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Cheyenne Walsh: Discussing horses saved her, led to lobbyist career

Cheyenne Walsh

Cheyenne Walsh

Cheyenne Walsh loves her horses more than anything. They keep her grounded and remind her of growing up in Vail, a town southeast of Tucson.

After school, she’d sit quietly and furiously finish her homework on the 30-mile bus ride back home so she could ride her horses until sunset. Walsh cared for them and other animals so much that she almost went to veterinarian school, but that was before biochemistry and calculus got in the way.

Now, Walsh wrangles decision-makers, not horses. The 36-year-old attorney embraced change and pursued her interest in politics and law, something she loved almost as much as her horses.

After 15 sessions at the Legislature, Walsh is starting her own lobbying firm, Cheyenne Walsh PLC, where she will represent clients who need help pushing tax, privacy, transportation and a range of environmental issues, especially water policy.

Interestingly, as someone who depends on structure and planning to balance everything, Walsh got involved in politics by accident.

After finishing her animal science undergrad at the University of Arizona a semester early, she was looking for an opportunity. She saw an ad that the Legislature was looking for interns for the coming session and she applied.

Walsh went through a rigorous interview process. A successful initial interview in Tucson led her to the second round, a group interview in the basement of the Capitol.

It was Walsh’s first time at the Capitol but she tried not to be overwhelmed. She and 30 other young contenders ringed a large wooden table, with sharp-dressed staffers at the head firing questions at the group and nitpicking answers.

Walsh was asked a question she felt she wasn’t prepared for, stumbled through her answer, hoping her concoction of words would have some kind of meaning. Kathy Knox, then a research analyst for the House, interrupted her and asked her a question that caught her off guard.

“She said, ‘Hold on, I have a question for you – tell me about your horse,’” Walsh said. “First I was like, how did she know I owned a horse, I must have had something on my resume. But she wanted to calm me down – talk about something you understand and you know and you’re confident about – and I swear, to this day, she saved my bacon.”

Had Knox not bailed her out and had she not earned that internship, Walsh said she doesn’t know what she would have done. Walsh may have been lucky, but she was put to work and had to hit the ground running. She was a research staffer on both the Government and Transportation committees, two of the busiest panels.

It was hard work she may not have been fully prepared for, she said. But she did it, built character and learned some lessons, including one she keeps with her today: grit can take you anywhere – it’s something she’s proud of and something she looks for in other people.

“I do tend to have a soft spot for people who’ve kind of clawed their way up – do it the hard way, pay for school yourself, work while you’re going to school,” Walsh said. “I think people who can balance a job and school and, well, life, tend to be very good employees who take their job seriously and want to do it well.”

Walsh would know – she has earned recognition from her grit alone, including a handful of awards for being a young and effective lobbyist. She has taken what she can get and her accomplishments have had a snowball effect, accumulating opportunities and advantages that have propelled her to where she is now and where she hopes to go.

Now, juggling almost a dozen clients from a range of disciplines alone is nothing. After all, she said, she’d rather be busy than have no work.

Her biggest and most lucrative topic of interest is water policy.

The fight over who gets what water, Walsh said, is and will continue to be one of the most important issues at the Capitol. To her, it’s anything but a dry topic. She represented Central Arizona Project during the months-long delicate negotiations that went into the interstate Drought Contingency Plan.

When those terms are up for negotiation again in 2026, Walsh expects to dive right back into it. Until then, she’s representing the Pinal County Water Augmentation Authority, one of many stakeholders deciding how to better distribute and use groundwater and surface water throughout the county.

Walsh is handling almost a dozen clients out of her office – her living room. When session rolls around, she may bring someone else on board, but for now she’s enjoying having full control and thrives under pressure.

There are countless firms and lobbyists who promise success for their clients, but Walsh says she offers something nobody else can: herself and her work ethic. Beyond that, there are fewer people, Walsh said, who understand the law that goes into intricate things like environmental policy and the consequences and benefits that changes in statute can bring.

“There’s a niche market for the lawyer lobbyists who have good relationships and the ability to get policy accomplished for their clients, who is also well-regarded, ethical and fair,” Walsh said.

“I always hate saying that because it sounds like nobody else is. But Arizona is growing and there’s more interest than ever in participating in our public policy discussions. I think there’s plenty of work to go around and new interesting issues to work on.”

Walsh, who also worked with the law firm Isaacson & Walsh, said she has many people to thank in her career thus far, including one of her mentors, Jeff Kros general counsel and public affairs consultant for HighGround. Kros was the legislative director for the League of Arizona Cities and Town and took Walsh under his wing. That was her first lobbying gig, before she went off to law school.

She was filling the spot of someone who had just quit and felt she was just a junior lobbyist getting her start, but Kros saw potential immediately.

“She was, is, incredibly smart – I think I realized early on that she was smarter than I was, which was very enjoyable to mentor somebody like that,” Kros said. “She was eager to learn. She wasn’t like a know-it-all. But what struck me was her humility and the way she treated people.”

Kros and Walsh spent long and late hours working together to push for complex policies for many different clients. Those were formative times for Walsh, Kros said, and were filled with teachable moments that exposed her to the realities of lobbying.

He once started his own law firm and had to do much of the same legwork Walsh is doing now to jumpstart her new venture. But, he’s confident that the lessons she learned early on will serve her well.

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