By David Pittman –
It should come as no surprise that the board of directors of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council has perennially been made up of top leaders from top companies in the Tucson region.
The current board is led by executives of two of Tucson’s largest employers. Chair Greg White is VP and CFO of Raytheon Missile Systems, and Vice Chair Judy Rich is president and CEO at Tucson Medical Center.
Throughout its two-decade history, SALC’s board has consistently chosen high-quality staff leaders to manage and guide the organization throughout its various stages of development.
In its 20-year history, SALC has employed five executive staff leaders. The first was Barbara Huffstetler, a former executive aide to a Pima County supervisor, who provided the skills needed to keep the fledgling organization alive during a period in which its members vigorously debated the mission and direction of the group.
“Barbara did a good job putting things in place and getting it launched,” said Si Schorr, an SALC founder and senior partner at the law firm Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie.
Huffstetler was succeeded by retired Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Johnston, who served as right-hand man to Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf when he commanded the American-led forces that crushed Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Johnston, the first of a trio of high-ranking military men to guide SALC, presided over the group’s first major victory – the defeat of Proposition 200, a voter initiative led by car dealer Bob Beaudry that would have restricted the city of Tucson from using its allocation of Central Arizona Project water for home delivery.
“Gen. Johnston brought order to things and emphasized efficiency,” said Hank Amos, president of Tucson Realty & Trust and a founding SALC member. “We liked the military precision he brought to the organization.”
Rick Myers became SALC president in 2003 and served in that capacity for two years. Myers now serves on the Arizona Board of Regents and as CEO of Tempronics, an early-stage, venture-backed technology company. He took the SALC position after retiring as VP and GM of IBM Tucson. SALC experienced consistent growth and continued progress during Myers’ tenure. Like Johnston, Myers continues to be an active member of SALC.
On Jan. 1, 2005, Ron Shoopman, a retired Air Force brigadier general who served as commander of the Air National Guard’s 162nd Fighter Wing at Tucson International Airport, became president of SALC. Soon thereafter the organization hit its stride and has gone on a 13-year run in which it has achieved substantial and seemingly inexhaustible victories.
During Shoopman’s tenure, SALC built a strong reputation as an influential business organization not only in Tucson, but across the state and in Washington, D.C.
“When I started at SALC, we had 56 members, a tiny budget and a little two-room office,” Shoopman said. “We now have about 140 members and more revenue and resources at our disposal than ever before.”
However, Shoopman and SALC President Edward P. “Ted” Maxwell downplayed their role in SALC successes, giving credit instead to the CEO membership they represent.
“The effectiveness of SALC is not derived from our professional staff. It comes from the members. They drive the organization.” Maxwell said. “It is their reputation, influence, resources and direction that has allowed SALC to accomplish the great things it has done.”
Largely because of SALC’s substantial membership and financial growth, and with an eye toward future succession, the organization’s board expanded SALC’s staff and installed a new leadership triumvirate at the beginning of last year.
Maxwell, an SALC VP since 2013, was promoted to SALC president, succeeding Shoopman in January 2017. While Maxwell oversees day-to-day operations, Shoopman remains CEO, providing experience, vision, guidance and big-picture leadership. Shelley Watson, a new member of the SALC team, replaced Maxwell as VP.
Watson, who grew up in Tucson, came to SALC from Capital Quest, a fundraising consulting firm where she was a partner and COO. A graduate of Arizona State University in business administration, Watson was previously executive director of the American Heart Association in Tucson.
Like Johnston and Shoopman, Maxwell has had a distinguished military career covering more than 30 years of service. Maxwell, who was promoted to the rank of major general in 2015, formerly served as vice wing commander at the 162nd Wing in Tucson. In February he retired as commander of the Arizona Air National Guard, a part-time position under Gov. Doug Ducey’s authority. Maxwell received a master’s degree in business administration from UA in 2014.
“After Ted’s first year as president, all indications already are that he will continue SALC’s success,” said Jim Kiser, a former editorial page director at the Arizona Daily Star and director of governance policy at SALC. “He is a quick learner, he is committed, he has an engaging way with people and he loves Tucson.”