The Arizona Chapter of Financial Executives International (FEI) hosted the 15th Annual CFO of the Year Awards Wednesday in front of a packed house at Chateau Luxe in Phoenix.

Sponsors of the event included JPMorgan ChaseCBIZ MHMKeyserLovitt and Touché, AZ Big Media and Vaco.

A total of 24 of the most impactful CFOs in Arizona were selected as finalists for the 2023 CFO of the Year Awards and five awards were presented.

Deborah Kimes from CBIZ MHM presents the Sponsors Award at the 15th Annual CFO of the Year Awards.

Not-For Profit CFO of the Year: Michael Marion, chief financial officer, Terros Health

Public Company CFO of the Year: Thad Trent, executive vice president and chief financial officer, onsemi 

Medium Company CFO of the Year: John Meekison, chief financial officer, Exro Technologies

Large Company CFO of the Year: Jason Switz, chief financial officer, CHASSE Building Team

Sponsors Award: Sean Hammond, executive vice president and chief financial officer, SnapCare

Here is a closer look at the finalists who were honored at the 15th Annual CFO of the Year Awards:

David Beer

Chief financial officer 

Sun Valley Masonry 

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “My proudest professional achievement has been initiating the Sun Valley Charity Golf Tournament, which has raised over $200,000 for charity to date. One beneficiary of the tournament that holds a special place in my heart is Hands of Love International, where I serve as vice president on the board. This organization runs Sponsor-A-Child programs, providing vital assistance to starving children living in dire poverty.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “This song was sort of a joke when I first thought of it because we would sing it all of the time, but in the end it fit: ‘Cold as Ice’ by Foreigner. It’s the perfect theme song for me, striking that balance between fun and seriousness.”

Gregory Derr

Chief financial officer 

The Harkey Group

BACKGROUND: Derr has more than 20 years of experience across a variety of industries including airlines, energy, national politics, media and advertising. 

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “Building out the accounting, finance and operations departments at The Harkey Group over the last two years, while witnessing not only the impact these team members have on the organization but also the substantial professional development of each one, fills me with profound satisfaction and an overwhelming sense of pride.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “It’s My Job’ by Jimmy Buffett. This is a beautiful song about taking pride in your work, regardless of what that work might be.”  

Mark El-Tawil

Chief financial officer and chief risk officer

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona 

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “At AZ Blue, I have been most proud of people I have hired, trained and mentored. It gives me great joy seeing them grow in their roles and have successful career paths. I’ve also been proud of my team for developing products and services and leading acquisitions that have meaningfully impacted the health, well-being and financial security of Arizonans. I love to be a leader and throughout my career I’ve had many opportunities that make me proud to be where I am today and to see the impact I am making.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “I have to go with ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon because the song fits my life broadly and the title specifically fits the way I approach opportunities and challenges in my role.”

Dan Gaudreau

Chief financial officer

DriveTime and Bridgecrest

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “During the height of the pandemic, you would think that car sales would become one of the first things to decline, but we experienced just about the opposite. At DriveTime, we value putting everyone in the driver’s seat of a reliable and affordable vehicle, and with our companies Bridgecrest and SilverRock, we walk hand-in-hand with our customers through their entire journey to ownership by financing their vehicles and protecting them.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “The first song that comes to mind when thinking about my career is ‘Good Times Roll’ by The Cars. Not only does the car theme fit with the DriveTime brand, but the song also has a general feel of going with the flow.”

Ken Gerard

Chief financial officer

azbil North America

BACKGROUND: Gerard brings more than 35 years of business management, accounting, IT and operations experience to his role as CFO for azbil North America. In addition to his role as CFO, he is an active board member for multiple affiliates within azbil North America.

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “I put myself through school, working as a bookkeeper and upon graduation took a position as a controller as my first professional opportunity. My success came from working to augment my education. In every organization I have been a part of, I have created an intern program designed to help students get the experience and understanding needed to hit the job market running.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘I believe I Can Fly.’”

Sean Hammond 

Executive vice president and chief financial officer


BACKGROUND: As executive vice president and chief financial officer of SnapCare since 2020, Hammond is responsible for all of the company’s financial functions, including accounting, audit, treasury, corporate finance, investor relations and financial operations. His career spans almost 30 years of experience in financial management, business leadership and corporate strategy in healthcare technology and media.

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “Actively investing in my leaders’ career paths. I currently have multiple leaders with two to three tours of duties with me and several that have gone on to take significant leadership positions in other companies.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘Workin’ Day and Night’ by Michael Jackson. I think the title speaks for itself.”

John Helms

Vice president and chief financial officer

Empire Southwest 

BACKGROUND: Helms joined Empire in 2007 after a 28-year career with Wells Fargo Bank and predecessor institutions. During his banking career, he held various positions of increasing responsibility culminating with the position of regional vice president for the Greater Arizona Regional Commercial Banking Office. Helms now serves as vice president and chief financial officer of Empire Southwest, LLC, the Caterpillar dealer for Arizona, Nevada and parts of NE and SE California.

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “Preparing Empire’s Balance sheet for the successful acquisition of Cashman Equipment Company in 2022, raising $1.5 billion in a tough bank environment to fund the acquisition and playing a key role in the financial and systems consolidation of the two entities-still in process.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘Against the Wind’ by Bob Seger. Seems like I am always pushing against the wind!”

David Hreha

Chief financial officer

Wespac Construction

BACKGROUND: Hreha has more than 25 years of accounting and finance experience, spending half of that time specifically in construction. His experiences in public and private companies, both domestic and foreign, guides organizations to increased enterprise values. Successfully completing multiple debt and equity offerings and placing effective controls over accounting and reporting functions has garnered him a reputation as a respected professional.  

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “Working with the team at Taylor Morrison to take the company public. We had many obstacles to overcome and persevered through to reach a phenomenal result.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)’ by the Beastie Boys.”

Robert Lunny

Chief financial officer


BACKGROUND: Lunny is an operationally oriented finance executive with more than 20 years of experience managing high-growth companies. He is exceptionally skilled at managing turnaround situations, building scalable infrastructure and systems, recruiting and mentoring high-performing teams, and leading cross-functional teams to achieve strategic objectives. 

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “Learning how to translate a founder’s vision into an operating plan.” 

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘Ride of the Valkyries.’ Many days working at a scale up feels like guerilla warfare. It’s a reference to a scene in Apocalypse Now.’” 

Michael Marion

Chief financial officer

Terros Health

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “The accomplishment that brings me the most pride is the team that I’ve created at Terros Health. I have had the great fortune to bring together a team of dedicated, servant-minded, financial professionals who do excellent work and have fun at the same time. Their personalities and interests vary greatly — introverts and extroverts, world travelers and home bodies, parents and grandparents — yet they are a cohesive group that supports each other and gets things done.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘I’ll Be There For You’ by The Rembrandts. It is a song about showing up, supporting others, being accountable and knowing that they will be there for you when you need them. And, who doesn’t like a song with clapping?!”

Bryan McMahon

Chief financial officer

Southwest Foodservice Excellence and Cenavera Nutrition

BACKGROUND: McMahon leads financial activities for Southwest Foodservice Excellence and Cenavera Nutrition, premier K-12 food service management companies. His responsibilities as CFO include enhancing financial planning and reporting and driving corporate strategy. He also plays a key role in operations and value creation. 

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “The professional accomplishment I am most proud of is working well with others across organizations to make meaningfully positive impacts on other people.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “My career theme song might be ‘Viva la Vida’ by Coldplay.”

John Meekison

Chief financial officer

Exro Technologies

BACKGROUND: Meekison has more than 12 years of public and private experience and upwards of 15 years of experience raising equity capital.

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “Growing Exro from a U.S. $15-million-market-cap company to where it is today at over U.S. $350 million. Along the way we have scaled from less than 10 employees to over 140 and built out a North American footprint. I’m so excited to spearhead the next chapter of Exro’s growth in Arizona.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey. The title says it all! When scaling a startup there will be lots of ups and downs, turns and unexpected events. But through it all, it’s critical to keep the faith!”

John F. Morici

Chief financial officer and executive vice president, Global Finance

Align Technology

BACKGROUND: Morici joined Align Technology as chief financial officer (CFO) in November 2016 and is responsible for managing the company’s global finance and financial strategy. Spanning his more than 20-year career, Morici has held senior leadership positions in finance, operations and strategic planning in healthcare, medical technology and consumer/entertainment. 

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “As part of Align’s philanthropic activities, the company funded over $1 million to support COVID-19 relief efforts globally and donated personal protective equipment (PPE) and worked with partners to source supplies for additional PPE to help hospitals and healthcare providers.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “Don’t Look Back’ by Boston.”

Naresh Mulchandani

Chief financial officer


BACKGROUND: As CFO for GMI, Mulchandani oversees all aspects of the company’s financial affairs and financial reporting for the consolidated business. In his role, he leads the accounting and finance teams, overseeing accounting operations, business accounting, audit and tax and financial planning and analysis. He provides strategic business leadership and spearheads financial initiatives. 

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “Helping companies succeed. I thrive in challenging environments. The company I currently work for is a cake walk because we’ve been growing so fast, but working with a team and motivating them and making sure that we work for a common goal is what drives me.” 

Gina Patel

President and CFO


SOURCE OF PRIDE: “Choosing a single proudest moment is challenging given the many I’ve experienced. However, if I had to highlight one, it would be my ability to mentor and lead individuals to their fullest potential. Witnessing their growth and development is profoundly rewarding for me. By way of example, I’m currently in a mentoring relationship with a direct report which has been valuable for both of us. For me, it has provided insights into the day-to-day challenges and perspectives of my team, allowing me to better understand and support them. Mentoring has also sharpened my leadership skills, reinforced the importance of active listening and offered me the opportunity to reflect on my own experiences and growth.” 

CAREER THEME SONG: “I’m a big Katy Perry fan so my theme song would be ‘Roar.’ I just love the melody and find the messaging inspirational.”

Lisa A. Ricci

Chief financial officer

Child Crisis Arizona

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “The professional accomplishment that gives me the most pride is mentoring others in the accounting profession. I have two very personal examples. One is an employee that started out on my staff in an entry role. I encouraged him to pursue a master’s degree and CPA certification. He achieved this and then left our employment for a bigger and better role. My second example is my youngest daughter’s best friend. She started talking to me about accounting in high school as she thought she might like it. While at ASU, I hired her as an intern in my department so that she could get some real-world experience.”  

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen. I’ve been very fortunate to have enjoyed a successful career and have had a good time through all of its different phases.” 

Bikran Sandhu

Chief financial officer, chief operations officer and co-founder 

Rise48 Equity

BACKGROUND: As CFO, Sandhu’s responsibilities include overseeing accounting, finance and treasury at Rise48 Equity and Rise48 Communities. Formerly, Sandhu worked at PwC LLP providing audit and assurance services, auditing Fortune 100 companies as well as pre-IPO companies. He also worked at CNM, LLP and has a professional background in management consulting services related to SOX compliance, risk advisory and transactional accounting advisory services for Fortune 500 companies.

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “Building Rise48 Equity with Zach and Robert from the ground up and making it one of the biggest syndication firms in the nation.” 

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘We Know the Way’ by Opetaia Foa’I and Lin-Manual Miranda. Why — because you’ll never know where life takes you but deep inside you know which way is the right way.” 

Tamara Saunders

Chief financial officer


BACKGROUND: With more than 25 years of experience in finance and accounting, Saunders has spent the last decade working in private equity, focused primarily on software-based companies. While working closely with her colleagues to ensure balanced growth and profitability, she has also been responsible for integrating M&A, professionalizing the organizations for scalability and ultimately achieving very successful exits for investors. She has been with Arcoro since 2021 and has led the company from single-digit growth and break-even profitability to 20% growth and 30% margins.

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘Closer to Fine’ by Indigo Girls. This has been one of my favorites since high school and it’s still a great philosophy in both life and business. It seems more positive than ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking for’ by U2 or ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor.”

Ally Sloan

Chief financial officer

Chas Roberts Air Conditioning

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “Among my most proud professional accomplishments is leading our organization through a period of pronounced financial ambiguity when the housing market slowed down at the end of 2022 without compromising our workforce’s well-being. Our ‘never not working’ initiative was more than a financial strategy — it was a commitment to our construction employees. Rather than resorting to layoffs or cutting hours, we sought and executed internal projects, ensuring every employee was able to receive a full 40-hour workweek.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘Roar’ by Katy Perry — my career journey has been about finding my voice, overcoming challenges, and standing strong in the confidence of who I am and the experience and expertise that I bring to the table. Plus, it’s a great bop that I really enjoy — much like my job!”

Rajashree Soman

Chief financial officer


BACKGROUND: Since she took over the role as CFO at IntraEdge, Soman has managed the financial operations and reporting of the company and its subsidiaries in multiple countries. She is responsible for planning and executing strategies, implementing processes and improving the efficiency in workflow with technology and automation in various verticals of the company. Her prior public accounting experience in financial reporting, tax compliance, budgeting, forecasting and reconciliations has provided her with the concrete foundation to handle a multifunctional role in leading the finance team at IntraEdge.

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘Watch me shine’ by Joanna Pacitti.”

Jason Switz 

Chief financial officer

CHASSE Building Team

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “In my 10 years with CHASSE, we’ve accomplished a lot together. But my most significant contribution has been leading our transition to a 100% teammate-owned Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) in November 2021. Reflecting back, getting that done was the most rewarding professional accomplishment of my entire professional career. Employee ownership is a powerful thing. We already had an amazing workplace culture before the ESOP. But now that we’ve also aligned financial reward with the sum of our teammates’ day-to-day actions, they are just beginning to see the compounding impact of their efforts toward their financial future, and the company’s momentum is continuing to build.” 

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.’ There’s the Kanye West version ‘Stronger,’ but I thought the remix of the Daft Punk version was perhaps a better representation for what I wanted to say.”

Michelle Tesfay

Chief financial officer

Main Street Real Estate Advisors (MSREA)

BACKGROUND: Tesfay is responsible for the accounting/financial management processes for the corporation and for the assets managed by MSREA. 

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “Creating accounting guidelines and instructions within MSREA in which they were easy to understand, and the property management teams would be able to use for report preparation, budget and financial review. I believe I am instrumental in explaining exactly how property management accounting pertains to them and am able to provide them a clear understanding of what has happened with specific transactions or situations.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘Just Fine’ by Mary J Blige. The lyrics of this song are positive and upbeat, plus all you want to do is be happy and dance — especially when there are those days we struggle.” 

Lacy Tippett

Chief financial officer

Haan Development & Related Companies

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “One of my most prideful professional accomplishments as CFO of Haan Development & Related Companies was successfully leading multiple companies during a challenging economic downturn and worldwide pandemic. During a challenging time of uncertainty, not only financial but personal for so many, I implemented cost saving measures, fine-tuned, and streamlined financial processes and successfully secured both state and federal funds across multiple states. This allowed us to stabilize our financial health and continue to employ our best assets, our employees.”

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘Roar’ by Katy Perry. I started with Haan & Related Companies as a young female on a mission — from sitting in the background and waiting my turn to speak with a strong drive and a hefty goal of becoming the CFO.”

Thad Trent 

Executive vice president and chief financial officer


BACKGROUND: Trent has held several leadership roles throughout his career, most recently as CFO at Cypress Semiconductor responsible for strategic planning, accounting, investor relations, tax, corporate development and information technology. Under his leadership, Cypress’ revenue increased from $723 million to $2.5 billion, and the enterprise value increased by five times during his five-year tenure as CFO.

SOURCE OF PRIDE: “I am honored to have played a role in contributing to onsemi’s transformation resulting in increasing the market cap ~3x in less than three years, while creating growth opportunities for our worldwide team.” 

CAREER THEME SONG: “‘The Distance’ by Cake. Distance is required to drive success because financial leadership requires a long-term view and actions to drive shareholder value. This requires strategic planning and execution beyond debits and credits.”