Artists and entrepreneurs. Athletes and activists. Legends and legends in the making. Find them all in this across-the-board salute to the 48 most influential people living in the Valley today. They’re the toast of Arizona – our inaugural Great 48.
By Keridwen Cornelius, Jessica Dunham, Cody Fitzpatrick, Marilyn Hawkes, Jason Keil & Craig Outhier | Photography by Camerawerks
Introducing the Great 48 class of 2019.
We think you’ll agree: They’re a dynamic group of Phoenicians.
In February 2019, we began soliciting our subscribers and social media followers to nominate Valley residents who are “moving the chains, making a difference or otherwise crushing it” in the realms of business, sports, the arts, media, philanthropy, politics, et al.
We had three criteria:
1. Candidates must live at least part of the year in Maricopa County.
2. Candidates must demonstrate “brilliance or exceptional accomplishment in their field.”
3. Candidates must avail themselves to a brief interview and photo session.
* From more than 300 nominations, PHOENIX editors culled their favorites and added their own nominees, ranking their favorites in several broad fields (e.g. law/politics, the arts, etc.). A final list of Great 48 inductees was drawn up (actually slightly more than 48, since we grouped some colleagues into collective “spots”). Enjoy getting to know them. We did.
Great 48 Data
Over the course of interviewing our Great 48 inductees, we collected basic, standardized information about their origins, education and backgrounds. Before we meet them, let’s crunch the data.
Kareem Neal, 44
Special Education Teacher, Maryvale High School
After earning the state’s top honor for educators – 2019 Arizona Teacher of the Year – Kareem Neal is a bit of a celebrity at school events. But what about outside the teaching community? “I’m 6-foot-7, so people always think I’m a basketball player,” he says. “When they find out I’m a teacher, they’re disappointed.” They shouldn’t be. Neal’s 22-year career focuses on special education, specifically helping students with cognitive delays become independent. His commitment to the learning needs and social development of his students extends beyond the classroom, calling attention to how special-needs students enrich communities both on campus and off. “These kids bring authenticity. At a pep rally, they’re the first ones dancing. At a concert, they’re the first ones clapping. They show us that when we step outside of our comfort zone, we can connect with anyone.”
First music concert attended: Fresh Fest ’84 with Run-DMC, Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys and Whodini
THE HIGHER LEARNING WHIZ
In 2001, I led the search committee that hired Michael Crow as the president of Arizona State University. We were looking for bold leadership from someone who saw Arizona’s challenges and opportunities, and who had a vision for how higher education could serve the entire state. We got what we were looking for and so much more. At ASU, Crow built a university that takes fundamental responsibility its students and Arizona’s communities. This should not be glossed over: There are few other universities that have so successfully adopted a mission of access, excellence and impact. ASU has tripled the number of first-generation students attending the university, improved the four-year graduation rate by 85 percent and increased research activity by a factor of five – all huge boosts to the state’s economy. Arizonans are justifiably proud of the paradigm-shifting university that is right in our backyard. I’m proud to have had a small role in bringing Crow to our great state.
AS TOLD BY
Former Arizona Board of Regents member Don Ulrich
The People’s Entrepreneurs
Talk about working the crowd. This selection of self-starters registered the most reader nominations of all our Great 48 nominees.
Susan Ginsberg, 53
Founder and Owner, Stop and Breathe
Thanks to the mainstreaming of mental health care, more people are aware of their anxiety than ever before – and are seeking healthy ways to alleviate it. Susan Ginsberg uses breathing techniques at her Scottsdale business Stop and Breathe to help people manage their stress and be more present in their lives. Her soothing voice has been like an angel on the shoulder of a patient going through exhausting cancer treatment or a victim of a traumatic car accident. The former yoga instructor has even performed group sessions for clients ranging from tense corporate executives to Marines who have PTSD. As clichéd as it sounds, she says she learns more from listening to those she teaches than they do from her. “Some of my clients have faced serious illnesses and challenges,” Ginsberg says. “Seeing them in those situations has really put perspective in my life.”
As a child, the mother of two wanted to be “a maid like Hazel or a tollbooth operator.”
Leeann Dearing & Michelle Fortin, 35 & 42
Viral Comedy Duo
Phoenix-based comedy duo Leeann & Michelle make parody music videos for Facebook and YouTube, but not the kind people expect. As a refreshing break from the crass humor now ubiquitous online, the Valley moms delightfully satirize issues that specifically affect women. For example, their video “If You’re My Friend Then You’ll Buy This” is a Coldplay parody poking fun at multilevel marketing companies. It amassed more than 5 million views on Facebook. But going viral isn’t the only goal. “If we can just help moms at a really critical time,” Dearing says, “when they’re raising littles and they’re tired… if we can give people a five-minute break from their day, where they’re laughing or there’s a catharsis happening, then we’ve done our job.”
FUN FACT – Leeann
First music concert: Our Lady Peace
FUN FACT – Michelle
Last book read: The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
Karen Graham, R.D., 51
For Scottsdale dietitian Karen Graham, nutrition has always been about helping people. Her impact started when she was a volunteer in the Peace Corps in 2000, in a Surinamese rainforest. Toiling in the South American tropics, she helped children with rickets get more protein into their diets with the available resources. (One solution, she says, was growing more peanuts.) In 2007, Graham opened her private practice in the Valley, where she helps people manage chronic illness through “functional nutrition,” focusing on food sensitivities in the intestines. “When people… were miserable and dragged down before, and now they’re happy and vibrant and have energy and their quality of life [improves],” Graham says. “That’s what keeps me going.”
First music concert: Def Leppard
Ryan Keeton, Ernie Garcia III & Ben Huston
“We really just wanted to make the process of buying a car not suck so bad,” Carvana CEO Ernie Garcia III says of the inspiration behind his Tempe-based online used-auto seller. As the son of DriveTime billionaire Ernie Garcia II, the Stanford University grad had a good handle on the car business, but to bring that expertise into the digital age he partnered with college buddy Ben Huston (now his COO) and family friend Ryan Keeton (Chief Brand Officer). Together, the trio launched the company in 2013, wooing customers with their no-hassle fulfillment model (a Carvana mini-flatbed literally delivers your car to your doorstep) and one-week test-drive policy. The last two years have been particularly kind to Carvana: The founders graced Fortune magazine’s 40 Under 40 list in 2017, and the company’s annual revenue more than doubled in 2018 to nearly $2 billion. And Amazon, to our knowledge, still doesn’t sell cars.
Carvana was name- and brand-checked in the recent animated hit Ralph Wrecks the Internet.
Eli Chmouni, 31
Eli Chmouni wants to make ridesharing more fun – or, at least, give you something to do from point A to point B. In 2006, he immigrated to Arizona from Lebanon with $600. He then earned his master’s degree in engineering from Arizona State University and started three tech/media companies, culminating in his new primary focus, SURF, which aims to provide “in-flight entertainment” tablets with music, games and videos for Uber and Lyft passengers in Phoenix and nine other major cities. “I was flying back and forth between San Francisco and Phoenix, and I saw in-flight entertainment,” Chmouni says. He compared that with the awkward silence during Uber rides, and sought to bring the flying experience to ride-sharing. As if that weren’t enough, Chmouni now teaches both entrepreneurship and engineering at his alma mater.
Last book read: High Growth Handbook by Elad B. Gil
The Titans of Business
Renee Parsons, 51
Philanthropist, business executive and fashion entrepreneur Renee Parsons considers herself a “professional juggler.” She is involved in countless pursuits, including co-founder of The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation (alongside her husband, GoDaddy and PXG founder Bob Parsons), president of PXG Apparel and an executive at private equity firm YAM Worldwide, overseeing Scottsdale National Golf Club. But her biggest local impact, she says, is with the foundation, which makes transformational contributions to Valley causes for vulnerable groups: “It’s marginalized populations that traditionally do not have an easy time raising philanthropy dollars,” Parsons says. For example, the foundation works with Phoenix’s one.n.ten to help fight homelessness among LGBTQ youth. Since 2012, The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation has gifted $166 million in total, with the motto “We deal in hope.”
Childhood dream job: fashion designer
Ann Siner, 60
Founder and CEO, My Sister’s Closet
In 1991, Ann Siner co-founded My Sister’s Closet, a high-end secondhand-clothing boutique, alongside her actual sister. “It allows people to buy things that they otherwise probably could not buy,” Siner says. “[If] you’re starting out in business and you’re only making $12 an hour in your job that you need to dress professionally [for], you can come and shop with us and we can outfit you with a beautiful work wardrobe.” The business has since expanded into Well Suited, geared toward men, as well as My Sister’s Attic, which resells furniture and home accessories. Altogether, those stores have 10 locations in the Valley, plus four more in the San Diego area. Siner’s passion for salvaging precious things is not limited to pussy bows and chifferobes – as a board member at the Arizona Humane Society, Siner has also raised “thousands” for foster animals.
Also sits on the board of trustees for the Phoenix Art Museum.
Dave Sweet, 60
In 1990, Dave Sweet founded his corporate-training company, Automätik, in Dallas with his wife, Kathy. It’s now been based in Arizona for 19 years, with Dave serving as the president, and Kathy the CEO. The company works with clients such as Toyota, BMW and the Diamondbacks, providing training that Dave says sticks with participants, unlike the “boring” alternatives. “For most people, it kind of blows their heads off in a good way,” he says. With almost 37 years of marriage under their belts, Dave and Kathy’s business partnership is still thriving along with their union. “We’re wired very differently, so we complement each other very well,” Dave says. “We both have our roles, and we rarely take stuff home… I married up in a big way.”
First music concert: a festival featuring Blood, Sweat & Tears, Miles Davis, Nina Simone.
Wayne Helfand, 65
Owner, Rare Earth Gallery
Wayne Helfand has traveled the world searching for the beauty beneath us since he was 19 years old. In 2012, the Pennsylvania-born rockhound opened Rare Earth Gallery, his singular décor and jewelry store in Cave Creek. Visitors are usually spotted picking up their jaws from the floor, captivated by the natural elegance on display. Helfand says shoppers feel like they’re walking into a museum rather than simply browsing for the perfect item to tie the room together. He is more than happy to educate customers on how and where he found his unusual and colorful inventory. “These things have an intrinsic beauty to them,” Helfand says. “Once you understand that rarity of them, the beauty speaks for itself.”
The rock hound’s first rock show: The Doors in ’66.
The Public Servants
Doug Ducey, 55
The faded photograph shows an early-model Datsun, stuffed to the roof with clothes and adolescent flotsam, a smiling young Midwesterner in the driver’s seat. So what compelled Doug Ducey to drive that clunker from Ohio to Arizona in the summer of 1982? “Well, ASU was a great school and [my mom] was out West, too,” he says. “Not to mention, there was a lot of possibility in Arizona.” And how. One of Arizona’s undeniably great self-made success stories, Ducey worked for Proctor & Gamble after graduation and used the experience to build Cold Stone Creamery into one of the country’s most ubiquitous food brands as its CEO. Moving into politics, he served as state treasurer from 2010 to 2014 before assuming the highest office in Arizona. Embarking on his final term, the Paradise Valley resident says his main priorities are “creating a $1 billion in our rainy day fund” and making good on the “20 percent pay increase for teachers” that was a cornerstone of his reelection. And after? Our top three bets in descending order of likelihood: Senate, Cabinet, ice cream.
As a college student, worked at Hensley & Co. – the Arizona beverage distributor owned by the McCain family.
Debbie Lesko, 60
As the first Republican woman to ever represent Congressional District 8, beating nearly a dozen primary opponents, Debbie Lesko manifestly likes breaking new ground. She’s also a tireless professional committed to the job, serving in the Arizona Legislature for nine years, currently acting as co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues and running in four elections in a single year – the result of a special election when predecessor Trent Franks stepped down – before being sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives. “Throughout my career, I’ve learned that hard work pays off,” Lesko says. “Working hard and being myself; that’s been my key to success.” Lesko has lived in the Valley for 25 years and even though the Wisconsin native wasn’t born here, she now calls the Grand Canyon State home. “I miss it every time I’m in Washington, D.C.”
Mother-of-three’s first concert was Pink Floyd.
Katie Hobbs, 49
Arizona Secretary of State
When Katie Hobbs first dipped her toes in the political pool, she was a social worker employed by a large agency fighting to end domestic violence. She entered politics because of her frustration with lawmakers who didn’t understand her clients’ plight: “I figured out that if you couldn’t change the laws, you needed to change the people making the laws.” She spent eight years in the Arizona Legislature fighting the good fight before running and narrowly winning the Secretary of State race last November. While in the state Legislature, Hobbs worked with Governor Doug Ducey to end the backlog of untested rape kits in the state and helped foster an environment of bipartisanship among her colleagues. This rising political star has been married for 23 years, has two children and is training for her first Ironman half triathlon in July. Will she run for governor some day? She demurs. “I’m very focused on the job that I was elected to do.”
She’s a twin, and communicated in “twin language” with her sister until she was 2.
The Stars of Sports
Michael Bidwill, 54
President and Owner, Arizona Cardinals
I’ve known Michael Bidwill since I was drafted by the Cardinals in 1985. Like me, he was just a kid back then, finishing up his pre-law degree, but his enthusiasm for the Cardinals and passion for the game were immediately evident. Football is in his blood. His grandfather, Charles, bought the team way back in 1932 , and his father, Bill, ran it for decades. Michael took over as team president in 2007 and has led the franchise to gridiron prosperity: winning seasons, a Super Bowl appearance and 134 straight home sellouts. But it’s Michael’s enthusiasm and passion for helping others that I admire greatly. Cardinals Charities has poured millions into helping those less fortunate. As the NFL celebrates its 100th season, Michael and the Cardinals are boldly charging into the league’s second century, making bold maneuvers with the hiring of head coach Kliff Kingsbury and drafting QB Kyler Murray. I’m proud to say the franchise Michael Bidwill currently leads is not only the NFL’s oldest but may also be its most innovative.
AS TOLD BY
Ex-Cardinal and current color analyst Ron Wolfley.
Nico Mannion, 18
When the Ginger Ninja is dishing in the NBA, remember it all started in Phoenix. Ranked as the No. 1 high school point guard in the Class of 2019 by ESPN, the carrot-topped Pinnacle High playmaker is already a sports celebrity by most measures – as evidenced by the banner-waving University of Arizona Wildcat homers who packed into the Pinnacle gym following Mannion’s announcement that he would be playing for the Tucson powerhouse this fall. “I was pretty astounded, to see them come to a high school game,” says the thoughtful scholar-athlete. “It just shows the kind of devotion [alumni] have to that school.” Mannion’s fans extend well beyond the borders of Arizona. His father, Pace Mannion, was a star swingman at the University of Utah who met his mother, Gaia, while playing professionally in Italy. Consequently, Mannion has dual citizenship and played for Italy’s Under-16 national team two years ago. Presto. Arizona’s first bi-continental sports star.”
One of two elite sports recuits in the Pinnacle class of 2019: QB Spencer Rattler is going to Oklahoma.
Brandon McNulty, 21
American cycling has sorely lacked a hero since Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories in 2012. Could Phoenix native Brandon McNulty assume the mantle? This March, the Rally UHC Cycling team-member took a big step in delivering on his world-beating potential, which he first flashed two years ago by winning the under-23 national time trial championship. Competing in the Giro di Sicilia multistage race in Italy, McNulty raced down Mount Etna in the final stage to defend his lead and claim the general classification win, his first as a professional. Between race seasons, the Phoenix native still finds time to ride for fun: “In the off-season, I’ll go off on mountain bike trails. A favorite of mine is Trail 100 [in North Phoenix]. That’s the one my dad took me to when I was a kid.” His next goal: to compete in the Tour de France by age 25.
Favorite post-race snack: bowl of ice cream.
Antoinette Cauley, 30
There’s no mistaking a work of art by Antoinette Cauley. The Phoenix native paints rap artists stylized as little girls, their faces turned outward and expressive with emotion: joy, heartbreak, trauma, defiance. Represented by Downtown Phoenix’s monOrchid Gallery, the Arizona native draws deep inspiration from hip-hop. “Hip-hop culture is so rich and has felt like home to me over the years,” she explains. “Rap music gives me the words to emotions I otherwise don’t know how to express.” The soul-baring beauty of her work isn’t just paint on canvas – for Cauley, who leads the J.A.R.R. Initiative to bring fine arts programming to Phoenix’s inner-city teens, it’s a way of life. “I bare my heart to the world as an investment into those who look to me as an example.”
Has six tattoos, tops among the Great 48.
Steven Moeckel, 41
Violinist and Concertmaster, The Phoenix Symphony
Steven Moeckel’s resumé is impressive, to put it mildly. The German-born virtuoso has played with an array of accomplished musicians around the world, including the famous Vienna Boys Choir at the age of 11. He’s served as concertmaster for The Phoenix Symphony for a decade, but he isn’t just the first-chair violinist – he’s also the de facto ambassador of our city’s orchestra, and he doesn’t take this aspect of the role lightly. Whether he is playing at a school, a homeless shelter or Symphony Hall, he wants to show everyone that it is possible to have a musical career and that Phoenix is a cultural destination. “A city is very defined by its arts,” Moeckel says. “It’s incredible to be a part of that and bring the beauty to the community.”
Last book read: The Mermaid’s Daughter by Ann Claycomb
Sean Daniels, 46
Artistic Director, Arizona Theatre Company
Some college students change their majors as often as they change their socks. Sean Daniels never had that inclination. He found his calling as an 8-year-old living in Mesa when he experienced Arizona Theatre Company’s production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. After moving away and growing up in New England, Daniels returned to his childhood home last year as a seasoned director and playwright, determined to put Arizona Theatre Company on the map. The 2019-2020 season at Herberger Theater Center kicks off with the critically acclaimed boxing drama The Royale (October 3-20), written by Marco Ramirez of The Twilight Zone revival and directed by Michael John Garcés of Los Angeles’ Cornerstone Theater Company. “Part of my goal is to bring the best in our country to Arizona and have them make it their home,” Daniels says.
His 1-year-old daughter’s middle name is Adventure.
Matt Moore, 43
Fourth-generation Phoenix-based farmer Matt Moore originally sought an agribusiness degree, but couldn’t stay awake during macroeconomics class. He switched to art history and, after taking a required sculpture class, fell in love with art. Many projects later, including sculpting an architectural model out of wheat on the family farm, the talented multimedia artist created With Character Productions, a collaboration of Arizona architects, designers and artisans who “use responsible, sustainable architecture and design methods to create intriguing, evocative spaces.” Moore has also partnered with restaurateur Aric Mei, owner of The Parlor pizzeria, to form Greenbelt Hospitality, a vehicle to develop a neighborhood restaurant and two-acre organic urban farm experience and education center at Phoenix’s Los Olivos Park. “I feel like we’re on a trajectory to really making an impact in people’s lives. It’s a pretty exciting time.”
First concert: Milli Vanilli
TV Dream Team
Brahm Resnik, 59
Host, 12News’ Sunday Square Off
Somewhere in an old photo album, there’s a picture of 3-year-old Brahm Resnik reading a newspaper. The veteran journalist – his 35-year career spans newspapers and television, and topics such as sports, politics and education – loved journalism from an early age. “My role is to go into dark corners where nobody is looking, find out what’s going on and ask questions,” Resnik explains. Which he does with grace and savvy. The Montreal-born Resnik (who proudly became a U.S. citizen in 2012) is arguably the expert on Arizona. For the past 20 years, Resnik has covered every major story in our state: Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and his death last year; SB 1070 arguments at the Supreme Court; economics and immigration. “I often remind people that I’m a reporter, but I’m just like them. I live here, too. I care about the issues that affect all of us.”
The Quebec-born newsman aspired to be “the first Canadian astronaut” as a boy.
Heather Moore, 48
Evening News Anchor, 3TV
Here’s what you need to know about Heather Moore: She jumped out of an airplane with the United States Army’s Golden Knights parachute team. She covered the hostage standoff at Lewis Prison and the Phoenix Serial Street Shooter and Baseline Killer stories. She attended court reporting school, practicing stenography at night to the televised O.J. Simpson trial. Along the way, the University of Southern California-educated journo delivered toys to Havasupai children at the Grand Canyon and raised four kids of her own. Now in her second tour-of-duty at 3TV after a multiyear spell in San Diego, Moore is the latest in an esteemed line of nighttime anchorwomen at the station – witness her Emmy for a story on the Arizona Legislature’s decision to ban cellphones while driving, which Governor Ducey signed into law in April. It’s often hyperbolic to say someone can “do it all,” but, well, Moore does it all. “This profession isn’t perfect, but the purpose we serve is needed and relevant – today more than ever,” she says.
Wants to be a “forensic investigator, someday.”
THE LADY OF LETTERS
Beth Kendrick, 42
Prolific author Beth Kendrick may be the epitome of the “Why not both?” approach to life. A self-described writing “lifer,” Kendrick wanted to be an author from childhood, but chose to study psychology and write on the side. “I sold my first book when I was in the middle of my dissertation, because I was procrastinating,” the mother of one says. She’s gone on to write 17 books in total, including Nearlyweds, which was adapted into a Hallmark Channel movie in 2013. Her latest book, In Dog We Trust, came out in January. Kendrick is now focusing on psychology more than ever as a postdoctoral fellow at Arizona Neuropsychological Services in Chandler. “I love it all,” she says. “I’m just really busy – busy but hashtag blessed.”
Last book read: The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
THE NEW MEDIA GUY
Jose Acevedo, 29
Landscape Architect and Podcaster, Finding Arizona Podcast
While a graduate student at Arizona State University, Jose Acevedo worked in a screen-printing shop. When business owners came in to discuss their screen-printing needs, Acevedo noticed they enjoyed relating anecdotes about their livelihoods. “Everyone has that one story they love telling.” He launched Finding Arizona Podcast in 2015 to capture local business owners’ stories. As he approaches his 200th episode, Acevedo is thrilled with the intimate level of connection he’s provided for local entrepreneurs and listeners. “Our podcast is about the love and joy of doing something that you’re passionate about,” he says. By day, Acevedo is a landscape architect but hopes to become a full-time podcaster. “I’m just a normal guy who is really curious about people.”
Honors his Hopi heritage with a spider tattoo on his right calf.
The Official Great 48 Rock Band
You might not expect profound insights into societal ills from a band called Playboy Manbaby, but frontman Robbie Pfeffer, 29, likes “messing with expectations.” The six-member group (including Pfeffer, guitarist TJ Friga, bassist Chris Hudson, trumpeteer Dave Cosme, drummer Chad Dennis and saxophonist Austin Rickert) is known for its high-energy shows, speed-of-light sound and totally bananas videos, becoming the go-to choice for rock festivals (e.g. Lost Lake) looking for a local energy infusion. But perhaps not surprising, given Pfeffer’s degree in international politics, their songs also display a keen sense of social awareness. Take “You Can Be a Fascist Too,” which jabs at everyone from yogis to yahoos for tuning out people whose opinions differ from theirs. “I think we try and get people to enjoy themselves but also think about empathy and community,” the Phoenix native says. “I hope to help people listen to each other and realize we’re not alone and we’re not enemies.”
Frontman Pfeffer’s first concert was a Céline Dion show. Natch!
Frank Aazami, 52
Real Estate Agent, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty
You might be surprised to learn that Dignity Health’s “Human Kindness” marketing campaign moves Frank Aazami to tears. Why? Because Aazami is a stone-cold seller, brokering multimillion-dollar real estate deals for lunch. (In fact, in 2018 his team at Russ Lyon Sotheby’s sold the most expensive home listed on MLS in Arizona real estate history: $17.5 million, if you’re wondering). But that keen business acumen also happens to be wielded by a genuinely nice guy, local insiders agree, and Aazami says his out-of-the-box approach to buying and selling homes is firmly rooted in empathy. “I ask my clients a lot of questions,” he says. “I listen. I try to understand all of the moving parts in their world. And then I become an expert in the client’s needs. How do you be a doctor for the doctors, or a writer for the writers?”
Speaks a bit of German and Farsi.
THE ADAPTIVE RE-USE GURU
Curt Kremer, 37
Commercial Real Estate Developer, George Oliver
Curt Kremer grew up on a farm in chilly Iowa, so touring Arizona State University on a college scouting trip on a beautiful November day sold him on the desert. After earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture and a master’s degree in construction management at ASU, Kremer worked at several companies before starting George Oliver in 2017, a commercial real estate company named after his twin boys, George and Oliver. Kremer buys older buildings around the country and transforms them into “creative, fun and interactive office spaces.” One of his projects, The Quad (where PHOENIX magazine is located), has abundant natural light, work patios, dedicated dog areas and a restaurant. “We know how to make really cool real estate and can deliver it for you with the amenities already in place and the culture that you’re trying to create.”
Unlike many millennials, no tattoos. “Forever is a long time to have anything on your body.”
THE BASEBALL BARRISTER
Nona Lee, 58
Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, Arizona Diamondbacks
Of Nona Lee’s many impressive accomplishments – which include founding the Phoenix Women’s Sports Association, becoming the first female president of the Sports Lawyers Association and assisting the negotiations with FOX Sports Arizona for a 20-year extension, the largest financial transaction in franchise history – the one she is most proud of is assembling her Arizona Diamondbacks staff in the legal department. “They are all so smart and talented and, most importantly, exceptional human beings,” Lee says. The California native has served in various aspects of legal counsel for the MLB team for nearly 20 years, as well as acting as general counsel for the Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury, Arizona Rattlers, Chase Field, Talking Stick Resort Arena and Comerica Theatre.
Aspired to be a guitarist, artist and Olympic swimmer as a child.
Michael Morefield, 35
Marketing Director, Arizona Animal Welfare League
Don’t bother looking for Michael Morefield in his office at the Arizona Animal Welfare League (AAWL). You’re more likely to find him bonding with a furry friend or rescuing puppies from beneath a double-wide in New River. He might be taking pictures for the AAWL Instagram page or acting as a cheerleader when a potential pet parent visits. He’s not trying to skip out on his job at the state’s largest no-kill shelter. Instead, he wants to bring the readers of his blog posts on AAWL’s website in to give them a better understanding of an animal’s personality. “Everything I do here has to be authentic,” Morefield says. “Our community is what supports us. I want to be doing anything I can do to involve them.”
Speaks “terrible French” by his own reckoning: “Je suis désole.”
Nate Rhoton, 41
Executive Director, one•n•ten
Nate Rhoton has always been community-minded, he says, even when he was working at for-profit companies, like General Mills. But as he approached the milestone age of 40, he wanted to do something that would leave him more fulfilled. He took on the executive director position at one•n•ten, a nonprofit that supports LGBTQ youth with everything from housing to job placement. His financial background and knack for fundraising have allowed the organization to expand its reach in a state where the unemployment and suicide rate is higher amongst LGBTQ youth. “I like to think of myself as the person who is providing the resources that we need so our staff can perform the incredible work that they do every day,” Rhoton says.
First music concert: Tiffany. “I Think We’re Alone Now” is still a fave jam.
The Food Pros
S. Barrett Rinzler, 51
Founder and CEO, Square One Concepts
The concept behind Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers is simple, self-explanatory and, evidently, a slam dunk wherever it goes – after opening his first CBCB sports bar in 2012, restaurateur S. Barrett Rinzler is expanding the chain into California and Las Vegas in 2019. Recipient of the 2017 Restaurateur of the Year Award by the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame, Rinzler says the restaurant has a vocal fanbase that speaks up every year when the menu is updated. “People definitely like what they like,” he says. Previously for legendary Old Town watering hole Martini Ranch, Square One Concepts is prospering under Rinzler’s leadership. The company’s roster includes local favorites Wasted Grain, Famous 48 and Bourbon and Bones, the last of which is also slated for expansion.
As a boy, wanted to be an architect.
James Swann, 48
Co-Owner, Craft 64
Craft 64 co-owner James Swann was born in Louisiana, and speaks with a British accent from spending ages 4 to 20 in England, but his pizzeria and brewpub could not be more Arizona if it tried – and it does try. “We have 30 beers on tap. They’re all 100 percent local, Arizona beer. All the time, inside out, top to tails,” he says of the restaurant’s revolutionary tap program. The food menu is also hyper-local, with vegetables from McClendon’s Select and meat from Schreiner’s Fine Sausage: “The mozzarella cheese, at this point, is about 40 minutes old.” All well and good, but beer is clearly Swann’s bailiwick: In concert with SunUp Brewing Co., the former Four Peaks brew-hand now pours roughly a dozen Craft 64 house beers, revealing his Pizza Port-size ambitions as the brewpub opens its new Chandler location this summer.
Like all good British lads, grew up wanting to be a soccer player.
Damon Scott, 49
Producer and Co-Founder, Arizona Cocktail Weekend
When Damon Scott isn’t championing the Valley’s mixology culture with Arizona Cocktail Weekend, you’re likely to spot him at a music festival. Rocking out? Maybe, but also doing R&D in his pursuit of the ultimate fan-friendly festival experience. Scott’s cocktail catering company Rattle & Rum carved out its niche in 2015 by using “fast-craft,” a method where a cocktail is mixed in large batches and then served to customers on a draft system. “We created the need, and now we’re servicing that need,” the Wyoming native says. Scott is proud of the latest innovation his company is unveiling for this year’s Bonnaroo Music Festival: pop-up speak-easies. Throughout the event weekend, attendees thirsty for a stirred cocktail will receive a notification via social media where a speakeasy (actually a golf cart) is located.
Last book read: Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s The Flavor Bible, a popular reference source for mixologists.
Charleen Badman, 47
She was just different – laser-focused, driven, killer palate, humble and finessed – when I met her 25 years or so ago. Charleen was – and is now more than ever – a badass. Here was this young chef from Tucson who was working with Donna Nordin at Cafe Terra Cotta, then with Chrysa Robertson at Rancho Pinot, then headed east, continuing her culinary education and life’s journey in New York City, where she found another great chef and mentor in Anne Rosenzweig. As she was settling in and getting her East Coast bearings, she stayed with my family there, and I think she’s still recovering from their volume and smothering love. She was and is family, the kind of sister, daughter or friend we’d all be lucky to have – and deeply deserving of her recent James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest, it goes without saying. When she and Pavle Milic – love him too, known him since he was 13 – opened FnB, it was a revelation. It felt truly homegrown and special, seasoned with journey and commitment to the arts and craft of hospitality. I am incredibly proud and grateful to share this desert community with her.
AS TOLD BY
Superstar chef Chris Bianco
Moguls of Medicine
Dr. Michele Halyard, 58
Dean, Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine’s Arizona Campus
When Michele Halyard was 5, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, she survived, and the experience motivated Halyard to become a radiation oncologist and to co-found the Coalition of Blacks Against Breast Cancer. “I’m passionate about patient care,” she says. “My research centers on quality of life in cancer patients; that’s what I’ve devoted my life to.” Now Halyard is channeling that passion into her position as dean of Mayo Clinic’s 2-year-old Arizona medical school. “Mayo’s primary value is ‘The best interest of the patient,’” Halyard explains. “Our guiding philosophy is ‘The best interest of the student.’” Students are supported by academic, mental health and wellness coaches. In turn, they’re passing on the passion by starting a clinic to serve refugees.
Last book read: Becoming by Michelle Obama
Steve White, 45
CEO, Harvest of Arizona
When Steve White was a lawyer, he felt his life was missing purpose and fulfillment. So in 2013, the Arizona State University grad jumped into a risky joint venture: He opened Harvest, Tempe’s first medical cannabis clinic. Ever since, he’s been rolling. He opened seven other Arizona locations and, in March, shelled out $850 million to buy Chicago-based Verano Holdings – the most massive deal to date in the country’s cannabis industry. Pending the closure of a few acquisitions, Harvest will have licenses to open more facilities than any other company in the nation, White says. “Starting a business in the medical cannabis industry was the best move of my life. Building something to be proud of and being on the front end of a social evolution has been amazing.”
Has a Juris Doctor degree from Washington and Lee University
CEO, AdviNOW Medical
Living in Asia for 12 years, James Bates saw the gap between haves and have-nots in health care. He noticed parallels in the U.S., where health care is so costly many people delay seeing a doctor until their condition becomes life-threatening. So he launched AdviNOW Medical, a diagnostic platform that blends artificial intelligence with augmented reality and allows patients to take their own vitals. Available in several Valley urgent cares and Safeway clinics, AdviNOW makes doctor visits fast and affordable. In the next two years, Bates hopes to expand to 3,000 grocery store clinics nationwide. “What we do is ultimately eliminate the barriers for access for the whole population,” he says. “If people know what’s wrong with them early, it costs a lot less money to solve those problems.”
Father of three speaks fluent Japanese.
Every generation has its moments – and exemplars – of greatness. Find a Great 48 for every decade.
Charlie Hall, 12
When seasoned actor Charlie Hall couldn’t perform in Willy Wonka Jr. because it conflicted with a family vacation, he launched a production company to rewrite, produce and direct the musical himself. He rode his bike around his neighborhood, sticking handmade flyers on doors, holding auditions and casting each role. At the time, he was 8. “I wanted to give other kids the joy I felt while doing theater,” the Gilbert resident says. “Theater just gives me an adrenaline rush.” Charlie repeated his multitasking feat with his production of Lion King Jr. But what he really wants to do is become CEO of Disney, a designer and director on CSI, Peter Pan at Disneyland, a film and theater actor, or – more likely – all of the above.
Last book read: Percy Jackson: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
Mariana Dale, 27
Senior Field Correspondent, KJZZ
Arizonans tend to take their saguaros for granted. Not Mariana Dale. Fascinated by the columnar giants, the public-radio reporter devoted an entire episode to them for her Q&AZ news series on KJZZ, Phoenix’s NPR affiliate. Dale excels at the hyper-local deep dive, a quality that’s made the University of Arizona alum a rising star in Valley news radio, covering immigration, education and other social issues. “Curiosity is at the heart of what we do,” Dale says. She believes the news shouldn’t be a passive experience. It can be a tool for listeners to connect with their community and the world – a phenomenon she witnessed firsthand last year when local teachers went on strike to increase education funding. “When people speak up, meaningful change can happen,” Dale says.
Last book read: The Power by Naomi Alderman
Matthew Pruitt, 33
Clinical Director, Walgreens
Matthew Pruitt didn’t set out to be a doctor of pharmacy by age 23 – or, by 27, a health care director at Walgreens, responsible for clinical programs all over Arizona. He initially wanted to play baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals. But, growing up, Pruitt frequently needed amoxicillin for ear infections – “it was always the bubblegum flavor” – and he grew mesmerized by what the pharmacist was doing at the counter; it reminded him of his grandma making cookies. In relatively no time, he was “behind the bench” himself. “I found out that it was not just about cool concoctions,” he says. “It was about helping people.” Pruitt’s baseball dreams didn’t go entirely unfulfilled, though. He fondly remembers, in 2011, catching a Home Run Derby ball at Chase Field.
Last book read: Ninety Percent Mental by Bob Tewksbury
Jennifer Kaplan, 45
Owner, Evolve Public Relations & Marketing
As a high school senior, Jennifer Kaplan received the “Most Talkative” award, a moniker that foreshadowed a career in public relations, she says. “It’s truly who I’ve always been.” After graduating with a communications degree from Arizona State University, Kaplan dabbled in sales and eventually opened a PR firm with a business partner. In 2010, she founded Evolve Public Relations & Marketing, which today has a dozen full-time employees and recently added the Arizona Coyotes and Waymo to its growing client roster. Kaplan, a yoga enthusiast who often greets the dawn at local TV stations promoting her clients, and is known to treat her employees with daytrips to Disneyland, loves her work. “Knowing that we’re making a difference and impact on our clients’ business and bottom line is what motivates me every single day.”
Last book read: Good to Great by Jim Collins
Walter Crutchfield, 58
Principal, Vintage Partners
As the co-founder of Vintage Partners, fourth-generation Arizonan Walter Crutchfield is technically a real-estate developer, but, to him, the job is more than that – it’s about creating spaces that serve communities. His most significant current projects are Phoenix’s Uptown Plaza – a reconceptualization of a 1955 Del Webb shopping center – and the nearby ARRIVE Hotel, created from preserving and expanding two 1950s office buildings. Working with historical buildings presents its own costs and challenges, but Crutchfield believes the result is worth it. “Historic preservation allows us to tie the past to the present in a way that brings the community together,” he says. “Great development includes all stakeholders… and then brings all those things together in a solution that, when it’s done, people want to be there.”
Grandfather of 10 sits on the board of Flagstaff Boys & Girls Club.
Danny Zelisko, 64
Rock promotion legend
How Danny Zelisko got his start in the business is legendary. He moved from Chicago to Berkeley in 1972 with no connections and wanted to work in music. In true rock ’n’ roll style, he snuck backstage to a Yes and Edgar Winter concert at The Fillmore in San Francisco. He started talking in a British accent, moving equipment from the band’s truck like he was a stagehand. By the time they realized he was an imposter, he had already endeared himself with the crew, and club owner Bill Graham took him under his wing. A few years later, Danny moved to Phoenix and started promoting shows at Dooley’s Nightclub, where he brought in artists like The Police and Talking Heads. When I started working for him at Evening Star in the 1990s, every day was filled with new lessons learned and so many unforgettable experiences – from Las Vegas after-parties with the Grateful Dead to looking up from my desk one day and seeing Jon Bon Jovi popping by to say “Hi!” To this day, Danny Zelisko Presents continues to produce some of the best concerts in Phoenix with his own unique style and incredible attention to detail. Do yourself a favor and check out one of his shows – maybe you’ll have an unforgettable experience of your own!
AS TOLD BY
Protégé and fellow promotor Charlie Levy
John A. Solheim, 73
Chairman and CEO, PING
PING founder Karsten Solheim was not a fan of the Valley’s summer temperatures when he moved here – along with his one-man golf-club company – from California in 1961, according to his son, John A. Solheim. However, Solheim the younger is thankful it worked out, evidenced by the company’s ongoing charitable investments in the Valley. “It’s a joy when you can help others,” he says. By expanding the Scottsdale company’s metal “woods” line and setting up a rapid product delivery system, Solheim has innovated over the decades to keep its custom-fitted clubs in the grip of the sport’s elite players. And he’s furthered the family legacy, making the Solheim Cup a top event on the LPGA Tour, and naming his eldest son, John K. Solheim, president in 2017.
Left ASU as a junior engineering student to work double shifts at PING in the 1960s.
Vernon Swaback, 80
Vernon Swaback was a 17-year-old architecture student at the University of Illinois when he scored an interview with Frank Lloyd Wright, and was understandably “mesmerized” by the blueprint legend. Swaback aced the interview and moved to Taliesin West in 1957 to become Wright’s youngest apprentice. “I was with him the last two and a half years of his life and was working with him the day before he died.” After Swaback spent 21 years with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, he started his own firm working out of a rented pool cabana. Today he has 40 architects and 10 interior designers on staff in his Scottsdale office. Swaback has left an indelible mark on the Valley with landmark projects that include Arizona Biltmore Estates, DC Ranch, the Cactus Park Aquatic Center, Mountain Park Ranch and Scottsdale Visioning. He’s currently writing a book (his 12th) about Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence on the future. “It’s a race to see if I finish it or it finishes me.”
First concert: Chicago Symphony. He later studied under trumpet great Bud Herseth.
Jerry Lewkowitz, 90
From my observation, Jerry Lewkowitz must have the widest acquaintanceship of anyone in the Valley. His sincere nature has benefited our community through his presidency and/or board membership with Phoenix Zoo, Phoenix Boys’ Choir, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and many others. My personal respect for his many leadership roles has come through our activities with the YMCA and The Thunderbirds, where [he’s been] recognized with “Outstanding Thunderbird” and Hall of Fame awards. He has served as a member of the Phoenix City Council and is recognized for his determination to open doors to diverse membership and participation. Jerry has served as president of Temple Beth Israel and the Arizona Jewish Society, and was a board member of The Anti-Defamation League. All of these involvements followed serving as a first lieutenant in the United States Air Force, and they say he still works in the law office a few days a week.
AS TOLD BY
Former Valley National Bank president Len Huck
First concert: Tommy Dorsey Band with Frank Sinatra
Florence Burden, 100
In 1998, after retiring from a 32-year teaching career in Detroit public schools, Florence Burden moved to Phoenix. With a bachelor’s and master’s degree already in hand, she went back to school and at age 74 earned a master’s degree in mass communication from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Why? “I had taken a journalism class at Wayne State University in Detroit and enjoyed it. Lifelong learning is important to me because I feel I should keep up with the times.” Highlights of Burden’s 100 years include meeting Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks; traveling to South Africa during Nelson Mandela’s presidency; and a recent trip to Hawaii to celebrate her 100th birthday. “The secret to a long life? Keep working and keep your mind active.”
Has one child: Norman, who is 68.