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From top left: Jacci Amaral Veterinary Practice Manager, Jackpot Veterinary Clinic; Kim Dees Senior Vice President and Southern Arizona Division Manager, WaFd Bank Arizona; Connor Franulovich Owner/CEO, The Breaking Point Tucson and John Lai, President/CEO, Car Wash Partners dba: Mister Carwash. 

Some of Southern Arizona’s best and brightest business leaders were gathered under one roof Wednesday night as Inside Tucson Business and Tucson Local Media hosted the seventh annual Executive Excellence Awards.

The nominees came from a variety of backgrounds spanning the private and public service sectors, but each serve their organizations as executive level department leaders, chief financial officers and chief executive officers.

There were 44 nominations cast in eight categories, which were presented to four local judges who deliberated and chose the nominees that deserve distinct praise for their work.

Inside Tucson Business and Tucson Local Media President and Publisher Jason Joseph kicked off the evening by thanking the local sponsors and staff members who worked to make the Executive Excellence Awards come to life.

“The term excellence is defined as the quality of being outstanding or extremely good,” Joseph told the audience. “That is what we are here for tonight. To honor individuals who exemplify the term excellence. We are thrilled to be able to gather and shine a light on their accomplishments.”

Each of the night’s winners were cheered on by their coworkers, friends and loved ones as they received their awards, but each used their time in the spotlight to give credit to those around them who make their successes possible.

Jennifer Camano, the executive director of Friends of Pima Animal Care Center, works hard to raise money for homeless pets in the greater Tucson area. While she recently completed a $5 million campaign for life-saving programs at the shelter, Camano credits her success to the community she lives in. She received the award for CEO of a nonprofit organization.

“I want to thank this community because the over 20,000 pets that come into Pima Animal Care Center every single year can’t do it without the help of this community and the only reason Friends of PACC is so successful is because you believed in our mission and you gave us the money to help increase life-saving outcomes for those pets,” Camano said.

Dr. Robert Dean, the CEO of Urgent Specialists and a physician with Tucson Ear, Nose and Throat, works with his team every day to decrease costs and improve outcomes for urgent care patients. His efforts earned him the award for CEO of a small or medium company.

Dean said what his company does is a big shift in the healthcare industry. 

“It’s a huge factor in the United States of America, it’s a $3.7 trillion a year industry and it’s going to be a very big topic in this election year, so we appreciate all your support,” Dean said as he accepted his award. “Being a leader is more about who you bring in your inner circle and they help you to rise to the surface. It’s not my deeds, it’s the people that I bring in around me.” 

John Lai, the president and CEO of Mister Car Wash, had similar sentiments. As he accepted his award for CEO of a large company, Lai said it’s his 8,000 employees that make his company a success.

“I hear a lot of feedback about how well we do from a speed standpoint, from a quality standpoint, but I think the magic in Mister Car Wash is our people and the customer service that we deliver,” Lai said. “So, on behalf of our entire employee base, thank you guys for washing your car at Mister Car Wash and we’re very honored.”

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild—who will pass his role to mayor-elect Regina Romero in December after eight years in office—was in attendance to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. He said companies large and small are important to the city government because quality parks, police and fire departments and city roads depend on a strong tax base, which is created in part by strong businesses.

“You can either have a business community that attacks your government or a government that attacks your business community, or you can have the two that support each other,” Rothschild said. “You can have a constructive circle or a destructive circle. For the last eight years, I’ve tried to work real hard to assure that it’s a constructive circle and I’m hoping that as I leave office that remains. I think we have a really good foundation in place.” 

He mentioned the tax incentives that were offered to new businesses who have entered the local market such as the expansion of Gieco and Raytheon, and the additions of Hexagon, Caterpillar, Amazon and more. He also highlighted improvements to the Tucson Convention Center, which allowed teams like the Sugar Skulls and the Roadrunners to play home games and grow their fan bases.

Bob Hoffman, president of the Roadrunners hockey team and the event’s keynote speaker, said he was happy to see so many familiar faces on the nominees list, many of whom he has personally worked with on a variety of partnerships with the Roadrunners.

“We all work together to grow the community, to grow Southern Arizona, and to make this a better place for ourselves, for our kids, for our families, for our friends,” he said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been fortunate enough to be a part of a market similar to Tucson. It’s really been an outstanding ride for us in the four years of the Roadrunners and we’re excited to call Tucson home.”

Hoffman spoke about how success is defined differently in each of the nominees’ fields, but it’s not always about wins and losses, amounts of revenue or points on a scoreboard. He said success can be measured in an organization’s capacity for community involvement. 

“Our community involvement, the footprint that we try to have, and also just the reach that we have to the nonprofits, to the schools, to the military here in town … that’s a huge part of our ‘wins and losses’ and what we’re looking to do and have the success that we have,” Hoffman said.