I never really thought when I took the job that I’d see my 20th year anniversary as president of Valley Forward. That’s not to say I expected to leave my post sooner. For the past two decades, it’s been pretty automatic – I got out of bed every morning and found my way to the office without much thought about doing anything differently.

And for that I have no regrets. Serving this 42-year-old environmental public interest organization is an honor and a privilege but even more, a passion that has enriched my life in many ways. For that I thank all of the Valley Forward members  – the lifeblood of our impressive and diverse association, as well as our friends in the community who have supported our efforts over more than four decades.

This has been a year of significant change and transition as we’ve taken our mission statewide through a new initiative, Arizona Forward. I’ve become a regular on the I-10 corridor to Tucson and north to Prescott and Flagstaff via 1-17. The prospect of commuter rail  in the Sun Corridor one day brings great promise for enhancing our connectivity and bridging economic development opportunities.

We’ve come a long way during my tenure, which spans almost half of Valley Forward’s existence. From creating and presenting the state’s first official Earth Day celebration to co-hosting Arizona’s largest volunteer clean up along the Salt River, we have engaged countless individuals in our environmental programs.

Our advocacy of desert preservation and open space, multi-modal transportation options, water conservation and renewable energy alternatives has helped to shape public policy in our region that impacts both our livability and sustainability. We’ve graded Valley cities on how they respond to growth issues and made them stronger in the process. Our publications on smart growth strategies have helped educate public and private sectors.

That’s a lot! It’s also what drives my enthusiasm for Valley Forward – it’s ever changing, never static, always moving and anything but boring. I encourage everyone to get involved in something – find a way to give back to the community you’ve made your home. It will reward you in many ways.

I thank those who picked Valley Forward for their involvement. We couldn’t have made such strides without significant support from the community at large. 2012 brings with it ample opportunities to continue our collective journey to balance Arizona’s environmental quality and economic growth towards a more vibrant future.

For more information about Valley Forward, visit valleyforward.org.