By Valerie Vinyard
Giving His Children Rich Experiences
At the end of the board meeting for Visit Tucson in October, Brent DeRaad was surprised to find out he was named a 2019 Father of the Year by the Father’s Day Council Tucson
His wife, Beth, wasn’t surprised at all.
“Brent is as dedicated to fatherhood as he is to his work,” said Beth, who works as a property manager and a contract accounting consultant. “He is the voice of reason – and pragmatic in his parenting style. I can be emotional and he is a good balance to my parenting approach, which is more of a lead-with-my-heart style.”
His wife noted DeRaad’s steady leadership as a parent.
“He is rational and always commands respect as a father,” she said. “He was a great help with homework, especially with written assignments, and was a great resource as a homework proofreader.”
In turn, the 52-year-old DeRaad gave his wife of 28 years kudos, calling her “the glue that kept everything moving forward. She was the rock that did everything for these boys,” he said.
When his two sons heard the Father of the Year news, DeRaad said his younger son joked that he “wanted a recount.”
That son, 20-year-old Derek, works for Topgolf as an event cook. “My dad is one of the hardest-working people I have ever come across to this date,” he said. “My dad instilled the same work ethic in me, and I could not be more appreciative for that blessing. My dad has always believed in me and pushed me to be my best every single day.”
Derek said he has a “burning passion” for cooking, yet it can be difficult to create meals for his dad. “My dad absolutely hates garlic and onions – I know, right – so it’s tough to cook anything with flavor for him,” he said. “But I love him with all of my heart and wouldn’t want anyone else as my dad.”
DeRaad’s other son, 23-year-old Devon, is working on his doctorate in evolutionary biology with a focus on ornithology at the University of Kansas.
DeRaad left his executive VP gig at the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2012 to become Visit Tucson’s president and CEO, where he oversees 41 employees. The Arizona State University grad has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s in mass communication.
“It’s a different sell,” said DeRaad about marketing Tucson compared to Scottsdale. “This is much more authentic and natural.”
It’s also a job that keeps DeRaad busy. He has seen visitor spending in Pima County grow to $2.3 billion in 2017, according to Dean Runyan Associates. It hasn’t hurt that Tucson was named a City of Gastronomy by UNESCO in 2015, the first city in the United States to be awarded the honor.
Between 2012 and 2018, DeRaad also has seen metro Tucson experience remarkable lodging growth. He said the occupancy rate jumped 15.8 percent over that time period.
Even though his sons are grown, DeRaad keeps busy. His days usually begin around 3:30 a.m., when he works out, and continue with long hours at Visit Tucson.
As a child of the 1970s, DeRaad grew up a typical latch-key kid. As a result, when he became a father, he hoped to have his kids experience a variety of things.
“I wanted to expose my kids to everything possible, to interact with a lot of people,” he said. “I really think the key to being a good father is really spending the time with them.”
One of the ways he did that was by coaching a club baseball team in Scottsdale, where his son Devon played for about six years.
“It was a special time,” Beth said. “Brent was always there for the kids and families. It was a team everyone wanted to play for because of Brent and his talent for organization and ability to work with kids. He was able to treat each player as an individual and get the best from each player.”
Of course, DeRaad was quick to note that parenting has its challenges, too.
“The hardest part is letting go and letting them make their own decisions,” he said.
Like coaching, DeRaad believes parenting involves figuring out what motivates kids.
“There is no guidebook.”