Ruth Ellen Elinski is the Northern Arizona Director for Local First Arizona. She implements rural economic and community development strategies, with one specific goal: to divert 10%-20% of the 6.5 billion dollars spent every year by Arizonans vacationing in California back into rural communities across the state. This includes building strong relationships with the independent business community, helping them promote and utilize existing assets to be more competitive, and preparing them to attract both tourists and residents as customers.
Elinski also spends time highlighting the unique experiences and adventures across the state to entice in-state travel. Elinski has a degree in Environmental Science and Management from Indiana University. She was awarded the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce ATHENA Young Professional Award for 2012, was recognized as the First Things First Champion for Children in 2015, and is a Fellow of Arizona Center for Civic Leadership's Flinn Brown Leadership Academy. She lives in Old Town Cottonwood with her husband and two daughters.
Bobbi Evans grew up in California and moved to Clarkdale in January 2018. She is married and has two sons. The oldest is a Sergeant in the U.S. Army Infantry and is currently stationed in Germany. Her youngest graduated from NAU with a Mechanical Engineering degree and is currently working as an engineer near her former hometown in California.
While visiting her son at NAU, she decided Arizona is where she wanted to live. After a couple attempts to move, an amazing career opportunity with Bent River Machine in Clarkdale allowed her to make the move to Arizona permanent. She looks forward to spending more time outdoors and mingling with the community.
Bobbi has over 30 years of administrative experience with major corporations starting out at Mattel Toys, Circuit City Regional Offices, Temecula Visitor’s Bureau, later managed the College of Engineering, Forestry & Natural Science building at NAU in Flagstaff and has worked at the county fire department and Cal Fire in California.
Bobbi have a certificate in Meeting and Event Planning from California State University San Marcos and exercises her skills by volunteering at local events. However, her passion is promoting and volunteering for B.R.A.K.E.S Pro-Active Teen Driving School, which she has been involved with for eight years, assisting with expanding young driver’s knowledge in operating a vehicle and keeping them safe on the roads.
With the accumulation of knowledge established from this experience, she looks forward to serving as a mentor for the next generation of leaders.
Amanda started working in the Verde Valley in February of 2017, taking a position as a customer project manager associate with AZ Public Service. She graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s of science in Agribusiness and Pre-Veterinarian Medicine, a master’s of science in Agribusiness and Finance and a teaching certificate in Agribusiness and Biology. She just completed an eighteen-month training program for APS as a CPM.
Amanda worked in finance at Casino Arizona then at the Town of Queen Creek in the budget and water utilities departments as a financial analyst before moving to APS and working in finance at their corporate headquarters in Phoenix. She is interested in the frontline business side of APS and wanted to be back in a small-town environment. Born in rural Indiana, she grew up in Gilbert and Queen Creek when they were both small towns. Her job allows her to be in the office and the field, providing opportunity to see much of the Verde Valley and meeting with contractors and customers. She enjoys helping to design part of people’s dream projects and working with the linemen crew who often teach her their side of the business.
Amanda is very close to her family and raised a beautiful daughter who is twenty years old and lives in the Phoenix area. In her spare time, she coaches youth shooting sports for 4-H, volunteers with FFA, four-wheeling, archery, exploring Arizona in her Jeep, camping , country dancing, rodeos, and spending time with her family. She currently resides in Payson but believes in giving back to the communities you live and work in.
Carmen Howard moved to the Verde Valley in 1995 from Los Angeles, California. The Verde Valley was a natural fit to improve her quality of life from the fast-pace of Los Angeles. She saw the natural beauty of the Verde River corridor and Red Rocks of Sedona as a good place to raise her children and move her dry cleaning business.
After twenty-four years in private business, Carmen decided to change careers. Now living in Flagstaff, Carmen enrolled in Northern Arizona University and began a degree course in Urban Planning. While pursuing her Bachelors of Science, Carmen realized her passion for the environment, specifically water resources and the importance of environmental management. Carmen took a grant writing position with the Town of Mancos, Colorado, and helped the Town get funding for irrigation diversion improvements on the Mancos River. After receiving her BS Degree Summa cum Laude, Carmen left to study small town and rural development north of Rome, Italy. Back from Italy, Carmen took a job working with the Colorado River Indian Tribes through NACOG to produce an Environmental Assessment of seven acres of tribal land for a new Head Start School. Carmen received her MS in 2012 and proceeded to work in the private sector for a developer in California while looking for public sector work in Arizona.
The Town of Jerome was looking for a Zoning Administrator and Carmen, happy to be back in the Verde Valley, worked in that position for a year. Carmen purchased a historical house in Old Clarkdale and continued with her passion of spending time on the Verde River in a kayak. The Town of Prescott Valley came calling and Carmen spent the next three years traveling over Mingus Mountain from Clarkdale to work with Richard Parker and the Town of Prescott Valley as a Planner. Realizing that she was a big picture person with many years’ experience in management, Carmen applied for and was chosen for the position of Community Development Director for the Town of Camp Verde.
Carmen believes the Town of Camp Verde is poised for growth and development and is excited to be a part of a quality team of peers and staff and elected and appointed officials to further the desire of the citizens of Camp Verde as they outlined in the Town General Plan adopted in 2016. Now working in her position with the Town of Camp Verde and living on a 15-acre ranch on the Verde River, Carmen has found a place to dig in and establish long term roots. Her goals include helping the area grow and develop while respecting the natural environment and private property rights.
Jill developed her entrepreneurial spirit at a young age, working alongside her parents in the family business from the age of eight. Through her experiences, she has learned to importance of customer service, active listening, being attentive to detail, and always behaving in a professional respectful manner.
The majority of her adult career has been spent in leadership roles of varying scope and complexity within the field of information technology. She has led small and large teams both on a local and global scale. She has significant experience leading teams with very diverse backgrounds and experiences. Many of her responsibilities have required her to travel to Europe, South America, and Asia. Jill has a keen interest in cultures throughout the world and while working for Unilever, she let the IT Diversity Council. During this time, she traveled to South Africa where she was able to get a first-hand glimpse into the physical impacts of racial discrimination and repression.
Seeking an opportunity to help individuals within the Cottonwood community, Jill began her second career with Edward Jones as a financial advisor. She is loving working with the wonderful residents of this incredible community! She sees her participation in Verde Valley Leadership as an opportunity to more deeply serve those in the community, as well as to have a positive effect in the environment within the Verde Valley.
Jill holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Management and a dual-major master’s of Business Administration in Finance and Management Information Systems. She has been married to Brandon for thirty-three years and they have a thirty-two-year-old son, Travis. She loves hiking, fitness, gardening, equestrian riding, four-wheeling, and spending time with family and friends.
Jill is incredibly excited to be part of Verde Valley Leadership’s Class XIII.
Dave Meyers earned a bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Studies and a Non-profit Leadership certificate from Minnesota State University Mankota, a Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) Credential, and is in the process of completing a certificate of Organizational Leadership from Northwestern University. He enjoys advancing through professional development, which is what inspired interest in the Verde Valley Leadership Program. Through this opportunity, he hopes to increase networking around the area, learn about our local businesses and programs, and gain new leadership skills that will help in his current career, my non-profit work, and future endeavors.
Dave and his wife moved to Cottonwood in 2013 after she was hired by Mingus Union High School as a bilingual school counselor. Shortly after moving, Dave began working at Goodwill. He has been assistant manager at the Sedona retail store, the Cottonwood store, managed job connections and billable contracts in Cottonwood and Sedona. He was part of a Reduction-In-Force and saw a merger that resulted in Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona. Since the merger, he has been leading Workforce Development efforts in Yavapai, Coconino, and Mohave counties including Fresh Start Re-Entry contract with Coconino County Detention and our first self-service Career Center located in Kingman.
Since young, the concept of service was instilled in Dave. Multiple members of his extended family served in the military. His father served on local county boards and commissions, and both parents volunteered with local non-profits. Through witnessing his family’s drive to give back and through the values learned, he knew he was destined to serve.
While in college, Dave enlisted in the US Navy Reserves as Master-at-Arms (Military Police). Serving in the Navy Reserves for the last ten years, he has supported operations in Spain, Guam, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Washington Navy Yard. He has received additional training as leader of a security reaction force and training as a career counselor in order to equip sailors to manage their military and civilian careers.
Prior to moving to Arizona, Dave volunteered with Habitat for Humanity as well as several local political campaigns. With an eye on local service once he moved to Cottonwood, he began writing grants for Manzanita Outreach (then Kids Against Hunger Verde Valley). Within the first year, he was asked to sit on the Board of Directors and is currently the board chair. To date, MO has packed over one and a half million meals for the hungry here in Arizona and Haiti. Through the Mobile Pantry program, MO feeds five hundred homebound and/or economically disadvantaged families throughout the Verde Valley by targeting neighborhoods that don’t have access to existing food pantries. He and his wife have also served on the Young Life committee to advance the mission of reaching young people and at their local church.
Upon moving to Cottonwood, Dave and his wife began attending and became members of Verde Valley Christian Church, where we remain today. They attend a number of different small groups and are currently facilitating Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Dave’s commitment to community service, his array of skills and experiences, and his strong initiative are pivotal to his involvements and will serve him well as he moves forward with Verde Valley Leadership.
Maranda Moran has lived in the Verde Valley for nearly her whole life. She us mother to two wonderful children, Dominik who is four and her daughter Ryan who is two. She is wife to a Copper Canyon Firefighter/Paramedic.
Maranda received her Associates of Arts from Yavapai Community College while playing softball. After Yavapai, she continued her education at NAU, graduating Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology. After obtaining her Bachelors, she decided to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a teacher. She attended the University of Phoenix and graduated with a Masters in Elementary Education. She now teaches thirdd grade English Language Learners at Dr. Daniel Bright School. This upcoming school year will be her fourth year teaching. Reaching out to students and serving their needs has always been her passion. She involves herself in many opportunities granted by her administrators including sponsoring multiple afterschool clubs, being a Capturing Kids Hearts Campus Mentor, and working on several school/district committees.
In addition to her teaching career, she is a community softball coach to multiple age groups. She has coached a tournament team as well as the local high school’s softball team. No matter the platform, she works with the community to help its youth become something greater than they could ever believe. She is committed to her community and strives to make it better.
Additionally, she loves to craft, play sports, go camping and to the lake, as well as be with her family.
Simone Mussa, an industrial designer, was born in La Spezia, Italy. He moved to the United States to complete his studies at Barry University in Miami, Florida, and then at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. Simone has been living in Sedona for the past fourteen years. After working with various prominent architectural firms in Miami, New York, and Sedona, he decided it was time to open his own design studio. That is how Mussa Associates was born in 2004.
For Simone, design is his passion and he loves to share it with everybody. Since 2004, he has successfully designed more than a dozen custom homes, worked on numerous major renovations, and designed several commercial projects such as Thumb Butte Medical Center in Prescott. This facility was recently recorded as the highest selling modern commercial building in northern Arizona. Mussa and Associates has always had an excellent relationship with both clients and contractors making all projects worked on enjoyable and smooth. Simone takes each and every project from the design phase all the way to the end of construction, taking care of not only all the exterior and interior details, but even designing all cabinets and selecting all materials. Being an industrial designer, he sees all the aspects of projects not only the architectural side but also the project as a completed entity.
Family is very important to Simone and when not working, he spends his time with is eleven-year old daughter and wife of fifteen years.
Jak Teel has worked for the City of Cottonwood Parks and Recreation department since 2004 and considers himself an expert in the art of having fun. He currently holds the position of Senior Recreation Coordinator III and as someone who loves adventure, the outdoors, and all things sports (Go Ducks!), this is a natural fit that allows him to work in his area of passion.
Jak has called Cottonwood home for the last eighteen years. However, southern California and the sandy beaches, cool breeze, and the pacific coast highway of sunny San Diego is where he is from. The sand pits of Mission Beach and the waves of the Pacific crashing in Newport has him dreaming to get back, but for now he is thrilled to be a part of the community and is glad to give back and be involved as Cottonwood solidifies itself as a destination.
As an individual, Jak holds himself accountable to his mission statement that through hard work and dedication he will set an example for his family, peers, and himself by persevering in the face of challenges and remaining strong when he is meant to be weak. Hard work and dedication are not ideas, but rather actions that represent who he was, who he is, and who he will be. Through this, he will achieve both personal and professional success as a leader in his organization and in life.
B.A. Management – Leadership – Patten University – In progress
Certified Parks and Recreation Professional – NRPA - February 2018
Associates of Arts degree – Yavapai College – December 2015
Aquatic Facility Operator – NRPA- February 2013
Dr. Barb Waak moved to Arizona from Kansas City in January of 1975 to attend Northern Arizona University and has remained ever since. Her three children and three grand-children are 5th and 6th generation native born Arizonans.
Her college tenure includes:
Barb taught English at Yavapai College for 21 years, having over 6,000 students in the Verde Valley. She accepted the Associate Dean of Instruction and the Associate Dean of the Verde Valley Campus and Sedona Center two years ago. In addition to teaching and administration positions, she has also served on the Yavapai College Faculty Senate as a member and as President.
Barb has been the Vice-President on the Board of House of Ruth and as the President of Abide Maternity Home Board of Directors. She is currently President Emeritus of the Abide Maternity Home.
She is married to a Yavapai County Sheriff's Deputy, Sergeant Karl Waak. They are two years into an empty nest having raised three children: a Nurse Practitioner, a U.S. Army Sergeant, and an Arizona Licensed Cosmetologist. All are active in local churches.