Stacy Pearson used to ask the questions and now she prepares how to answer them.
The senior vice president at Strategies 360 was a reporter before eventually jumping to “the dark side,” where she now works to get initiatives on the ballot. She used to cover education and said it’s depressing how little has changed since then.
She is currently running the campaigns for Smart and Safe Arizona, Invest in Education and Second Chances, Rehabilitation and Public Safety, but she still manages to find time to watch her daughter play beach volleyball and participate in a “mom’s who write class,” which she says is therapeutic.
Originally from Chicago, she has a White Sox hat hanging up in the corner of her downtown Phoenix office and loves to talk about Chicago food, just as long as that food is not deep dish pizza.
Pearson sat down with Arizona Capitol Times to discuss reporting and being married to a police officer while trying to get recreational marijuana legalized.
Are you from Chicago?
Originally yeah, but I’ve been here since I was three.
Are you a deep dish fan?
Thin crust. Definitely thin crust … we are a thin crust family. It’s like a religion.
Outside of the White Sox, are there aspects of Chicago you miss?
The ethnic food. … Any possible type of cuisine you can find in Chicago, and it’s really good.
You used to be a reporter.
I was, yes. A journalism grad. I went to ASU. Then I worked at the West Valley View, which was a really good experience. You’d be amazed at how angry people get when their free newspaper wasn’t dropped off at the time. It was really, really interesting
What made you want to jump to the dark side?
Hilariously, this totally dates me, but I was doing a story on kids that had gotten tangled up with Napster and I was sitting across from this crusty central casting curmudgeon journalist who had retired from the Philadelphia Inquirer named Bruce, and he’s staring … and, of course, I’m late past deadline, but he’s glaring at me. I’m finally like, “Bruce, what?” And he was like “the definition of irony. You’re about to give away a story for free about the music industry no longer giving away music for free.” And there’s this minute where I’m like “Oh, no, I’m wasting my life. What am I doing?” So then shortly thereafter, I got a job at the State Tourism Office, which was really fun.
Did you report on a specific beat?
Education and military affairs, which ironically, I have no military experience. And it was a time when F16s were falling out of the sky. There were like nine crashes in a year or two years, something like that. So I think the Air Force Base got very lucky in how little I knew, or the questions I thought to ask about what was happening out there.
So as someone who once covered education and now deals with it in your current job via initiatives or what have you, what have you noticed has improved since you were reporting on it? Or has nothing improved since then?
So I think that’s probably the most depressing part is it is really the same issues that I was covering which at that time were failing infrastructure at schools, it was the Students FIRST time when they were looking at ways to make funding more equitable. It’s all still the same and we still have infrastructure needs. We still have class sizes that are too large. We have recruitment and retention issues in the profession. A lot of this is exactly what was being discussed then. I think the difference though, the charter schools were just in their infancy. So we’ve certainly cycled through good ones and great ones and ones that didn’t make it. So it’s been interesting to watch that unfold.
Since you jumped into the PR world, what are some of the biggest differences you can appreciate more now being on that side of the aisle?
I think one of the most interesting things is you always knew as a reporter, people were organizing a way not to call you back. I didn’t realize it was that coordinated. … I mean, there are meetings about calls, about questions, and trying to get clients and campaigns as prepared as possible for questions reporters have. There’s a lot of work going on in the back end.
What is it like going from asking those questions to preparing how to answer them?
It totally depends on which journalist, but there are a handful of journalists in the market that when they call you know you’re in trouble Like Robert Anglen, for example at The Arizona Republic. If Robert’s calling and asking questions about anything, he already has the answers. … It really depends on the reporter and what the story is, but I think we’ve got a pretty incredible amount of talent in the market, in journalism, across the board.
Are there certain reporters who you feel like constantly get things wrong or they’re just out to get you?
We’ve been really lucky. I haven’t had any adversarial relationships with reporters. I mean, I understand the job that they’re trying to do and I think I have the reputation that I don’t BS reporters. If there’s something that I don’t want to talk about, I can say that “Hey, we’re not going to discuss that.” … There’s no point in misleading if we’re all stuck here on this planet together.
You used to work for Jason Rose, who is a bit of a crisis management specialist. What are some of the worst things you’ve heard people say to the media that you would have advised against?
I think anytime a legislator claims legislative immunity, things are going off the rails. Something very bad has just happened. Legislative immunity is probably the worst one.
Have you ever considered running for office?
No, I never considered running for office. I lost for the freshman class president in 1991 and I really never recovered. I’ll never do that again.
You’re married to a cop. What’s it like working on the push to legalize adult-use marijuana, how does that dynamic work? Do you ever take work home with you?
My husband’s the president of the Mesa Police Association. We’ve got a couple of lines that we have crossed this cycle. Marijuana being one and criminal justice being another. I do take that work home and our daughter is going to be 18 in October so this is going to be the first election she can vote in, which is gonna be really interesting. But yeah, my husband’s been a street crimes sergeant for about 17 years now, so it’s been interesting. He doesn’t spend a whole lot of time dealing with marijuana arrests anymore. I mean, he spends a ton of time with fentanyl and some of the more lethal drugs that everybody sees today.
If there was a movie made about Arizona politics, what would the story be?
I think [former Sheriff Joe] Arpaio’s Weekend at Bernie’s run would be really, really interesting to watch. I’m pretty sure he’s reverse aging so I don’t know what’s happening there, but I think that would be really interesting.