Jaime Molera, co-founder of Phoenix-based government relations and public affairs firm Molera Alvarez, is the new Chair of the Chamber’s Public Affairs Committee.
Molera succeeds Cox Communications’ Susan Anable, who served as Chair for six years, and brings 20 years of experience to his new role. The former Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction drops some knowledge on you about the importance of getting involved in public policy.
1. Give us a sense of your background in public policy and advocacy, which has led you to this position with the Chamber.
For the last couple of decades, I’ve been involved in public policy in one shape or form in Arizona. I worked in the Symington administration, which is where I started my professional career in Arizona back in the mid 1990s. I then worked for Governor Hull as her head of policy from 1997 to 2001. I then transitioned to the position of State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Following that role, I launched my public affairs business in 2003, Molera Alvarez. In addition, I served as president of the Arizona State Board of Education under Governor Jan Brewer from 2011 to 2013.
2. What was attractive to you about the Chamber’s public affairs committee chair?
In my opinion, Todd Sanders has done an incredible job with the Greater Phoenix Chamber. The Chamber has been very vocal on important issues, not just to promote a strong business climate in the region, but really also issues focusing on the quality of life for residents. It’s very impressive that the Chamber really makes such a difference in achieving a strong business climate. I’ve admired Todd for a long time, so it’s a great opportunity to be on the Chamber’s Board of Directors, which I’m very honored by. And when Todd approached me about serving the Chamber in a new capacity as the Public Affairs Committee Chair, it was a perfect fit for me knowing firsthand of the the Chamber’s tremendous public affairs efforts. And I was very honored to take on that role.
3. What are your objectives as the Chamber’s public affairs efforts begin again in September?
To continue to create a strong business climate in Greater Phoenix. The Chamber has been a very big champion of is making sure that the regulatory and tax environments are such that businesses can continue to thrive and grow. Other focus areas are a strong education system, from K-12 all the way to higher education, and making sure that there are components of our education system that lead to a strong workforce. So combined with a good business climate, low taxes and low regulations, that mix of objectives can have a pretty powerful impact.
4. What do you see as the biggest priorities? How do education standards fall into that list of priorities?
It’s not just about having higher education standards, but making sure that we have a meaningful accountability system at all levels. It has to mean that academically, Arizona’s education system is truly preparing students to graduate from high school without the need for remediation as they head to college. Unfortunately, that’s not the case right now. So I think the Chamber is well positioned to help push for a really strong, meaningful accountability system.
5. What measures do you predict will resurface for the 2016 legislative session?
It’s an election year, so yes…I predict a lot of measures resurfacing in the upcoming legislative session, but I think they are things we can deal with. The repeal of Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards will likely resurface. I hope that Arizona can move forward in implementing the restoration of its Medicaid program. I know our hospitals will go crazy and our health care system will go nuts for that. I also predict various social issues might be coming down the pike again. Again, being an election year, we have to anticipate that.
6. Why should member businesses get more involved in public affairs and engage in dialogue?
It’s simple: if the Chamber did not do the great job of being an advocate and being aggressive and ensuring that policies lead to a strong business climate, then we’d always be dealing with mediocrity. And I think mediocrity is not where we need to be at this point in the state. We need to be aggressive in focusing on the issues that make a difference for our members and local businesses. Education is just one of those hot-button issues. Having a reasonable and sound healthcare system is another hot issue. More importantly…it’s our job to make sure that bills are not going to harm businesses, but rather enable them to grow and prosper. That’s ultimately where the success in Arizona lies — in our ability to build a stronger workforce. A stronger workforce is going to go a long way towards Arizona’s betterment.
7. How do you see the Chamber’s role in making sure the voice of business is heard by elected officials at all levels of government?
I would say that the Chamber is not only a strong advocate at the legislature, but is also very strong in helping to elect the kind of officials who have the same philosophy. For the last few years under Todd’s leadership, the Chamber has not been shy about voicing what initiatives or candidates are important to the success of businesses and the local economy. And as long as we continue on that trajectory, Chamber members will understand why it’s important for them to get involved in elections and in legislative advocacy work.
8. What can you tell us about your personal life?
I’m married to my wonderful wife Michelle. We have a daughter, Kelly, who is going to be a senior in high school this fall.
One thing that not many people know is that I’m very involved in my daughter’s dancing. I’m on the board of directors for the dance studio, if you can believe that. That came about nearly five years ago when my daughter’s dance studio went bankrupt. And a group of Dads got together and we created a non-profit called the Phoenix Dance Cooperative to keep it from going under again. It’s been an interesting dynamic that I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be involved in. As for me, I don’t dance. Although I’ve been involved in the National Kidney Foundation’s Dancing with the Stars, but it was more for fun than actual prowess. My daughter inherited the dance genes, not me.
I’ve been fortunate to check off a few items on my bucket list. I really enjoy travelling and seeing new places. I would love to go to Egypt and see the pyramids some day. I would also like to go to Greece. I was fortunate to visit Cuba a few years ago, which was very fun and interesting. I’m also interested in traveling to Africa and going on a safari.