Hello! My name is Sara Bowers and I am a 5th/6th grade math teacher at Dr. Daniel Bright School in Cottonwood, Arizona. I was born and raised in Phoenix and attended Arizona State University to receive my Bachelor’s of Science in Education in December of 2004. I moved to Cottonwood during the summer of 2004 in order to complete my student teaching and have been here ever since. I began my 15 year teaching career as a 5th grade teacher in 2005 for the Cottonwood Oak Creek School District. In 2016, I graduated with my Master’s Degree in Gifted Education from ASU. I have three amazing children, a daughter and two sons. When I am not busy with their schedules and sports events, I like to read, work out, hike, and spend time with my friends and family.
Michelle Conway has extensive marketing experience surrounding the disciplines of branding, advertising, direct marketing and public relations. Michelle joined the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau in the role of Director of Marketing in 2009. Her day-to-day job involves strategic planning, content and creative development, brand and vision leadership, and project management, all with the goal of positioning and promoting Sedona as a premier destination for visitors, and the best place to live, work and play for residents.
Michelle has supplemented her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing with professional advancement training from Desert Sands Chapter of Public Relations Society of America, Dale Carnegie, Toastmasters and the Advertising Agency Management Institute. She serves on the Northern Arizona Council of Government’s Economic Development Council and is former Chair of its Tourism Committee.
In her free time, you will find Michelle tooling around Sedona’s many art galleries, attending the city’s various events, and savoring the delicious local cuisine.
Steve Hensyel is a talented Tech II with the Information Technology Department of the City of Cottonwood, Arizona. Steve brings with him over 25 years’ experience in computer technology.
Steve was born in Iowa and grew up in the small town of Pella where he graduated high school in 1987. Being raised in rural Midwest taught Steve the importance and value of hard work. Both his grandfather and father were coal miners and truck drivers, and Steve’s mother worked in a factory.
Steve explored different jobs in Iowa, including ranch hand, machinist, roofing contractor, graphic artist, and network administrator. Before he moved to Arizona in 2017, Steve ran a successful safety training business for eight years, and together he and his wife Gale traveled all across the Midwest providing instruction to individuals and groups. During this time Steve was an active lobbyist at the Iowa Legislature. With passionate enthusiasm, Steve was successful in helping to pass numerous bills on many topics of concern to him.
As he was busy doing trainings and running his business, Steve found the time to return to college and in 2017, he earned a degree in Computer Networking and Security from Indian Hills College in Ottumwa, Iowa. Steve graduated at the top of his class and continues to hold the record for completing his capstone project.
Ultimately, Steve and Gale wanted to escape the winters and tornadoes of the Midwest. They looked to the beauty of Southwest, and in 2017 Steve accepted a job offer from the City of Cottonwood. He and Gale relocated to northern Arizona and found a lovely home in Clarkdale. Gale is a talented accountant with a local firm. While Steve stays busy with IT, he continues to enjoy the outdoors, hunting, and fishing. Together Steve and Gale travel and explore the region and spend time with friends.
Milissa Koel was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and discovered the Verde Valley while on a camping trip in the Southwest. She later left the Bay Area and moved to Sedona in 1996.
A daughter of a Berkeley Police Officer and a Registered Nurse, Milissa’s commitment to public service is generational. Her son Zachary who is an MP with the Marine Corp in Camp Lejeune, has volunteered with her at food banks since he was just 5 years old thus continuing the legacy of serving community needs. Milissa earned her BA in Sociology at Chico State University and her MA in Education with a Specialization in Guidance Counseling from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She worked in student services in both California and in Hawaii. In her student services roles, she helped students plan for their futures at Chico State’s Upward Bound Project, Cal Poly’s Cooperative Education and Placement Services Career Center, at vocational schools in San Francisco and Emeryville and at a small college in Honolulu as a Career Services Advisor. While working in Honolulu, Milissa served on the board of the American Business Women’s Association and as Board Secretary at her church.
Her passion for being of service eventually led to her departure from her career in student services to a career in nonprofit service. This passion to serve the needs of others deepened from surviving a near fatal car accident on the San Francisco Bay Bridge. When the disability checks stopped coming yet she was too injured to work full time to support herself, she found herself destitute. To regain her sense of independence while continuing to heal from her car wreck injuries, Milissa volunteered part time doing light office work in exchange for a place to sleep at night. She ironed clothes for cash to buy groceries with. It was two years before she finally received her insurance settlement money to rebuild her life. Those years gave her a personal experience of poverty that galvanized her dedication to being of service from knowing what it‘s like to be in poverty. While volunteering at Doorstep Agency, an emergency services agency, she also served on their board as Resource Chair. Milissa wrote an article for the local newspaper and appeared on the evening news encouraging others to support the efforts of Doorstep Agency in meeting the needs of those in poverty.
In Yavapai County, Milissa served with Americorps when it first launched in the early 2000’s. In Prescott, Milissa worked at Catholic Charities as a Project Coordinator with the EmpowerU Project, a poverty reduction program. Funding ended with that project and Milissa was retained by Catholic Charities to work with the Home Again Project in five Northern AZ counties including Apache, Yavapai, Coconino, Navaho and Mohave counties. She worked as a Foreclosure Relocation Coordinator for families losing their homes to foreclosure and at risk of homelessness. When the grant was completed with the Home Again Project, Milissa returned to her career in Career Services working for the Goodwill Career Centers in Prescott, Sedona and Cottonwood. She collaborated with area employers and hosted hiring events to help them with their staffing needs. She also worked with job seekers assisting them with their resumes and connecting them to emergency services to stay afloat while job searching. Her work with assisting Verde Valley employers led to her being recruited to join the staff at Rainbow Acres as their Staff Development Coordinator. During her time there since being hired 2018, she has recruited over 30 new employees, 25 of which are still actively employed. She was instrumental in recruiting and onboarding the staff to launch a brand new program at Rainbow Acres, Project Discovery. Her husband James, retired from a career with Time Warner, also works with me at Rainbow Acres as a part time janitor. He served in Vietnam and is a veteran with the US Navy.
Clover Pinion is Executive Assistant at Spectrum Healthcare, a national leader in providing structurally integrated care to its community members. She worked in the restaurant industry for the last 24 years before starting at Spectrum in November of 2015. Clover attended Northern Arizona University and received a Bachelor of Science in Hotel Restaurant Management in 2002. She has done everything from a corporate management position to owning her own little café. Spectrum Healthcare has afforded Clover her first opportunity to work in the integrated health field and she has learned a tremendous amount in her last 3 and half years there. Clover’s unique insights and position have allowed her to contribute to the innovation, integration and cohesion that defines Spectrum Healthcare. Clover has been a resident of the Verde Valley on and off her entire life. For the last 14 years she has very happily lived in Cottonwood with her husband Bryan Thompson and their four girls.
As the Yavapai College Associate Dean of the Sedona Center and Director of OLLI at Sedona – Verde Valley, Linda Shook oversees community and lifelong learning for both the Verde Valley Campus and the Sedona Center. Linda recently relocated to Yavapai County from Missoula, Montana, where she served as Summer Programs Director at the University of Montana. Her academic career includes more than ten years at Auburn University, where she served in several positions, including five years as Director of OLLI at Auburn. She has also worked extensively with not-for-profits in the arts, social services, and education.
Linda earned her Master of Education degree from Auburn University and a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations from the University of Alabama. Since moving to Sedona, she has become a hiker, trail runner, kayaker, and mountain biker. Most recently, she purchased a pair of mountain climbing shoes to assist her in her quest to visit more of the beautiful peaks in Northern Arizona and beyond.
Ben Shor grew up in a suburb of New York City, and earned a BA in Marketing from the University of Bridgeport. After college, he worked in his family’s business, which supplied machines and tools to the jewelry manufacturing industry. The business was sold 15 years later, and Ben went back to school and earned an MS in Social Work from Columbia University. Ben worked with seriously emotionally disturbed foster children, low-income seniors, and homeless adults for the next 10 years. For the past 20 years, Ben has worked as a consultant, teaching QuickBooks and Quicken, and doing bookkeeping.
Ben has done a lot of volunteer work, including being a Big Brother, a suicide-hotline volunteer, a hike leader, Membership Chair and Treasurer of various business organizations, Chairman of his town’s Democratic Party, Vice Chair of his town’s Historic Preservation Commission, and a member of his town’s Planning and Zoning Committee and the Board of Assessment Review. Ben currently volunteers with Friends of the Forest Trail Patrol, and serves as Treasurer of the Red Rock Referral Network and as Treasurer for Democrats of the Red Rocks (DORR).
Ben moved to Sedona with his wife Cora in August 2015 with their two cats and a dog. Ben loves to hike, explore the local area, and travel.
Brandon Echols is a Service Planning Supervisor working for Arizona Public Service here in the Verde Valley. Before being promoted to Supervisor in 2018 he earned his Associates degree through Yavapai College and worked at four different electric utilities located in Arizona, Texas, and Oregon. Brandon prides himself in hard work, efficiency, and building relationships. He has spent the past 11 years in the electric utility industry in various roles such as meter reader, lineman apprentice, designer, and project manager.
Brandon currently resides in Clarkdale, AZ with his wife, Brittany, and their two sons Brock and Brentley. When not at work he enjoys spending time with his family, outdoor activities, and watching NFL games.
Scott Ellis is an Arizona native who was born in Phoenix, Arizona and raised in the Verde Valley. He attended all the local elementary schools and graduated from Mingus Union High School. Upon graduation he moved to Flagstaff to attend NAU, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Geography. From there Scott moved to Colorado and began GIS work creating maps for a private company who contracted with a government agency. Upon returning to Arizona during the recession in 2008, Scott moved to the Prescott Valley area for a few years.
Soon after leaving Prescott Valley to move back to Cottonwood, Scott was hired as a Planner with the City of Cottonwood where he is currently employed. During his time with the city, Scott graduated with a Master of Science in Applied Geospatial Sciences from NAU.
Scott’s daughter Rylie is starting 3rd grade this year and is very active in 4-H where she shows several animals every year during the Verde Valley Fair. She is also on the Cottonwood Clippers swim team.
Scott enjoys many outdoor activities with his family including hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, and swimming in lakes and rivers. Most weekends you can find him outdoors doing any of these activities, plus more!
Jussara Coelho Wagner Jussara Coelho Wagner was born and raised in Minas Gerais, Brazil. She lived with three other siblings and her young widowed mother. She learned at young age the need to be helpful in her family. While still residing in Brazil she received her teaching certification for Pre-School to 4th grade. After arriving to the United States she lived in the Boston area and held various jobs, ranging from catering to medical assistance. While in Boston, Jussara was involved in the Brazilian community through her church and actively assisted fellow Brazilians as a translator in a ray of situations. It was a humbling experience to be trusted with other people’s emotions, medical situations and family disruptions. She also met people from many parts of the world, from different background with the same resilience in their paths of struggle.
In 2004, Jussara moved to Cottonwood in after her marriage to husband Gary. Shortly after arriving to the Verde Valley she obtained her real estate license seeing it as an opportunity to meet new people and get acquainted with the area. She and Gary welcomed their son Isaac in 2006 and daughter Abigail in 2008. Jussara made the decision to stay home and be a constant presence in her children’s lives. While raising her children she went back to school taking classes at Yavapai Community College and later at NAU, graduating in May, 2019 with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies/ Administration. She also survived two battles with breast cancer in the process.
Jussara is also involved with volunteer work through churches, Rainbow Acres – home for adults with developmental disabilities in Camp Verde, her children’s school and friends. Jussara enjoys cooking, making chocolate truffles and needlework when there is time. Most of all, she enjoys the company of good friends, family, her husband and children.