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Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs
Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs Arizona's Official Web Site
Working for a greater understanding and improved relationships in the State of Arizona.

State of Arizona - Tribal Liaison
This model was developed in the spirit of cooperation to strengthen government-to-government relationships between the State and the tribes to ensure that meaningful and timely consultation was taking place with Arizona’s Tribal leaders to facilitate better understanding and informed decision making. 

Executive Order 2006-14 Consultation and Cooperation with Arizona Tribes required each Executive Branch agency to designate a principle point of contact for tribal issues.

Bullet Tribal Liaison Contact List


AHCCCS: Bonnie Talakte
Bonnie Talakte is the Tribal Affairs Liaison for the Office of the Director of AHCCCS in the Interdepartmental Affairs Division.  In this position, she serves as the liaison between AHCCCS, Indian Health Services (IHS), Tribes and other interested parties.  She represents AHCCCS on task teams and in meetings addressing the provision of health care to American Indians and Alaska natives.  She is responsible for coordinating tribal consultation between AHCCCS and American Indian Tribes in Arizona.

Bonnie’s previous positions with the State of Arizona include: Director of the Native American Dropout Prevention Initiative (NADPI) with the Department of Education, Director of the Arizona Teacher Excellence Plan (AzTEP), Dean of Student Services at Central Arizona College and Director of American Indian Programs at Scottsdale Community College.  She has worked with tribal governments and urban school districts in Arizona, California and New Mexico on governance, organization, policy and education issues.  Prior to her current assignment, she provided advocacy and technical assistance on education to Arizona state government agencies, Arizona and New Mexico school districts and American Indian communities as an independent consultant.

Bonnie is an enrolled member of the Hopi Tribe born in the Second Mesa Village of Shungopavi and raised at the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff.  As a career-long Educator, she has a background in organization and policy development, administration and student support services. She graduated from Northern Arizona University with a B.A. in Education and M.A in Fine Arts and attended the University of Arizona to pursue a Ph. D in Higher Education Administration where she is classified as All But Dissertation (ABD). 

Bonnie can be reached at (602) 417-4610 or email

Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council: Larry Clausen

Larry has over thirty years of experience in health care executive management and administration. Early in his career, Larry managed services for children and adults with developmental disabilities who lived in community based residential settings. He has since gained significant experience in grants and contracts management, budget development, and proficiency in the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS), and Medicaid/Medicare eligibility requirements.

In his experience with the Arizona Department of Corrections, Larry has worked as a Facility Health Administrator, managing health care delivery in the prison setting. He’s served as the Health Education Program Administrator where he managed numerous grants for health education programs designed for the inmate population. Larry also administered transitional case management services provided through the Ryan White Grant, and administered release planning services statewide to assure that inmates with significant health problems attained necessary medical care upon community reentry. Prior to his work at the Arizona Department of Corrections, Larry was the Nursing Home Administrator for the Arizona State Veteran Home where he oversaw a 200-bed Medicare/ALTCS/VA skilled nursing facility.

Larry has served as a board member for the Phoenix Area Agency on Aging where he was involved with issues related to special populations and elderly persons with developmental disabilities. He worked as a volunteer for the Crisis Response Units for both Phoenix and Glendale Fire Departments and also volunteered for Hospice of the Valley. Larry has a B.A. in Social Work from Concordia College, a M.A. in Management from St. Mary’s University, and is a Certified Public Manager with certification awarded by Arizona State University.  He is also a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator in the State of Arizona.

Larry can be reached at 602.542-8977 or email

Child Safety, Department of (DCS): Sharon James-Tiger

Sharon James-Tiger is the Tribal Liaison for inter-governmental affairs between DCS and tribal communities in Arizona. Sharon is responsible for facilitating state-tribal consultation and is tasked with developing, maintaining, and improving communication between DCS and tribes. Sharon also represents DCS as a member of several committees to increase positive outcomes for Indian Children through implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act at all levels of the child welfare system. Sharon has been an advocate for Indian Children for over twenty-five years. She worked as the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Specialist and developed Indian Child Welfare Act Initiatives statewide. She also served Arizona Division of Developmental Disabilities as a Human Services Specialist III in a specialized foster care unit. Sharon has substantial experience working for tribal governments including: Director of Family and Social Services, Human Services Manager, Director of Community Programs and ICWA Counselor in California, Nevada and Arizona. Sharon is an enrolled member of the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California and is of Northern Paiute descent. She holds a Bachelor of General Studies (emphasizing Human Development & Family Studies/Social Work) with a Minor in Addictions Treatment from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Sharon can be reached at (602) 255-2662 or

Child Safety, Department of: Statewide ICWA Specialist - Vickie Lynn Steinhoff

Over 20 years, Vickie has worked in Social Services, either with or for NPO, State and Tribal programs. She has experience as tribal and a state licensed foster home. In her current role as the State Wide ICWA Specialist for Department of Child Safety she provides compliance oversight and technical assistance on the Indian Child Welfare Act. She was the Supervisor for Forest County Potawatomi Indian Child Welfare Department. Her Training on ICWA is from the National Indian Child Welfare Association and Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs. Formal education is B.A in Professional Communication / Native American Studies, Masters of Arts in Nonprofit Leadership and Management and current Doctoral Student in Education: Organizational Leadership and Management.

Vickie can be reached at (602) 542-2356 or email

DES: Mary Huyser

Mary Huyser is from the Dine (Navajo) Nation in Arizona and belongs to the Salt Clan.  Her role as Tribal Relations Liaison is to serve as a point of contact for Arizona’s tribal governments and community members to foster dialogue on behalf of DES and build a common understanding of agency policies and programs.

Mary has worked in urban areas and on Tribal lands to address challenges faced by American Indian children and their families. As a former Strategic Advisor for Casey Family Programs, she conducted advocacy work, identified and mobilized resources to promote effective, integrative and culturally relevant child welfare policy and practice standards. Mary has also provided national consultation and training regarding the Indian Child Welfare Act.

Mary can be reached at 602.542.2591 or email

Education, Department of: Debora Norris
Debora Norris is Director of the Arizona Department of Education’s Office of Indian Education. Debora is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. She is a former member of the Arizona House of Representatives, having served for three terms from 1997-2002. She is one of the first two Native American women elected at the same time to serve in the Arizona Legislature in 1996 (the other one is Sally Gonzales from the Pascua Yaqui Tribe).  She has a background in Education policy and legislation from having served on the Arizona House of Representatives Education Committee for four years. Debora grew up in Sells, Arizona on the Tohono O’odham Nation. She graduated from Baboquivari High School in 1989. Four years later she graduated from of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California in 1993 with a B.A. in History and a minor Education.  In 2006 Debora graduated with her Master’s in Education Administration from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona.  Debora has worked with many Arizona Tribes, reservation school districts, and urban school districts with high Native American enrollment on public policy and education issues. In addition, she continues to work on Education issues in the Native American community and provides advocacy and technical assistance with NCLB, AZ LEARNS, AIMS, Title I, Title VII, and JOM.   Ms. Norris is the first Director appointed under the Arizona Indian Education Act to implement A.R.S. 15-244, the state law that officially establishes the Office of Indian Education within the Arizona Department of Education. Debora is also the appointed tribal liaison to the Arizona Department of Education by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne.

Debora can be reached at (602)542-2784 or email

Emergency Management, Arizona Division of: Joseph Urrea

Joseph Urrea began serving as the Tribal Liaison for the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military with over 12 years of emergency management experience. He has worked with the Native American Tribes and various Indian Health Service agencies in Arizona in all phases of Emergency Management ‐ preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. He is a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) certified Incident Command System (ICS) instructor who has provided ICS instruction to hundreds of first responders, public health officials, emergency management staff, hospital workers, public works personnel, and tribal representatives in Arizona and California. As a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) certified Homeland Security Exercise Evaluation Program (HSEEP) instructor he has developed and conducted a number of HSEEP‐compliant Tabletop, Functional, and Full‐Scale exercises. He was part of the planning team that worked on the Arizona portion of the TOPOFF 4 exercise and was the Project Lead on a Terrorism Prevention exercise that was developed for the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center (OCIAC). Joseph has developed and contributed to a number of emergency response plans for state and county Jurisdictions including All‐Hazards Emergency Operations Plans, Continuity of Operations Plans (COOP), Workforce Development Plans, Just‐In‐Time Training (JITT) Plans, Pandemic Influenza Plans, Incident Action Plans (IAP), and a Field Operations Guide (FOG). He has served as an Agency Liaison and Hospital Planner during Operation Good Neighbor, an Agency Liaison to the US Marshal’s office during Super Bowl XLII in 2008, an Agency Liaison in the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC), a Hazard Analyst in the SEOC, and the Operations Section Chief in the SEOC. In addition, he worked with FEMA personnel conducting Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs) in the state on the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Reservation, and the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. Joseph has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy from the University of California, Riverside. He has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Arizona State University. He has earned the Professional Development Series (PDS) and Advanced Professional Series (APS) certifications from the Emergency Management Institute (EMI).

Health Services, Department of: Michael Allison
Michael joined the Arizona Department of Health Services in January of 2001. His main responsibility, as Native American Liaison, is to enhance effective working relationship between the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Arizona Native American health care community comprised of twenty-one tribal health departments, three urban Indian health programs, the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., three Indian Health Service Area Offices, and other agencies providing health services to the Arizona Native American community.  Michael is a member of the Navajo Nation originally from Shiprock, New Mexico. His Navajo clans are Ta’chii’nii (red running into the water people) and Naakaaii Dine (the Mexican Navajo people). He earned his Master of Business Administration Degree from the University of New Mexico in 1974 and his Master of Public Health Degree from the University of Arizona in May 2003. He has thirty years of management work experience in small business development, tribal economic development, health care management, and public health.  Former positions held by Michael include: Executive Director, Navajo Division of Economic Development; Executive Vice President, National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development; and Executive Director, Native American Community Health Center, Inc.  Michael serves on the following state commission and boards: Ex-Officio Board Member, Arizona Commission on Indian Affairs; Member, Advisory Council on Indian Health Care. 

Michael can be reached at (602) 364-1041 or email

Health Services, Department of: Kelli Donley
Kelli is an Arizona native who received her BS in electronic media from NAU in 2000 and a Master in Public Health from U of A in 2004. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon and has previously worked in international health and with the refugee community of Phoenix. She’s managed health projects in the United States, Bolivia, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Mexico. Her interests in foreign affairs began in 1994 when she studied as a Rotary International Student in Torreon, Mexico. She is a writer, photographer and community gardener. She has worked for the Division of Behavioral Health Services since 2013.

Kelli can be reached at (602) 364-4651 or email

Health Services, Department of: Lydia Hubbard-Pourier
A member of the Navajo and Tohono O’odham nations, Lydia is a Health Administrator with more than 30 years of experience with tribes, state governments and the Indian Health Services (IHS). 
Lydia utilizes her experience in contract administration and compliance monitoring to work with the five tribes who have Intergovernmental Agreements with the Division of Behavioral Health Services (DBHS).  In addition, she advises on development of access to behavioral health services and the Regional Behavioral Health Authorities (RBHAs) throughout the state.  Lydia has a Bachelors Degree in Nursing from Arizona State University and a Masters of Public Health from the University of California – Berkeley. 

Lydia can be reached at (602) 542-1745 or email

Homeland Security, Department of: Fernando Reyes
Fernando Reyes, Border and Tribal Liaison for the Arizona Department of Homeland Security, has served Arizona since 2005. He started working as the Director of Grants Outreach for the Arizona-Mexico Commission supporting border communities in search of grant opportunities. After two years, his interests in law enforcement and security led him to the Arizona Department of Homeland Security, where he has worked since 2007.  In his current role, Mr. Reyes provides counsel to Director Gilbert M. Orrantia and staff on Mexico border and Tribal issues, and conducts outreach to both Mexican and Arizona law enforcement agencies.  Mr. Reyes received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. While at ASU, he also received a minor in Spanish and an International Business Certificate. Mr. Reyes is bilingual in English and Spanish. 

Fernando can be reached at (602) 542-7008 or email

Housing, Department of: Karia Basta
Karia has been with the Arizona Department of Housing since February of 2007.  However, she has been in the housing field, both public and private for the past 19 years.  Over half of those years were spent in the behavioral health arena along with several years in multi-family property management.  Her current primary responsibilities include working with local governments, not for profit agencies and tribal authorities who have expressed an interest in developing affordable housing. She assists them to determine exactly what the perceived housing issue is and to determine if ADOH funds might be a potential funding source to meet the need and what other sources of funding might be available.  She also represents the department on the Smart Growth Interagency Committee, the Arizona Behavioral Health Planning Council, and the Interagency and Community Council on Homelessness (ICCH).  At one time in her career Karia was a Tribal Advocate on the Navajo Nation and also worked with several New Mexico tribes when she worked as a contract manager with the New Mexico Department of Human Services.  She received both her Bachelors and Masters Degrees from Arizona State University.  Karia also holds certifications as an Apartment Manager, Housing Development Finance Professional and Public Housing Manager.  She likes to tell people that her claim to fame is having been born in Telluride, Colorado. 

Karia can be reached at (602) 771-1085 or email

Indian Affairs, AZ Commission of: Kristine FireThunder
Kristine FireThunder serves as Policy Advisor on Tribal Affairs for the Office of Governor Douglas A. Ducey and Executive Director of the Arizona Commission of Indian Affairs. Kristine facilitates partnerships and educates the public and private sectors on the unique government-to-government relationship between tribal, state, and federal entities. In addition to research and policy analysis, Kristine promotes workforce development initiatives to enrich economic growth in minority populations. Kristine has also served as Director for the Governor's Office of Equal Opportunity to ensure compliance with state and federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Her career in public service began at the Greater Arizona Development Authority (GADA) promoting bond sales for the development of public infrastructure throughout rural Arizona and has also served as a liaison to the Visual Arts Industry. She earned both her Bachelor of Science and Executive MBA from Arizona State University. Kristine is Navajo, Hopi and is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation.

Kristine can be reached at (602) 542-4426 or email

Juvenile Corrections, Department of: Rene White
In 1995, Ms. White joined the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections as a Clinical Specialist working with youth inside the facility.  She has also served the Department as a Family Services Coordinator to focus on youth on parole and their families.  Prior to this, she was employed by the Arizona Department of Economic Security in Coconino County. During this time, her duties involved determining eligibility for DES programs with a majority of her service area covering northern Arizona. Her experience at DES fostered her ability to learn and grow in knowledge of different cultural traditions and practices. 

With over thirty years of experience in social work, education and counseling, Ms. White holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ottawa University with a double major in psychology.  She is licensed through the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners (LISAC) and holds a teaching certificate through the Arizona Board of Education.

Rene can be reached at (602) 448-9289 or email

Public Safety, Department of: Larry Scarber
Larry Scarber is currently the Southern Highway Patrol Bureau commander stationed in Tucson. He has served in that capacity since April 2006, and has responsibility over the Casa Grande, Sierra Vista, Tucson, and Yuma Highway Patrol districts. In 1987, Larry was hired by DPS. Following graduation from the Arizona Law Enforcement Training Academy, he was assigned as a Highway Patrolman to Kayenta, and later to Gila Bend. In 1993, he promoted to sergeant in Coolidge. In 1998, he promoted to lieutenant in Globe and oversaw the operations of Highway Patrol District 11 for eight years before promoting to commander and moving to Tucson.  In addition to his Southern bureau duties, Larry currently serves as the Tribal liaison for DPS and interacts regularly with Arizona’s Indian Tribes. He has held this position since 2002. He authored the DPS General Order Enforcement in Indian Country. He is a member of the Indian Country Intelligence Network and the IACP Indian Country Law Enforcement Section. In 2006, he was appointed to the Department of Homeland Security Southern Regional Advisory Council. He is also a member of the National Institute of Justice Pursuit Management Technology Technical Working Group. He served as the mobile field force commander for DPS during the 2007 BCS championship and the 2008 Super Bowl. He is a past president of the Four State Peace Officers Association.  Larry attended Brigham Young University, Central Arizona College, Eastern Arizona College, and the University of Virginia. He is a graduate of the 223rd session of the FBI National Academy. 

Larry can be reached at (520) 746-4506 or email

Registrar of Contractors – Wilma Dengavi
Wilma Dengavi is the Assistant Director for Administration for the Registrar of Contractors.  She was appointed to this position in December 2005.  She has worked for the Arizona Registrar of Contractors since 1995 in Accounting, Business and Finance, and Budget positions which involved procurement, payroll system implementation, preparing and monitoring the biennial agency budget and preparing other agency plans and reports, including the strategic plan, equal employment opportunity plan and the performance incentive pay plan.  She also serves as a Tribal Liaison for the agency.  Mrs. Dengavi holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business/Accounting and is a Certified Public Manager.  She has over 30-years of experience in local, tribal, federal and state governments and is a member of Arizona Affirmative Action Association, the Government Finance Officers’ Association, a board member of the Arizona Society of Certified Public Managers and sits on the agency Incentive Pay Steering Committee, Transportation Committee and Public Information Team. 

Mrs. Dengavi can be reached at (602) 771-6893 or email

Revenue, Department of: Christie Comanita

Christie Comanita is a Manager in the Tax Policy & Research Division.  Christie joined the Department of Revenue in 1989 as a Tax Analyst.  She was named Manager in the Tax Research and Analysis Section in 1998.  During her time with the Department, Christie has focused primarily on the transaction privilege tax area; however, she also works with luxury tax and the administrative rulemaking process. 

Christie has been attending the Streamlined Sales Tax (SST) meetings as Arizona’s representative since 2001.  She served as chairperson of the SST Governing Board’s State and Local Advisory Council for calendar years 2012 and 2013.  Christie received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio and a Juris Doctorate from Ohio Northern University College of Law in Ada, Ohio.  Christie is admitted to the Ohio Bar.

Christie can be reached at 602.716.6791 or email

Tourism, Office of: Dawn Melvin
As the Native American Tourism Development Manager Dawn provides outreach to Tribes providing information on the agency’s expertise and programs.   As the agency raises awareness of these opportunities and expands work with the Tribes, it gains a better understanding of the Tribal communities’ tourism development goals.  The Arizona Office of Tourism created the position to guide its efforts to assist Arizona’s Native American communities in developing and promoting their tourism offerings.  Dawn also provides assistance to internal divisions to support the division’s work with Tribes.  She is responsible for oversight of AOT’s Native American Tourism Advisory Committee and serves as a liaison to its members.  For five years Dawn previously worked at the Arizona State University on the West Campus, where she served as Senior Coordinator for Student Development and Native American Student Services Programs.  Dawn received a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation and Tourism Management and a post graduate certificate in Gerontology from Arizona State University in 1999. 

Dawn can be reached at (602) 364-3707 or email

Veteran Services, Department of: Mike Klier
Mike Klier is the Assistant Deputy Director of the Arizona Department of Veteran Services. His primary responsibilities are the Veteran Benefits Counseling throughout the state where there are 19 offices and 40 benefits counselors. These trained counselors assist Arizona veterans with their claims through the VA (Veterans Affairs) for pension and or compensation.  Veterans have many entitlements to include education, medical care, and disability to name a few.  He also manages the Southern Arizona Veterans State Cemetery in Sierra Vista where a veteran along with his or her spouse can be provided their final resting place.  Mike is also responsible for the land acquisition process in regards to the enhancement of our military bases and their mission. Primary goal is to stop encroachment issues by protecting the base through these purchases. The funding for this purpose is set up through the military installation fund and properties to be acquired are done by an application and priority listing.  Mike manages the Troops to Teachers office inside the agency, which is a federally funded program that takes a veteran in to the classroom of our Arizona schools as a teacher.  He is also the agency contact for all veteran license plate issues.  Mike is a Vietnam veteran and came to Arizona in 1991, he has been with the Department of Veteran Services since 2003. 

Mike can be reached at (602) 255-3373 or email

Water Resources, Department of: Gerry Walker
Gerry has been employed with the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) since April of 1993. In addition to serving as tribal liaison, she is manager of the Statewide Planning Section where she works on water resource issues with watershed partnerships and rural communities throughout the state. She also represents the agency in discussions regarding settlement of tribal water rights claims. In her tenure at ADWR, Gerry has served as Area Director for the Prescott Active Management Area and technical administrator for the Arizona Water Banking Authority and worked in a variety of positions in water management, surface water administration and adjudications. Prior to joining the department, she worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a biological technician working with native fish and riparian plant species. Gerry has earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, a Master’s of Science Degree in Forestry and a Ph.D. in Environmental Design and Planning.

Gerry can be reached at 602.771.8511 or email