Women Who Lead in the Copper Corridor

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As mothers, we have tried to teach our daughters that they can do anything they set their minds to. Just believe in yourself and you will succeed.

   This year’s Apache Leap Mining Festival, set for March 16-18 in Superior, illustrates this perfectly as it will celebrate women in mining.

  There are other women in the Copper Corridor for our daughters to emulate. We thought we’d introduce our readers to seven strong women leaders who serve as role models to the younger generation, the leaders to be:

Ellen Kretch

Ellen Kretch, Globe-Miami Chamber of Commerce

Ellen Kretch has been a constant fixture in the Globe-Miami Community for many years.  She worked for twenty-nine years at the Arizona Silver Belt where she worked as a reporter and eventually became the publisher.  After working in the newspaper business Ellen, took her interest in community advocacy to become the Executive Director of the Globe Miami Chamber of Commerce, she has held that position for years.

Why do you enjoy taking a leadership role in your community? “There are so many aspects of the community to get involved with and I enjoy meeting all the different people that come into the Chamber.”  Ellen highlighted many of the projects that the Chamber helps with from the Old Dominion Mine park, historical events and the general operations of the Chamber.  She enjoys seeing the projects they work on come to fruition and in her spare time she enjoys hiking and adventuring.  One of her favorite spots in Arizona is the Grand Canyon.

What is her Superpower? “I believe my Super Power is the ability to get along with about 99% of most everyone,” she said.  While she explained that in leadership, many people will get irritated or angry, it is important to try to get along for the common good.

Advice to other Women Leaders: “Never take for granted that you have a job.  Try not to ever become lazy or complacent in a job and always keep learning.”  Ellen stressed the importance of taking additional trainings and classes to keep skills fresh and always be ready to try a new task or project.

Sue Anderson

Sue Anderson, Superior Chamber of Commerce

Sue Anderson started her career in the electrical supply industry, eventually opening and operating a commercial electrical supply company in California.  In retirement Sue and her husband Bill moved to Arizona, spending about ten years in Globe and ten years in Sedona before settling in to Superior where they started fixing up rental properties.  Those years in the electric supply business helped her to gain leadership skills that she put to good use in her career and in her leadership roles in Superior.  Today, in her retirement she works more than full time serving as President of the Superior Chamber of Commerce and the newly formed Rebuild Superior Inc. while still operating her home rental business.

Why do you enjoy taking a leadership role in your community? “When we moved to Superior, we realized we loved this community, the natural beauty and the people.”  She and her husband Bill pledged to be part of helping Superior rebuild itself.  You will often hear Sue remarking on how the community has really come together to start working together.  Her leadership and drive is one of the keys to the recent successes that Superior has seen.  She tells a story of how many people thought she was a bit crazy when she suggested Superior should have a home tour.  Today, it is one of the most successful events in Superior.

What is her Superpower? “My ability to encourage people to volunteer.” Sue credits her success in encouraging people to volunteer to the fact that she would never ask anyone to volunteer to do anything that she wouldn’t do.  “Always treat everyone the same, from the Janitor to the CEO, it is important that everyone feel that they are part of the team,” she said.

Advice to other Women Leaders: “You will learn from the hard knocks in life, as a leader you will pay a big price, take a lot of hits but the rewards are worth it,” she explained.  “When you are leading a team, a family or organization it is important to make sure that everyone feels important and that you share the compliments of a job well done.”

Debra Sommers

Mayor Debra Sommers – Town of Kearny

Debra Sommers  has been involved in her community her entire life.  She has been a volunteer for the Pioneer Days Parade, the Hand Me Up Shop and she was named Citizen of Year for Kearny, due to my volunteerism.  She is  currently serving her second year as Mayor for the Town of Kearny and she previously served as Mayor of Kearny for 13 years and has been elected to the council for a total of eighteen years.

Why do you enjoy taking a leadership role in your community? “I enjoy being a leader in my community because I have many years’ experience being a public servant.  I grew up in the community and I enjoy interacting with the community on a daily basis.  I enjoy communicating the exciting projects we are working on as well as being a good listener, when people have ideas or comments,” she stated.

What is your Superpower: “I feel my Superpower is the experience I have growing up and being a part of the community.  I feel I am great at listening to people and coming up with solutions that will benefit the whole community,” she explained.

Advice to other Women Leaders: “The advice I give to other women in leadership and business positions is to hear what people are trying to communicate and find solutions that benefit the whole community.  I feel people have wonderful ideas and by working together for the good of the community, we can all be great leaders”.

Maria Munoz

Vice Mayor Maria Munoz – Town of Hayden &  Central Arizona College

Maria Munoz is a lifelong resident of Hayden, a proud Hayden Lobo and is one of the leaders in the area that is counted on not only in  Hayden but throughout the Copper Corridor.  She was elected to the Hayden Town Council in 2008 and has been serving consecutively since then.  She is an academic advisor at Central Arizona College and where she provides guidance to students throughout the Copper Corridor as they embark on the college careers.  She is involved regionally as the Treasurer for the Copper Corridor Economic Development Coalition.

Why do you enjoy taking a leadership role in your community? “I enjoy being an advocate and helping those who are less fortunate,” explained Maria.  She explained that throughout her community involvement and she has been able to help many people access various resources to help them make their lives a little easier.

What is your Superpower? “I am persistent and open minded,” she explained.  Maria explained that she felt most success in leadership comes from being open minded to finding solutions.  “I never give up,” she said.  She remains persistent in her approach to her projects where she is trying to find solutions to problems or creating new opportunity.

Advice to other Women Leaders: “Never give up in what you believe in and never let anyone force you to change what you believe in” she explained.  Maria stressed the importance in voicing your opinion and developing confidence around what you believe in when working to accomplish a goal or dream.

Tamatha Villar

Police Chief Tamatha Villar – Hayden/Mammoth Police

In June 2017, Tamatha “Tami” Villar took on the role of regional police chief for the Towns of Hayden, Winkelman and Mammoth. While she’s not a resident of the Copper Corridor, Tami does call the area home. She retired from the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in May 2017, serving as the region’s Sergeant in 2004 and Lieutenant from 2007-2010 and again 2012-2014. As chief, she has reached out to the local schools, talking to kids about setting goals. She also attended the graduation of the HLI-Copper Corridor Class of 2017, both as a representative of her departments and as a graduate.

Why do you enjoy taking a leadership role in your community? “Serving gives me the awesome ability to effect change and positively impact my community. I knew from a young age, my life was intended for service.  I have always tried to work toward effecting the change I wanted to see and to make a difference in my community. It is through serving others and our communities that we are given the greatest opportunity to engage, collaborate and solve problems that impact us all.  Cesar Chavez said it best when he said,’We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sake and for our own. It is through service to others that I have learned how to truly appreciate life and all I have been blessed with.”  

What is your Superpower?  “Humble yet effective communicator and balanced, understanding yet accountable leader.”

Advice to other Women Leaders: “Always remember, you are the one, and the only one, who can decide what kind of responsibility you would like to take in to make a difference in your community. Be bold, take risks,  take hold of your dreams and do work that is meaningful to you. You have the ability to make significant changes in the lives of the people with whom you work, live, and play. Don’t deny the world your unique contribution.”

Ellie Brown

Judge Ellie Brown – Oracle Justice of the Peace Pro Tempore

Ellie Brown has been a resident of Oracle since 1983, grew up in Mammoth and lived in San Manuel for five years.  Her past careers within the judicial system have been as Judicial Lead Clerk, Judicial Supervisor, Judicial Liaison and Justice of the Peace.  She currently works as a Justice of the Peace Pro Tempore for the Oracle Justice Court, member of the National Judges Association and Arizona Court Association.  Her current volunteer services within the community consist of belonging to the Oracle Fire Department Board, OWN Oracle Inc.-Secretary, St. Helen Catholic Parish Council Chair, pianist/music coordinator and fund raising event chair. She also serves on the Sun Life Family Health Center, Inc. Board of Directors. Her education:  AA from CAC, Bachelor of Science in Administration and in Management (U of P) Masters in Educational Leadership emphasis in Community Leadership (NAU) Certified Public Management (ASU). Judicial Education (Arizona Supreme Court). 

Why do you enjoy taking a leadership role in your community?  “Contributing time, talents and treasures is my regular routine of reaching out to others.  Helping people, assisting in community or church events, whether up front or behind the scenes, is healing and moral up lifting.  Seeing the work results of a group of volunteers that brings people together having a good time or benefiting those who are in need is one of the best feelings.  It is good for the soul.  Service tends to have the domino effect as once it gets going and all the pieces of the puzzle are fitting well together, there is nothing stopping it.  Serving my community is enjoyable, rewarding and it empowers and motivates others to do the same.  I enjoy the “crazy busy” because it creates balance in my life. It’s work but the end result, no matter how successful or not, builds a base for the next act of service.  My parents always taught me to stay involved by example; so I do!“

What is your Superpower?  

“Recognizing what people have as their “empowerment” and utilizing it as a part of the goal.  I listen, I take notes, and tap into the resources that people have; whether it be artwork for posters, phone etiquette for volunteer help, presentation skills, computer skills, etc.  My favorite challenge is to find the diamond in the rough.  Everyone has something to offer, that is how things get done.”  

Advice to other Women Leaders:  “Take each job given to you and watch, listen and remember.  Nothing that passes through career building is by accident.  Take the good, the bad and the ugly and have it help form you into the type of person you want to be, as well as the type of person you do not want to be.  The bumps in life and careers are to be expected.  It’s how you handle them that shows how well you are ready to move forward.  Careers are built by each stacked upon the next; either moving you up or perhaps sideways to another career or maybe just still for a bit.  Keep sharp, be honest and don’t settle for hurting others on your way to the top.  As you grow, you will become familiar when it is time to be the leader and when it is time to follow.  And by all means, stay humble, admit your mistakes, learn from them and remember that it is fine to step back and let others move forward.  Know your worth, get educated and keep learning.”

Marie Roybal

Marie Roybal – President Copper Town Association

Marie Roybal has been serving as the president of the Copper Town Association, a non-profit group in the San Manuel, Mammoth and Oracle area since the organization formed in 2010. Marie grew up in San Manuel. She and her husband Fred returned to San Manuel in 1974 when her mother passed away and her father needed someone to run her jewelry store. She did that for 11-12 years before going back to school and earning her teaching degree. She was a first grade teacher at First Avenue Elementary School for 17 years before retiring. After a few years of traveling with her husband, she began volunteering at organizations in the Tri-Community. She has served on the board of the San Manuel Historical Society. Through the Copper Town Association and through the Copper Town Days Festival and Car Show, she has helped raise money for local organizations. She also serves on the Sun Life Family Health Center, Inc. Board of Directors.

Why do you enjoy taking a leadership role in your community?  “Because since 1974, this community has given to me. Now it’s time for me to give back to my community. It gave me my education and it supported me through Fred’s illness. It is my extended family and now I need to give back to them.“

What is your Superpower?  “I connect well with people. I’m a people person. I like to help out.”  

Advice to other Women Leaders:  “Aim high and stay true to your beliefs.” (Marie explained that she often gives this exact advice to her own granddaughter.)

Mila Besich-Lira (427 Posts)

Mila Besich-Lira is a resident of Superior with two children. She volunteers for many local organizations. She is an experienced fundraiser and event planner for Copper Corridor Economic Development Coalition. She covers some of the area town councils and schools.


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