Blog Posts Tagged ‘arizona’

Jenny Howard

Utilities Director
City of Safford


The City of Safford, settled at the base of Mount Graham in rural southeastern Arizona, is a very unique municipality.  Safford is the sole owner of all utilities; water, wastewater, gas and electric. Jenny Howard has have been employed with the City of Safford for 11 years.  In the spring of 2015 she accepted the position of utility director, managing all Safford utilities as well as wastewater treatment, landfill and solid waste services.

With a 23-year background in electric infrastructure projects in western and central a US and 12 years in project management and controls, she feels right at home in the industry.  Howard came to the City of Safford in 2004 from POWER Engineers, a world- renowned electrical engineering firm based in Idaho. She relocated temporarily to Safford from Sun Valley, Idaho for a job assignment in construction management on a large high voltage transmission line and substation project for Phelps Dodge Mining (Now Freeport McMorran).

Well, during her tenure with Phelps Dodge, she met and fell in love with a cotton farmer and they were married in 2004.

“It’s kind of funny that happened,” says Howard. “The first agricultural crop I saw when driving to Safford was a cotton field and I laughed out loud asking myself, ‘They grow cotton in Arizona?'”

After her contract was complete at the mine, she was hired by the City of Safford in procurement. Once on board with Safford she continued to develop knowledge in infrastructure operations and regulations in the wastewater, water and gas industries while attending the college of business at Eastern Arizona College.  In 2007 she moved to a project management position and in 2015 became utility director. Howard loves the diversity of managing the utilities.  As with all utilities, the challenges of replacing aging infrastructure, planning expansion with new development, and keeping the lights on and water flowing, means a well-managed maintenance program and a very detailed and well planned 5-year CIP.  That is a challenge in itself (x 6).  The city water infrastructure consists of 8,000 services and 250 miles of water pipe and serves not only the City of Safford but also the surrounding communities and unincorporated areas of Graham County.  Safford also serves 4,000 electric and 3,500 gas, sewer and solid waste customers within the Safford city limits, as well as owns and operates the landfill which serves all Graham County population of 30,000.

Along with the daily challenges of providing multiple utility services to our customers, Howard loves Safford’s diverse community and the networking associated with the director position.

“Getting involved in community outreach and working alongside such a great team of Managers and employees is certainly an attribute to the overall success of the Utility Department.  I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Doug Graeme

Queen Mine Tour Manager
City of Bisbee

Douglas Graeme

People find their careers and their passions through a variety of different ways. For Douglas Graeme, he was born into it.

Doug Graeme’s storied history with the city began in 1883 with the arrival of his great grandfather, who came into town looking for work. Over the next several decades, he settled and raised a family in this town, growing a passion for its history.

Doug was born years later in Bisbee and took his cues from generations past, as he spend much of his free time exploring, collecting artifacts and learning about his city’s history.

Together, with his siblings, Richard W. Graeme IV and Emily Grame Larkin, Doug helped write a book about Bisbee’s history. Inspired by the past of their own family members, the siblings took to paper to share tales about copper mining, natural disasters, and the people who came to settle and grow the popular southern Arizona community.

Bisbee is an old mining city in southern Arizona, rich in history and culture. Their account of the city’s past incorporates the geological significance of finding copper ores, the major influences of Native America culture, presence of early culture like opera houses, rodeos and saloons, and the tragedies that occurred during the early days of mining camp.

In addition to sharing Bisbee’s history through the written word, Doug serves as the Queen Mine Tour Operator for the City of Bisbee. Approximately 50,000 people a year visit the Queen Mining Tour to commemorate Bisbee’s prosperous mining heritage and experience what it was like working underground.

Carmen Martinez

City Clerk
City of Avondale

City Clerk

City Clerk

The city clerk is one of the essential positions in municipal government.  Depending on the size of the city or town, the city/town clerk’s responsibilities are varied and often perform functions of city manager, finance officer, human resource director.  In the City of Avondale, the city clerk’s functions include records management, elections, council meeting agenda and minute preparation, public records requests, liquor licensing, annexations and special event permits.

Carmen Martinez was hired as deputy city clerk in 2002, and promoted to city clerk in 2008. She has advanced the functions and services in the city clerk department in so many ways. Her staff is literally the “face” of Avondale – as they manage and staff the front desk in the lobby of city hall, greeting thousands of people who come through the door each year, answering the telephone to the main city hall line, and more.  In 2007, she brought forth the idea of providing passport processing services at city hall.  Since then, the program has generated more than $1.15 million in revenue to the city.

Thanks to Carmen’s efforts, she has also worked with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to host several citizenship ceremonies at Avondale City Hall. The ceremonies, consisting of more than 100 new citizens at each one, are always very moving. Carmen herself has been a keynote speaker at these events, telling her personal story of becoming a naturalized citizen.

When it comes to elections, Carmen has placed a great deal of focus on transparency and voter participation.  In 2008, the city faced a substantial increase in its election costs. In an effort to be accountable to the citizens with their money, the city council approved staff’s recommendation to change the city’s election cycle ahead of the statutory requirement.  This required voter approval.  Carmen recognized this change represented a challenge with respect to independent voters and the need to educate them regarding their choice for a ballot. Working with the community relations department, she conceived the idea of Carmen Electa, Avondale’s own elections ambassador. Carmen Electa is the face of elections in Avondale and she comes out every election to educate voters and their families about voter registration deadlines, issues and choices.  Avondale’s special election was put in the 2008 primary election ballot for voters’ approval.  Avondale chose to host an early voting site for that election and on the last week of the early voting period, saw hundreds of voters each day come into Avondale City Hall to cast their early ballot.

The 2014 primary election was a particularly challenging election in Maricopa County.  There was confusion with polling places; some cities were holding all-mail ballot elections, while others weren’t.  As part of a resident outreach, the city clerk’s department learned that voters would be more likely to vote if voting was more accessible and convenient for them.

In response to that, Avondale now offers its city hall as an early voting site for voters for every election regardless of whether Avondale had an issue on the ballot. Since ballots are printed on demand, ANY voter in Maricopa County can come to Avondale City Hall to cast their ballot.  So beginning with the ongoing 2015 November election, Avondale is hosting an early voting site for every election.

“We want to become to GO TO place where any voter in Maricopa County can cast their vote,” said Carmen. “Our staff is knowledgeable, professional and friendly.  Carmen Electa is preparing for the city’s upcoming 2016 primary election.  We will do our best to reach out to voters and educate them and entice them to cast their ballot.”

Nicole Laurin-Walker

Town of Gilbert

Copyright - Arizona Republic, 2012. Michael Chow, photographer. Used with permission. Permission does not imply endorsement.

Copyright – Arizona Republic, 2012. Michael Chow, photographer. Used with permission. Permission does not imply endorsement.

Gilbert Judge Nicole Laurin-Walker is a legal rock star.

Growing up just outside of Chicago, Nicole Laurin-Walker was a serious student of classical piano and competed regionally. Her studious manner led her to attend the University of Michigan where she received a degree in psychology and later the University of Arizona College of Law where she received her law degree. It was there in Tucson that she received her first taste of courtroom experience as an oral argument contest winner at the law school. She also spent time working as a Haitian asylum petition writer during a summer in Miami, a legal intern for Motorola in Phoenix, and an intern at the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. After law school, she worked as a bailiff at the Maricopa County Superior Court while she studied for the bar exam.

Her extreme focus led Laurin-Walker to become the Town of Gilbert’s first assistant town prosecutor in 1994. Back then there was only one prosecutor in the office, and she appeared before one judge. Her hiring at the time doubled the size of the prosecutor’s office!

As a prosecutor, she was in the Gilbert Municipal Court every day, appearing before Gilbert’s sole judge, David Phares, handling everything from probation violations to jury trials. After a bit, she moved over the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and prosecuted felonies before returning to Gilbert to write appeals for the Prosecutor’s Office. After her return, Judge Phares decided it was time to add a second judge to the court and Laurin-Walker applied, despite being only 27 at the time. She was offered the job and has held the position ever since.

When a person is accused of committing a misdemeanor in the Town of Gilbert, Judge Laurin-Walker begins her duties. When the individual first appears in court, her job is to make sure they understand the charges they face and the rights they have, appoint them an attorney if they are eligible, listen to the victim’s concerns, and then set some release conditions to make sure the accused person will appear at future court dates. If a person pleads not guilty, she will set the case for trial, making decisions before the trial about what evidence should be allowed and what should be kept out. During an actual trial, she questions jurors to make sure they are fair and impartial, decide which rules of law the jurors will be required to follow, and make sure proper procedures are followed by the parties so that the process is fair to both sides. If there is no jury, Judge Laurin-Walker has the authority to decide if the accused is guilty or not guilty and also give a sentencing, should the case require it.

Laurin-Walker likes to hear people’s stories and try to figure out what drives them and what might change their behaviors. Nothing makes her happier than watching a defendant work his way through jail and counseling probations and see him go to college or get a real job at the end of it all.

Gilbert Judge Nicole Laurin-Walker is also a real rock star.

True to her musical roots as a classically-trained pianist, Laurin-Walker continued to be a musician alongside all her schoolwork and lawyering. She now sings and plays keyboards in a rock band called The Love Me Nots. The band tours worldwide and has put out six albums. Laurin-Walker says she has gotten a taste of real rockstar success, despite the restrictions she had due to her work with the town. Her colleagues all support her musical endeavors and strive to maintain their own hidden talents outside of work.

“I love working in a place where everyone seems to be doing something fascinating outside of work hours,” said Laurin-Walker. “It gives us a better perspective overall.”

Martin Porchas

City of Somerton 


As the second youngest of 11 siblings, Martin Porchas grew up in the City of Somerton, where he now serves as mayor. He attended O.L. Carlisle Elementary School, Kofa High School and AWD Community College. His parents and older brothers and sisters were field laborers.

“I am very proud to say that I was not the first one in my family to attend college or finish high school,” Mayor Porchas said. “I have a brother who graduated from University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree. My second youngest sister became a nurse, and the youngest received her master’s degree in education.”

Throughout the first 20 years of Mayor Porchas’ life, his family would travel to California in the summers. Some years, he would not get to finish school or the season playing baseball because of the move to California.

“Many of my friends thought itw as awesome to travel to California,” Mayor Porchas declared. “Little did they know, I was not too thrilled about it, but I had to follow my parents. Don’t get me wrong, but when a boy at the age of 12 has to get up at 4:30 or 5 a.m. all summer long to go work in the fields, it makes for a long and not-too-pleasant summer.”

As he got older, Mayor Porchas came to understand why his family would travel to California. He said that Somerton still faces some of the same challenges it had 30 or 40 years ago, one of which is having the highest unemployment rate in the state. The majority of the jobs are seasonal, which is why his family would travel out of state to seek employment.

“I am proud and now honored to say that I got to hang out and learn from one of the hardest workers I have ever known in my life – my dad,” Mayor Porchas said.

Family is now just as important to Mayor Porchas, who is married to his lovely wife, Dalila, and is a proud father of two children, Martin Adrian Porchas and Andrea Porchas.

Marnie Schubert

Director of Communications, Marketing & Recreation
Town of Queen Creek

Marnie Schubert - Queen Creek Marnie Schubert has worked for the Town of Queen Creek for eight years, starting as communications manager and changing roles several times throughout the years. She currently serves as the director of communications, marketing and recreation. Her degree is in radio-television communications from the University of Central Florida.

Marnie came to QC from the community of Celebration, FL, “the town that Disney built,”where she created the communications department. Her duties there included overseeing the community website, which included a resident “forum”section –an early predecessor to social media. Her experiences in Celebration have served her well, especially since communication resources shifted dramatically during the Great Recession. Gone are the days of printed newsletters, direct mail and reporters assigned to cover specific cities. She says that while she learned a lot during that era,  she continues to find excitement in digital news, tweeting with reporters who cover a variety of communities, and interacting 24/7 with residents on social media.

“Communications is an industry that is always in motion, which is why it appeals to me”says Schubert. “The strategy that works today likely won’t work this time next year. This is a great time to work in government communications because social media has leveled the playing field. Small communities can be just as visible — and have a voice arguably just as strong — as big cities thanks to Facebook, Instagram and other digital platforms. It’s all about engagement.”

Having grown up as a military brat (Go Navy!), Marnie had the advantage of moving every year or so and getting to know people all over the world. You quickly learn how to make friends and recognize consistencies in human nature, while learning to appreciate the fun quirks that make us all unique. She says that likely channeled her toward the communications industry: growing up around a diverse range of people in many different types of communities, mainly working toward the same positive goals.

A.C. Marriotti

Finance Director
City of Sahuarita


Born in Tacoma, Washington and having grown up in a military family, A.C. Marriotti settled in Tucson where he attended Palo Verde High School and the University of Arizona, earning bachelor’s degrees in accounting and finance. Marriotti has served as the Town of Sahuarita’s finance director for nearly 12 years. He was recently awarded the town’s first Manager’s Choice Award in 2015. His finance department has received national recognition for excellence in financial reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association many times throughout the years for the town’s budget publications and Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports.

In addition to the normal duties expected of any financial officer, Marriotti oversees the Finance and Investment Advisory Committee, as well as the town’s IT department. “I really enjoy the variety in my job and learning new things,” Marriotti said.

Known as a team player by his workmates and colleagues, he’s always willing to take on new challenges. Just this year, Marriotti’s department took over waste water utility billing services for the town. This role was taken on suddenly when the private company responsible for billing discontinued their service. Under Marriotti’s leadership, billing cycles were brought up to speed and services were streamlined, including better online payment options, real-time tracking and additional staffing to allow for better customer service. Marriotti has also served on the Pima County Bond Advisory Committee and actively volunteers in his community.

Marriotti’s strength of character shines through in his personal life. He and his wife are licensed foster care providers and advocates for children in need of homes, families and positive learning environments. “There are a variety of ways that we can help kids in need of foster care, and anyone can participate,” Marriotti said. “Donations to foster care agencies help tremendously, and the need in Arizona is great.”


Ted Yocum

Volunteer City of Maricopa

Ted Yocum Ted Yocum is a resident committed to community involvement and has been passionately involved with the City of Maricopa since 2009 when he attended the Maricopa Citizen Leadership Academy. “I knew I wanted to make a difference in Maricopa,” says Yocum. And make a difference he did!

Since 2009 Mr. Yocum has volunteered with the police department, chaired the board of adjustment, participated in the development of the 2040 Vision Plan and general plan update, served on the zoning code rewrite task force and currently serves as the vice chairman of the city’s planning and zoning commission, and as a member of the Maricopa Advocate Program.

“From the moment I ventured into Maricopa to look for a home, the friendliness, warmth, and small-town feel enveloped my wife and me. I knew it was the place I wanted to retire to get away from the east coast hustle and hassle. But for me personally, most of all, Maricopa, this blank-slate new city, has given me the opportunity to make a difference; to apply my experience, professional skills, and energy to contribute to the success, growth, and long-term vision for our fantastic new city. ” Yocum describes his participation in the Maricopa Zoning Code Rewrite Task Force as the biggest and most impactful project he has worked on with the city.

Maricopa was incorporated in 2003, when the city was experiencing rapid growth. At the time the decision was made to stay with the Pinal County Zoning Code, but eventually the city needed its own code to keep up with its unique needs. In 2012, city council engaged a consultant to work with a citizens’task force to rewrite the entire zoning code. Yocum served on that task force which worked through monthly meetings and many hours of study, investigation, and discussion over an eighteen-month period. The new code, more than 400 pages long, was adopted by city council on November 5, 2014 and most recently was recognized by the Arizona Chapter of the American Planning Association as an outstanding zoning code.

Mr. Yocum grew up in Pennsylvania, attended Drexel University and Albright College. He is retired from insurance management, and moved from New Jersey to Maricopa in 2006. He is also the Vice President of the Desert Cedars HOA Board. When he is not championing the City of Maricopa he enjoys bowling, pinochle, the beautiful weather and Maricopa’s friendly people.

“I hope my Maricopa legacy will be that I have used my professional knowledge, skills, and love of the city to enhance the quality of life for future generations.”

Josh Wolfgramm

Heavy Equipment Operator
City of Mesa

Josh Wolfgramm

Josh Wolfgramm has worked for the City of Mesa Transportation Department for 11 years.  He started as a street maintenance worker and has worked himself up to heavy equipment operator on the slurry crew.  A slurry seal is a process where a mat of asphalt emulsion, water, and aggregate is applied to the street to create a new surface.  A slurry seal is used to extend the life of the existing pavement when it starts to show signs of deterioration.  On the slurry crew, Josh operates a heavy piece of equipment called a sand conveyor but is nicknamed a “salad shooter.”  Josh also gets called on to help with many other different tasks, like cleaning up trees after a storm.  His supervisor describes Josh as clever, helpful, and eager – a perfect combination of traits when you are on a transportation field crew and get called on to do many things!


Josh is unique in that he works with and operates heavy equipment during the day, but away from work he is a Polynesian dancer.  Yes, a dancer!  He performs every weekend with a group called the Royal Islanders for special events all around the Valley.  The dance that Josh performs is part of the grand finale and is called the Samoan Fire Knife dance.  During this dance he twirls a heavy baton-like knife that is on fire on both ends.  Josh learned Polynesian dance as a young boy growing up in New Zealand.


Josh moved to the United States 15 years ago after he saw a stunningly beautiful woman performing a Polynesian dance while he was visiting.  It was love at first sight and Josh moved to the US to marry the beautiful dancer, whose name is Sadie.  Together Josh and Sadie have four sons who range in age from five to 12.  The boys are following in their parent’s footsteps and perform Polynesian dance, too.


Aside from working full-time, dancing on the weekends, and attending his sons’ sporting events, Josh is taking college courses, as well.  Somehow he finds time to do it all!

Yvonne Kimball

Town Manager
Town of Dewey Humboldt

Yvonne Kimball

Born and raised in Tianjin, China, Yvonne Kimball saw first-hand what life was like without democracy, as she grew up during the latter part of Chairman Mao’s dictatorship era. From an early age, she was exposed to the Mao regime’s altered version of communism.

“There was no democracy. People were  – and still are – afraid of speaking the truth,” Kimball said.

When Kimball was a teenager, she got her hands on a banned book of great speeches from the Western Word. In it was Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. He spoke of government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

“I was stunned but deeply inspired by the concept and wanted to become a part of such a noble institution one day.”

In 2003, she immigrated to the United States and enrolled in the University of Central Florida’s Master of Public Administration program. Her graduate studies equipped her with skills and knowledge covering a broad range of topics and disciplines relevant to working in and managing the public sector. She knew she wanted to become a public servant.

Because of her international background, Yvonne initially wanted to work in the federal government and had her sights set on the Department of State. While in graduate school, however, a few internships led her to positions within Florida county governments and it was there that Yvonne realized her enjoyment for working with people at the local government level.

“Local governments are much closer to the citizens than the federal government,” said Kimball. “I knew I would have a better chance to make a difference by working for local governments.”

In 2008, a few years after graduation from the MPA program, Kimball received a city manager job in Florida. As her family had always been drawn to Arizona’s beauty, Kimball found a position as the town manager of Dewey-Humboldt. Since her appointment in 2011, Kimball has now served as the town’s longest-tenured manager.

As one of Arizona’s newest incorporated municipalities, Dewey-Humboldt appointed Kimball to continue to build the organization and establish procedures from scratch. Because of the town’s youth, Kimball spends much of her time moving the town forward, overseeing the day-to-day operations and implementing the town council’s directives.

“On top of that, just like most managers for small towns, I wear many other hats,” said Kimball. “I am the town’s zoning administrator, the human resources director, the chief finance officer, the public information officer, and sometimes the receptionist!”

In addition to her role as a town manager, Yvonne is a board member for the Arizona City/County Management Association. She credits the organization to helping her learn from other managers and colleagues in the state who also manage city and town governments.

In her spare time, Kimball spends much of her time whipping up home-baked goodies for her young sons. Before coming to the United States, she had never used or even seen an oven. Once she learned its capabilities, she started baking desserts almost every weekend for recreation and still takes satisfaction in her boys enjoying her concoctions.

Kimball now feels like she is finally home in Arizona. She positively touches the lives of those in her community daily and in that aspect, finds working for a city the most rewarding job one can find.

“In retrospect, I was glad that I embraced the opportunities I had and was able to make the most of them. I am making a difference everyday within the community in which I work and live.”