Karen Watts

Karen Watts is Yuma's new deputy mayor after being appointed during the Jan. 15 council meeting.

Karen Watts is Yuma’s new deputy mayor after her appointment to the position during the Jan. 15 council meeting.

Gary Knight, who served as deputy mayor for the last three years, nominated Watts. “It’s been a privilege and an honor to serve for the last three years as deputy mayor. I’ve very much enjoyed the confidence of the council and mayor,” he said before nominating Watts.

The council unanimously voted to approve the appointment.

Watts, who has served two years on the council, is married to Michael Mitchell and raised four children in Yuma. She is a family nurse practitioner who owns and operates her own healthcare practice. She is also a forensic nurse and has worked closely with Amberly’s Place and Crossroads Mission Detox Unit for many years.

The council made other appointments to various boards for 2020. Most appointments went without a hitch, however, the council ran into a hiccup when one councilor declined two appointments.

Knight nominated Councilwoman Ema Lea Shoop to serve on the Western Arizona Council of Governments Executive Board and the Council on Aging.

“You surprised me. I wasn’t aware of this. Do I have a choice?” Shoop asked.

“Of course you have a choice,” Mayor Doug Nicholls replied.

“Then I decline,” Shoop said.

Knight then rescinded the motion, and Councilman Mike Shelton volunteered for the position. The council unanimously approved Shelton’s appointment.

Shoop did, however, accept the appointment to the WACOG Yuma County Advisory Board.

In other appointments, Nicholls will serve on the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp. Executive Board; Councilwoman Leslie McClendon on the GYEDC Board of Directors; and Knight on the Greater Yuma Port Authority.

Watts, Knight and Councilman Chris Morris will serve on the Yuma Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Board; Shelton on both the Yuma fire and police safety boards; and former councilor Bill Craft on the Workers Compensation Trust Board.

After the appointments, Nicholls stressed the need for citizens to volunteer on city boards and commissions. “Just to reinforce, we need people on our boards and commissions, from Planning and Zoning, all the way through the different departments. So, please, if you have an interest come talk to the clerk’s office or city administrator’s office, about what might fit for you, and get the application filled out. We’d like to make sure our boards and commissions are full and operating efficiently,” Nicholls said.


During the council announcements, Shelton talked about a new initiative that he hopes “Yuma can take advantage of.” Shelton said he attended the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry 2020 Legislative Forecast Luncheon on Jan. 10 in Phoenix, where Gov. Doug Ducey mentioned that a trade office for Arizona has opened in Tel Aviv, Israel. 

“It will benefit Yuma businesses, entrepreneurs, and agriculture. It gives Arizonans an opportunity to grow their business in Israel and it gives Israel an opportunity to locate in Yuma,” Shelton told the Yuma Sun. He said the contact is Kevin O’Shay, vice president of international trade for the Arizona Chamber, and that he forwarded the contact information to the offices of the mayor and city administrator, Yuma County Chamber of Commerce and GYEDC.

“If we can take advantage of this, I think we can be a step ahead of other communities in Arizona and do things to make progress in our community,” Shelton said during the meeting. “I hope we will jump on it.”

In November, the governor’s office announced the new Tel Aviv office as a part of the Arizona Commerce Authority with the purpose of creating a platform for businesses in both countries to increase international trade and foreign direct investment opportunities.

“The opening of Arizona’s trade office in Tel Aviv, Israel, promises to further advance the strong relationship between our states,” Ducey said at the time. “We look forward to increased collaboration in our shared areas of strength — technology and innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship and more.”

According to a press release, in 2015, Ducey became the first Arizona governor to lead a trade mission to Israel. During the visit, he attended the Water Technology and Environment Control symposium, highlighting the similar water management challenges and efforts to build thriving economies in arid desert landscapes. “Both Arizona and Israel continue to work together to advance forward-thinking water policy and freshwater science innovation,” the release stated.

In 2018, imports and exports between Arizona and Israel totaled more than $460 million, which is more than twice the volume since 2010. Currently, 20 Israeli-owned companies are operating in Arizona in aerospace and defense, business and financial services and technology and innovation, the news release said.

David Ya’ari, an entrepreneur and business leader with an extensive background in technology and finance, leads the Tel Aviv office. The office was funded in the fiscal year 2020 budget approved by the Arizona State Legislature. It adopts the efficient management process developed and practiced at the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Mexico City Trade and Investment Office, which provides representation for Arizona’s thriving business environment with minimal administrative and overhead costs, states the release.

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