Oujournalist’s Blog

The blog of a freelancing journalist in Arizona

Phoenix Business Journal profiles of Women in Public Policy December 12, 2011

Filed under: businesss — Candace Hughes @ 5:49 pm

Women in public policy

Non profits

Cathi Herrod, Center for Arizona Policy president

Cathi Herrod, who recently assumed the president’s role at the Center for Arizona Policy, said her biggest challenge is communicating how issues affect the daily lives of families.

“What goes on at the Arizona Capitol and in Washington D.C. impacts our lives each and every day,” said Herrod, who is an attorney.

“For example, at the closing of the election season it’s important for people to understand how critical it is for each individual to participate in the process, especially when we see low voter turnout and confusion over how to register to vote,” she explained.

Herrod became involved in public policy due to concerns about her children, now ages 21 and 17. “Social issues such as abortion and marriage affect the world our children are going to be in,” she said.

Herrod served as the spokesperson for the Yes on 107 Protect Marriage Coalition. While similar measures passed in some states, the concept was voted down in Arizona earlier this month.

In addition, she has worked with the state Legislature to pass a law requiring parental consent before a minor could have an abortion.

“It’s a very critical medical decision in our daughters’ lives – especially in such a life-changing decision as to whether to have an abortion,” she emphasized.

Her deepest concern for Arizona is the reluctance of the state to regulate abortion.

“We need to protect women from the harms of abortion and to protect the lives of their unborn children. How we regard the sanctity of human life is my No. 1 concern. If we have no regard for this we won’t survive as a society for long,” she emphasized.

Herrod has been in the field of public policy for 20 years and counts three national-level authors, commentators and talk show hosts as her mentors.

They are: Beverly LaHaye, Janet Parshall and Jane Chastain. “They are women who have greatly shaped my thoughts and they are making a difference by speaking out on issues,” Herrod said.

She started her full-time role as president of the Center for Arizona Policy in August after a period of reflection. “Balance is always is always a challenge,” she said of her new position with the organization related to Focus on the Family.

Marie Sullivan, Arizona Women’s Education and Employment Inc. president and CEO

Marie Sullivan is watched by women and girls in her job as president and chief executive officer of Arizona Women’s Education and Employment Inc., a fact that surprised her after years of public service.

She said she continues to be amazed that a girl told Sullivan she was her hero and was writing a biography on her as a school board member. “I had no clue that she had written a paper about me or come to a school board meeting. You find that you’re a mentor and you’re not consciously in that mode,” she said

Sullivan, who started her public service role on the Madison Elementary School Board, said in a telephone interview that her education work is the proudest accomplishment in her career. “I felt I was working on a direct public policy level changing the lives of children,” she exclaimed.

While Sullivan serves as a mentor, she also has sources of her own inspiration.

“My 18-year-old daughter, who’s in her first year of college, is my mentor as I have watched her emerge as a young woman with a strength and personal character I wished I had when I was younger.

“She has lived the power of her convictions at an early age and transferred those into action,” Sullivan said.

Women seen at AWEE every day are collectively mentors, Sullivan added.

“They really exhibit personal courage in overcoming desperation and struggling with barriers whether it is addictions or other problems to get to the other side. While some may falter, many are still able to pick themselves up.”

Sullivan encourages other women to enter public service. “We need more women wanting to be engaged in the process,” but they must be aware they will be attacked.

“I tell them to examine how much they can take and be true to their values and convictions and to be open to learning. They shouldn’t be acting out of self-service, but out of the greater good.

“Women do bring a combination of values to the table that can counterpoint or blend with more strident views,” Sullivan says. “I also add: Enjoy the ride,” she quipped.


Bonnie Saunders, Arizona League of Women Voters president

Helping the nonpartisan League of Women Voters reach a consensus on issues is the most difficult part of Bonnie Saunders’ job as president of the state league.

“We’re nonpartisan, but we do have people with very strong partisan views. We’re all biased and we may not know it, but my job is to make sure they don’t contaminate the league,” said Saunders, an adjunct history professor at Glendale Community College.

The league doesn’t endorse candidates, but studies all sides of an issue and then reaches a consensus for a position on the topic.

“The process is very detailed and it’s a good process,” she said of the organization’s effort to continue its founding purpose of educating voters.

She has been working on informing voters about civil liberties and the U.S. Constitution. “People need to know about the separation of powers and the three branches of government and the Bill of Rights.

“People are too interested in the scandals and not in what’s important. We’re trying to promote understanding,” she added.

Saunders, who doesn’t like partisan politics, said she used the mute button during the recent election. “I don’t like the nasty ads and I won’t listen to the political ads because they’ve gotten so horrible.

“I’m really interested in public issues and I’m passionate about history and politics,” said Saunders, who is a resident of Surprise and writes a column on unconventional Arizona women for the Daily News-Sun.

She has studied Mary Jane Coulter, an architect, and Sharlot Hall, Arizona’s first state historian. She’s also written about Nellie Bush, a teacher, lawyer, airplane and river boat pilot and state legislator.

Saunders said in a telephone interview that her proudest accomplishment is her doctorate in U.S. history.

“I got it after seven years. It was hard work in terms of courses, research, writing and traveling. But all of that comes together.” However, she credits the league with expanding her knowledge and giving her the encouragement to get the degree.

Carolyn Warner, National Committeewoman – Arizona Democratic Party

Education and the ability of students to find work in the world market is Carolyn Warner’s greatest concern about Arizona.

“Our ability to compete for 21st Century jobs is difficult with the 19th century mentality of the legislature,” said Warner, a former state superintendent of public instruction.

“Arizona must stop talking about California vs. Arizona or us against other states and move toward thinking of Arizona in measures of it’s the United States vs. the world,” she said.

“At the moment, Arizona’s not competing. We have a lot of good things going for us such as a new research institute and Arizona State University moving downtown.

“All of these things are good, but we need more and need them faster,” she emphasized in a telephone interview.

The hardest part of her job with the political party is the organization of free-thinking Democrats. “It’s like herding cats,” she quipped.

“The time commitment is difficult, but I do it gladly. You run for this position and I knew the responsibilities when I decided to do this,” she said, adding that two other national committee members assist in the work.

Warner, who started as a local school board member, described her educational work as the best accomplishment of her career.

“I am proudest of serving students, educators and taxpayers for 12 years as state superintendent and I also had the opportunity of serving on the state Community College Governing Board and the Board of Regents,” she added.

The daughter of a mother who raised a family on a teacher’s salary after her husband died, Warner said she converted the state Department of Education into a service agency.

She emphasized that she increased the involvement of business and industry bringing the Jobs for Arizona Graduates program to the state.

Warner, who lost in a three-way race for governor, said she followed her grandmother’s advice not to take defeat personally. “At least you’ve been in the race,” she said.

Now the owner of Corporate Education Consulting, Warner said women entering politics should be prepared to “work hard, underpromise and overperform. I also tell them to listen.”

In December she will be hosting a group of mayors from the Ukraine who will visit an elementary school near the Grand Canyon, meet with Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and study neighborhoods to learn more about democracy.

Sharon Giese, National Committeewoman – Arizona Republican Party

Continuing the effort to get Republicans elected until there is a veto proof state Legislature is Sharon Giese’s first priority as the Arizona GOP’s national committeewoman.

In a telephone interview, Giese said the proudest accomplishment of her career is representing the Republican Party as national committeewoman since 2004.

“I really enjoy so much traveling around the state. Although the time constraints are the most difficult part of the job, I have a great time, lots of support and I find it very rewarding.”

One of the possible duties of her job would be to appoint a candidate to run if the party’s chosen nominee for an office becomes unable to serve between the primary and general election, Giese said.

She said she has chosen politics due to its importance to the country’s future.

“As a parent and grandparent I have some small input in making this a better place. I have done a lot of traveling in Greece and Africa and it makes you so proud to be part of this country. If I can be of service in some small way, then I am pleased to do it,” she added.

Giese’s mentor has been Mesa Republican Lela Steffey. Giese was Steffey’s campaign manager in 1981 when Steffey ran for the state House of Representatives. She added that she has had many friends who have been helpful and kind.

“My best advice for women entering politics is to find a consensus. No one really told me that but it became one of my strongest points. “We all have to learn to get along together,” she added.

Giese said there is a place for everyone in the Republican Party, but particularly for young women.

In addition to her work with the national Republican Party, she also serves on the National Federation of Republican Women Board of Directors and is a member of the Republican Women’s Coalition National Advisory Committee.

She also is a registered parliamentarian and is vice president and finance chairman for the Arizona State Association of Parliamentarians. She was president of the Arizona Federation of Republican Women from 1992-1993 and president of Mesa Republican Women in 1983.


Victoria Cummiskey, Commissioner, Arizona Commission on the Arts

Discovering that it takes only one person to make a difference inspires Victoria Cummiskey, a member of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, to continue in the public policy arena.

Cummiskey is currently involved in chairing the American Masterpieces grants panel for the Arizona Commission on the Arts. It’s part of the National Endowment for the Arts initiative launched last year to support American masters and 2006 is the program’s pilot year in Arizona.

“The initiative seeks to ensure that all Arizona citizens have access to America’s greatest cultural legacies.”

“My work at SRP in government relations exposed me to the public policy arena,” she added. Her proudest professional accomplishment is overseeing a program that helps other countries learn how SRP manages water and power.

Cummiskey said her number one concern regarding Arizona’s future is the improvement of schools in her neighborhood and across the state. She and her husband Chris have three young children and the years of tighter budgets have brought concerns about cutbacks until some schools have no arts programs.

The most difficult part of her life is managing the time and priorities for community involvement with her position as SRP international relations public affairs representative.

She continues her public policy work after following the advice of a newspaper columnist that at the end of the day, the most important aspect of one’s life should always be family. Cummiskey uses the recommendation made by Richard DeUriarte, an Arizona Republic opinion writer.

Women interested in public service should know that this work is not for the faint of heart, Cummiskey said in an e-mail interview. “You need to be armed with good ideas and a thick skin.”

She also serves on the Arizona Character Education Foundation as SRP prepares to host 1,000 children from kindergarten to twelfth grade in the annual Character Celebration Event. It recognizes students who have participated in character education training.

Anne I Woosley, Ph.D., Arizona Historical Society executive director

Arizona shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of growing smart, said Anne I. Woosley, Ph.D., executive director of the Arizona Historical Society, explaining that Arizona should protect its natural resources of beauty which draw people to the state.

“I would hope that we continue to preserve what we have and that we don’t spoil things with ill-advised development. We want to continue to be able to offer people the kinds of services that make this a good place to live,” Woosley explained by telephone.

Her current projects include working with the city of Tucson on the Rio Nuevo revitalization project, helping write an Arizona history textbook for fourth graders and assisting Yuma in the restoration one of the oldest buildings in the state as well as establishing a community museum.

The best advice she has ever received involves listening to others and this coordinates with the most difficult part of her job, Woosley said. “I was told by my mentor not to be afraid to be thoughtful and listen to the people around you, but also not to be afraid to make the decision and to be a leader,” she added.

Her mentor, Emil Haury, former chairman of the University of Arizona Department of Anthropology, encouraged her to come to Arizona after joint work on a field program while she was an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University.

“I was a beginning academic and he and I just clicked and he gave me all sorts of good advice,” she continued. As part of her current position, interaction and communication with her governing board, chapter societies, advisory groups and volunteers is essential to success.

She believes that public policy is very challenging and rewarding. “We serve the public in terms of promoting public history and promoting public education.”

At the same time, public service has a measure of frustration, she warned. “It means working in a complex environment with complicated procedures and policies that can slow down decision making, but it’s just part of the environment. You must be able to navigate in a sometimes frustrating situation.”

The most difficult part of her job involves providing constituents with “the level of services we’d like and with what they deserve whether it’s programs or being able to have access to all of the vast historical resources available to them.”


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