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Meet the 2023 Women of Chandler!

Meet This Year's Group of Amazing Women

In 2017, our editorial team decided to spotlight some of the great women of Chandler in our May Women’s Issue—and here we are seven years later! I have to confess, every year we question whether or not there could possibly be enough ladies or interest to continue, and every year we are overwhelmingly surprised by the number of nominations and interest in learning more about the inspirational women in our great community. 

We have a selection committee that reviews every nomination (138 this year!) and we never know what they are looking for or what small thing may pique their interest, but they do try to encompass a broad segment of our “village.” I will also tell you there are sleepless nights and much angst when determining who to feature in any given year, and I can assure you, it has not gotten easier over the years, and we are always left wishing we had endless pages!

We are a lifestyle magazine, so we hope you find each story interesting or impactful in some way. They are all making a difference in their own ways—some through their careers; some through their positive mindset and perseverance; some through investing their time, treasure, or talent. We are all blessed for their good work and positive energy!


Chair, For Our City—Chandler

Chandler Communication Director, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Working with businesses, nonprofits, faith groups, residents, and civic leaders, Jane Andersen is focused on making a difference by building community and fostering collaboration.   

“A strong community doesn’t mean we are all the same or agree about everything. But it does mean that we care enough to listen and see things from other points of view,” she says.

Married and a mother of four, Andersen feels her own life experiences have helped her develop empathy.  

“Having twins with special needs greatly changed how I view the world and has allowed me to better understand marginalized populations and the importance of seeing things from different perspectives. Every day I am reliant on a team of helpers to make my life function. I see what community looks like on a daily basis. I’d love to help others feel that same care and concern as I give back a little of what has so lovingly been given to my family.”

What’s on her bucket list? She would love to be in closed-room deliberations with the Supreme Court to witness how things are discussed and compromises made.  


Owner, Desert Foothills Family Medicine


“As a child, I did not have any mentors that looked like me and do what I do, so I understand the visible impact I make in my community, says Dr. Jessica Blanco-Gilbert, MD, who is known by Dr. Blanco to her patients. “My inspiration was the lack of women of color in medicine.” 

Recognized as a Top Doc in Phoenix Magazine for multiple years, Dr. Blanco is a role model and mentor to students wanting to become medical providers. 

Dr. Blanco also donates her time to Chandler Service Club to provide food and clothing to children and families in need and to Chandler CARE Center, which provides free medical services to underserved pediatric patients. With no plans to slow down after retirement, she hopes to participate in medical missions to third-world countries.

Her nominator writes, “As a successful doctor and businesswoman, she is committed to serving our underrepresented youth in Chandler. Her kind, caring commitment makes her a remarkable agent of change.”

Something you may not know about her? She played the clarinet in her high school orchestra and marching band, and plans on playing for a local orchestra in the near future. 


Captain/Paramedic, Chandler Fire Department


Arizona native. High school valedictorian. Summa Cum Laude graduate, ASU. Wildland Firefighter. Wife and Mother of two boys.

Shelby Fox’s current career morphed from the influence of her parents' healthcare careers and her own experience working six seasons for the US Forest Service as a wildland firefighter. Joining the Chandler Fire Department (CFD) in 2010, she hit the ground running, volunteering as a cadet advisor for five years, recruiting, and rising through the ranks as a paramedic, move-up engineer, and now captain.

The department tells us, “she has worked on almost every truck in the city and has earned multiple awards and citations, but more importantly, she has earned admiration and respect from everyone she meets due to her involvement in committees, training, and education. She is a servant leader who cares about the public she serves and her fellow firefighters. Shelby's professionalism is as infectious as her smile.”

Fox says her true joy comes from watching her boys demonstrate “unsolicited respect, empathy, and gratitude outside of the home.”

Something you may not know about her? She has a great dane named Chief.  


Owner, Redemption Market


Rhonda LaBatt wanted to find a way to help an anti-trafficking organization based in Cambodia, comprised of women who are survivors of slavery who are creating stunning handbags and jewelry as a means to support their rehabilitation program. In 2013, she founded Redemption Market as a shop with a mission to assist those living in marginalized communities by providing a marketplace for artisans to sell their ethical goods and a means to fund their programs.

What began as an online business has grown to include two brick-and-mortar locations and now sources from around the world, giving over $100,000 annually to anti-trafficking and social justice organizations.

“The name Redemption comes from the idea of taking some of the darkest, saddest situations on earth—those that some intended for evil—and redeeming them for good. To redeem the dignity stolen from a trafficked girl ... to redeem the purpose of someone trapped in a cycle of poverty. Working together we can really make an impact.”

Something you may not know about her? She is fluent in Spanish and used to be a Spanish teacher.  



Executive Director, Matthew House AZ


Moving to Chandler in 2012, Leisa McDonald thought she would continue her work in the corporate world until a visit to Lebanon led to her meeting refugees from Iraq. Her focus immediately changed, and upon her return home, she began working at a local church, overseeing local refugee programming and leading the East Valley Refugee Coalition. McDonald quickly learned resources were lacking for this group to succeed long-term.

With a vision, McDonald co-founded Matthew House AZ in 2021 with the goal of empowering, equipping, and caring for these new neighbors by offering housing subsidies, English language classes, tutoring, and mentoring.

Hoping to support up to 10 families their first year, the Afghan crisis created a greater need—which they met, helping more than 50 families. 

The organization currently serves families from more than 11 countries who are working to adjust to life in the U.S., and who make the East Valley their home.

What would she like her obituary to say? “She didn’t sit on the sidelines. She got involved and made a difference.”   



Sales, Robson Publishing


Everyone seems to know Carol Polcyn. She can be seen just about everywhere—always with a smile on her face—attending meetings, networking events, and community happenings. She tirelessly supports good causes with her time, talents, and treasure. 

As if her day job as an account executive with Robson Publishing for more than 26 years was not enough, Polcyn finds many ways to contribute to our community. She joined the Chandler Business Alliance in 2019 and is its current facilitator and director of its nonprofit foundation. She also serves on the boards of Landings Credit Union and For Our City Chandler, and served as a committee member for ICAN’s Dream Big Gala and the East Valley Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. And, she designed and has been publishing the 9/11 Tempe Healing Field Newspaper for The Exchange Club, which has been publishing for over 12 years. 

Polcyn believes her strongest character trait is the ability to be a visionary leader. 

“I tend to take chaos and somehow orchestrate it into a beautiful masterpiece,” she says. “And I enjoy doing it!”

Something you may not know about her? She is adopted and recently discovered that her birth mother is alive.  


Founder, Fortis Femina


Describing herself as bossy and straightforward, Betty Ramirez may be small in stature, but she is a mighty force who is always looking for ways to meet the needs of the community.

Besides owning a business with her husband, she also invests her time as vice president of the Chandler International Film Festival, bringing international films to our local audience. Very recently, she wrote and produced her own film about a service group she founded, Fortis Femina. The mission of the group is to provide resources, leadership, and mentoring to women struggling with different life situations.

“I felt that there was more I could do if I could share what I know with others,” she says. “It would be like a ripple effect.” 

The members have similar values when it comes to giving back, whether it is partnering with local nonprofits, volunteering with service projects, or mentoring with Fortis Teen.  

You may also find her giving away food boxes at a local church, planning a multicultural event for the city, organizing candlelight vigils for fallen heroes, serving Thanksgiving Dinner to seniors, or honoring veterans with Wreaths Across America—the list is almost endless.

What’s on her bucket list? To learn Korean.  


Forensic Services Manager, Chandler Police Department


A native Arizonan, Alicia Rosenberg was raised with a strong sense of civic duty and the importance of having a positive impact on her community. 

“It is a thread that runs through my entire family,” she says. 

Rosenberg feels her strongest character trait is perseverance, and does not know how she acquired the skill to reconsider, regroup, and try again when something doesn’t go as planned—but knows it serves her well.

Joining the Chandler Police Department in 2007, she worked her way up, and helped their Forensic Services Section earn international accreditation. 

“As the City prepares to build a free-standing Forensic Service Center and expand those services, I am honored to help develop that vision,” she says. 

As a Forensic Scientist, Rosenberg is able to impact the community with every case she works. 

This mother of three finds true joy through her children, and family is a priority. 

“When I get to see them experience something for the first time or find success, I feel like I experience a tiny bit of that with them and it inspires me to do more and do better every day.”  


Chief Information Officer, Gila River Resorts & Casinos


Robin Villareal started her career in the Tribal Gaming industry 28 years ago in an entry-level position within the food and beverage department, and is the first Native American woman to be named to her current leadership role in IT, supporting over 2,900 employees. While in the food and beverage department, Villareal had an IT problem that no one could help her solve. Not to be discouraged, she dug in and did some research until she learned enough to solve her problem. The IT Department was so impressed, they offered her an entry-level position—and she has worked her way up to head the department.

The future and the importance of planning for generations to come was always a topic of discussion in her home. 

“My grandmother was my role model and instilled in me the importance of being a Native woman and why preserving our customs, traditions, and culture were vitally important. I carry this in every decision I make,” she says.

Something you may not know about her? My grandfather was in the 1908 and 1912 Summer Olympics, winning the silver medal in the 10,000 meter run. 


Owner, Young Orthodontics


If there is ever a need in the community, Dr. Aubrey Young is one of the first to step up.  Whether it is a local sports team, school, or charity, Young supports many great causes.  She has even donated full orthodontic treatments to teachers, ICAN, and the Compadres, to name just a few.

Young also enjoys volunteering at nonprofit clinics for the underprivileged and teaching as a dental health educator.

Young’s passion to improve smiles began when her childhood dentist was able to stabilize and save her teeth after an accident at age 14.  

“I love watching the change in self-confidence as my patients’ smiles are transformed,” she says. “I literally watch people stand taller, speak more clearly, and smile more comfortably during the process. It is so fun to change how people see themselves and how they then interact with everyone else in their lives. I describe it as the butterfly effect in motion.”

Something you may not know about her? She fully restored a 1966 VW bug she calls “Em” and just got married in February to her lifelong best friend.    


Co-Founder, Hope4Life


Susie Stinson, along with her husband, Tudor Melville, helped launch Hope4Life, a nonprofit ministry with Faith Family Church, whose mission is to help people primarily in Chandler and Rocky Point, Mexico.

Working with local homeless groups, veterans, abused women and children, as well as residents on the Indian reservation, the ministry has distributed over 22 million pounds of free food to the Chandler community in the past three years.

The ministry was expanded in 2014 after visiting the Rocky Point prison. Stinson and Melville were touched by the great lack of even the simplest necessities. Providing food and essentials and hope and dignity, they have been able to help change the lives of hundreds of inmates, orphans, and homeless.

They give and help in memory and honor of Stinson’s late daughter, Theresa.

“Susie's leadership and strong faith shows through the way she assists others in need, both personally and professionally,” writes her nominator.

Something you may not know about Stinson? “I have not watched TV since I was 13.”   


Chair, Chandler Arts Commission

Michelle Hirsch has been a Chandlerite for 40 years, always engaging and finding ways to help her community. Rising above an unstable and challenging childhood, Hirsch has followed her passion to help others since she was a teen. The list of ways she has been involved is too long to mention, but includes working as a news journalist for several local publications, dedicating 25 years to the Kyrene School District (including as an elected member of the governing board), advisor for a nonprofit teen court program, and chairing the Chandler Arts Commission. The importance of education, along with being a huge advocate of the arts, has directed her service efforts.

And if her thousands of hours volunteering isn’t enough, for the focus of her day job as a self-employed residential property owner, it is her mission to provide quality, affordable housing opportunities.

“She is selfless and humble, and above all, she makes our community a better place,” writes her nominator.


Director of Business Development, Hospice of the Valley


Having once dreamed of becoming a physician in her 20s, Leann Priddy has no regrets, fulfilling her calling through her work at Hospice of the Valley. She supports hospice care for thousands of individuals and families across the Valley, while motivating and leading a diverse staff team.

She also gives her time, talents, and treasure serving on the advisory board of the Chandler/Gilbert YMCA for almost 10 years, and on Mercy Care Long Term Care advisory board.

Priddy also collaborates with the Chandler police and fire departments for staff to provide dementia training to first responders.

“I have a passion for living each day to the fullest, immersing myself in my career because it is so gratifying. Hospice of the Valley has been a blessing to so many. I am grateful every day to serve a mission that focuses on comfort, dignity, and compassionate care for all,” she says. 

Priddy feels her strongest character trait is determination. 

“There is always a way to solve any situation. Have faith that even if you don’t have all the answers, through conversation, collaboration, and teamwork, the best outcomes are achieved.”   


Realtor, Keller Williams


As the daughter of a school teacher and Marine reserve, and the wife of an Army veteran, Amy Nelson has a big heart for educators, first responders, and the military.  A longtime resident and realtor, Nelson was looking for ways to give back when she founded Arizona’s Heroes Home Team in 2016. Partnering with a few like-minded professionals, their mission is to reward and assist everyday hometown heroes in our community. She probably never imagined her organization would have already given over $750,000 back to members of this deserving group through deferred commissions, fees, and discounts when one of them is buying or selling a home.

Nelson has even donated her entire commission check to a client so they could afford to purchase their first home. 

“It’s the least we can do to thank them for their hard work,” she says.

Her team also sponsors local community events, including an annual Easter Egg Hunt, Pictures With Santa, shred-a-thons, and drug take-back opportunities coordinated with the DEA. 

Nelson’s team also works closely with the Sun Lakes sheriff’s department by sponsoring BBQs within that community. 


District Administrator, Chandler Unified School District


Growing up in Sierra Leone, Adama Sallu’s parents instilled the importance of service. Her mother, due to cultural limitation, was not allowed to go to school because she was told, “If girls went to school, they would ask too many questions.” Her mother wanted her girls to have a different educational trajectory for Sallu and her sisters. Her father, an educator, started an educational nonprofit that built over 100 schools in the country.

After graduating from boarding school in Sierra Leone, Sallu moved to the U.S. at age 17 to go to college—and has spent the last 26 years devoting her life to education. 

Following in her father’s footsteps, Sallu is the director of educational equity for Chandler Unified School District and is charged with ensuring that “all children coming to Chandler schools have access to an equitable and inclusive learning environment.” She is also a faculty associate at Arizona State University.

Sallu is a mother of two children and serves on the Chandler/Gilbert YMCA, Arizona Teacher Residency and Justice College boards, is a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer, and works with Chandler’s Ms. Juneteenth Program.

Something you may not know about Sallu? She loves to hike!  




Betty Sanders may be 96, but she proves age is just a number! She spends her time volunteering with the Sun Lakes Sheriff’s Posse’s Medical Equipment Program, her church, or Neighbors Who Care; or going to the gym every day. In the past, she has been an avid tennis player and officiant, and is even thinking of taking it up again.

One of seven children, Sanders grew up during The Great Depression, forcing her to become competitive, independent, and determined. Finishing college, she was a teacher and physical therapist for 54 years. She found working with rehab engineers for 11 years to evaluate, fabricate, and fit custom posture seating for the handicapped the most rewarding part of her career.    

Never marrying, Sanders found joy in helping her siblings raise her 14 nieces and nephews.  

Her golden rules to live by come from her faith.

“I am my brother’s keeper. The body goes the way the mind thinks. The me I see is the me I’ll be. If I never see it, I’ll never be it. I am a work in progress striving to be a loyal and faithful servant to God.”