Women of Influence 2019

2019 Lifetime Achievement winner Karen Cesare accepting her award.

Just a handful of the many influential women in Tucson were honored at the annual Women of Influence Awards, hosted by Tucson Local Media and Inside Tucson Business. A packed ballroom of 644 finalists and guests convened in the Desert Diamond Casino’s Diamond Center to hear from some of Tucson’s best and brightest women.

From 19 different categories, three women finalists were invited to bring their friends, coworkers and families to celebrate on Wednesday evening, where one woman from each category was chosen to be the winner by a panelist of three judges who won in previous years of the event.

The keynote speaker, Barbi Reuter, was named a Tucson Woman of Influence in 2012 and returned this year to share insights with the other honorees as the event’s keynote speaker. These local women are business owners, public servants, service providers, rising community leaders and much more.

“I cannot tell you how much pressure it is to say something inspiring to a room of inspirational people, but I will do my best,” Reuter said.

She talked about her personal experiences with self doubt and “imposter syndrome” during her long and successful career with commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR. After landing an internship with the firm while she was in college, Reuter worked her way to the top spot as current president.

“The imposter syndrome sneaks up on us,” she said. “It holds us back and it amplifies our self doubt. So we dial down the volume on that voice and crank up the other one. The one we need to nourish. The one that says ‘You are worthy, you are special.’”

Winners shared similar experiences during their acceptance speeches. Stephanie Bermudez, who won Minority Business Owner of the Year, created the business project Startup Unidos which helps support underserved populations of Southern Arizona and northern Mexico. She previously worked to develop the Connect Coworking office spaces in the heart of downtown Tucson.

Bermudez said her story is one of perseverance, where after becoming a mother at 19 years old she refused to become a statistic and worked hard to become a successful leader in her local community. She said her intent with Startup Unidos is to help other people with similar backgrounds reach as far as she went and beyond.

Denisse Angulo-Badilla, who was named Real Estate Champion, also works at Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR as the only female licensed real estate agent in the community who does business on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. She attributed her success to her mother and father who supported her through school and enabled her to move to the United States and build a new and successful life here in Tucson.

Reuter also mentioned her mother as influential to her success, who lived by an ethic of “never give up” which was memorialized on a pendant she wore after becoming faced with a disability.

“She modeled strength and determination for her household of girls,” Reuter said. “She encouraged us to spread out wings, experience the arts, do our best and live by the golden rule. She allowed me to wheel her in for the 2012 Women of Influence event and we were blessed to have her for three more years.”

Karen Cesare, owner of landscape architecture firm Novak Environmental, Inc., received the Lifetime Achievement Award and shared how her family shaped her trajectory for success.

“Dad, when you had your own business when I was growing up you showed me how to run a business with consistency, integrity and just plain old hard work,” Cesare said. “Mom, among the many things you taught me, ‘Look around and see what needs to be done and just do it, without waiting to be asked’ has to be the best advice ever.”

She closed her acceptance speech urging the young attendees to head her mother’s advice. Look around, see what needs to be done, and just do it.

While almost every finalist of this year’s Women of Influence Awards was involved in nonprofit or volunteer work in some capacity, Reuter encouraged everyone in the room to give back, because that is what success is really about.

“If you’ve been honored tonight, it is your turn to pay it forward,” Reuter said. “Nominate a colleague, mentor a student or connect an up and comer. Make a connection, open a door. A nomination is an honor, an award--fabulous, but the work you do and the communities you serve--life-changing. Keep making a difference.”

Women of Influence 2019

Winners and Finalists

Administrative Champion

V’Eanna Marsden, Alive Christian Fellowship

Michelle Simon, Pima County Public Library

Wendy Kurtin, Genesis OB/GYN

Arts and Culture Champion

Mary-Beth Cabana, Ballet Tucson

Lynn Rae Lowe, Rose Petal Family Foundation

Nicole Dahl, Hotel McCoy

Community Service Champion

Judy L. Huch, AuD, Oro Valley Audiology, Inc.

Susan Scherl, HOPE Animal Shelter

Vanessa Ojeda-Gomez, Women & Gender Resource Center

Education Champion

Carrie Brennan, City Center for Collaborative Learning

Gail D. Burdm, Ph.D., University of Arizona

Raena Janes, La Paloma Academy

Financial banking Champion

Sandra P. Barton, Alliance Bank of Arizona

Laura Walton, TCI Foundation

Linda Immerman-Stoffers, Schaefer Present & Stoffers at RBC Wealth Management

Food Service Champion

Sammie Jesser, Copper Brothel Brewery

Michelle Ecret, eegee’s

Wendy Garcia, Tumerico

Healthcare Champion

Margie Balfour, M.D., Ph.D., ConnectionsAZ

Joy Naynes, FNP, MPH, El Rio

Monica Kraft, MD, University of Arizona College of Medicine

Legal Champion

Heather Strickland, MyersStrickland, PLLC

Gloria Goldman, Goldman & Goldman, PC

Riisa Petersen Mandel, Peterson Law Firm, PLLC

Licensed Professional Champion

Kayla Boyer, Speedway Veterinary

Jennifer Chenault, Lovitt & Touche

Sally Bach, G2 Contracting, LLC

Nonprofit Champion

Sonia Valencia-Economou, HTG Molecular

Donna Crawford, Angel Charity for Children, Inc.

Nicola Hartmann, Youth On Their Own

PR/Marketing/Advertising Champion

Mary Rittmann, Visit Tucson

Debra Stephens, Showard Law Firm

Holly Polston, Garment Graphics and Promotional Products

Public Service Champion

Sarah Haught, Tucson Police Department

Ally Miller, Pima County Board of Supervisors

Karyn Prechtel-Altman, Pima County Public Library

Real Estate Champion

Denisse Angulo-Badilla, Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR

Bridgett Baldwin, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services

Nicole Churchill, The Vanguard Group, Exp Realty

Recreation/Hospitality Champion

Janet Hare, Doubletree Hotel by Hilton Tucson at Reid Park

Candace Carrillo, Stillwell House and Garden

Kathrina Berg, The Highlands at Dove Mountain

Rising Star

Rosalind Prather, Trusting Connections Nanny Agency

Gabrielle Shoun, MS, LASC, Sierra Tucson

Jackie Garcia, Hotel McCoy

Technology Champion

Dr. Katherin J. Herrick, Raytheon Company

Caitlin Clancy, Sunquest Information Systems

Yvonney Huth, CITI

Business Owner of the Year

Emily Goff, Arizona Zipline Adventures

Maria Mazon, BOCA Tacos

Shirley Dail, Shirley’s Plan Service

Minority Business Owner

Stephanie Bermudez, Startup Unidos

Cecilia Mata, AllSource Global management, LLC

Olga Chausovskya, European Market and Deli

Entrepreneur of the Year

Cheri Romanowski, Cheri’s Desert Harvest

Jennifer Parks, Jade Star Acupuncture & Wellness

Laura Levin, Modern Studios

Lifetime Achievement

Karen Cesare, RLA, Novak Environmental, Inc