From athletes and educators to animal rescuers and TikTokers, these superlative Valley dwellers are raising the proverbial bar.
By Greg Archer, Jessica Dunham, Marilyn Hawkes, Jason Keil, Megan Leckman, Leah LeMoine, Stephen Lemons, Craig Outhier, Madison Rutherford & Haley Smilow
Introducing the Great 48 class of 2022.
We think you’ll agree: They’re a dynamic group of Phoenicians.
In Spring 2022, we solicited our subscribers and social media followers to nominate superlative Valley dwellers in the realms of business, sports, the arts, media, philanthropy, politics, et al.
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/questionnaire.
* 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 inductees, we collected basic, standardized information about their origins, education and backgrounds. Before we meet them, let’s crunch the data.
FOOD & BEVERAGE
Laura Hansen, 50
While the hospitality industry has always had a high turnover rate, restaurants have suffered the most during the “great resignation.” But the employees of Saddle Mountain Brewing Company – the Goodyear brewery that won a Great American Beer Festival award in 2020 – remain loyal to owner Laura Hansen, who made sure her team was fed during the pandemic. The former teacher says it was the classroom where she developed her management style. “I value other people and what they bring to the table,” she says. “But I’m aware the buck stops with me.”
Current TV obsessions: Bridgerton, The Witcher and The Originals
Matt Cooley, 36
Thinking outside the box is second nature to Matt Cooley, co-founder of Cloth & Flame, a company that creates one-of-a-kind culinary experiences in spectacular outdoor settings. From desert dinners for 200 with a guest celebrity chef to a helicopter-in dining experience at the Grand Canyon, Cooley can make it happen.
As a kid, he dreamed of being a hot-air balloon pilot. “I actually now have my private balloon pilot’s license.”
Mat Snapp, 42
If you’ve been captivated by the adventurous tales on the cocktail menus of UnderTow and Platform 18, you have Mat Snapp to thank. The mixologist and Fox Restaurant Concepts alum has been writing these fictions from the jump, but he joined Barter & Shake full-time in 2021 as executive vice president of operations. His next move: expanding the hospitality company’s concepts into new markets.
Current TV obsession: “I’m a sucker for the Star Wars miniseries as they come out.”
Christopher Nelson, 53
Growing up on the East Coast and Florida, Christopher Nelson spent quality time fishing, clamming and enjoying the beach. He went from shucking oysters to brokering seafood, shipping fresh fish from the point of origin to chefs across North America. In 2017, he opened Nelson’s Meat + Fish in land-locked Phoenix, fulfilling his wish to own a business before age 50 – and creating one of the Valley’s most fetishized culinary experiences in the process.
Currently reading: Ship to Shore: Straight Talk from the Seafood Counter by John Bil
Tony Chanthavong aka Tony Ce, 40
When Tony Ce co-created LocalBuzz, a social media app that highlights local restaurants and businesses via short videos – a TikTok-Instagram hybrid, only better – it wasn’t to position Phoenix as the next Silicon Valley. (Although the app’s successful launches in Austin and Chicago could have that effect.) Instead, Ce, who also founded Snoh Ice Shavery and spearheaded the Asian food-themed PHX Night Market, aimed to unite communities through a shared love of home. “I’ve met all walks of life, and one thing I’ve found is that all humans want to connect,” Ce says. “That’s where the magic is.”
Speaks Lao, Chinese and Vietnamese.
Sam Pillsbury, 75
Sam Pillsbury was waaaaay ahead of the curve with this whole “great resignation” thing, pivoting from a career as a successful Hollywood filmmaker (Free Willy 3, The Quiet Earth) to join the earliest wave of modern Arizona winemakers in the mid-2000s with Pillsbury Wine Company. Things have definitely changed for the Phoenix-based visionary – who runs an estate winery in Willcox and has a new, expanded tasting facility set in a historical home in Cottonwood – since the public took its first skeptical sips. “One of the most delightful things to hear now is people showing up and saying, ‘Gee, Arizona wines are getting really good!’”
Last book read: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – for the 15th time!
ARTS & CULTURE
Jeremy Mikolajczak, 42
As the new Sybil Harrington Director and CEO at Phoenix Art Museum, Jeremy Mikolajczak is curating more than just art. With an impressive résumé that includes tenures at the Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College and the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block, Mikolajczak believes in education and engagement – a boots-on-the-ground philosophy he’s bringing to PAM through conversations with the community, assessments of the museum’s current assets and a roadmap for its future.
Last book read: Eleven Museums, Eleven Directors: Conversations on Art & Leadership by Michael E. Shapiro
Chanel Bragg, 39
This year, American Theatre magazine listed Chanel Bragg one of its 2022 Rising Black Women to Watch. A few reasons why: She’s the first Black woman to be associate artistic director of Arizona Theatre Company, a role she’s held since 2020. She’s co-founder of The Soul of Broadway (a Valley-based Broadway revue featuring Black performers), founder of United Colours of Arizona Theatre and a vocalist with Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra. And she’s the recipient of the 2021 Arizona Capitol Times’ Arts and Culture Leader of the Year award. “You have to be the change you want to see,” Bragg paraphrases Mahatma Gandhi.
Getting her first tattoo this year, her favorite quote from the musical Rent: “Measure your life in love.”
Monte Moore, 51
Part-time Scottsdale resident Monte Moore takes the term “multihyphenate” to new heights. Many may recognize him for his Renaissance-style painting prowess, but he is also an experienced sculptor, writer, publisher, filmmaker and illustrator who has produced work for such high-profile clients as Lucasfilm, Sony, Paramount, DC Comics and Marvel.
He doesn’t have tattoos, but his work “decorates many that have had my art tattooed on their bodies.”
Chawa Magaña, 37
As self-described “steward” (owner) of Palabras, Arizona’s first – and only – bilingual bookstore, Chawa Magaña fulfills the role with heart and soul. The store is more than just a lit retailer – the first-generation Mexican-American has fostered an impactful space for Latin writers, poets, artists and book lovers to gather and grow community.
Childhood career aspiration: “Don’t laugh, but I wanted to be a professional wrestling color commentator. I have three brothers, and we were all into wrestling as kids.”
Charissa Lucille, 31
Charissa Lucille, who identifies as non-binary, jumped through many hurdles to get their first zine distributed, which led the multimedia artist, who also founded Phx Zine Fest, to establish Wasted Ink Zine Distro in 2015. The Roosevelt Row space was built to recognize zines as a valued art form and a safe place for marginalized voices to speak out. “I see zines as an outlet for people to express themselves without being edited, silenced or removed altogether,” Lucille says.
Last book read: White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color by Ruby Hamad
Danielle Durack, 26
Not since the mid-’70s – when Stevie Nicks and Linda Ronstadt were breaking out – has Arizona produced so many great female singer-songwriters. And like Nicks, indie-rocker Danielle Durack has a knack for crafting beautiful, solemn tracks that chronicle the emotional journey of falling in and out of love.
“I think I have wanted to be a singer as long as I can remember, but there was a time when I also wanted to play MLB.”
POLITICS & LAW
Mayor John Giles, 62
Mesa native Mayor John Giles has seen the city grow in fascinating ways over the past few decades – in population and in progressivism. Giles famously championed the city’s historic non-discrimination ordinance in 2021, and he played a key role in it becoming the first Autism Certified City in the United States. “I like being able to be impactful on things,” he says. When not in the office, he enjoys spending time with his family and running, so much so that he’s competed in two triathlons and 20 marathons.
Giles served an LDS mission in Korea and is a bit of a Korea-phile: He speaks Korean and is currently bingeing Pachinko.
Russell “Rusty” Bowers, 69
For resisting efforts to overturn the 2020 election, Republican Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers received the John F. Kennedy Library’s 2022 Profile in Courage Award. It’s a mixed bag in the conservative Legislative District 10, where he’s running for state Senate after being termed out of the state House. “I don’t know if it’s a help or hindrance,” he says. “I know my opposition plays it up that I’m chummy with Democrats.” A painter and lover of the arts, Bowers is Gary Cooper-ish in his response. “No matter what happens, I’m going to try to keep focused on what’s true, what’s best, what helps move my society, my culture forward.”
Speaks fluent Spanish and “a smattering” of the indigenous dialect Rarámuri.
Tyler Montague, 50
They call Tyler Montague “the Machiavelli of Mesa” because his hobby is bare-knuckle Republican politics. Part of the John McCain wing of the AZ GOP, Montague is best known for helping Jerry Lewis beat Russell Pearce in a historic 2011 recall election. This year, he’s promoting Prop. 308, which aims to make all high school grads eligible for in-state tuition, including “Dreamers,” who are undocumented. “It doesn’t make sense trying to put up obstacles to people trying to go to college and become self-sufficient and productive,” Montague says. “If they’ve gone to our high schools for two or more years, then they are simply treated the same as every other Arizona kid. Prop. 308 is just a wise policy.”
First concert: Donny and Marie Osmond at Sun Devil Stadium
Kathy Hoffman, 36
As a kid, Kathy Hoffman dreamed of being a CIA agent. “I wanted to travel and learn different languages,” she says. “I thought [spies] were cool.” Her real life’s been pretty astounding. In 2018, as a political newcomer, the former teacher overcame seasoned vets to become Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, where she fights for the legislature to loosen its purse strings to help schools. Now she’s running for re-election. “I’m looking forward to what the future of Arizona will look like and making sure our students are ready with the skills they need for the future workforce, rather than looking backwards 20 years.”
“During the pandemic I watched, repeatedly, The Good Place.”
Jason O. Pritchett, 41
As president and principal partner at Radix Law, Jason Pritchett practices in many areas of business law, from mergers and acquisitions to sports consulting and advisement. His is the first multi-lawyer firm in the United States to have a combination of lawyer and non-lawyer owners, known as an alternative business structure. Off-hours, Pritchett serves as a Phoenix Thunderbird and a Make-A-Wish Arizona board member.
As a kid, Pritchett wanted to be a “doctor or a travel consultant.”
BUSINESS & FINANCE
Chad J. Verdaglio, 46
Contrary to summer blockbusters, not all pilots are showboating egomaniacs. At Scottsdale’s Sawyer Aviation, pilots are dedicated to saving lives via organ transportation flights. “About 40 percent of our business is organ transplants,” says Sawyer Aviation Group president Chad J. Verdaglio, who in addition to overseeing regular jet charters developed a platform “to accommodate a very specialized piece of equipment used for organ transplant” that extends the “incredibly narrow window” between the organ leaving the donor and being implanted in a recipient. “That gives much more meaning to the flight, when we know we’re helping save a life,” Verdaglio says. He likes to say they’re “trading one person’s sunset for someone else’s extended lifetime of sunrises.”
Last book read: Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Jade Noble, 34
“‘Entrepreneur’ sounds so official!” Jade Noble laughs. She can’t shake the term anymore: In the past few years, Noble and her husband, Manny Tripodis, purchased iconic Phoenix boutique Frances and dive bar Linger Longer Lounge. “It is nice to have one business that’s open most of the day and one that’s open at night,” she says. Years of working in hospitality and retail taught Noble and Tripodis how they wanted to lead. “It’s on me to connect with people and to make sure that they feel welcome,” she says of her staff. “That everyone feels like they have ownership over what they’re doing… and that they want to come in and do fun stuff every day.”
Of her 20-plus tattoos, Noble’s favorite is her “Atlantic City tattoo, because my husband and I love the Bruce Springsteen song.”
Nayan Ranchhod, 38
Nayan Ranchhod has always had big aspirations. When he was younger, he dreamed of a career in politics. Now, he’s empowering others to achieve their aspirations, albeit in a slightly different sphere. As a certified financial planner and managing director of Silver Lining Wealth Advisors in Scottsdale, Ranchhod – who has been recognized by Forbes in multiple “best” lists – helps people set and meet their financial goals, from investment management to tax strategies for a robust “return on life.”
First concert: Kenny Chesney
Phil Gallagher, 61
Phil Gallagher has held many titles in his 39-year tenure at global technology solutions provider Avnet, most notably as CEO since 2020. Gallagher and his team have been expanding overseas to help top tech companies shore up their supply chains, but he still thinks locally: The former high school football coach is a member of Greater Phoenix Leadership and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
Current TV obsessions: Golf Channel, Ozark and 1883
Diane Thomas, 58
In the male-dominated industry of business sales, mergers and acquisitions, Diane Thomas stands out. As president of Premier Sales, Inc., Thomas oversees business sales transactions for privately held companies with revenue ranging from $2 million to $40 million. Thomas’s approach is unique. She provides honest feedback and often counsels her potential clients to wait before selling, offering suggestions that might better their company’s financial picture. Thomas is also a member of the Asian Women Giving Circle of the Arizona Community Foundation.
Last book read: PHIL: The Rip-Roaring (and Unauthorized!) Biography of Golf’s Most Colorful Superstar by Alan Shipnuck
Brian Frakes, 47
While Sam Fox is a household name in the Valley, Brian Frakes isn’t – but he should be. Frakes, Fox’s long-time developer and owner of Common Bond Development Group, is proud to bring to life The Global Ambassador, the restaurateur’s inaugural (and high-profile) foray into the hotel business located on 44th Street and Camelback Avenue. “I drive my kids past it, and they finally get to see what I do,” Frakes says. “It’s going to be a place open to the community. They can dine out or go on a staycation.”
As a child, he dreamed of becoming a pro athlete. “In some ways, development parallels this dream. We’re teambuilders, we execute at a high level, and are always looking for new challenges.”
Kaitlyn Wolfe, 29
Kaitlyn Wolfe found her passion for interiors and construction at a young age and built her business, Iconic Design + Build, with “persistence and grit.” She enjoys building relationships with clients and helping them accomplish their project goals, whether for a custom home, house remodel or commercial enterprise. For Wolfe, who oversees a team of one dozen designers and staff, the creativity of designing and transforming a space is motivating. “I love solving problems and bringing fresh, innovative ideas to my clients’ spaces.”
Has more than 10 tattoos, plus a half-sleeve. “My favorite is the wolf on my arm.”
Adam Driggs, 51
Adam Driggs founded Driggs Title Agency in 2007 and isn’t afraid to think outside of the box to give his business an edge, even using commission-check-printing Teslas to pay real estate agents on the spot. Today, the agency has more than 250 employees and operates in Arizona and Nevada.
Last book read: Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters
Matt Widdows, 50
When Matt Widdows founded HomeSmart brokerage in 2000 with only two agents, he never conceived it would one day be the largest real estate company in Arizona. HomeSmart utilizes technology – like virtual tours and QR codes – to give buyers easy online access to listing information, and has since grown into a massive, country-wide firm with more than 25,000 agents.
Loves a Western: He’s currently bingeing Yellowstone and 1893.
Greg Hague, 73
After taking Arizona by storm, attorney and real estate broker Greg Hague is taking his 72SOLD home-selling program global. In June, Hague inked a deal with Keller Williams, the world’s largest real estate franchise, to expand his model – which drives up home prices for sellers by amping up competition – into real estate markets worldwide.
Current TV obsession: Ozark
Sports is a business, and Jay Parry, who led the Phoenix Mercury and is president and CEO of the Arizona Super Bowl Committee, understands this better than anyone. Her work on Super Bowl XLIX brought in nearly $720 million in economic revenue. With Super Bowl LVII looming in 2023, she’s again putting the state on a global stage. “The challenge is: How do we elevate our game and set new records for Arizona?” Parry says.
Current TV obsession: Ted Lasso
Mia Lovell, 15
At 15, Mia Lovell has accomplished more than many adults twice her age. The skateboarding prodigy, who was adopted from China at seven months old, started shredding at age 5 and has since won gold medals at various skating competitions and netted sponsorships from Vans, The Heart Supply, Bones, Triple 8 and 187 Killer Pads. Last year, she dipped her toe into acting in the Amazon original movie The Map of Tiny Perfect Things.
When she grows up, Lovell wants to “skateboard, race cars and have as much fun as possible!”
Drew Powell, 27
With two United Bowl appearances in its last two full seasons, the Arizona Rattlers are arguably the most results-positive local pro sports team of the pandemic era. And the undisputed catalyst of the Rattlers is Drew Powell, the fleet quarterback from Maryland who picked up an Indoor Football League MVP award in 2021 after passing and throwing for a whopping 81 touchdowns. After re-signing with the team in the offseason, the 6-foot-3 signal caller has the team sitting at 10-3 (as of mid-June) and eyeing their third consecutive championship appearance. “When you say ‘Drew Powell,’ I want ‘championship’ to be the first thing you think about,” he says.
Maybe a future GM? Majored in sports management at Livingstone College in North Carolina.
Melissa Hughes, 54
As owner of With a Twist Consulting (formerly Two Gals Events), Melissa Hughes organizes and designs next-level events of all stripes but specializes in nonprofits and marketing and outreach for local businesses. Described by nominators as a hands-on person with a generous heart, Hughes founded the Zeriah Foundation, a nonprofit that provides community outreach, skills, education, networking and resources for folks in need from youth to seniors.
The Salt Lake City native has a degree in animal husbandry.
Carter & Ashton Kroeger, 16 & 18
The enterprising brothers launched Persevere Project (persevereproject.org) for teens struggling with mental health. The inventive platform provides resources to “channel the power of social media influence into something bigger.” A spotlight on The Kelly Clarkson Show boosted visibility, and empowering songs (from Carter) and cool merch make this one of the Valley’s more unique outposts for connection and understanding.
First concerts attended: Post Malone (Carter) and Justin Bieber (Ashton)
Steve Koyle, 46
Former Phoenix Zoo employee Steve Koyle is the man behind Elephant Care Unchained, a nonprofit dedicated to improving elephant welfare. For the last 30-plus years, Koyle has cared for animals, and now his efforts go toward protecting elephants from abusive conditions worldwide. “It doesn’t matter where I am in the world, if I am doing something for an elephant, then that’s what it’s all about for me,” he says.
Last book read: The Everyday Hero Manifesto: Activate Your Positivity, Maximize Your Productivity, Serve the World by Robin Sharma
Tamala McBath, 57
While furnishing women with professional attire is one component of Dress for Success Phoenix’s mission, CEO Tamala McBath says it’s just the tip of the iceberg. “We’re not a fashion house,” she says. “We are here to prepare women holistically to be successful in their jobs and in their careers.” To do that, Dress for Success provides “wraparound services” including résumé writing, skills training and career coaching for unemployed and under-employed women – 42 percent of which they work with are single mothers. “When a woman walks through the door, she brings family. She brings her community with her,” McBath says. “We want to focus on how we can broaden our services and what we do for the community.”
Last book read: Pay Up: The Future of Women and Work by Reshma Saujani
Glenn Wike, 31
Arizona Community Foundation’s first chief of staff proved his mettle at ACF, leading it through distribution of roughly $10 million in pandemic relief grant funding to nonprofits across the state – $130 million in small business relief grants followed. Next up: develop new organizational initiatives, solidify donor relations, foster community partnerships and refine ACF’s strategic goals.
“Dog dad here! Twin sister Rhodesian Ridgebacks Piper and Penelope keep me busy.”
MEDICINE & HEALTHCARE
Maria Valenzuela, 48
Since 1999, Maria Valenzuela has provided essential health services to more than 45,000 Hispanic and refugee families in Arizona at Esperança – a nonprofit that strives to create health equity for under-resourced communities. Valenzuela has presented for Congress and the World Health Organization, and currently oversees Esperança’s operations in seven countries as senior program director. “Health equity would mean that our society has reached a point where health care is a right and not a luxury good afforded only to certain communities,” she says.
First concert: “As a teenager, I was a parking attendant for events at the state fairgrounds, so the first show that I worked was MC Hammer.”
Dr. Christine Bracamonte Wiggs, 47
In January, public health practitioner and researcher Dr. Christine Bracamonte Wiggs was tapped to lead the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Foundation for Community & Health Advancement, which aims to address the toughest health challenges facing Arizonans: mental health (its flagship focus, with an initial $5 million investment), health equity, substance-use disorder and chronic health conditions. “My hope for the foundation is that, by working alongside community partners, we create positive and lasting change by investing in the health of Arizonans,” Bracamonte Wiggs says.
First concert: En Vogue and Bell Biv DeVoe
Dr. Robin Ross, 58
“Vision is more than eyesight,” says ophthalmologist and vitreoretinal surgeon Dr. Robin Ross. As founder of Global Retina Institute and its nonprofit, Red Rover Ventures, Ross focuses on “the fact that nine out of 10 people worldwide lack access to surgical care, including ophthalmology.” She brings it to them through global medical missions, where she performs surgeries and supplies glasses. At home, she partnered with University of Arizona medical students on a mobile unit that provided eye exams and prescription glasses to people experiencing homelessness in Downtown Phoenix. Next up: “My goal is to develop an ophthalmic simulation center that can train doctors overseas who do not have access to surgical training.”
Reads two or three books a week! Last finished: Courage is Calling by Ryan Holiday
Pasha Yamotahari, 44
As a child, The Phoenix Theatre Company associate producing director Pasha Yamotahari endured long, isolating hospital stays. As an adult, he serves as artistic director of Partners That Heal, a Phoenix Theatre organization that brings improvisational techniques – music, dance, storytelling, puppetry – to children in hospitals to alleviate their fears, lighten their moods and foster connection.
Childhood career aspiration: “International spy, like Inspector Gadget.”
Jessica Zimmerman, 37
Throughout her schooling, Jessica Zimmerman was often reprimanded for being talkative, defiant and having a lack of focus. “I don’t remember one teacher ever asking, ‘Are you OK?’” It wasn’t until Zimmerman started college that a professor finally recognized her potential. Subsequently, she applied for a teaching fellowship and vowed to be that “one teacher” who cared. Recently Zimmerman earned a $25,000 Milken Educator Award for Instructional Leadership in Phoenix’s Roosevelt School District. “It really feels like just the beginning of endless possibilities.”
When she was little, she wanted to be a veterinarian. “Then I realized I had to deal with needles and blood. No, thanks!”
Mac Esau, 42
The founding headmaster of Great Hearts Maryvale Preparatory Academy hit a gratifying milestone this past spring: graduating its first class. Every single senior was accepted to college, and together they earned more than $1.1 million in scholarships. Over the past decade, Esau shepherded the school from a starting student body of 140 kindergarteners through third graders to today’s 900-plus K-12 students.
First concert: Gin Blossoms
Candace Chan & Sang-Heon Dan Shim, 39 & 53
If you don’t think professors have the coolest job in the world, think again. Sang-Heon Dan Shim and Candace Chan were recently appointed as the first Navrotsky Professors of Materials Research at Arizona State University, where Chan is currently doing research to create longer-lasting, higher-efficiency batteries; and Shim is working to re-create geologic materials from distant exoplanets to determine if any of them could be habitable for life.
Chan speaks German, Chinese, Spanish and French, “but it’s horrible” she says of her français. When he was a kid, Shim wanted to be a soccer player when he grew up.
Lauren Gilger, 35
It’s increasingly difficult to find a news outlet that prioritizes objectivity, but Lauren Gilger has clung to this tenet of journalism throughout her career. She won a Peabody Award for her investigative reporting at ABC 15 before becoming co-host of Valley NPR affiliate KJZZ’s The Show in 2015. “My job isn’t to tell you what I think,” says Gilger. “It’s to tell you all sides [of a story], so you can decide.”
As a young girl, “I wanted to be a famous actress or a famous singer. It seems the famous part was what mattered.”
Justin Lum, 33
Despite having an Emmy and an Edward R. Murrow Award under his belt, Justin Lum isn’t where he thought he’d be as a kid. Growing up, the Fox 10 investigative reporter wanted to play professional football – until he was introduced to the power of journalism. “I fell in love with storytelling, gathering data, reporting the facts and illustrating what goes [on] in communities,” Lum says. On Sundays, he still loves watching Raiders games and enjoying time with his family.
Current TV obsession: “I go back and watch older shows a lot… The Wire, Mad Men or The Office.”
Blanca Esparza-Pap, 44
As accomplished as Arizona’s Family 3TV and CBS5 station manager Blanca Esparza-Pap is in the local media industry – she excelled as the station’s marketing chief before her recent promotion – she says her proudest achievements are galvanizing the Valley community around causes that help people, including providing Christmas gifts to Arizona children and helping the family of a fallen police officer. Her happy place? “Anywhere I am with my family.” And Disneyland.
First concert: “So embarrassing, but New Kids on the Block.”
Aiesha Beasley, 31
By day, Aiesha Beasley can be found at her visual merchandising job, but on nights and weekends, the “content creator” is trying an under-the-radar boba tea café in Tempe or discerning if a new restaurant in Scottsdale does more than offer a spot for selfies. Of course, there are also plenty of those on her Instagram and TikTok accounts, where thousands of followers tune in for her viral video series “Arizona Places,” plus advice on dating, striking a work-life balance and, of course, where to get the best boba.
As a child, “I wanted to be a TV reporter and an actress!”
Jan Bracamonte, 40
“We never sought to be the biggest agency in town,” publicist Jan Bracamonte says of J. Lauren PR & Marketing, the firm she started in 2011 and turned into the Valley’s premier agency for luxury brands – local and beyond. “We actually turn down significantly more business than we take on. Instead, we’re about offering a very high-level service to a select few.” With clients like Amangiri, celebrity chef Scott Conant and The Ritz-Carlton, Bracamonte is serving fierce competition for top national PR firms. “Every month when a client cuts [us] a check, I want it to be one of the best investments they’ve made in their business.”
Childhood career dream: meteorologist. “As a kid growing up in Arizona, there’s nothing more exciting than monsoon season!”
Matthew Clyde, 47
When he founded his marketing firm Ideas Collide in 2005, Matthew Clyde couldn’t have known how prophetic his company’s name would be. Whether he’s dreaming up campaigns for Danzeisen Dairy, Best Western and Fresh Cravings, or launching a “new/old” podcasting trailer in a 1956 Spartanette at Pemberton PHX, Clyde continues to be an idea man.
No tattoos, “but the day the Suns win an NBA championship, that will change.”