By Suzanne Paetzer, Class 24
In February 2009, my life changed. New to Arizona, specifically Scottsdale, I was reading the AZ Republic and there it was in bold print – Scottsdale Leadership was hosting an applicant’s reception. That day is still etched in my mind’s eye. I knew in that very moment that I wanted to be a member of Class 24! No doubt, no hesitation, full on!
Fast forward to 2016. I’m proud to say not only did I graduate with amazing Class 24 classmates but I’m still involved with Scottsdale Leadership. In my corporate working years, I had been a senior human resources executive as well as a consultant and executive leadership coach. I felt I knew leadership but I didn’t know my new community or how my life would unfold and change.
After graduation, I stayed involved helping Class 25 with their projects, became vice chair then chair for Core Program (Class 26 and 27, respectively), served on the Board of Directors for four years (with one year as Secretary), helped with Orientation Day, facilitated leadership modules, and have been a co-chair for Diversity and Inclusion Day (several times). As you can see, I stayed actively involved, which is great, but even more meaningful is what I gained as a result of my experiences.
I remember the first time I was asked by the executive director to serve on an art committee to help with the Soleri Bridge dedication. My first thought was “Me, on an art committee? What do I have to offer?” Then I thought about who I had become over the nine-month program and fairly quickly said “Yes!” to a new adventure. There is power in the act of asking someone to engage outside of their comfort zone – lesson one learned. It was a new experience and one I enjoyed, especially meeting Paolo Soleri the day of the festive dedication. I did have leadership to offer the committee and creative ideas to share.
Lesson two came from a new direction. AZ Town Hall was seeking 100 residents to focus on the vision and aspirations for Scottsdale (as a precursor to revising the General Plan). This time I knew it was time to step up my game in the community. Not only was I selected to serve on the AZ Town Hall but continued to serve for 18 months as a Board member for the 2035 Scottsdale General Plan Task Force.
I would never have thought that day in 2009 that I would have even considered serving city government. It opened my eyes to very different ways of thinking about the same topic – priceless. Lesson two learned – fear not new opportunities; stretch yourself, get involved, and make a lasting difference.
And many more lessons. Scottsdale Leadership provided a wonderful entree into my community and life-long friendships (from my class and other classes). Beyond that, I have more courage to engage in unique ways and to share my leadership where my heart is fed. I have learned that one voice can shift the perspective of a room full of people when understanding and compassion are the basis of the conversation. More diverse perspectives create a better result, beyond what I thought was possible. I do my best to not judge anyone, anytime, in any way – I don’t know what it’s like to walk in their shoes. I stand for what I believe, even in the face of adversity. Truth and love always prevails. And, Scottsdale Leadership instilled in me the desire for life-long learning and to never stop giving back to family, friends, and my community. One day, one moment, one changed life…that’s me!