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2016: Year In Review

2016 saw Arizona on the rise. It was a year of investing in education, embracing innovation, strengthening our communities, and making government work for Arizona citizens. 

Scroll through Governor Ducey's annual report for highlights from the year. 

Educational Excellence

Arizonans are making sure our teachers have the resources they need to succeed

Arizonans Passed Proposition 123

In May 2016, voters approved Prop 123, which is adding $3.5 billion into our K-12 education system over the next 10 years without raising taxes. Prop 123 also ended a burdensome lawsuit that was standing in the way of progress for our students. The effort proved that political leaders on both sides of the aisle, business and community leaders, and our state’s first-class educators can work together when the cause is as important as educating our children.


Substantial Budget Investments

Continued Investment In Education

Our fiscal year 2017 budget also injected an additional $142 million into K-12 education and an additional $38 million into universities—above and beyond the $3.5 billion voters approved through Prop 123.

Putting Classrooms First

Engaging educators, experts and stakeholders, the governor’s Classrooms First Initiative is making sure new money for our schools remains a top priority for Arizona. Already, the initiative has focused the discussion on how to get more money directly to teachers and students in the classroom where learning takes place. 

Classrooms First

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Arizona is committed to providing every student with a world-class education

Inspiring Arizona’s “Chief Science Officers”

In February 2016, the Governor’s Office Of Education hosted a youth town hall for 110 “Chief Science Officers,” 6th-12th graders who are interested in STEM careers, giving them the opportunity to speak with Honeywell executives working in those fields. A few months later, a 13-year-old CSO from Arizona was chosen to visit the White House and speak with President Obama. The student pitched the president the idea of a “National Technology Field Trip Day” inspired by his Honeywell visit. Governor Ducey hosted the 1st Annual Chief Science Officer Capitol Summit at the Arizona State Capitol that same month.

Ambitious Educational Attainment Goals

In September 2016, Governor Ducey announced a new statewide effort aimed at improving educational attainment in Arizona. The ambitious, community-led initiative—called “Achieve60AZ”—seeks to equip at least 60 percent of working age adults with a college degree or career training by 2030, positioning Arizonans to capitalize on an economy that increasingly requires post-secondary skills.


Investments In Technical And Career Education

Investments In Technical And Career Education

One of the first actions of this year’s legislative session was a $28 million investment in Joint Technical Education Districts to help students learn what they’re passionate about and prepare them to succeed in post-secondary education. The investment, with a commitment to ongoing funding, acknowledges that educational attainment is not a one-size-fits-all process and can take on many forms depending on each individual. The legislation also established new reporting requirements to make these districts more accountable and transparent.


Investments In Technical And Career Education

Training Great Leaders, Creating Great Schools

Governor Ducey launched the “Great Schools, Great Leaders” initiative to strengthen the link between great school leaders and great schools. The initiative, kick-started with a $100,000 investment from the governor’s office, will be used to train our state’s school leaders with the aim of closing the achievement gap and improve the quality of education that low-income students receive in Arizona.


Expanding Educational Opportunities For Foster Children

In May 2016, Governor Ducey signed legislation to give school-age foster children enrollment preference at the public school of their choice, expanding educational opportunities for our most vulnerable. The legislation invested $1 million to expand the statewide FosterEd program, which assigns each child an “Education Champion” who can support the student’s long-term academic success.

Serving As A National Model For Education Excellence

We’ve been blessed with the most passionate and tireless educators in the world. Our schools and universities are first-class institutions that continue to set the national standard. In April 2016, U.S. News and World Report released its 2016 rankings of the country’s best high schools; Arizona is home to three of the top ten in the nation. And, in September 2016, Arizona State University was ranked the nation’s most innovative university—for the second consecutive year! These are only two of the nationwide awards, achievements, and victories our state has received in its pursuit of educational excellence.

Commencement Speeches

Governor Ducey delivered keynote remarks at commencement ceremonies for two Arizona high schools—ASU Preparatory High School and Prescott High School—in the spring. The governor celebrated with students what will be one of their most memorable life experiences and made their power clear to them: “You are our next ‘Greatest Generation,’ and your decisions have the power to make history, and shape the future.”

Keeping Our Universities The “Best” For Veterans

All of Arizona’s four-year universities are listed on the newest Military Times rankings of the best colleges for veterans. Arizona also passed legislation in May 2016 making it easier for current and former members of the military to gain academic credits for their service.

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We’re honoring the amazing work our educators do by inspiring children to take their lessons (and keep learning) outside of the classroom

Reading Is Essential!

In March 2016, Governor Ducey launched his first Annual Bookmark Design Contest, giving children the opportunity to design a bookmark showcasing why they love Arizona. The winner’s design was reproduced, printed on bookmarks, and distributed to students in the Arizona State Capitol, engaging children and teaching them that reading can be fun. Within two weeks, the contest received 1,800 entries from eager young people across the state.

Reading Is Essential!

Exercising Our Bodies (And Brains!)

Three Arizona schools were selected as National Fitness Champions in July 2016 for demonstrating new and innovative ways to promote physical activity and wellness among students. A few months later, each of the three schools opened a $100,000 state-of-the-art fitness center through a public/private partnership—which does not rely on taxpayer dollars or state funding—to continue their work.

Summer Reading Tour — Year Two

For the second year now, the governor and Mrs. Ducey led a statewide summer reading tour, visiting schools across Arizona to highlight the work our teachers are doing and motivating families to keep reading and visiting their local public libraries so that students can avoid the “summer slide” (losing achievement gains made during the previous school year).

Summer Reading Tour — Year Two


Governor Ducey kicked off Read Across America Day, created by a series of #BookOfTheDay tweets to celebrate authors, gave opening remarks at the Read On Arizona Literacy Summit, and kept beating the drum in many other ways to remind people of the importance of early literacy.


21st Century Economy

When it comes to the economy, the word is out on Arizona

Attracting New Companies To Arizona

In March 2016, it was announced that Arizona had finally recovered all of the jobs we lost during the Great Recession—and that’s no accident. Our common-sense tax and regulatory policies have successfully attracted several well-known companies to Arizona over the past two years. McKesson Corporation (currently #5 on the Fortune 500), Dot Foods (the largest food redistributor in the United States), and Rogers Corporation (a global leader in engineered materials solutions) are only three examples of companies that have either relocated or expanded to Arizona this year, bringing with them thousands of new jobs and a huge economic impact.



Landing A Major Investment In Electric Cars

In November 2016, Arizona received a major economic investment when Lucid Motors announced that it had selected our state for its new electric car manufacturing operation. The investment will be a huge boost for workers and consumers across Arizona who will benefit from the operation, which is projected to bring more than 2,000 new jobs and more than $700 million in capital investment to the region by 2022.



Embracing Innovation

We’ve sent a clear message to companies in the sharing economy: California may not want you, but Arizona does. Our state embraces innovation—a key reason that so many technology companies are expanding in Arizona.

Embracing Innovation

Being Everything California Isn’t

In August 2016, new calculations were released detailing how much Arizona has benefited from companies leaving the over-taxed, over-regulated state of California. It turns out — a lot. Phoenix Business Journal reported that Arizona has gained 83 companies, $3.3 billion in capital, and more than 12,000 jobs due to California disinvestments in recent years, and there’s only more to come.

Embracing Home-Sharing

In May, Governor Ducey signed legislation, first-of-its-kind in the nation, opening the door to the home-sharing economy in Arizona.

Embracing Home-Sharing

Google’s Driverless Cars

In April 2016, Google selected Arizona as one of only four locations in the U.S. to test its driverless cars, following an executive order from Governor Ducey in 2015 to pave the way for self-driving technology in our state.

Driverless Car

Ride-Sharing At The Airport

In June 2016, Uber and Lyft began picking up customers at Sky Harbor International Airport, which the governor had been encouraging for months.

Improving Or Eliminating Outdated Regulations

Arizona has committed to improving or eliminating any outdated regulations still on the books in its pursuit of an economy that works in the 21st century. Too many old rules and regulations do nothing but serve as an unnecessary barrier to companies that want to do business in Arizona.

We’ve taken many other steps, too; for instance, in May 2016 alone, we passed six pieces of legislation aimed at protecting job creators, including chipping away at unnecessary licensing regulations.

Increasing Consumer Confidence

After one year and a half of job growth, credit rating upgrades, and increased economic forecasts, a Rocky Mountain Poll released in June 2016 found that consumer confidence in Arizona had reached its highest level since July 2007.

Always Improving

Arizona jumped three rankings in Chief Executive Magazine’s list of best places in the country to do business. The magazine praised Arizona, now standing at #6, as a “hidden gem” and specifically cited our state’s positive change in business-friendly policies.

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Bringing new businesses to Arizona and strengthening our relationships with international trading partners

Strengthening Our Relationship With Mexico

We’ve continued to strengthen Arizona’s relationship with our state’s largest international trading partner, and it’s been successful beyond expectations. The 2016 Arizona-Mexico Commission Summit experienced unprecedented, record-breaking attendance with more than 500 business and government leaders.

Governor Ducey has built a close and cooperative partnership with Sonoran Governor Claudia Pavlovich to promote the Arizona-Sonora region, empowering our businesses to grow, attracting new companies, and creating higher-paying jobs—and continual outreach efforts promise to increase Arizona’s connectivity and global competitiveness even further in the coming years.

Strengthening Our Relationship With Mexico

Strengthening Our Relationship With Canada

In September 2016, Governor Ducey led another successful economic development delegation—this time to Canada, Arizona’s second-largest trading partner, which contributes more than $900 million to our state’s economy each year. The delegation provided our state with the opportunity to meet Canadian government officials and business leaders and to highlight Arizona’s attractive business climate and lifestyle.


Strengthening Our Relationship With Canada

Office Of Economic Opportunity

By using real-time data to analyze how Arizona compares to other states, we’ve continued our focus on knocking down barriers and getting government out of the way of job creators. The new Office of Economic Opportunity, a major revamping of economic development efforts in Arizona, does exactly that by providing a direct connection between the business community and the workers and capital they need to be successful.

Updated Our Tribal Gaming Compact

Governor Ducey joined tribal leaders in signing an amended tribal gaming compact meant to build a connection among Arizona’s tribes and solidify a promise made in the original compact 15 years ago. The agreement also enables future discussions about improvements to the compact to make it work for all parties involved moving forward.

Tribal Gaming

Protecting Our Communities

Strengthening our families and communities

Adoption And Foster Care Achievements

The Arizona Department of Child Safety has successfully begun to reverse a 7-year trend of year-over-year growth with fewer children entering the system than exiting for the last eight out of 10 months. The agency has also reduced the backlog of inactive cases from nearly 16,000 cases one year ago to fewer than 4,000 cases this year. And, from September 2015 to September 2016, the amount of time it took to place children decreased from 43.8 hours to 11.5 hours.

Adoption And Foster Care Achievements

Raised $2 Million For Breast Cancer Awareness

Governor Ducey announced that Arizona drivers who ordered the Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Awareness specialty license plate have successfully helped raise $2 million for cancer screening and treatment in the past decade. Last year alone, the Arizona Department of Health Services’ “Well Woman HealthCheck Program”—funded in part by the specialty license plates—provided health care services to more than 5,500 women.

Received Major Criminal Justice Grants

The Arizona Department of Corrections was awarded two federally-funded Second Chance Act grants—totaling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars—to conduct projects that will support the governor’s priority of reducing recidivism.

Eliminating The “Grandmother Penalty”

Arizona eliminated the caps on TANF assistance for children who happen to be born into the wrong circumstances. These caps, called the “grandmother penalty,” made it difficult for grandparents to step up to the plate and become caretakers for their grandchildren. Eliminating these caps helps to ensure that family members have the resources they need to take on a new dependent if needed so that they never have to choose between taking in the child they love and turning them over to the state.


Governor Ducey announced the #deadbeat initiative in his 2016 State of the State Address, which aims to hold child support evaders accountable. The initiative posts photographs, names, and amounts of child support owed on social media in order to highlight #deadbeat parents who skirt their financial responsibilities. The initiative has been a great success, locating evaders and serving as a deterrent for others who don’t want to show up on social media.


Jacob’s Law

Arizona passed legislation to cut through a maze of red tape and bureaucracy and ensure that our state’s foster kids and families have easier access to timely and high-quality behavioral health care. The legislation, called “Jacob’s Law” after the foster child of one of the bill’s strongest champions at the capitol, had unanimous support from legislators and was swiftly signed into law by Governor Ducey.

Jacob’s Law

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Bringing peace and justice to our most vulnerable

Prioritizing And Investing In Child Safety

This year’s budget makes significant funding increases to the child welfare system, including $53 million for child welfare services. That includes $19.5 million for prevention and support services; $12 million to improve operations at the Arizona Department of Child Safety, assist field staff, and tackle the backlog of inactive cases; and other investments.


Clearing The Rape Kit Backlog

In January 2016, Governor Ducey established the Arizona Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Task Force. The bipartisan coalition, which consists of law enforcement officials, community leaders, and others, has been tasked with addressing the injustice of untested rape kits throughout Arizona. The task force recently submitted recommendations about how to begin clearing the backlog, and, thanks to early efforts to test these evidence kits, our state has already seen two indictments.

Clearing The Rape Kit Backlog

Lighting Arizona Purple

Governor Ducey hosted the second annual Light Arizona Purple event for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Attended by hundreds of people across Arizona, this annual event is one of the many ways our state is raising awareness about domestic violence and working to reduce the number of victims.

The Right To Feel Safe In Court

The Right To Feel Safe In Court

We passed legislation protecting the right of child victims to feel safe in court, allowing those younger than 18 years of age to be accompanied by a therapy dog when testifying. The legislation also permits the court to allow victims older than 18 years of age to be accompanied by a therapy dog.

Paying Tribute To The Granite Mountain Hotshots

In November 2016, Governor Ducey dedicated the new Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park. The memorial—created in memory of each of the fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots—features stone plaques honoring these brave men, interpretive signs that tell their story, and steel and stones to protect and preserve the area where the hotshots bravely made their last stand. A quiet path and benches offer a space to reflect for visitors.

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Tackling the drug epidemic by giving people a second chance at a clean and healthy life

Combating Drug Trafficking

Our fiscal year 2017 budget includes $26.6 million to expand the successful Border Strike Force, which Governor Ducey created in 2015. From July 2016 through September 2016, the Border Strike Force made more than 244 arrests and seized 2,010 pounds of marijuana, 213 pounds of meth, and 33 pounds of heroin. (For context, the Arizona Department of Public Safety seized 14 pounds of heroin during the entire year in 2014.) A single pound of heroin produces approximately 45,000 "hits."





Putting An End To “Doctor Shopping”

Arizona passed legislation aimed at preventing opioid addiction by targeting “doctor shopping,” the harmful method by which some people obtain several prescriptions from different physicians at the same time. By requiring physicians in our state to access and update the Controlled Substance Prescription Monitoring Program database before prescribing a controlled substance to a patient, the legislation is intended to reduce the number of avoidable overdoses and deaths due to substance abuse.

Putting An End To “Doctor Shopping”

Preventing Fatal Overdoses

Arizona passed legislation aimed at treating opioid addiction by allowing pharmacists to dispense Naloxone—opioid antagonist medication—without a prescription to an individual at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose (or a family member or community member who is in a position to assist that individual). The legislation is intended to give Arizonans suffering from addiction a second chance at a clean and healthy life.

Building Statewide Partnerships

We’re building partnerships in the public and private sectors across Arizona in order to make it clear that fighting substance abuse will take an “all-hands-on-deck” approach. For instance, Governor Ducey worked with Walgreens to install safe medication-disposal bins, making the disposal of medication more convenient and, as a result, the misuse of those medications less likely.

Reversing The Trendline On Prison Growth

To reduce recidivism and slow growth in our prison population, Governor Ducey created a new Community Corrections Center, offering intensive drug treatment with housing and transitional services.

Curbing Opioid Addiction Through Executive Order

In October 2016, Governor Ducey issued an executive order to prevent future drug addictions by limiting the first fill of addictive prescription opioids to seven days in all cases where the state is the payer. The executive order also protects our most vulnerable from addictive medications by limiting all fills for children, except for those with cancer, chronic disease, and traumatic injury.

Fiscal Responsibility

Making sure our government is living within its means

An “A” In Fiscal Responsibility

Governor Ducey was awarded an “A” in fiscal responsibility by the Cato Institute, a public-policy research organization. The report noted several legislative achievements, including eliminating the “hidden tax increase” on families by permanently indexing Arizona’s income tax to inflation and strengthening our pension system for police and firefighters.

First-In-The-Nation Medicaid Reforms

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officially approved Arizona’s first-in-the-nation reforms to Medicaid. The newly approved program, “AHCCCS CARE,” will promote personal responsibility, provide members with tools for managing their own health, and prepare adults to transition out of Medicaid and into private coverage. These innovative reforms will ensure the system works for doctors and patients and will better protect taxpayer dollars.

Balancing The Budget

Our fiscal year 2017 budget made critical investments in education, safety, and other priorities while bringing Arizona to a positive structural balance for the first time since 2007. The budget invested $181 million in the K-12 education system (above and beyond the education settlement agreement from Prop 123), $116 million into child safety, and $8 million dollars in tax relief for small businesses, among other highlights.

Historic Pension Reform

In May 2016, Arizonans overwhelmingly approved Prop 124. Called a “no-brainer” by the Arizona Republic, Prop 124 is projected to save taxpayers $1.5 billion over the next 30 years by bringing financial stability to the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System, which provides pension benefits to our state’s police and firefighters.


Record Attendance And Revenue At Arizona State Parks

Arizona State Parks experienced record visitation and revenue in fiscal year 2016, welcoming more than 2.68 million people to enjoy our beautiful natural landscapes. The achievement contributed $16.4 million in revenue to the Arizona State Parks system, an increase from $14.4 million in fiscal year 2015.

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Making our government more efficient and more accountable

Valuing Hard-Working Taxpayers

State agencies have seen tremendous success becoming more efficient over the past two years. Governor Ducey has always encouraged our government to “operate at the speed of business,” and, as a result, internal reviews and improvements have yielded significant results for taxpayers. For instance, the Arizona Department of Forest and Fire Management streamlined the time it takes to reimburse local fire departments and fire districts from 105 days to only 23 days this year.

Making Every Cent From Taxpayers Go Further

No More Taxpayer-Funded Lobbyists

Governor Ducey issued an executive order terminating state contracts with lobbyists. The widely-hailed move protects Arizona taxpayers and reduces the influence of special interests in state government by making sure that state government entities aren’t wasting millions of tax dollars to subsidize lobbyists. An analysis by the Governor’s Office identified about $1 million in public funds spent on contract lobbyists since FY 2015. The executive order puts an end to that practice.


Increasing Public Engagement

In September 2016, the Governor’s Office launched a revamped website to increase transparency and accountability. With more than 40 percent of visitors to the website doing so through a mobile device, the new, mobile-friendly design makes it easier for users to navigate the website and learn what Governor Ducey is doing and saying each day. The new “AZ At Your Service” tab also streamlines the process through which constituents can contact the governor’s office with any questions, feedback, and more. The new website was developed entirely in-house by the governor’s staff at no added cost to taxpayers.

Increasing Public Engagement

Giving Relief To Hardworking Taxpayers

The Tax Recovery Program in 2015—which offered taxpayers the chance to pay any back taxes owed without penalty, interest, or criminal prosecution—was such a success that we decided to do it again. In 2015, the program recovered $55 million in tax revenue and gave a second chance to Arizona taxpayers, providing relief to those who made innocent filing mistakes or who simply fell behind on their taxes after being set back by the recession.


Opportunity For All


Protecting And Expanding Free Speech

We passed legislation protecting free speech in Arizona. The legislation expanded “free speech zones” to the entire public college campus instead of designated areas where students were often pushed into when they wanted to use the first amendment. Similar legislation ensured that no one can obstruct an individual's right to attend a government meeting, hearing, or political event.

Protecting And Expanding Free Speech

Food Donations Skyrocketed

A philanthropic partnership between the St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and Arizona State Fair achieved record food donations in 2016 to help our most vulnerable. In only three weeks, the organizations’ effort received more than 145,000 pounds of canned food donations—and all three individual weekly totals were way ahead of even the highest weekly total in 2015.

Protecting Arizona’s Water Future

Arizona is a leader in water management thanks to more than a century of careful planning, sound decision-making, and bold leadership. In May 2016, Governor Ducey announced that he would be protecting our state’s water future by vetoing two pieces of legislation that would otherwise put it at risk. The bills would have created “patchwork of water ordinances” and left “our water supply securities in peril,” the governor said.

Standing Up For Wild Horses

Governor Ducey signed legislation to protect the Salt River Horses and their ability to roam free in our state. The legislation keeps these beautiful horses away from danger and harassment and encourages policy leaders to come up with a clear, responsible way of managing their populations moving forward.

Standing Up For Wild Horses

Getting Dogs Off The Tracks And Into Homes

Arizona passed two pieces of legislation to end greyhound racing and repeal the financing that supports it. The legislation gets our state’s beautiful greyhounds off the tracks and ready for adoption into loving homes by families who need a companion.

"Break Out Your Casseroles!"

In March 2016, Governor Ducey signed legislation to legalize potlucks. Yes . . . potlucks. An outdated law threatened fines against Arizonans who hosted potlucks unless they were held at a workplace. “Break out your casseroles!” KTVK reported after hearing the news.

The Right To Eat

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Getting Back On Our Feet

In March 2016, it was announced that Arizona had finally recovered all of the jobs we lost during the Great Recession. The recession hit our state harder than most others; the only state that lost a greater share of its workers was Nevada, and Arizona still recovered faster than eight other states thanks to job creators across Tucson, Phoenix, Flagstaff, and more.

Getting Back On Our Feet

Eliminating Unnecessary Licensing Laws

Arizona passed legislation to eliminate unnecessary and outdated licensing laws that were making it harder for people to pursue career opportunities. Eliminating licenses for yoga instructors, talent agents, and many other professions that don’t need them was a small step that will make a big difference in the lives of people across Arizona—while kick-starting the economic growth our state needs.

Connecting Veterans To New Career Opportunities

The first year of the “Arizona Roadmap To Veteran Employment”—a statewide program to connect veterans and their families to career opportunities—saw a number of great achievements. For instance, from June 2015 to May 2016, the program made 341 direct contacts with job seekers and reached 2,100+ people through outreach efforts. Overall, the annual average unemployment rate for veterans in Arizona was 3.7 percent—only one year earlier, it was 5.7 percent.

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Making Life Easier For Our Veterans

Three Arizona cities were ranked in the Top 15 cities in the United States for veterans to live for 2016. A high quality of life and plentiful career opportunities are just the beginning. We’re always making sure veterans can enjoy everything our state has to offer. Recent examples include reducing the time it takes disabled veterans to get hunting and fishing combination license permits from 38 days to only 7 days and Arizona State Parks offering free entrance to veterans and active duty military on Veterans Day.

Strengthening Our Commitment To Israel

Arizona passed legislation to protect our values abroad by prohibiting public entities from entering into contracts with companies that boycott Israel. The legislation—signed into law in March 2016 by Governor Ducey, who has been a vocal, unwavering and unapologetic supporter of our state’s commitment to Israel—follows a trade mission that the governor took to Israel in October 2015, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In addition, Governor Ducey has vowed to maintain our state’s economic sanctions against Iran even if federal sanctions are dropped as part of the recent nuclear agreement.

Appointed Arizonans To Uphold The Constitution

In 2016, Governor Ducey appointed three new justices to the Supreme Court of Arizona. Recognized as three of the best legal minds in our state, these justices have sworn to uphold Constitution and the freedoms it protect with integrity, compassion, and fairness.

Honoring Those Who Came Before Us To Lead The Fight

In September 2016, Arizona’s trailblazing first female governor Rose Mofford passed away. The country mourned the loss of Governor Mofford and honored her legacy. She rose through the ranks of state government and shattered the glass ceiling many thought unbreakable—and we’ll continue to remember how she exemplified the ability of leaders to unite us in even the most trying times.

Honoring Those Who Came Before Us To Lead The Fight