Bruce Wright

Lifetime Achievement Award winner and keynote address speaker Bruce Wright, center, accepting his award alongside Tucson Local Media and Inside Tucson Business President and Publisher Jason Joseph and Tucson Metro Chamber President and CEO Amber Smith.

A veritable who’s-who of movers and makers gathered inside the ballroom of Desert Diamond Casino & Hotel Nov. 14 in commemoration of local leaders. 

Gathered by the hundreds, the men and women in the room took part in Tucson Local Media and Inside Tucson Business’ sixth-annual Executive Excellence Awards, featuring 110 nominees in 10 categories. The event was emceed by Tucson Metro Chamber President and CEO Amber Smith. Starting things off with a traditional performance of Mexican song and dance were students from San Miguel High School.

Inside Tucson Business Publisher and President Jason Joseph began the evening with an ode to those assembled before him, praising each nominee for their tireless service to the Greater Tucson community. 

“We are here tonight to honor individuals that exemplify the term ‘excellence,’” Joseph said. “And we are thrilled to be able to gather to shine a light on them and their accomplishments.”

Retiring associate vice president for Tech Parks Arizona at the University of Arizona Bruce Wright was the night’s keynote speaker. 

Wright, who began his professional career as former U.S. Representative Morris “Mo” Udall’s chief of staff, discussed how that experience shaped his leadership capabilities once he returned to the Old Pueblo. 

It was a theme many of the night’s winners shared in their victory speeches, with Pima Pain Center CFO Jimmy J. Arefieg, who won in the CFO/Small & Medium Company category, touching on the importance of teamwork after receiving his award. 

“May we all continue to work together as a team; nurture and support each other,” Arefieg said. “And help grow the unique image of Tuscan as dynamic. To provide safe and healthy living and work environments.” 

All 10 of the night’s winners shared unique perspectives on how they reached their current point in their professional careers. 

Carroll, who’s worked with engineering firm EEC for 14 years, described how much of an impact Wright and the University of Arizona in general have had on the Tucson community. 

For EEC President and CEO William Carroll, who won the award for CEO/Medium Company, the key to success as an executive center around those you bring in to work in the trenches, day in and day out. 

“Leadership is very easy,” he said. “You surround yourself with really good people, you listen to them, you mentor them when they need it and you turn them loose to do what they know how to do.”

Marcus touched on a similar narrative, when the longtime University of Arizona Tech Park CFO took the stage. 

For Kenneth Marcus, Director and CFO or UA Tech Park (and winner of the CFO/Nonprofit category), the key to professional success hinges on your ability to successfully raise a family. Such a feat allows you to learn the skills of patience and perseverance that are key to thriving in business. 

Marcus also believes that raising a family allows executives to understand how to avoid being rigid in their demands, meeting employees and customers halfway so everyone can find success. 

“You need to be flexible in your job,” he said. “You need to be reliable. You need to be honest and courageous. Sometimes, you have to take that big step and do something that's courageous that you hadn't thought of.”



2018 Executive Excellence Awards Finalists and Winners


Executive Level Department Leader: Small & Medium Company

Gabriela Cervantes, Marketing and Sales Manager, AGM Container Controls

Jill Sweet, ASID, IIDA, NCIDQ, SAME, Senior Designer and Design Branch Manager, Aviar Space Planning and Design Team

Michelle Vail, Director of Accounting and Human Resources, Tierra Antigua Realty


Executive Level Department Leader: Large & Nonprofit Company

Kristen Auerbach, Director of Animal Services, Pima Animal Care Center

Christian Gonzalez, Director of Operations, Humane Society of Southern Arizona

Karen Salois, Executive Office Manager, Arizona Trucking & Materials


CFO: Small & Medium Company

Jimmy Arefieg, Medical Director and CFO, Pima Pain Center

Jeanie Fregoso, Business Manager, Arizona Lotus Corp.


CFO: Nonprofit Company

Kenneth “Ken” Marcus, Director and CFO, University of Arizona Tech Park

Ramon A. Gaanderese, Treasurer, Southern Arizona Construction Career Days

Kim Lizardi, CFO, San Miguel High School


COO of the Year

Teresa Filipowicz, Vice President, Great Potential Press, Inc.

Sa’ad Allawi, Strategy and Operations Officer, Healing Arizona Veterans

John Patton, Regional Chief Operating Officer, Red Cross Arizona/New Mexico, El Paso Region


CEO: Small Company

Linda Kay Mracek, Principal Designer and Owner, Aviar Design

Crystal Royce, President, The Royce CPA Firm

Jennifer Parks, CEO and Owner, Jade Star Acupuncture & Wellness


CEO: Medium Company

William B Carroll, President and CEO, EEC

Tony Terry, President, CEO and Founder, Gaslight Theatre et al

Sherri Odom, CPA and CEO, Pinpointe Accounting Services PC


CEO: Large Company

Howard N. Stewart, President and CEO, AGM Container Controls

Grant Anderson, President and CEO, Paragon Space Development Corp.

John P. Lewis, President and CEO, Commerce Bank of Arizona


CEO: Small and Medium Nonprofit Company

Kathleen A. Bethel, CEO, SARSEF

LaMonte Hunley, President, The Centurions of Southern Arizona

Patti O’Berry, CEO and Founder, Hands of a Friend (Manos Amigas) Inc.


CEO: Large Nonprofit Company

Michelle Conklin, Executive Director, Tucson Botanical Gardens

Nancy Kluge, President and CEO, Reid Park Zoological Society

Rose M. Lopez, President and CEO, Intermountain Centers


Lifetime Achievement Award

Bruce Wright, Retiring associate vice president for Tech Parks Arizona at the University of Arizona