We are pleased to expand the Local First Arizona team in Tucson by welcoming CJ Agbannawag as our Tucson Membership Coordinator. CJ will be working alongside the rest of the team to build up our programming in Tucson, including the business member program, the Localist program, and community engagement. Get to know CJ below, and make sure to say hi to him at the next Tucson event!
Tell us a bit about your background:
I call myself a “die-hard Tucsonan” but I can’t say that I am born and raised in Tucson. I was born in the lush green landscape of Salinas, California, just inland from Monterey Bay. My family and I moved to Tucson in 2001, so after enduring fourteen summers in Tucson, I like to consider myself a full fledged Tucsonan. I went to highschool at Salpointe Catholic High School, and then decided to attend the University of Arizona (Bear Down, Wildcats!). I started at the UofA as undecided. I could not find any program that truly fit what I was truly passionate about. I knew that I wanted to learn more about the environment and climate change, and more specifically the ways that we, as humans, could mitigate climate change. I was very lucky to learn about a new program at the University that was just starting called the Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Built Environments, in the College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture (CAPLA). I am proud to say that I joined with only a handful of other students and that the program now has 100 plus students.
In the Sustainable Built Environments program, I studied with an emphasis on Sustainable Communities and Planning. One of the most influential things I did in my time at the UofA, was taking on an internship at Mayor Rothschild’s office, in Tucson. I found that the internship was so valuable that after completing the required semester for my degree, I stayed on for another semester. This is where I developed a passion for larger policy and community initiatives that ultimately make our community and environment a better place.
What drew you to Local First Arizona?
My friends and family can attest to the fact that I am very passionate about Tucson, and Arizona as a whole. I take any chance I get to tell my friend about new Tucson facts, snippets of history, or cool happenings and events. All through school, I just thoroughly enjoyed learning more about this amazing desert and city, and it was only a matter of time before I found out about Local First Arizona and all of the awesome programs they are part of. Local First Arizona was commonly spoken about in my classes and by my classmates as I learned about the importance that businesses and consumers have in issues of economic, social, and environmental sustainability. I learned more about Local First Arizona and the importance of the role that they play in supporting our local businesses, and the work they do to help transform Arizona’s economy. When the opportunity to work with Local First Arizona came up, I saw it as an opportunity for myself to help Tucson thrive and grow, so I jumped at the opportunity. As I tell my friends, Arizona is not just a dust bowl full of cactus and snakes. Arizona is a vibrant and diverse place, home to amazing cultures and communities. I am honored to be part of Local First Arizona’s efforts to promote and strengthen these communities, and to help them thrive.
What is your favorite local business and why?
For years now, my favorite store has always been Summit Hut. I am an avid outdoor sports enthusiast and Summit Hut has always been my go to store for gear and equipment. I went there to buy equipment for the first backpacking trip I ever took in high school and I remember how nice and helpful the staff was to me. I still go there today and learn tips and local trail knowledge from the awesome employees. Tell us about one of your life's passions:
My biggest passion in life is being outside. Any time that I can be outside is a good time! I love the desert that surrounds Tucson and I take any opportunity to go play in any of Tucson’s numerous National and State parks and forests. I decided to give back to the local outdoor community and joined the Southern Arizona Rescue Association; the volunteer Search and Rescue group that assists the Pima County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue Unit. But if I’m being honest, search and rescue is just another excuse to spend more time outside.
What makes you proud to be an Arizonan?
There’s a lot to be proud of in Arizona! In Tucson, I am very proud to be part of such a special and unique community. The history of the area, the unique communities, and the passion that Tucsonans have is something that I am proud to be part of. Arizona is such a diverse and beautiful place. In Tucson, one could go from tanning poolside, to an alpine forest on Mount Lemmon in less than an hour! This is a truly special place, and I am proud to be an Arizonan.
Follow CJ and the rest of the LFA Tucson team on Twitter at @LFATucson.