Executive Excellence

Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance Executive Director Kate Marquez, center, won the award for CEO or Leadership Equivalent of the Year at the 2017 Executive Excellence Awards, hosted by Inside Tucson Business at Desert Diamond Hotel & Casino. Alongside Marquez are Tucson Local Media President and Publisher Jason Joseph and event emcee Lisa Lovallo of Cox Enterprises.


The main theme heard from the halo of the dais at Desert Diamond Casino last Wednesday night was clear: Excellence in leadership takes a team. 

Most of the 14 award winners picked from a field of 40 finalists and 75 nominations at the fifth annual Executive Excellence Awards ceremony, hosted by Tucson Local Media and Inside Tucson Business, had some sort of praise for the people that matter most—whether it be their friends, coworkers, family or all of the above. 

The winners came from organizations big and small, split into four categories: executive leader, CFO or leadership equivalent, COO or leadership equivalent and CEO or leadership equivalent. 

The winners had eclectic backgrounds but expressed a level of humility and grace fitting of the spotlight. 

Take, for instance, City of Tucson CFO/Assistant City Manager Judy Garland, who’s worked with the Old Pueblo since 2000. 

Garland, who is responsible for managing Tucson’s $1.43 billion budget, said that solving the city’s financial needs is a demanding task, but that it is a labor of love for both her and her team. 

“Really, it’s looking out for the community,” Garland said. “Working with the dollars that you have and doing the right thing for the community. So it takes time. It takes a lot of talking. It takes all of us working together, because what’s important is value to our community. That’s what we’re there for.”  

Tucson Local Media President and Publisher Jason Joseph started the evening by summing up the purpose of the awards: honoring those who positively shape our community. 

“It is with great pleasure that, along with our sponsors, we are able to once again gather for this great event and recognize the outstanding leaders throughout the Tucson community,” Joseph said.

The night was dedicated to honoring the nominees, as well as their peers and loved ones. Connie Curnett, who won the award for CFO or Leadership Equivalent for Nonprofit Organizations, touched on all of the above in her speech. 

Curnett, CFO for Child and Family Resources, praised her family and coworkers for their efforts, saying she would have never succeeded without their support. 

“I’m really honored just to have been nominated for this, and I appreciate my opportunity,” Curnett said. “First of all, I want to thank my family, because I know that they’ve had to put forth a lot of support over the years, because as you all know, working for a nonprofit organization, you wear a lot of hats and work a lot of hours. So I thank them for supporting me in all of my endeavors.”

Curnett dedicated an equal amount of love to her colleagues, who she said guided her through both good and bad times.

“They know it takes a village to deliver the services that our community needs, so thank you,” Curnett said. 

Paragon Space and Development CFO and Business Operations Manager Joel Johnson, who won the COO or Leadership Equivalent-Small/Medium Company category, thanked a wide array of people for his award. 

The former Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada and NASA employee cracked an ear-to-ear smile on the dais as he addressed the roomful of his peers. 

“The term COO has my name on it, but it’s a team award,” Johnson said. “There’s no way to have operations without a team. So thank you to all on the wonderful team. Thank you.”

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