Four of Arizona’s most prominent women were recognized for being “champions for business issues” at the annual 2020 Awards Luncheon Wednesday hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and presented by Cox Communications.

“We want to thank these women for their inspirational and trailblazing work in making Arizona the place everyone wants to live and play,” said Susan Anable, Cox’s vice president of public affairs for the Southwest Region, who spoke at the event.

Arizona has a rich history of women taking on leadership roles, including Sandra Day O’Connor,  the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, Anable said.

Honoring outstanding leadership  

The Awards Luncheon is the Chamber’s annual legislative wrap-up event that features an awards ceremony.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage this year, the Chamber paid tribute to  outstanding women leaders. The Chamber also handed out the “Best City for Business Award.”

Here are this year’s award winners and comments from the event:

Transformational Leader Award: Cara Christ, director, Department of Health Services 

This award is one of the Chamber’s highest honors, bestowed upon those individuals from Arizona’s private and public sectors who have demonstrated transformational leadership by creating a vision for positive change in public policy, by inspiring business and industry in pursuit of that vision, and by enriching the future for all Arizonans.

With “grit and grace,” Dr. Cara Christ has enriched all citizens’ lives by fighting day in and day out for the public health and well-being of Arizonans during the pandemic.

“Dr. Christ showed up every week with Governor Doug Ducey before the press. Armed with the facts, hers was a calming voice of reason, ready to equip Arizonans with the most current information. She continues to uphold the highest standards of transparency to ensure Arizonans are in the know,” Anable said in presenting Dr. Christ with the award.

Senator of the Year: Senate President Karen Fann

State Sen. KarenFann, who grew up in Prescott in a family with a strong work ethic, went on to launch her own business in 1984 with only $500. The company, Arizona Highway Safety Specialists, Inc., gradually grew until it became the state’s largest installer of roadway guardrails and signage.

Currently, Fann is serving her second term in the state Senate as president and chair of the Rules Committee. During her tenure, she has been steadfast in tackling policy issues to advance economic recovery and ensure Arizona remains a pro-business state.

As leader of the Senate, Fann led the body to take swift action when the coronavirus health emergency was declared during the middle of the legislative session.

Under her leadership, the Legislature took bipartisan action to pass a state budget, authorize $55 million for the Arizona Department of Health Services to address the health crisis, and provide $50 million in flexible and targeted COVID relief.

During the 2020 session, Fann also sponsored priority legislation to reinforce the state’s authority to set energy policy and preserve balanced and affordable energy solutions for Arizona’s citizens and businesses (House Bill 2686).

Representative of the Year: Rep. Regina Cobb

State Rep. Regina Cobb also was recognized for her “great strength of character” during the pandemic.

When the COVID pandemic hit, Cobb helped lead the efforts to pass a state budget to ensure there would be no interruption or cuts to funding for core government services.

She helped ensure the state Department of Health Services would have the funding to fight the public health emergency and that there would be dedicated funding to help combat the pandemic.

As the pandemic grew, Cobb fought to ensure hospitals, doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals had the resources needed to meet current and future demand for services.

Cobb was instrumental in passing House Bill 2668 that will provide critical resources to the healthcare system by allowing the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) to establish an assessment, which will be leveraged to draw down $1 billion in federal matching dollars.

As Appropriations Committee chair, Cobb has worked tirelessly to ensure Arizona has a balanced budget while increasing funding for core government services including adding billions of dollars for education and implementing a 20 percent pay raise for teachers.

Volunteer of the Year: Maria Baier, senior vice president of public affairs, Phoenix Suns

A Phoenix native, Maria Baier has a long history of championing business interests during a long career in state policy.

Among her titles, she served as a senior policy adviser for two Arizona governors, as a member of the Phoenix City Council and as Arizona’s State Land Commissioner.

Baier has also worked in the nonprofit world, having held the top executive positions at the Arizona Office of the Trust for Public Land, the Sonoran Institute and Valley Partnership.

Whether promoting the Chamber’s Foundation initiatives, serving on its policy committees or the board of directors, the Chamber has long counted on Baier’s  leadership and support.

Best City for Business: Goodyear 

Goodyear received the 2020 Best City for Business Award for its business-friendly customer service and sharp acumen in attracting a wealth of industry to the community.

The annual award is given to a city or town that shows it can drive economic development, reduce regulatory burdens on business, and work with the business community to improve the local quality of life.

Once a sleepy golf town for retirees, Goodyear has transformed itself into an economic force in attracting industry. Over the past two decades, the city has become adept at advertising its Foreign Trade Zones, airport and prime location near major freeways.

The rewards? Distribution centers, data centers, warehouses, aviation and aerospace companies, healthcare facilities, restaurants, entertainment venues and much more.

Mayor Georgia Lord, who accepted the award on behalf of the city, is considered a major force in the city’s success. After two decades of public service in Goodyear, Lord, 84, is finishing out her final term.

As Lord heads out the door she will witness the completion of a decades long effort. Goodyear is finally getting a new city hall.


This story was originally published at Chamber Business News.