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New Arizona-Mexico Commission boss shifts focus to water, environment

Last winter, Gov. Katie Hobbs ousted all of the members of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, a board that helps foster trade and other relationships across the border. Last summer, she re-filled those positions — with some members who’d served on the panel in the past and some new faces.

About a month ago, the governor named Eva Masadiego as the new executive director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission. She joined The Show to talk more about this new role.

Eva Masadiego
Arizona-Mexico Commission
Eva Masadiego

Full conversation

MARK BRODIE: Eva, what to you is exciting or interesting about being in charge of this commission?

EVA MASADIEGO: Yes. Oh my gosh, being in charge, that is definitely how I feel. I, I feel a huge sense of responsibility and commitment to the commission. I, before stepping into this role, I, I served as the director of operations for Governor Hobbs. And in that role, I manage her executive cabinet, and I led very proud to have done to have done what I did in her office, which is leading her policy agenda as we describe the road map and that was aligning, aligning the agencies and the work we're doing in state government with her policy priorities.

And I, I did that for the first year. And I was charged, as you describe to translate that to the Arizona-Mexico Commission. And the commission has a history of doing incredible binational work across the border in our border region. And I'm stepping in and aligning that work for the next generation.

BRODIE: So what are the priorities of the Hobbs administration as it relates to this commission and the relationship between Arizona and Mexico?

MASADIEGO: That is a very good question and it's historically, has been rooted around trade and commerce. But this year we have a new board and there is a lot of passion, expertise around infrastructure and the environment specifically as it relates to water and energy. And we have a newly imported board as of last year. We're right now stepping into plans of what that can look like around the environment and our policy priorities around that. But then of course, you have education and health services as well.

BRODIE: So I want to ask you about the environment and, and water issues because of course, there was a time when Arizona not too long ago, was thinking about maybe building a desalination plant in Mexico to, to get some more water here. What kinds of specific things related to water in the environment might your, your committees and the commission as a whole be looking into?

MASADIEGO: Yeah, that is a great question and I wish I had a very direct answer to that, but we're actually just stepping into what we call the plenary. And the plenary is our conference as you will, where we bring agency and stakeholder leaders into the conversation of what are going to, to be our key project to run water and the environment and so forth. And that's actually scheduled for this fall. So we're entering those conversations.

One of my goals is to prioritize, I mean, there's a lot that we can do but we want to be very specific on what we, what, what can, what can we get done in the next two to six years? And so, I wish I can tell you what we've done. But there's been focuses on water management planning, environmental quality issues facing both Arizona and Sonora region. And there is of course, talks about again, how do we improve the quality of life and sustainability, sustainability in both in both states?

BRODIE: You mentioned education and I want to ask about your background in that area because you were a teacher before you enter government. How do you think that may or may not impact your, your new role?

MASADIEGO: Oh, that's a great question. I'm most proud of having been a public school teacher here in Phoenix. And it really, I mean, I really think educators should be, should be running the world because if we could run a classroom, we, we could definitely run the world but it was, I was very interested in policy and that was my, my introduction to, to education or immigration policies working in the classroom.

I wanted some real life experience of how policy was impacting my students and their families and their communities. And that experience led me into local government, leading citywide education initiatives, giving that experience. And I was then quickly known for running effective programming, running effective teams. And that's what I, what I've been doing for the last year and a half.

BRODIE: So I want to ask you about the board itself because you mentioned it's a new board. There was a bit of a surprise last year when Governor Hobbs basically got rid of the entire commission and some of the people who are on now had been on in the past, but there are a lot of new folks on as well. You are new to this role. So I'm curious about sort of the, the learning curve that all of you are, are trying to get a hold of as you are getting up to speed and, and yet still trying to do the work of this commission.

MASADIEGO: Hhm. Yes, I would say and I, you know, I can't speak to the commission be before this administration, but what I've been and I don't wanna say surprised but pleasantly surprised. And what I most appreciate being four weeks in is the passion expertise and the ideas. One of my first goals was meeting with 26 board members to understand who they were, what motivated and inspired them to serve on the commission and again, understand what, what knowledge and passion they were bringing forward and truly the ideas and the potential of this board to carry out these big projects.

I've been saying there's not enough hours in the day to help plan this forward. And that's one of my first goals by the end of this year, setting up a strategic plan to, to put those ideas forward. And with the commission, the learning curve, I think it's just a matter of turning those ideas into possibilities and projects and, and plans and to execute.

BRODIE: How would you describe right now the relationship between Arizona and, and Mexico, specifically Sonora, which I know is, is where a lot of this, this commission's work happens.

MASADIEGO: Yes, the Governor Hobbs has prioritized that relationship with Governor Durazo. She and him have had meetings in the past. There is a delegation that she led in Mexico City earlier this this year. And so there is commitment from both both the country of Mexico and Arizona to carry some of these ideas forward.

BRODIE: Do you find that the relationship is affected by, I guess larger political considerations? I mean, obviously the border and immigration have become such political issues over the last year or so. Does that impact the kind of work you do or the relationship you have with your counterparts south of the border at all.

MASADIEGO: Well, it's about focusing on the issues that yes, focusing on the issues that, that are impacting both regions, right? And having those conversations. One of the reasons why this commission has, has done so well over 65 years is that there is a trusted collaborative relationship between both states.

BRODIE: So it sounds like what you're saying is you're able to sort of fall back on those, those relationships and the work that, that has been done in the past and maybe not get too caught up in the, the politics of the moment.

MASADIEGO: Mhm And we, and that is about communication and that's what we're trying to restore with our committees.

BRODIE: What to you does success in, in your role look like.

MASADIEGO: That is a great question. And I, I asked my question that question daily. And right now, there's a lot that I, I want to do. There's a lot that I know we can do and I've been using a sports analogy and this is the first game of a, of a seven World Series. And we're in just Game 1 and it's about think what I want to do is prioritize and drive meaningful results. And that means, you know, setting very clear projects and goals and objectives and, and pacing ourselves. What do we want to prioritize this year? And so forth. But there's a lot of really great work ahead.

KJZZ's The Show transcripts are created on deadline. This text is edited for length and clarity, and may not be in its final form. The authoritative record of KJZZ's programming is the audio record.

Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.
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