Shelley Watson

Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer
Southern Arizona Leadership Council

By Valerie Vinyard

As senior VP and COO of Southern Arizona Leadership Council, Shelley Watson works tirelessly to positively impact this region. 

“We’re the smallest big town there is,” said Watson, a graduate of Canyon Del Oro High School and Arizona State University. “As a region, we try harder and work harder for our successes.”

SALC is a membership organization of 160 CEOs and community leaders that is a unified voice for public policy that advances the region’s economic vibrancy and quality of life. The group focuses on education, governance, healthcare, infrastructure and innovation economy.

“We’re not an economic development organization,” Watson said. “We work to shape effective public policy and set the environment and the landscape that helps attract business here. Our goal is to have the best policy environment.”

She first heard about the organization from a friend and found out it was looking for a VP in 2016. “I fell in love with the whole concept. What a cool opportunity to make a difference in our community.” 

It’s a community that Watson fully embraces.

“It’s the wonderful outdoors,” she said. “It’s beautiful here. We’re a City of Gastronomy. There’s a lot that can happen in Tucson that maybe can’t happen in other places because the cost of doing business is so much more permissive here. I’d like to think we prioritize people who are seeking to come here. We roll out the red carpet.”

Watson serves on the boards of Education Forward Arizona, Tucson Values Teachers and MAP Dashboard. She also is a past board president of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona.

She’s especially passionate about Sister Jose Women’s Center, a compassionate organization that aids homeless women. Watson is finishing up her two-year term in July as board chair for the center and will continue to serve on the board afterward.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful organization that is meeting such a need in the community,” said Watson. 

Nicola Hartmann, CEO of Sister Jose’s, has known Watson for several years.

“I think she’s very smart, she is an incredible diplomat,” Hartmann said. “I have seen her navigate really delicate situations and handle them. She gets what she needs to get done, but she doesn’t offend people. It’s a skill I wish I had. She’s very tactical. She’s also very kind.”

“She really gives back to this community and gives back in a really impactful way.”

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