It’s that time of year to hand out some honors for the year’s best. So it is without further ado that I bring you the Third Annual Hammer Awards.
Impact Player of the Year: State Treasurer Doug Ducey
The keeper of the state’s checkbook took down Proposition 204 in a rout, and for that Doug Ducey wins a Hammer. Before he arrived on the scene, the tax measure was poised to coast to victory with no opposition. Ducey rallied opponents to make a clear case to voters why Arizona could do better by its education system than to saddle the state with a permanent tax increase that wouldn’t advance proven reforms. Ducey hit the exacta when Proposition 118, which would help create a more reliable funding stream into the K-12 system, also passed.
Best Public Policy Effort of the Year: (tie) Personnel Reform and Competitiveness Package 2.0
Two major policy efforts in 2012 deserve Hammers.
Gov. Jan Brewer and the Legislature, led by Senate President Steve Pierce and House Speaker Andy Tobin, were firing on all cylinders in 2012 with their passage of a sweeping personnel reform package that injects a new and much needed level of accountability and professionalism into the state’s employment system. Newly appointed Brewer chief of staff Scott Smith deserves kudos for shepherding the package through the Legislature with the help of two of the state House ’s brightest rising stars, Justin Olson and Justin Pierce.
As if that weren’t enough, though, the governor and Legislature also passed a major economic competitiveness package in 2012 that built on the gains passed in 2011. Who says you can’t have back-to-back once-in-a-generation job creation bills? This year’s wins included the state’s first ever reduction in the tax on investment income (capital gains), and it now makes Arizona more attractive from a tax standpoint to service providers who sell their services beyond the state’s borders, bringing the service sector into alignment with manufacturers. Gov. Brewer’s lead policy adviser and tax guru Michael Hunter, state Rep. J.D. Mesnard, who was honored as the Arizona Chamber’s Representative of the Year, and Arizona Commerce Authority CEO Sandra Watson all deserve a Hammer for a job well done.
Comeback Player of the Year: Matt Salmon
The Hammer goes to former and now Congressman-once-again Matt Salmon for his return to the U.S. House 12 years after he stayed faithful to his term limits pledge that he made when he was a member of the class of 1994. As someone who had the honor of spending a good chunk of his professional life working for Matt, the East Valley will be well served by its incoming congressman who, by having served three terms in the 1990s, brings to his job a perspective (and seniority) few have.
Expect Big Things: Steve Chucri
Maricopa County Supervisor-elect Steve Chucri is one to watch, so he earns the Expect Big Things Hammer. Steve is one of the most affable guys you’ll ever meet. Adding his voice to the Board of Supervisors will ensure that the needs of Maricopa County will always come before any personal political agenda. Drawing on his experience as the chief of the Arizona Restaurant Association, I expect he’ll inject a pro-business point of view into the Board’s work that will help Maricopa County grow more jobs.
Southern Arizona Star: Lea Marquez-Peterson
Lea Marquez-Peterson, the president and CEO of the fast-growing Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, wins the Hammer for her groundbreaking work to illuminate business issues for southern Arizona’s Hispanic and Spanish-speaking community. Through her work on votaaz.org, an online guide to candidates and election information, Lea is ensuring that more people than ever understand public policy’s impact on business.
I’ll Be Back: Kirk Adams
Former state House Speaker Kirk Adams may have come up short in his bid for Congress, but he’s simply too talented a leader and respected as a conservative voice to be gone from the scene long. Here’s hoping it’s won’t be too long until Kirk returns to a position of influence.
Emerging Mayor: Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton
If I were pressed, I might be able rattle off the names of a dozen or so big city mayors around the country. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton gets the Hammer Award for now having clearly joined that small list of mayors whose influence exceeds the borders of his or her city. Mayor Stanton and his colleagues on the Council are doing great things in Phoenix. The Mayor has taken the lead in advancing trade with Mexico, developing a biotech hub, education and pension reform. Because of Stanton and City Manager David Cavazos, when cities around the country are looking for best practices, they’ll look to Phoenix.
Councilmen of the Year: Sal DiCiccio and Tom Simplot
Phoenix has dramatically reduced the time it takes to get a project through the permitting process, an initiative headed up by Councilmen Sal DiCiccio and Tom Simplot. This effort has received national attention, including from columnist George Will.
Buy this Stock: Danny Seiden
Danny Seiden, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s political adviser, wins the Hammer for being a stock to watch in 2013. He was on the inside of two big wins in the 2012 election cycle: the defeat of Props 204 and 121, the so-called open primary measure, all while working with Montgomery to return the office of county attorney to respectability. And to boot, he’s married to one of Arizona’s most talented women, Southwest Gas executive Ann Seiden. Buy this stock!
The Next Generation: Martinez and Romero
They’re barely old enough to rent a car, but Gretchen Martinez (formerly Conger) and Lorna Romero each wins a Hammer for representing the next generation of Arizona politics. Martinez was the successful No on 204 campaign manager while doing her day job directing advocacy efforts at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Romero last month was named Gov. Brewer’s director of legislative affairs, where she helps shepherd the governor’s priorities through the legislative process.
Serious Work for a Funny Man: Chris Bliss and the Bill of Rights Monument
Professional juggler and comedian Chris Bliss wins a Hammer for his dogged determination to install monuments to the Bill of Rights in civic spaces across America. Thanks to Bliss’ work and legislation introduced by U.S. Rep.-elect Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona last week became the first state to dedicate a monument. The limestone pieces with the words of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution can be found at Wesley Bolin Plaza at the state Capitol.
Former Roommate of the Year: Steve Voeller
This is no slight to anyone else who split the rent check with me during my 20s, but Steve Voeller wins the Hammer for Former Roommate of the Year for his tireless and effective tax policy work at the state Capitol as head of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club. Steve is now headed off to serve as Sen.-elect Jeff Flake’s chief of staff. A trusted adviser for years to the senator-elect, Steve will be an excellent leader for the Flake office as he shuttles between D.C. and Arizona. The Chamber wishes him the best of luck in his new post.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry