The Western Maricopa Coalition held its 25th annual Best of the West awards dinner at University of Phoenix Stadium Thursday, November 2. The annual ceremony honored city, business and school officials instrumental to the West Valley.

Former Gov. Jan Brewer, the late Litchfield Park City Manager Darryl Crossman and the city of Goodyear were among those honored during WESTMARC’s 25th anniversary Best of the West awards dinner at University of Phoenix Stadium Thursday, November 2.

“Although we are excited to recognize the event’s silver anniversary, the real celebration is about the results of those 25 years of hard work and dedication,” said Bobbi Magdaleno, WESTMARC board chairwoman and ASU’s executive director of government and community engagement, in her introductory speech.

“In the past, we were able to get away with selling the West Valley, and the entire Valley for that matter, as an inexpensive place to build a business with our greatest asset being sunshine. Today, we have more to offer. We have an amazing quality of life, a strong and abundant workforce, and, most importantly, we have regional collaboration unlike any other.”

Magdaleno was among the 550 business professionals, school employees and city officials who attended the event, which honored WESTMARC members, and educational or business folks instrumental to the area’s foundation.

WESTMARC, otherwise known as the Western Maricopa Coalition, is a partnership between 15 West Valley locales, effectively merging business and education. It has three goals: promote the West Valley, enhance economic development and increase member value. These ideas and more were emphasized through the event, where many speakers put forth WESTMARC’s “15 cities with once voice” idea.

WESTMARC’s event mirrored a televised awards show, with lights, music and smoke from the stage.

The evening kicked off with a posthumous tribute to four people instrumental in the West Valley’s growth, including Crossman; Surprise Parks and Recreation Director Mark Coronado; Peoria Chief Financial Officer Brent Mattingly; and Bill Sheldon, WESTMARC’s former board chairman and Copper Point’s vice president and chief risk officer.

The awards comprised the bulk of the evening, however.

Brewer was among those honored by WESTMARC President and CEO Sintra Hoffman after brief opening remarks.

“The influence in this room at WESTMARC events always blows me away,” Hoffman enthusiastically told the crowd early in the evening.

Brewer was joined by former Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs; West-MEC Director of Government and Business Partnerships Diane McCarthy; Greater Maricopa Foreign Trade Zone President Art Othon; Sun Health Executive Vice President and WESTMARC Executive Advisory Board member Joe La Rue; Molera Alvarez Vice President of Government and Community Relations Claude Mattox; and Orcutt|Winslow founder and WESTMARC Executive Advisory Board member Herman Orcutt.

The primary awards came after dinner, though. Those included Economic Engine, Excellence in Innovation and Quality of Life, the latter of which was split into two categories: Community and Education.

First was Economic Engine, which was designated for “individuals, organizations, businesses, facilities or programs which have created a significant economic outcome and/or job creation for the West Valley.” PV | 303 Business Park won, having announced plans this year to add three new companies: a corporate office and logistics operation for Aldi Incorporated, a manufacturing plant for Ball Corporation, and a regional hub for United Parcel Service. This move will effectively create an approximate 2,000 jobs and pump almost $500,000 into the West Valley.

The Quality of Life: Education field was for “individuals, organizations, businesses, facilities or programs which have enhanced the quality of life for West Valley residents.” The Peoria Unified School District Career and Technical Program won.

Quality of Life: Community is for “individuals, organizations, businesses, facilities or programs which have enhanced the quality of life for West Valley residents.” This award was given to the Tri-City West Thornwood Branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Phoenix, a program that provides after-school and summer programs for Avondale, Litchfield Park, Goodyear and Buckeye kids struggling with poverty and literacy issues.

This was the first year Quality of Life was split into two categories, due to the large number of nominees. Among the many nominees between Community and Education were Backpacks 4 Kids AZ Inc.; Marionneaux Elementary School – Buckeye Elementary School District; Community Paramedicine West Consortium; West Valley Arts Council, City of Goodyear and Estrella by Newland Communities; and West-MEC Southwest Campus.

This segment’s final award, Excellence in Innovation, was for innovative concepts that either fulfill a need for West Valley residents or preserve the area’s assets or resources. It was given to the city of Goodyear and Salt River Project (SRP) for the two entities’ 100-year partnership announced earlier this year. Now, SRP will provide Colorado River water to Goodyear’s Central Arizona Project.

Among the other nominations were the city of Goodyear, for its Topics on the Move Van mobile meeting venue; and the Speak Up, Stand Up, Save a Life Youth Conference, a West Valley conference that deals with bullying and teen suicide prevention.

For Inspiration in Leadership, Sun Health and WESTMARC’s La Rue was once again called to the stage. Citing him as an example of extraordinary leadership, he was given this award by Brewer.

“When Sintra called, I said, ‘no, no, no, recount the votes, something’s not right here,’” La Rue joked in his speech.

“I truly believe I’m accepting this recognition on behalf of many others and many of those folks are here in this room,” he added.

Ron Campbell, senior director of ticket sales for the Arizona Cardinals, presented Regional Advancement. The award was given to Sunbelt Holdings President and CEO, John W. Graham, who is also a WESTMARC board member, for having “strengthened and transformed the West Valley’s position for economic growth.”

In a video montage of his accomplishments, Hoffman cited him as a community builder and leader, as well as for his efforts in education.

Like La Rue, Graham credited his award as “an individual recognition for a team effort.”

Hoffman returned to the stage to present the final prize, the new fittingly titled President’s Choice Award, to Surprise Economic Development Manager Mike Hoover for his leadership and contributions to WESTMARC, including advancing the Committee’s work and increasing its member value.

“Mike’s leadership as the WESTMARC economic development co-chair has led to the creation of new tools that, for the first time ever, validate incredible workforce talent residing here in the West Valley,” Hoffman said.

Students were honored as well. Grand Canyon University business management and psychology student Joy Garcia was presented a $1,000 West Valley Youth Leadership Scholarship by Leadership West Executive Director and WESTMARC board member Michelle Hess. The effort is a collaboration between Leadership West and WESTMARC.