You may not have celebrated Arizona Leafy Greens Month last November. Or Jewish Sports Heritage Month in April. Or Medical Billers Day on March 30.
But the state of Arizona recognized all of them, plus many hundreds more, in the past year, partly out of tradition and as a way to engage directly with the public.
It’s not just names and numbers on a page, but real people who care deeply about the issue or person they’re seeking recognition for, said Laddie Shane, Gov. Doug Ducey’s director of constituent engagement.
“The governor is really big about showing what’s great about Arizona. … We are recognizing something about Arizona or recognizing people that are working hard on a cause,” Shane said.
Proclamations and special recognitions comprise a major part of the gubernatorial constituent services operation, for both the Ducey administration and those that came before it.
A summary of special recognitions from Ducey’s office shows more than 500 different groups or individuals were officially recognized by the Governor’s Office from May 2016 to May 2017.
They range from awareness months for some of the rarest and most devastating diseases – like Rett syndrome, a rare genetic mutation affecting brain development in girls, and neuromyelitis optica, a chronic disorder of nerve tissue — to recognition of notable Arizonans, visiting conferences, businesses, government workers and underappreciated professions.
Among the topics that were officially recognized by Ducey’s office in the past year: beer, Canada, diapers, pollinators, patriotism, Valley Fever, cowboy poetry (twice), the Golden Rule, tow truck drivers, Don Bolles, stepfamilies, lawn bowling, pressure injuries, and the tallest Christmas tree in Arizona.
Special recognitions have increased slightly under the Ducey administration, up from 2,776 in 2013, former Gov. Jan Brewer’s last year in office, to more than 3,000 in 2016.
Sometimes, the recognition includes events or a broader public effort. For Jimmie Johnson Day on February 16, Ducey rode with the NASCAR driver around the Capitol grounds and spun out in front of the Executive Tower.
The governor recognized James Van Dyne for donating blood 600 times by declaring a week in September 2016 as Arizona Blood Donation Week. According to news reports at the time, Van Dyne has donated blood for 30 years and is the top donor of blood in the state.
For the majority of recognitions, someone from the general public writes in to request the Governor’s Office give them a proclamation or commendation, according to Shane. The Governor’s Office rarely, if ever, denies a request, instead preferring to work with a person or group to find the type of recognition that fits their needs, he said.
The guidelines for special recognition are laid out on the governor’s website. Proclamations are for Arizona residents or nonprofits, never for-profit groups. They should have a statewide or regional tie. They shouldn’t duplicate similar ideas, so a specific topic or issue won’t be recognized multiple times per year.
Depending on the issue, an organization or person may get a day, several days, a week, multiple weeks or a month. A requester will specify what time they want their issue recognized, and the Governor’s Office also considers how timing coincides with national or other states’ efforts on similar topics, Shane said.
For a personal commendation request, the Governor’s Office asks that people be at least 70 if they want their birthday recognized, and that they be married at least 25 years for anniversaries.
The Ducey administration started another type of recognition by sending commendations to new restaurants when they open in Arizona, Shane said. It’s another way for the governor to recognize Arizonans who are doing business here, Shane said.
The various recognitions often overlap, making some days extra super-special.
For instance, on January 14, the state recognized five different occasions: the 27th Annual Tucson Association of Realtors Shootout, the Maricopa County Home Show’s 25th Anniversary, Arizona Concours d’Elegance, Health for Humanity Yogathon and Joseph Joaquin’s retirement.
On top of that, the whole month of January was proclaimed as four different special months recognizing birth defects prevention, human trafficking awareness, family prayer and cervical health awareness.
April was the most popular month for month-long recognitions with 23 proclamations, including safe digging, invasive plants, child abuse prevention, limb loss, adults learning to swim, landscape architecture, sexual assault awareness, county government, parliamentary law, fair housing, autism awareness, Parkinson’s awareness and “business credit management awareness and appreciation.” April really spread awareness around.
Meanwhile, December was just — December. No proclamations needed to make the holiday-est month special, it seems. Most people are spending time with their families in December, so the Governor’s Office doesn’t get a lot of requests at that time, Shane said.
Chuck Coughlin, a Republican consultant who worked in former Gov. Fife Symington’s administration, said the proclamations can also serve as a way for industries to get media attention in a non-controversial way.
In the past decade or so, “it has become more fashionable for industry groups to use such proclamations to promote their products,” Coughlin said.
Matthew Benson, who worked as former Governor Brewer’s spokesman, said the gubernatorial proclamations can range from lighthearted to serious, but they all matter to someone.
“They matter to the organization or the group that’s bringing them forward,” Benson said. “What most of them have in common is that they’re trying to shine a light on an issue.”
An overwhelming amount of requests come into the Governor’s Office, so vetting the requests can be time-consuming, but it’s an important function of constituent services, Benson said.
“It’s a relatively painless way for the governor to show these folks that they matter and that their issue matters,” he said.