She also claims, in jest, that the exclusivity of the event is enough to make it a winner with “Best of” voters.

“Other than having the best cocktails and the most titillating conversation, it is the exclusivity of the Veridus Purple Party that should put us over the top. With only 100,000 invites issued, it is very difficult to secure one,” she adds.

As the name of the event indicates, Veridus does its best to occupy the middle of the road politically. “Veridus prides itself at being at the crossroads of left and right and there is no better place to celebrate this than at the Veridus Purple Party,” Hossler says. “Our nomination is an honor.”

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