As former Mayor of Tolleson, current Corporate Commissioner, and one of the first Latinas elected for mayor and statewide office in Arizona, Anna Tovar’s leadership and passion for the communities she serves is nothing short of inspiring.
Her family owned a small grocery store in Tolleson, where she was born and raised. From a young age, giving back to one’s community was instilled in her through her family’s close ties with their local community.
“My grandpa would always instill in us that we didn’t open this store up to make millions of dollars, we opened it up to help the community,” Tovar said. “And in return, we were rich with friends and our community’s love.”
Tovar struggled academically in her junior year at Tolleson Union High School. She also faced challenges in her personal life at the time. Joining the JAG community back then marked a turning point for her.
“I’m grateful and thankful to JAG because it really put everything into perspective for me. It wasn’t about feeling sorry for myself in any way. It was about giving me the skills and confidence to take control of my life and not blame others for the situation I was in.”
After graduating high school, Tovar pursued a career in education and became an elementary school teacher. At this point in her life, she was also living with cancer.
The rare form of leukemia she was diagnosed with then was caused by an environmental toxin present in her community. Through that experience she realized the importance of a safe and healthy environment for her fellow Arizona residents. Her second recovery transformed the aspirations she had as a teacher into aspirations of running for office.
Having come from no previous experience in politics or campaigning, Tovar embarked on a path that is daunting to most.
“When I started my first campaign running for the Tolleson City Council, I was a school teacher at the time; I had no idea how campaigns were run,” she said. “But I asked a lot of questions. And I read a lot of material. I went knocking from door to door with my two young boys, at the time, in a stroller, and just listened to people – really listened to what they felt they wanted to change about our city.”
From there, her passion for community empowerment and environmental health continued on through serving Tolleson as a city council member, district representative in the senate, mayor, and then corporate commissioner for Arizona.
Tovar remains connected to the greater JAG family – from former classmates of Tolleson Union JAG to her former program coordinator (now president of Jobs for Arizona’s Graduates) and even to students that have participated in the program since.
She also serves as a Jobs for America’s Graduates national board member and plays a key role in ensuring that the organization continues to empower students across Arizona to reach their potential and make a difference in their communities.
“If you want to look at power-driven results, where there are students who are ready, who are capable, who are passionate about having an awesome career … those are our JAG students,” she said. “You’ll fall in love with our students because they are the leaders that so many are seeking today.”
“Alumni Spotlights” are an Insider News series that highlights JAG alumni accomplishments and leadership in their communities and workplaces. Our previous “Alumni Spotlight” was with Shanahyah Hairston, a 2020 CDC Carolyn Warner Public Speaking Competition winner and recent JAG graduate currently working at a mortgage company and studying for a bachelor’s degree in journalism at ASU.
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