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Tucson Mayor Regina Romero tapped for Rodel fellowship

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero tapped for Rodel fellowship

Bipartisan program develops local political leaders

  • Tucson Mayor Regina Romero listening during a City Council meeting in May 2022.
    Bennito L. Kelty/TucsonSentinel.comTucson Mayor Regina Romero listening during a City Council meeting in May 2022.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero has been selected as a 2023 Rodel Institute fellow. She’ll join local and state-level elected leaders from around the country for a series of seminars, where they’ll share ideas about ethics, leadership and democracy.

Fellows selected by the Rodel Institute are invited to three multi-day seminars that are spread out during the next two years. The Rodel Institute bills the seminars as “the nation’s premier leadership development program,” according to a press release.

Romero said that Tucson is “facing opportunities and challenges that require bold action and collaboration” and that she looks “forward to learning and problem solving alongside my colleagues from all around the U.S.,” according to the press release.

“I am excited to join elected leaders who share my commitment to good governance and upholding democracy,” she said. “It is an incredible honor to join the nonpartisan Rodel fellowship class of 2023.”

Romero was one of 24 fellows picked for this group, which will be made up of 12 Republicans and 12 Democrats.

Everyone in the class is an elected official, including five state representatives, three state senators, two city councilmembers and state treasurers and a secretary of state, city attorney, attorney general, lieutenant governor and state auditor.

The class also includes a representative from Puerto Rico, Eddie Charbonier Chinea, and a state assemblyman from New Jersey, Raj Mukherji.

Romero is one of four mayors selected for the class, along with the mayors of Kansas City, Mo., Fort Worth, Texas and Scranton, Pa. Behind state representative, mayor is the most common position for this year’s fellows.

The majority of the fellows are state leaders, with 16 working at the state level — not including Chinea from Puerto Rico — and only seven local leaders, mostly mayors.

With scholars working as moderators, elected leaders in the Rodel fellowship are supposed to read then discuss texts such as the Declaration of Independence, the preamble to the United States Constitution and the writings by Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr., according to a press release.

The Rodel Fellowship program was founded in 2005 by the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit. More than 400 state and local officials have participated in the fellowship.

Fellows from previous years include a pair of former presidential candidates and members of the Biden administration: Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was a fellow in 2015, when he was starting his second term as mayor of South Bend, Ind., and Vice President Kamala Harris was one of the first Rodel fellows in 2006, when she was the San Francisco district attorney.

The first class of Rodel Fellows in 2005 included Tucson native Gabrielle Giffords when she was still an Arizona state senator. That was six years before was shot and badly wounded at the Jan. 8 assassination attempt on the then-congresswoman.

Gov. Doug Ducey was a Rodel fellow after being elected to current position, and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego was a fellow in 2019. U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) was in the program in 2008, when she was still an Arizona state representative.

Other Arizona government leaders who participated in the Rodel fellowship include Kris Mayes, Greg Stanton, Leah Landrum Taylor, Kirk Adams, Michele Reagan, Steve Montenegro, Rich Crandall, Heather Carter and Jenn Daniels.

Beau Biden, the first son of President Joe Biden, was a Rodel fellow in 2011, when he was the attorney general of Delaware and only a few years before his death from brain cancer in 2015. Beau was joined in his class by Gavin Newsom, then lieutenant governor of California and now the governor of that state.

Rodel fellows have gone on to become governors, U.S. senators, party leaders and Cabinet secretaries, according to a press release.

The fellowship was started “to combat the growing polarization of the left and the right in American politics,” according to the Rodel Institute website. After the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Aspen Institute agreed to make the Rodel program a new independent nonprofit, the Rodel Institute, and expand its work.

Bennito L. Kelty is’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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