Tina Waddington is the Executive Director of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations (PCFR). She has been a PCFR member since 2016. Prior to joining PCFR in a leadership capacity, Tina was the Public Affairs committee co-chair and served on the Board of Directors. Tina started her career as a political intern at the U.S. Embassy in Rome before going into the private sector, where she helped Arizona companies expand across the nation and around the globe.
Tina volunteers with multiple organizations with the goal of increasing Arizona’s prominence internationally, including Phoenix Sister Cities Business Relations Committee, USGLC Arizona Advisory Committee and the Diplomatic Corps of Arizona. Through her community engagement, Tina works to advocate for Arizona and increase economic development opportunities through international trade and diplomacy. In 2022, Tina was selected by City of Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego for the Phoenix Sister Cities Global Citizen Award.
Tina received her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Italian Studies from the University of Arizona and her master’s degree in Social Justice and Human Rights with a focus on Nonprofit Management from Arizona State University. She was born in Kosovo and immigrated to the United States with her family as war refugees in 1999. Tina is committed to giving back to her country of birth and recently joined Project C.U.R.E. on a volunteer mission to provide medical supplies to hospitals and medical centers in Kosovo.
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
Samuel Richardson is the Director of Operations at PCFR and a former Program and Outreach Fellow for the organization. Sam started his career as an intern in the public diplomacy office for the Bureau of Southeast Asian and Pacific Affairs in the US Department of State and in the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. He then worked as a special assistant for US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and helped to liaise with local and national transportation systems at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, Sam has worked with a local Arizona manufacturing company to develop its global communications strategy.
Sam is from a small town in Northern Utah but calls Arizona home with his wife. He received his undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University - Idaho in Communications and Asian Studies, a certificate in Vietnamese from Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City, and a master’s degree in Global Business Management with a concentration in Global Public Affairs and Digital Transformation from the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University.
Besides connecting with the global community Sam loves to go on long hikes, cook and create new recipes, and take photos.
Luke Wenz serves as Deputy National Outreach Director, Western Region for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC), a broad-based bipartisan coalition of over 500 businesses and NGOs that advocates for strong U.S. global leadership through development and diplomacy, alongside defense. In addition to his work with USGLC, Luke is the President of Big Stick Consulting, LLC, an Arizona-based strategic consulting firm, focusing on public relations and government affairs consulting.
Luke also serves as the President of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations and sits on the Advisory Boards of Global Ties Arizona and WorldPix, Inc. He is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Pacific Council on International Policy, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and was previously a fellow at the Shafik Gabr Foundation's "East-West: The Art of Dialogue" initiative and the African Middle Eastern Leadership Project. He also volunteers on numerous other local boards and committees in the nonprofit and business sectors and is a member of the American Enterprise Institute’s 2023 Millennium Leadership Network.
Earlier in his career, Luke served on Capitol Hill and later as Deputy District Director and Campaign Manager for U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska. He also spent time living and working in Amman, Jordan and with the Kayany Foundation in Lebanon, working in refugee camps whilst studying the geopolitics of the Levant. A native Phoenician, Luke attended Nebraska Wesleyan University, studying political science and religious philosophy.
Caroline Lynch is the founder and owner of Copper Hill Strategies, LLC, providing client-focused government relations, strategic planning, legislative, and business development services. Caroline launched Copper Hill Strategies in 2017 following an extensive career on Capitol Hill, including a decade with the House Judiciary Committee, where she served for eight years as the Chief Counsel of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. Caroline was at the forefront of developing some of the most high-profile privacy, cybersecurity, national security, and criminal laws of the 21st Century.
Prior to joining the Judiciary Committee, Caroline served as Chief Counsel of the House Republican Policy Committee, Deputy County Attorney for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, and Clerk for the Arizona Court of Appeals. She previously served in the personal office of former Congressman John Shadegg from 1996 to 2000.
Caroline is Vice Chair of the Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation board, Vice President of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations board, and a member of the Arizona Advisory Committee of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, the Arizona Technology Council, and the Phoenix Sister Cities program. She has guest-lectured at the ASU, Texas A & M, and George Mason law schools, and is a Visiting Fellow at the George Mason Law National Security Institute. Caroline is also a Distinguished Fellow at the ASU Masters in International Affairs and Leadership program and a 2003 graduate of the ASU Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.
Claire Sechler Merkel
Claire Sechler Merkel serves as President of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations.
During her 23 years in Washington, DC, she worked in government, with NGO’s, and on four Presidential campaigns including as Chief of Staff and Director of Friends and Family to Mrs. Cindy McCain during Senator McCain’s 2008 Presidential election campaign. Previously, she served as legislative assistant for foreign affairs and special assistant to U.S. Senator John McCain and campaign coordinator for John McCain’s first U.S. Senate campaign.
Sechler Merkel served as Associate Director in the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs for President George H.W. Bush, and Regional Director for Eastern and Central Europe at the International Republican Institute, where she was responsible for democratic development programming in Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania and Slovakia.
She also worked with Congressman Jim Kolbe, and on the Bush/Quayle ’92 campaign, the 1988 Republican National Convention and 1989 Presidential Inaugural Committee.
She founded Sechler Merkel International to provide strategic advice to companies and foundations focusing on projects in the United States, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Russia. She served as a consultant to the Millennium Challenge Account at its inception.
She lived for two years in Malmo, Sweden and traveled extensively throughout Europe with her husband and children. Claire holds a degree in Public Policy, with distinction, from Stanford University and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations and the Melikian Center Advisory Board.
Andrew Jaynes oversees the office of admissions and financial aid. Previously, he was the executive director of ASU Law's Center for Law & Global Affairs for four years. Jaynes has worked and studied in more than 15 countries and received a Fulbright scholarship for a research project in Manila, Philippines.
Prior to joining ASU Law, Jaynes was the executive director and general counsel of the International Intellectual Property Institute, a think tank and international development organization based in Washington, D.C. Jaynes graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School, where he was a managing editor on the Wisconsin Law Review and member of the Moot Court Board. He received his English degree with high distinction from the University of Michigan and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.
CHAIR, FINANCE COMMITTEE OF THE BOARD
Steve has over 30 years of public accounting experience, and leads Wallace Plese + Dreher’s tax practice providing planning and consulting to individuals and businesses in manufacturing, distribution, technology, real estate, and construction. He specializes in domestic and international tax, helping U.S. and international businesses with structuring and global expansions. Steve works with privately-held companies to develop business and tax strategies for maximizing cash flow and minimizing tax liabilities.
Steve understands Arizona’s professional and business community. He has guided businesses and individuals through the Great Recession and counsels current clients on COVID-19 tax-related issues. From startup to maturity, Steve gives advice to entrepreneurs starting their first business, family-owners transitioning leadership, and companies purchasing and selling businesses. Recognizing each client’s goals and objectives are unique, he incorporates industry knowledge and tax reduction strategies into business planning. Focused on long-term client relationships, many of the clients he has served have spanned his entire career.
Steve’s involvement in professional, business, and industry organizations keeps him informed of economic and political developments impacting Arizona’s businesses and professional community. Steve is dedicated to educating his peers and supporting the next generation of accounting professionals. Steve is a frequent speaker at ASCPA’s Phoenix Tax Workshop and serves as a Co-Chairperson. He also serves on the Tax Advisory Committee, Arizona State Board of Accountancy. In 2018,Steve was recognized as an AzBusiness Leader. He is in his second term on the Board of Directors of Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, and recently elected as its Treasurer. Steve also serves on the Advisory Committee, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC). In 2020, he was appointed by the U.S Secretary of the Department of Commerce to the Arizona District Export Council where he serves on the Finance and Export Committee, and subsequently elected as its Treasurer.
CHAIR, GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE OF THE BOARD
Jada Allender is a Corporate & Securities attorney at Snell & Wilmer LLP. In addition to large- scale mergers and acquisitions, Jada works on public company offerings and SEC filings. Jada also helps clients with devising business solutions, structuring and forming business entities, corporate organization, private equity financing, and deal negotiation. Outside of traditional corporate law, Jada works on sports law matters and represents clients in new technology ventures, media rights deals, and executive and coach compensation contracts. Jada has also helped universities put together their NIL policies and published articles on the topic for various sources, including the Harvard Sports Law Journal.
Jada’s background is in college athletics working for the University of Oregon football team and Stanford football team before heading to Arizona State University where she earned a J.D. and a Master of Sports Law & Business. Additionally, Jada attended the Wharton Sports Business Academy, where her work in the sports industry earned her the prestigious Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Salute to Excellence Award in 2015—a national award for students, NCAA coaches, NFL coaches and front office executives honoring their excellence and leadership in the sports industry.
Outside of her passion for sports and corporate law, Jada has pursued her interests in public policy and foreign relations through her involvement with the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations. In her free time, Jada has an eclectic group of interests that keep her busy. Jada is an avid comedy show attendee, regularly plays pickleball, and is no stranger to international trips. Jada also grew up barrel racing and driving combines, so she enjoys horseback riding and country drives when she gets the chance.
MEMBER, FINANCE COMMITTEE OF THE BOARD
Fareed Bailey is a Senior State Government Affairs Representative at Salt River Project (SRP), a community-based, not-for-profit organization providing affordable water and power to more than 2 million people in central Arizona. In this role, he is responsible for advancing SRP’s public policy priorities at the Legislature and Executive branch agencies through advocacy and relationship building with elected officials, staff and relevant stakeholders. Fareed was most recently Deputy Assistant Director, Director of Legislative Affairs and AZ529 Education Savings Plan Administrator at the Office of Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee. His prior experience includes many years helping legislators develop public policy as a Research Analyst and staffing Committees at the Arizona Senate, including Commerce & Energy, Natural Resources & Transportation, Finance, Federalism, and Financial Institutions.
Fareed also has experience working in Washington, DC, having served as an Energy Program Research Associate at Taxpayers for Common Sense, and as a Senior Legislative Associate for the government affairs consulting firm Stateside Associates. Fareed earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, CA, and a Bachelor’s Degree, summa cum laude, in Political Science from Arizona State University.
Born in Azerbaijan, he immigrated to the United States as a child, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2006. He grew up in Arizona and enjoys reading, hiking, music and travel.
MEMBER, GOVERNANCE COMMITTEE OF THE BOARD
Ashley Bunch is a Public Affairs Manager at Arizona Public Service (APS), Arizona’s largest investor-owned electric utility. Her primary responsibilities include managing municipal affairs and stakeholder relationships in Phoenix and the east valley. She has worked in government and government affairs for over 12 years. She previously served as Chief of Staff to Phoenix Councilman Jim Waring and worked on the Martinez for Governor 2010 Campaign and Senator John McCain’s 2008 Presidential Campaign.
Ashley is passionate about serving her community and is currently the Executive Vice President of the Junior League of Phoenix where she manages the day-to- day operations of the organization she also sits on the board of directors for Dodie Londen Excellence in Public Service, East Valley Chambers of Commerce Alliance and the Tempe Chamber of Commerce.
Ashley has a Master’s in Public Administration from Villanova University and Bachelor of Science degrees in physiology and psychology from the University of Arizona.
Sandy Pho Casement
MEMBER, FINANCE COMMITTEE OF THE BOARD
Sandy Pho Casement is a Government Relations Advisor at Freeport-McMoRan where she manages Freeport’s international engagement and geopolitical risk management strategies. She also monitors federal and international legislation and initiatives impacting the mining industry. Prior to joining Freeport, Sandy spent 8 years at a government think tank working as a senior policy analyst focused on China and US policy in Asia. Her research and analysis has been featured in NPR, CNN, The National Interest, and Real Clear World. Following her time in DC, Sandy rode out the pandemic at the Salt Lake City Mayor’s office as a Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff. She ended her time in SLC as a Senior Innovation Consultant responsible for developing and executing strategies that foster innovation and service process improvements. Sandy is a proud product of Arizona’s public school system and currently lives in Phoenix.
MEMBER, PROGRAM COMMITTEE
Ian Curtiss is currently the Assistant Dean for Asia at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University where he leads the school’s engagement in East Asia and strategic initiatives. Prior to joining W. P. Carey, Ian’s career focused on East Asian public affairs and market research for public and private clients.
Most recently, Ian led the policy and U.S. government affairs teams at the American Chamber of Commerce in China. In this role, he consulted American businesses on the latest policy developments, developed strategies to influence US-Chinese economic relations and coordinated all programs with U.S. agencies. Prior to that, Ian worked at a number of organizations in Arizona government affairs and research. Ian has Bachelor’s degrees in History and Political Science from Arizona State University, a Master’s of International Relations from Peking University and an MBA from the W. P. Carey School of Business. Ian is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.
MEMBER, PUBLIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
Brian is a marketing leader at ChargePoint, the leading company in electric vehicle fueling. He also advises other brands as the owner and principal consultant at Infinity Brand Strategy. After getting his MBA in 2009 he managed brands including Steinway & Sons, Pillsbury, Fiber One, Maytag, KitchenAid, Dial, SweetLeaf and Kolbe.
His pursuits include indie music festivals, sustainability, and foreign affairs. Brian's interest in global issues developed through working abroad in Brazil and the United Kingdom. He speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese.
MEMBER, MEMBERSHIP COMMITTEE
From a very young age Joan has loved the experience of being immersed in new experiences, geographies, cuisines, and languages. Journeying extensively in North America (long before the RV life became popular!) in her parents’ “See America First” ethos, the stage was set for cultural curiosity. Joan spent her industrial career in semiconductor related markets traveling the globe pursuing technical sourcing opportunities. This leveraged her keen interest in foreign cultures with her engineering and business education. Coincident with the global explosion of micro-electronics travel became uncomplicated. Frequent excursions around the globe were both adventurous and profitable.
When transitioning from this active 30 year professional existence she relocated to the Phoenix area, began an “encore career” in a small business, and was introduced to The Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations by founding member Shoshana Tancer. It is here, at the PCFR, she found an organization of shared interests in a broad range of geographies and topics. The gratification of giving-back in a cultural environment of learning and community is unparalleled. Joan will be a lifetime member of the PCFR and volunteer her time generously.
Dr. Sanjeev Khagram
Dr. Sanjeev Khagram is director general and dean of Thunderbird School of Global Management, ASU Foundation Professor of Global Leadership, and a member of ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability's board of directors. He is a world-renowned expert in global leadership, the international political economy, sustainable development, and the data revolution. He has worked extensively with global start-ups, corporations, governments, civil society groups, nonprofit organizations, cross-sectoral action networks, public-private partnerships, foundations, professional associations, and universities worldwide.
Dr. Khagram holds a bachelor’s degree in Development Studies and Engineering, and a master’s degree and doctorate in Political Economy, all from Stanford University.
Greg Lucero is President of Lucero Consulting, LLC. Previously, Greg worked for South32, focusing on governmental relations for the Hermosa project and served in a similar position for Arizona Mining Inc. on the same project.
Prior to working in the mining industry Greg served as the County Manager for Santa Cruz County, for nearly 9 years. He has over 35 years of management experience working in local, state, and federal governments. He has served as a Special Assistant to former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, an Assistant to former U.S. Senator Dennis DeConcini, and has also worked for the Pima County Board of Supervisors and the Tucson City Council. He has experience as a department head, deputy city manager, and city manager. Greg has also managed a large civil engineering firm working as Regional Vice President.
Greg is extremely involved in the community and was elected the Nogales City Council, Nogales Unified School District No. 1 Governing Board, and the Santa Cruz County Community College Board. He currently serves on the Board of the Tucson Chamber of Commerce, the Government Affairs Committee for the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce and was past President of the Nogales Noon Lions Club and Vice Chair of the Economic Development Tourism Advisory Board for the City of Nogales. Greg is also a member of Nogales Rotary, the First United Church Village Board, and is active in many other civic organizations in the community.
Greg was born and raised in Douglas, Arizona. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Arizona. His hobbies and interest include all sports and is an avid outdoorsman. He is passionate about hunting and spends most of the fall and winter out in the field. Greg is also a marathon runner and when he isn’t working, he is usually found running or biking the roads and trails throughout Santa Cruz County.
David A. Merkel
CHAIR, PROGRAM COMMITTEE
David A. Merkel is the managing director of Summit International Advisors, LLC. His expertise includes United States foreign policy, the geopolitics of energy, the Belt and Road Initiative, Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
David A. Merkel has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Director for South and Central Asian Affairs at the National Security Council in the White House, Director for European and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council and Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Treasury Department. He also served as international counsellor to the Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), senior professional staff on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and senior foreign and defense policy adviser to the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives.
He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations.
Hon. Tony Rivero
Tony Rivero is CEO and founder of Global Connect Group, LLC. He collaborates with large corporations and nonprofits in the U.S. and throughout the globe to maximize their potential on organizational design, business development, public affairs strategies, and international relations. Tony’s experience includes the private & public sector, and elected service. Tony has extensive background in public service and served three terms as a member of the Arizona House of Representatives, two of those he was Chairman of the State & International Committee. As Chair he was the legislature’s key contact with world leaders and Arizona’s top trading partners. His legislative achievements include establishing trade offices in Israel, Chihuahua and Guanajuato, Mexico. Before his service at the state level, Tony served a four-year term as a Peoria City Councilmember. Elected at age 28, Tony was one of the youngest elected council members in Peoria’s history. His successes include establishing “Fiesta Peoria'' the largest Hispanic community festival in the West Valley. His focus was cutting red tape and he collaborated in the implementation of “same day permitting” and the reduction of the food tax in the City of Peoria. Before winning four elections Tony’s first encounter with politics was as an intern in the Office of U.S. Senator Jon Kyl. Soon after, he worked as a coalition’s director on the John McCain’s 2008 Presidential Campaign. He has also consulted on Presidential Campaigns in Latin America.
Invited to fill an empty seat at a PCFR dinner in 2017, with a 5 am flight boarding time the next morning, Ellen was excited to meet so many in her home state commanding strong understandings of the challenges of U.S. international relations as they affect lives and jobs in Arizona. It has been her pleasure to attend gatherings with colleagues and friends to explore Arizona's connection to, for example, Israeli grain imports, imported Swiss tech training or Yuma’s supply of lettuce to the world. For several years, Ellen has acted as the International Visionary donor for the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations because of her enthusiasm for meeting visitors, hearing speakers, and inviting colleagues from Arizona small businesses to consider the changes brought by globalism to the average job and average Arizonan. She looks forward to advancing membership involvement at the small business level. Ellen was born in Germany, lived for many years in Asia and has been outside Arizona for most of her life.
Susana is part of the Economic Development Services team within Peoria. Previously, Susana was the Regional Economic Development Specialist for Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) where she is involved with international business development. Prior to joining MAG, Susana served as a Legal Admin for Freeport-McMoRan Inc. where she was actively involved in assisting the Mergers and Acquisitions team, litigation research and updating and reviewing policies and procedures for the Global Compliance team. Susana serves on the board of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, Global Chamber Phoenix Advisory Board and is heavily involved in Soroptimist International of Phoenix. Susana holds a BA in Psychology and Business from Arizona State University and an MBA from Grand Canyon University and is a 2019 recipient of Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 awards.
CHAIR, PUBLIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
Carlos Velasco’s passion is to help organizations succeed by providing business owners, corporate executives, and nonprofit organizations with the necessary tools to develop long-lasting relationships within multicultural communities. With over 17 years of experience, Carlos has worked with major brands to create multi- faceted strategies that provide growth, sustainability, and return on investment.
From his early professional beginnings in working with organizations such as the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Local First Arizona, Carlos played an instrumental role in the development of small business and workforce capacity-building programs that led to over 50 million dollars of economic impact in the State of Arizona. Through his current role as Founder/CEO of Novle, he maintains his focus on creating economic vitality by bridging gaps to execute and help communicate the cross-cultural benefit of his client’ s vision, mission, products, and services.
Through the Novle organization, Carlos has served over 100 renowned organizations such as the National Bank of Arizona, City of Phoenix, Mass Mutual, ASU Entrepreneurship & Innovation, NOVA Home Loans, Local First Arizona, the American Cancer Society, and others.
Carlos has been recognized for his extraordinary contributions to the State of Arizona by the House of Representatives and is a proud recipient of several awards, including the 40 under 40 Hispanic Leaders Award, the Chicanos Por La Causa Volunteer of the Year Award, the Business Journal Diversity Champion Award, and the Hispanic Leadership Institute Alumni Excellence Award. To reward his passion for the local economy, Carlos was a participant of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies Fellowship. He was one of 17 fellows chosen, who were each recognized as the top pioneers of the Local Economy Movement.
Carlos is above all, a dedicated family man, with a wife of fifteen years, three children and two dogs. Carlos moved to the US when he was just 12 years old from Ecuador. He is a big fan of all local sports teams and has been an Arizona local for the past 17 years.
MEMBER, FINANCE COMMITTEE OF THE BOARD
Garrett Workman leads government engagement at the local, state, and federal level for South32’s Hermosa Project in Southern Arizona. The Hermosa Project is the only advanced mine development project in the United States as of 2023 that could produce two federally designated critical minerals—manganese and zinc—both of which are essential minerals for powering the nation’s clean energy future.
Previously, Garrett served as Executive Director for Europe at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC where he was responsible for engagement with the U.S. and foreign government officials advocating to expand international trade and investment and addressing technology and healthcare regulatory issues. He also led the Chamber’s U.S.-UK Business Council. Prior to that, he worked on economic policy at the Atlantic Council and assisted constituents in the office of former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl.
Originally from Phoenix, Garrett holds degrees in Political Science from the University of Arizona, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Sciences Po in Paris. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, biking, and traveling with his wife and Australian Cattle Dog.