Debbie Cotton – Interim director, Phoenix Convention Center
Cotton oversees daily operations of the Phoenix Convention Center, Executive Conference Center, Orpheum Theatre, Symphony Hall and five parking garages. She manages a staff of 240 employees, a budget of $47.5 million, and is the city’s chief representative to the state’s tourism and hospitality industry.
Surprising fact: “I have a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing science from Western Illinois University and began my career working for Xerox Corporation.”
Biggest challenge: “Stepping up to manage the Phoenix Convention Center in the midst of a global economic crisis that greatly impacted the hospitality industry. Not only did I have to deal with the effects of the economic crisis, but I had to quickly learn about an industry that was new to me.”
Brewer became Arizona’s 22nd governor in 2009, inheriting the worst budget deficit in the country. Through her support of free-market principles, competitive taxes, lean regulations and a ready workforce, she has transformed Arizona into one of the most business-friendly states in the nation.
Surprising fact: “I’m a gardener at heart. You need the right seeds, plus water and sunshine. And you have to run off the rabbits. Sounds a little like the Legislature, right?”
Biggest challenge: “Balancing my family and home life with a career in public service. While this issue can never be truly ‘overcome,’ it’s one I manage day-by-day, guided by my love of family and the people I serve.”
Mara Aspinal – President and CEO, Ventana Medical Systems
Aspinal, who holds an MBA from Harvard, joined Ventana as president and CEO in 2011. She founded the European Personalized Medicine Association and advised the Obama and Bush administrations on diagnostics and genomics.
Surprising fact: “I will attend any live sporting event – from baseball to rodeo – any chance I get.”
Biggest challenge: “My approach to my first leadership role in manufacturing was that I asked lots of questions, studied our business vs. competitors and put a strong team in place. In three years, we turned the business around and had the industry’s best profit margins. The lesson for me is not to be afraid of new challenges, take the time to learn and then trust the data alongside your gut.”
Karen M. Abraham – Senior vice president and CFO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona
Abraham oversees eight departments including finance, taxes, facilities and risk. With 30 years worth of experience at BCBSAZ, she works directly with the CEO on the development of long-range plans and policies.
Surprising fact: “My mother was a bookkeeper and at an early age recognized that I liked math. By the 8th grade, I actually knew what a CPA was and I wanted to make it my job.”
Biggest challenge: “I’ve worked through difficult economic times, operating losses and much government regulation. I have wonderful relationships with many talented colleagues who have helped me through challenging times.”