Arizona Originals

Arizona Originals, hosted by Jason Isaak, brings you the stories, leadership lessons, and life lessons of the people who make Arizona a great place to live and work.
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Arizona Originals





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Nov 21, 2019

Our guest this week is Tom Van Dyke. He lives with his wife, Mary, on their ranch in the foothills of Tonto National Forest, Cave Creek, Arizona. He is the author of "A Cowboy Christmas: An American Tale" which received high praise from Elmore Leonard, Michael Blake, Don Collier, Marshall Trimble, Ken Rotcop, and so many others.

Tom created and wrote the American Bicentennial television public service announcements,  "Stand Up and Be Counted", featuring John Denver, the most widely viewed national and international PSAs in the history of television.

His creative expression of writing and film production is shared with his creation of fine art. Tom's sculptures, paintings and photography have been exhibited or are in the permanent collections of the NY Museum of Modern Art, the Carnegie Art Institute, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Henry Ford Museum, the Cranbrook Academy of Art and the Butler Institute of American Art.

Tom shares his story and his thoughts on art, creativity, the West, and his love for the great American cowboy.

Nov 6, 2019

Our guest this week is Tom Smith, President of Wrap Technologies in Tempe, Arizona.

A graduate from both the University of Arizona (B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and Northern Arizona University (Masters of Business Administration), Tom co-founded TASER International (now Axon Enterprise, Inc.) in 1993, and served as President of TASER until October 2006. He served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of TASER from October 2006 until he retired to pursue entrepreneurial activities in February 2012.

Tom shares his thoughts on a variety of subjects, including making the transition from a science-based college degree to a career focused on sales, lessons learned in the hiring process, and how losing a bet in college led to an experience that still influences him today.

Oct 23, 2019

Our guest this week is George Weisz, the President of Weisz Ventures and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Scottsdale Community Bank. A man of many interests and talents, George is a co-owner of two minor league baseball teams (proud affiliates of the Arizona Diamondbacks) and a partner in Majerle’s Sports Grill with former Phoenix Suns All-Star Dan Majerle. George is also a partner in a start-up technology firm dealing with superconductivity, and he has had interests in the film industry, bio-tech, and other ventures.

George’s public service includes serving as a respected Member of the Arizona House of Representatives (during which George was named one of the ten most effective legislators in the state), Deputy Chief of Staff to one Governor and Senior Advisor to a second Governor, Senior Advisor to the Mayor of Phoenix, and Special Agent investigating organized crime and corruption for four Attorneys General. George also served on an award-winning team of investigative reporters from across the nation probing one of the most heinous murders of our time. 

In our conversation, we discuss George's passion for public service, the important lessons he learned from his father, his love for baseball, and so much more.

Oct 10, 2019

Our guest this week is Phil Boas, the editor of the editorial pages of The Arizona Republic. Before that, he was editor of The Republic’s Sunday Viewpoints section and editor of its Community editorial pages. He joined The Republic in 1999. Before that, he was metro editor at The East Valley Tribune and a reporter at the Los Angeles Daily News. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is married with four children. He and his family live in Gilbert.

Phil's story keeps coming back to his love for Arizona, the lessons he learned from his father at the dinner table, and a deep rooted sense of community. You won't want to miss this!

Sep 25, 2019

Our guest this week is Chris Ronzio, the founder and CEO of Trainual, a leading SaaS company that helps fast-growing businesses automate their onboarding and training by documenting every process, policy, and procedure in one simple, searchable, teachable system.

After helping hundreds of entrepreneurs create scalable systems and processes with his consulting firm that he started in 2013, called Organize Chaos, Chris developed a passion for helping business leaders find the time to do more of what they love by providing a way to document and delegate what they do.

Sep 11, 2019

Rachel Mertensmeyer has long been captivated by understanding the consumer mindset and making people’s lives better with product innovation. She has a decade of marketing management experience in Fortune 100 companies including Unilever and Avon in New York and BBDO and WPP in Shanghai. Rachel’s first professional opportunity supported her entrepreneurial nature as she was tasked with the ground floor development of sales distribution in Eastern Asia for an American wine company.

In 2016, while living in New York City, Rachel  experienced medical bill mayhem personally. This experience spurred her to apply her consumer product innovation background to create a better medical payments solution for patients. This is how RexPay was born in 2018.

As a leader, Rachel places great focus on creating a holistic, respectful and cooperative work environment for her team. On a more personal note, Rachel places a high value on physical health and wellbeing for herself and for those around her. In her free time, she can be found teaching yoga, trail running in the deserts of Arizona, or making time for her friends and family.

Aug 28, 2019

Our guest this week is Jamie Baxter, the co-founder and CEO of Qwick. He began learning computer programming in the second grade, and by the time he was 16, he started his first company. With the sale of two companies he started under his belt, along with 18 years in major roles with Willis Towers Watson, Jamie has begun his latest entrepreneurial venture here in Arizona.

Qwick connects food & beverage professionals who want on-demand work with businesses who need them. And in our conversation, Jamie discusses not only the origins of the business, but also his approach to leadership, team building, and thoughts about the future of work and the gig economy.

Aug 14, 2019

Our guest this week is Rick Smith - the founder of Axon, the company formerly known as TASER International.  We have a broad ranging conversation where Rick shares his thoughts about everything from being a reluctant Harvard student to the differences between being a founder and a CEO to his new book, The End of Killing.  

Jul 31, 2019
Our guest this week is Karen Rasmussen - the CEO of PrePass Safety Alliance - a non-profit   public-private-partnership dedicated to bringing technology to the trucking industry in an effort to increase efficiency, compliance, and safety.
With a career in transportation safety spanning more than 40 years, Karen has been a key player in all aspects of commercial vehicle operations, and has been part of that community here in Arizona since 2001 when she served as the President and CEO of the Arizona Trucking Association.  She became CEO of PrePass Safety Alliance in 2012 and has been there ever since.
Jul 17, 2019

This week our guest is Dr. Jeff Johnston who serves as the Chief Medical Examiner for the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner; a position he has held since 2013. He oversees the Office which provides all statutory forensic medical death investigations for the 4th-most populous and fastest growing county in the the United States.

Dr. Johnston holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the University of Virginia and a Medical Doctorate from the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He trained in Anatomic Pathology at the University of Tennessee Medical Center at Knoxville, home of the University of Tennessee’s Anthropology Research Facility. He has subspecialty training in Forensic Pathology from the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s Office and is Board Certified by the American Board of Pathology in both Anatomic Pathology and Forensic Pathology. He has performing Medical Examiner work for the public since 2002.

Jul 3, 2019

Our guest this week is Brig. Gen. Todd D. Canterbury - the Commander, 56th Fighter Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. A true "Arizona Original", General Canterbury spent many of his formative years at Luke AFB where his fatheralso served as the commander.

General Canterbury entered the Air Force in May 1993 after graduating from Arizona State University ROTC in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering Technology.  General Canterbury’s assignments have been a mix of operational and training assignments. As an operational F-15E and MC-12 pilot he has logged over 650 combat hours and has participated in operations Northern Watch and Enduring Freedom. He has served as a weapons school Instructor, Thunderbird demonstration pilot, fighter squadron Commander, and wing Commander. He is a graduate of the National War College and a Command Pilot with more than 4,100 hours in the F-35A, F-15E, F-16 and MC-12W aircraft.

Jun 19, 2019

This week our guest is Brian Steele, CEO and Executive Director of City Help - also known as the Phoenix Dream Center - a nonprofit organization serving several populations we’ll discuss in the show, including victims of human trafficking.  Brian has been with the Dream Center since its start in 2007 and oversees campuses across the state which house 800 people every night. 

We appreciate Brian’s willingness to share his story - both the highs and lows. Additionally, Brian provides some incredible insights into building organizations and employing quality control measures to both help serve the community and grow the organization more effectively.

Jun 4, 2019

Our guest this week is Tom Espinoza, President and CEO of Raza Development Fund (RDF). Tom has over 45 years of experience that span the breadth of the public, private sector, and nonprofit spectrum.  In 1998, he co-founded RDF; and is responsible for the overall strategy, performance, and management of the fund, which has grown into the largest Latino CDFI in the country.

Prior to founding RDF, Tom worked at UnidosUS (formally the National Council of La Raza), where he led the Office of Technical Assistance and Constituency Support.  Additionally, he was the President & Chief Executive Officer of Chicanos Por La Causa where he provided capacity development during its early years, established funding strategies for various social, real estate community development projects, and advocated for the Latino community.

In our conversation, Tom shares his story and provides insights on how to build a quality team, how to balance activism and development, maintaining a healthy tension within an organization, thinking big, and everything in-between.

May 22, 2019
This week our guest is Steve Sossaman, who describes himself as the Major Domo at Sossaman Farms in Queen Creek, Arizona.   This year marks the 100th anniversary of Sossaman Farms, and Steve does an amazing job telling the story of the farm and explains how he approaches farming, family, and life.
So, if you’re curious about gluten, innovation in agriculture, millennials in the workplace and marketplace, or incorporating variety and diversity into your work and life, you’ll want to listen to my conversation with Steve.
Check out the Arizona Originals website for show notes and so much more.
To reach us, email at
May 8, 2019
This week our guest is Jason Beck, the founder and owner of TYR Tactical located in Peoria, Arizona.  TYR Tactical provides tactical gear to law enforcement and military all over the world and has seen consistent growth under Jason’s leadership.  
In our conversation, he provides a very frank description of his life growing up in an abusive home and discusses the individuals and experiences which have helped to shape him into who he is today.  We cover his youth, his time in the US Marine Corps, his decade of work with the Gracie family at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy, and then into his current vocation which mixes his love of design and his passion for innovation and combative techniques.
Apr 23, 2019

This week we're joined by Ellen Pallestrant, South African-born writer and artist and filmmaker. She was educated in South Africa and Britain and immigrated with her family to the USA in 1987. Palestrant has been a writer, artist, creativity expert, game inventor, hydroponic farmer, special education teacher, television scriptwriter (adult documentary and children's animation), film producer, college instructor (English, Humanities, Creative Writing) and co-publisher of a college press.

Ellen discusses creativity, perfectionism, balancing the practical with the possible, and the importance of taking action and moving forward.


Conversations about Creativity

Ellen's Books and DVDs

Apr 10, 2019

This week our guest is Brian Mohr. He was a founding member of and later became director of talent strategy & acquisition for P.F. Chang’s China Bistro and Pei Wei Asian Diner restaurants until he joined forces with co-founder, Max Hansen, to create the first purpose-based leadership search firm, Y Scouts, in March of 2012.

In the summer of 2018, Brian joined the Arizona Chapter of Conscious Capitalism as its first President and still found time to co-author a book (Hiring on Purpose), do his own podcast (Built on Purpose), and spend time with family, friends, and regular visits to Orange Theory!

Brian provides insights on a wide range of topics from curiosity, to connecting with people, to developing a long-term focus and stakeholder mindset. There is something in this episode for everyone!

Mar 26, 2019

This week our guest is Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr., a native of Coffeyville, Kansas.  Today he serves as the Senior Pastor of the First Institutional Baptist Church of Phoenix, Arizona and has served there since July 1, 1977.

Dr. Stewart served as the first General Chairperson for ARIZONANS FOR A MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. STATE HOLIDAY which contributed significantly to the legislative passage of Arizona’s Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday on September 21, 1989.  Dr. Stewart also organized and led VICTORY TOGETHER, INC., a broad-based coalition that campaigned for a Martin Luther King, Jr./Civil Rights Day in Arizona which was won by a historic vote of the people in the general election on November 3, 1992.

In our conversation, Dr. Stewart shares the moments in his life which led him from Kansas to Arizona and in his role as a leader in civil rights efforts here and beyond Arizona’s border.  We discuss everything from knowing when to say “no”, the attributes of servant leadership, overcoming personal challenges to pursue your calling, and much more.

Nov 28, 2018

This week is our final episode of Season 3 - thanks for being part of this fantastic community!  Stay tuned for Season 4 which should launch in early 2019!  

In Season 2 Episode 12, we spoke with David Kolbe, the CEO of Kolbe Corp.  If you haven’t already listened to that episode, I encourage you to do so.

David was kind enough to share his thoughts on a variety of topics in short, topical episodes which we share intermittently.  This week we spend a few moments with David on the topic of navigating our passions with a focus on how self-awareness plays into the equation.

Nov 21, 2018

In Season 2 Episode 12, we spoke with David Kolbe, the CEO of Kolbe Corp.  If you haven’t already listened to that episode, I encourage you to do so.

David was kind enough to share his thoughts on a variety of topics in short, topical episodes which we share intermittently.  This week we spend a few moments with David on the topic of preventing organizational paralysis, including how success can paralyze an organization.

Nov 14, 2018

In Season 2 Episode 12, we spoke with David Kolbe, the CEO of Kolbe Corp.  If you haven’t already listened to that episode, I encourage you to do so.

This week we spend a few moments with David on the topic of empowering and engaging employees.  We touch on several issues including accountability, transparency, delegation, and tolerance for failure.

Also check out David's discussion about Demystifying Millennials from last season.

Nov 7, 2018

This week our guest is Mark Jacobs, the dean of Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University.  He came to ASU in the fall of 2003 from Swarthmore College, where he had held an endowed chair in biology and had been both chair of the Biology Department and associate provost of the College. He received his B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard in biology and earned his Ph.D. at Stanford University in biological sciences.

During his tenure at Barrett Honors College, Dean Jacobs has overseen tremendous growth, and during our conversation, he shares his story, the influences in his life, and his approach to leading and learning which influence the way he approaches his job and the students and culture at Barrett.

You will also want to be sure you have listened to our episode with  Ambassador Barbara Barrett!



Oct 31, 2018

This week our guest is Greg Peterson, founder of the Urban Farm in Phoenix.  His mission is inspire people to embrace their own greenness,which he does daily by living what he speaks. He received his master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Planning (MUEP) in December 2006 from Arizona State University. His academic training has been augmented by 34 years of real world self-study, ownership of multiple businesses and a rich background in entrepreneurship, computer training, software development and management.

Our conversation covers everything from nurturing curiosity, finding passion, building community, engaging in lifelong learning, and creating a long-lasting impact in our communities.  Greg's story engages and his enthusiasm inspires.


Urban Farm Podcast

Ocean Robbins

John Lee Dumas

Scott Murray


Diet For A New America


Oct 24, 2018

This week our guest is Jonathan Keyser - the founder of Keyser…a commercial real estate firm in Scottsdale, AZ.  Jonathan’s enthusiasm is unmistakable and you’ll benefit from hearing how this son of missionaries was driven to pursue success, but more importantly, how his views of success and wealth have evolved.  

Jonathan discusses topics ranging from his views on:

  • Developing a long-term, sustainable and successful business thru helping others,
  • Developing resilience and patience,
  • Identifying what gets in the way of living out our values,
  • Pursuing intentional imbalance in your life.

And he also provides some insights into mindset and offers some great tools including the 30-day Positivity Challengeand the Everything Is A Gift Challenge.




The Way of Mastery

Please follow the Arizona Originals podcast on these social media platforms: Instagram, Twitterand Facebook.  And thanks to Beth Lewallen at Italicized Consulting for all her help getting our social media up and running…and be sure to follow her on Twitter


Oct 16, 2018

This week our guest is Sharon Orlopp - formerly the SVP of Human Resources and Global Chief Diversity Officer for WalMart.  Today, she is an author and continues her work as a leader in human resources for Core Scientific and Orangetheory Fitness.  We cover a range of issues from mentoring, to the role of diversity in innovation, to proactive goal setting, to the lessons she learned from her parents and how her experiences as a child set her on a path to leadership within one of the largest retailers in the world.

She recently released "Standing Up After Saigon" which she co-wrote with Thuhang Tran.  The book tells Tran's story of resilience, courage and survival as she faced polio and life in Saigon after its fall in the Vietnam War...and Sharon shares more detail about the book and how it came about in our conversation.


Standing Up After Saigon

Granite Mountain

Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park

Blockchain Revolution

The Story of Blockchain

Truth Machine

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