2024 Leadership Retreat: A Recap of Our Path Forward

Jul 8, 2024 | Uncategorized

Our recent AAED Leadership Retreat was a resounding success, marked by strategic discussions, actionable goals, and a renewed commitment to our mission of advancing economic development across Arizona. Held over two days at the Springhill Suites in Cottonwood, the retreat brought together board members, committee leaders, and staff to align our goals and set the stage for the coming year. Here’s a summary of how our time was spent and the exciting action items we’ve set in motion.

Key Action Items

While many topics and ideas require ongoing discussion, a few projects and tasks were identified that the AAED team and Board members are looking to complete in the next three to six months.

  • Automated Renewal Workflow: Create a system that notifies members 60 days before their renewal date, ensuring a smooth renewal process.
  • Thank-You Campaign: Build an automated campaign to express our gratitude to members who renew their membership.
  • Scholarship Fund: Draft a proposal for an AAED Scholarship Fund, outlining its goal, parameters, and process.
  • Board Meeting Transparency: Prepare summaries of board meetings to committee leaders, ensuring everyone is informed and aligned.
  • Strategic Plan Reporting: Report monthly on our progress toward the Strategic Plan, keeping us accountable and focused.
  • General FAQs: Create a general FAQ document to help new committee members get up to speed quickly and increase engagement.

Building a High-Performing Board Workshop

Our retreat featured a workshop facilitated by The Weber Group, focusing on what makes a high-performance board. We discussed the importance of commitment, engagement, flexibility, and accountability. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Engagement and Visibility: Board members are expected to be visible and active at events and in committees, engaging with the community and stakeholders.
  • Clear Goals: Having clearly defined roles for Board Liaisons, Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs, as well as setting and tracking specific goals for each, is essential for maintaining focus and achieving our mission.
  • Collaboration and Innovation: Strong relationships between the board and staff and innovative thinking are crucial for our success.

Additionally, committee leaders expressed the need for clear communication, support, and transparency from the board. Effective leadership was highlighted as decisive, enthusiastic, prepared, and collaborative, with strong delegation and time management skills.

Identifying Challenges and Opportunities Exercise

Facilitated by Heath Vescovi-Chiordi and Kristen Stephenson, we delved into understanding our internal culture, enhancing leadership skills, and increasing member engagement. For our organization’s leaders, the excitement about our work stems from building closer relationships, advocating for the community, and contributing to economic growth.

The group discussed that the impact of COVID-19 on events has been starting to diminish, and while there is a craving for in-person networking, there is also a need to provide hybrid and virtual options for events – particularly for Academy courses. As more municipalities and economic development organizations from across the state seek to take advantage of our offerings, virtual resources, in addition to more digital communication channels – such as expanding into videos and podcasts – increase accessibility and, therefore, engagement.

Looking Ahead to 2026 Discussion

Karla Moran and Jennifer Lindley presented a forward-looking view, emphasizing the importance of increased communication, transparency, and advocacy. We aim to honor our past while setting a new tone for the future, ensuring our members have the resources and support they need to succeed.

One of the primary discussions among attendees was the need to increase AAED’s advocacy efforts and legislative presence. Board Directors Melissa Johnson and Kirsten Hall asked attendees to provide 1-3 words they would use to describe AAED, and it was surprising to see that advocacy was not included among the submitted words. New AAED President Karla Moran has stated her intent to make advocacy a focus of her presidency, and our incoming Government Affairs leaders, Chair Tim Bourcet and Vice Chair Chuck Reynolds have an ambitious plan laid out for this next year.

Achieving this goal will require the full power of our members, so we encourage you to join the Government Affairs committee and volunteer to help with our efforts.


Our AAED Leadership Retreat was an inspiring and productive event, setting a clear path forward. With our action items and strategic goals in place, we are poised to make significant strides in advancing economic development in Arizona. We are excited about the future and look forward to working together to achieve our shared vision.

Stay tuned for more updates as we implement these exciting initiatives and continue to positively impact our communities.

Together, we are shaping the future of economic development in Arizona!