President- Tammy Yoakum, Class IX
Tammy is a second-generation Arizona native who grew up in Flagstaff. Graduating in the top 3% of her high school class with plans to attend Arizona State University, circumstances arose which instead propelled her into an eight-year stint in commercial banking at what was then Valley National Bank. Beginning in a clerical position, she moved into various positions finally ending up in the programming department as the first “User Application Analyst” and later went to Dallas for training in mainframe programming. She was married to her husband Darrell during this time. At the arrival of their first child, Tammy worked part-time from home in a pilot telecommuting position until relocating to the Verde Valley in 1994 when she began a new career as a full-time mommy.
Tammy has home educated all their children. Their oldest graduated in 2011, was married in 2013 and resides in Cottonwood with her husband. Their second daughter is a freshman at Grand Canyon University and their son is in the seventh grade.
Tammy serves with other parents on the leadership committee for the local home education support group planning organized events as well as opportunities for fellowship. She is a tutor/director for home schooling support organization Classical Conversations tutoring children 13 to 14 years old. She serves on the missions committee and is on a team of teachers for children at church. Her hobbies vary from gardening, sewing, amateur photography, music, and baking, to caring for her small flock of chickens, petite black lab, and three outdoor cats. She is a collector of books and reads whenever opportunity allows. The whole family enjoys going to the sand dunes, camping in the forest, off-road riding and hiking.
President Elect- Marlayne Hatler, Class I Graduate
Marlayne L. Hatler Retired Police Commander of the Sedona Police Department. She served the citizens of the City of Sedona for more than twenty-six years. She began her law career with the Sedona Police Department as a dispatcher shortly after the City incorporated in 1989. In 1992 she hung up her headset to attend the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy in Tucson to become a police officer. She was assigned to the patrol division which included being a Field Training Officer for newer officers and also a D.A.R.E. officer teaching in the elementary schools. She was promoted to detective and then two years later promoted to sergeant. As a sergeant she became increasing involved in community outreach programs and domestic violence intervention. She served as a patrol sergeant for nine years. In 2004 she moved on up the ladder and was promoted to police commander. As the police commander she developed and administered the department budget including grants and capital improvement projects as well as policy and procedure for the Department. She also supervised the Criminal Investigations Division, the Communications Center and Records Division as well as special assignment officers such as the school resource officers and the officers assigned to the gang intelligence task force and the narcotics task force.
Marlayne is an alumni of Northern Arizona University having graduated in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in Police Science Administration and Business Management. Prior to moving back to Arizona in 1989 she worked in retail loss prevention as an auditor and internal theft investigator for eight years in the Denver metropolitan area and in the San Francisco Bay area.
Marlayne was a graduate of Verde Valley Leadership – Class #1 – in 2006. She served on the Board of Directors for 2016-2017 during Class #11. She also attended the Leadership in Police Organizations (class #2) also known as the West Point Leadership Program in 2007. This was a year long program for law enforcement executives and command level officers developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the COPS Office of the Department of Justice.
Marlayne has lived in the Verde Valley for nearly 30 years.
Board Member- Sheila Sandusky, Graduate IX
Sheila was born in Minnesota, and her family moved to Tombstone AZ when she was a toddler. Sheila
graduated from Tombstone High School with honors, and was awarded a scholarship to Cochise Community College in Douglas AZ. Being the youngest of 3 kids, there was no money for continued
education, so she worked at Ft Huachuca AZ in telecommunications for 3 years before being hired by
American Airlines. Based out of Chicago she was able to travel to many wonderful countries, and most
importantly, she was able to send her Mom home to England many times over. Sheila continues to enjoy
close ties with her family over the pond.
Taking an early buyout from American Airlines, Sheila then married and move to rural Alaska, a mile
away from Knik glacier. There she was a full time Mom and wood splitter for 5 years before moving to
Flagstaff, where she landed a job with the Forest Service and began wildland fire fighting in addition to
her regular job.
Sheila specializes in infrastructure such as cell towers, power lines, fiber optics, gas and water lines, and highways. A promotion opportunity at the Verde Ranger District brought her to the Verde Valley in
2007. She chose to live in old Clarkdale after discovering this lovely community while on fire patrol years
earlier. Sheila is now a zoned employee on the Kaibab and Prescott National Forests.
Sheila’s desire to learn more about the Verde Valley as a whole is what motivated her to enter the VVL program as a member of Class IX. Sheila is a past board member of Buena Vista Children Services, and volunteered at the former Teen Center in Cottonwood. Sheila is an insatiable rock hound, and a child and animal advocate. After 30 years of federal service, Sheila is looking forward to an active retirement and volunteering in the community.
Board Member- Debbie Breitkreutz, Class X Graduate
Debbie Breitkreutz was born in Castle Rock, Colorado. Her father’s family have been in that area since the 1900’s. She lived there for ten years before packing up and moving to central Texas where she and her mother stayed for four years. She then moved to upstate New York and in 1990 graduated from Fairport High School. She returned to Colorado to pursue a college education. While back in Colorado, she worked several jobs including a warehouse manager for a toy manufacturer, a technician at the county assessor’s office and working for her mother’s husband as a laborer at his general contracting business. She moved to the Verde Valley in 2001 to be closer to her mother and her extended family. Shortly after arriving, she started working at the Cottonwood OfficeMax as a Customer Service Manager. While looking for a new career opportunity, a position opened at the City of Cottonwood Utilities Department. In 2004, she accepted a job as a Wastewater Operator in Training. Four years later and lots of hard work became the Wastewater Superintendent. In 2016, she transferred to a new position within the City as the Regulatory Compliance, Safety and Education Administrator. Debbie currently holds water and wastewater licenses in the State of Arizona. She has also completed OSHA outreach training for general industry and construction safety.
In 2014, she finally finished her Associates Degree from Yavapai College. She is a graduate of VVL Class X and a VVL Board member. She also serves as a Board member to the Verde Valley Natural Resource Conservation District Education Center. She is involved in the Verde Valley Rural Innovation Council as a Marketing Board member and coordinates the City of Cottonwood’s participation in SciTech and STEM related activities. She currently volunteers at the Verde Valley Habitat for Humanity in the Critical Home Repair Program. This program helps the veterans, persons with disabilities and the elderly of the Verde Valley.
Board Member- Jennifer Hernandez, Graduate Class X
Jennifer Hernandez is the Northern Arizona Community Mobilizer for Expect More Arizona. Through her work in public health and education, Jennifer has accumulated over 15 years of experience in advocating for families and children and collaborating with community partners across the state. Jennifer has served on the Board of Directors for the Northern Arizona Book Festival, currently serves on the board of the Coconino Coalition for Children and Youth, and is the former Chair for the Alliance of Children’s Early Success. Jennifer has also operated as the voluntary blog administrator for the Flagstaff Community Health Action Network. Her commitment to the Northern Arizona community has been acknowledged with both a Coconino Coalition for Children and Youth Caring for Children award and a National Public Service Recognition award. A Summa-Cum-Laude graduate of ASU, Jennifer has also completed several graduate level courses in Library and Information Science. Jennifer is also the proud mother of Alex, a U.S. Marine and Kimberly, a student at Yavapai College. She is honored to have been their first teacher.
Past President- Ellen Yates, Class IV Graduate
Ellen is a graduate of Verde Valley Leadership Class IV, and has served on the Board of Directors as a Director, President-Elect, and served as President in 2017. Ellen is also on the Board of Directors for Rural Water Association of Arizona.
Ellen has lived in the Verde Valley for 10 years having moved from Massachusetts with her husband Charlie in 2007. She has two grown children and two sweet granddaughters. Ellen is the Administrative Supervisor for the Town of Clarkdale Utilities and Public Works Dept. She is also a certified Grade II Water Operator and Grade II Water Treatment Plant Operator. Her position in Clarkdale allows her to put all of her water skills to use along with office managerial responsibilities. Ellen has volunteered with Catholic Charities and is a past board member and volunteer for the Adopt For Life Center For Animals. She is an advocate for animal welfare and has rounded out her family with 2 cats, 3 dogs, and 2 horses. For fun Ellen loves to ride her horse and tries to fit in a little reading. She is currently spending a lot of time xeriscaping her property, satisfying another passion, water conservation.
Secretary- Kyla Allen, Class III Graduate
Kyla was born in Southern California, graduating from Anaheim High School and began taking college courses towards a Graphic Arts degree at Fullerton Junior College (now Fullerton Community College.) Marriage and the beginning of a soon-to-be large family changed her direction and she began working for Anaheim Library then Anaheim Police Department before moving to Cottonwood, Arizona, in 1986. She soon began working for the City of Cottonwood and served in several administration positions, starting as the receptionist at City Hall. She then filled the position of Administrative Secretary in Community Development, Administrative Assistant at the Cottonwood Fire Department and was the assistant to the Chief at Cottonwood Police Department for five years before moving back to City Hall where she served as Executive Assistant then moved to her final position with the City as the Assistant to the City Manager. During her tenure with the City she raised six children, received her Management Certificate from Yavapai College, and has served on many boards and commissions, being most proud of having been a part of inception MATForce in the Verde Valley. She served as the Assistant to the City Manager for seven years before retiring in December of 2015. Kyla also started her own home based business, promoting her artwork as Twin Wolf Designs. Six months after retiring the opportunity to be appointed to one of two available positions with the Cottonwood City Council presented itself. Kyla was offered the appointment as the top ranking candidate of twelve applicants who applied, and began serving on the Council in late June 2016.
Kyla enjoys being in nature, hunting and fishing, creating with her hands and hanging out with Jim, her best friend and husband of 20 years.
Treasurer- Kirsten Lennon, Class VII Graduate
Kirsten Lennon was born in Fallbrook, California and moved to Cottonwood,
Arizona, in 1984. She graduated from Mingus Union High School in 1992 and started taking college courses at Yavapai Community College. After having four children, she went back to school and received an Associates
of Applied Science in Accounting degree in 1998.
She got a part-time job working at the Adult Community Center of Sedona (ACCS), also known as Sedona
Community Center, in March of 1998 as a bookkeeper and was later promoted to the Assistant Director position.
After a couple of years, she decided that– being a single mother- it would be better to work closer to her children. She said goodbye to ACCS and started working for the City of Cottonwood as the Accounts Payable Clerk. Since being hired by the City of Cottonwood, she has returned to Yavapai College and received an additional Associate of Arts degree in General Studies. She went on to Old
Dominion University where she got a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in Accounting.
Kirsten is currently the Accounting/Budget Manager for the City of Cottonwood where she has worked
for 16 years. She is a graduate of Class XXV of Project Centrl. Project Centrl is non-profit rural Leadership
program that is committed to equipping and empowering leaders to meet the needs of rural Arizona. She also serves on the board of the Government Finance Officers Association and serves as the education committee chairand on audit board for the Northern Arizona
Council of Government. She is also the secretary for the City of Cottonwood Public Safety Retirement Board.
Outside of work, she loves being with her four children, who are now 19, 21, 23 and 25 and her
grandchildren. She also enjoys watching basketball and baseball when time permits, running and
volunteering to do tax preparation at Catholic Charities.
Board Member- Stephanie Vocca, Class XI
Stephanie is a graduate of Class XI. She has lived in the Verde Valley for most of her life. She grew up in
Clarkdale and attended Mingus Union High School. After graduating, Stephanie enrolled at Yavapai College and obtained her Associate of Arts in General Education. She then went on to Grand Canyon
University and graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Applied Management.
Throughout this time, Stephanie worked for Educational Services, Inc. During her 5 years there, she moved up within the company and got to work in many different positions. In March 2016, Stephanie went to work for the Town of Clarkdale in their Community Development Department. In March 2017, she began a new position as HR Specialist II with the City of Cottonwood.
Stephanie and her husband have a precious 3 year-old daughter, Lyla. Stephanie enjoys spending time
with her family, watching sports, exercising, and baking. She also likes to get involved with the community in any way that she can.
Board Member- Krishan Ginige, Class V Graduate
Krishan, a professional Civil Engineer with over 20 years of construction, project management and design experience, holds a BS Degree in Civil Engineering and a MS Degree in Environmental Engineering. He is a Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM). Krishan has been employed, since 2006, with Southwestern Environmental Consultants, Inc. (SEC), a civil engineering, surveying & land planning company that has served the Verde Valley for over 40 years. Krishan currently serves as President and Principal Engineer of SEC. Having undertaken progressive responsibilities within SEC, from design engineer to project manager to vice president and to president, has enabled Krishan with the experience and exposure to become a contributing member for a productive and sustainable Verde Valley.
Krishan likes the outdoors, traveling and meeting new people, and being involved in community-based ventures. He loves spending time with his wife, Thushari, and his three energetic boys (who keep him in shape, and continually remind him that he is not as young as he thinks he is).
Board Member- Berrin G. Nejad, Graduate Class XI
Berrin Nejad is the Community Development Manager for the City of Cottonwood, directing Planning and Zoning, Building and Safety, and Code Enforcement Departments since 2013. Berrin has a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning and Master’s Degree in Environmental Planning from Arizona State University. She started her career in Arizona and held planning positions in Texas, Idaho,
and Kansas. Berrin is originally from Istanbul-Turkey and had the privilege to live in Taiwan and Singapore through
her husband’s job which gave the entire family an opportunity to travel and learn different cultures in
Asia. Her son Derin is a recent graduate from George Washington University Law and is working as an
attorney in the Washington D.C. area. Her daughter Jasmine is working on her PhD in Bio-medical
engineering at Colorado State University. Berrin is graduate of VVL-Class XI and is happy being back in Arizona, to call the Verde Valley home.
Board Member- Dane Wombacher, Graduate Class IV
Native of Arizona, and of the Verde Valley, and graduate of Verde Valley Leadership Class V. Married to wife Kathy for 41 years, who was a Class IV VVL graduate, past board member and past President, she persistently 'persuaded' me to apply for VVL citing it as an amazing program and growth opportunity, to which I obviously consented. Now serving my second year on the VVL Board, this program and organization is fast becoming a recognized leadership growth and training entity in the area, with influences reaching statewide.
A 1978 graduate of Northem Arizona University with dual major in learning disabilities and secondary Physical Education, I served 23 years in the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District in a variety of roles. I co-taught in a 'cross-categorical' resource room at Cottonwood Jr. High School where we serviced a variety of educationally, physically, and emotionally challenged students. Eight years were then spent teaching reading, writing, speaking and critical thinking to Jr. High language arts and gifted education students. 'Research paper grading' bum out lead to a nine year stint teaching K-6 physical education to kids at two local elementary schools whose youthful exuberance kept me on my toes and in reasonably good physical shape! Coaching a variety of sports from elementary aged children to high school aged athletes during my tenure as a teacher was also a passion. Following my teaching career, I served as Dean of Students for two years: one year at Dr.Daniel Bright Elementary School and another at Cottonwood Middle School.
In 2001, I left the public education sector going to work for Goettl's High Desert Mechanical Heating, Air Conditioning, and Plumbing as a remodel/retrofit sales consultant. Varied responsibilities have included guiding homeowners through the sales process, quality control audit following system installation, and, of late, an increasing role in marketing and public relations for the company.
Outside of work, I have enjoyed participating in the local church where I have served several terms on the board, and have been part of facilitating study, growth, and care groups for men and in-home small groups. A love of spending time with wife Kathy, adult children and their spouses, and six grandchildren occupies any free time remaining.