Outstanding Community Leadership Award

Sponsored by Tempe Leadership, the Outstanding Community Leadership Award is presented in June as part of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Breakfast. Tempe Leadership Council Members and members of the community may nominate a person who:

Lives or works in Tempe
Has been associated with the Tempe Leadership program
Is currently making or has made a positive impact in the community as a result of his or her leadership involvement

Nominees may not be current Tempe Leadership Council Members. Nominations are due by Wednesday June 10, 2020.


2019 Award Winner: Karyn Gitlis

Karyn Gitlis, 2019 recipient of the Outstanding Community Leadership Award

 Karyn Gitlis is the recipient of the 2019 Outstanding Community Leadership Award, presented at the Tempe Chamber of Commerce Annual Luncheon on Friday, June 28, 2019, at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Tempe, Arizona.

Karyn Gitlis has lived in Tempe for 44 years and is a graduate of Tempe Leadership Class XXX. She has been an active participant in the Maple Ash Neighborhood and a leader and activist in the broader community for close to three decades. Her community collaboration dates back to the formation with Barbara Sherman of an ad hoc citizen’s committee in the late eighties or early nineties to mitigate the impacts of aviation noise on the neighborhoods that border the Town Lake, what was then the Rio Salado River bed. In 1995 Gitlis was appointed by Mayor Harry Mitchell as a founding member of the Tempe Aviation Commission. She served four terms in two six-year stints on this commission between 1995 and 2014. She served as Commission Chair for three years.

Gitlis was a founding member of the Maple Ash Neighborhood Association first chaired by neighbor Chuck Malpede, a mentor.  She has worked tirelessly for decades to preserve the Maple Ash neighborhood, the oldest platted neighborhood remaining in Tempe. During this time she has served repeatedly as chairperson, for 10 years as the newsletter editor, and as host to dozens of parties, events, initiatives, and projects, for example, acting as project manager for two of the six Award Winning flood-irrigation standpipe public art projects under the creative direction of clay artist Nina Solomon.  All were completed through the award of Maryanne Corder Neighborhood Grant stipends and extensive neighborhood participation. In 2005 under the leadership of Jenny Lucier, she was one of a team of five researchers and activists who worked for a year and a half to coordinate and promote a campaign for Historic District designation with the Tempe Historic Preservation Office. Although this effort was unsuccessful, a large part of the community continues to realize the importance of the preservation of the oldest neighborhood in the city, and preservation efforts continue to this day. In 2008 Gitlis joined the board of the Tempe Historic Preservation Foundation to continue this work. She served as president for three years and continues to work with many of Tempe’s prominent historians and preservationists on this foundation to protect the city’s diminishing historic resources, both in Maple Ash and in the wider community.

In 2002 Gitlis, working with the team of Kirby Spitler, Tom Hinchion and Jenny Lucier, founded Neighborhood Pub Night! (exclamation point part of title), a social club that also introduced the Northwest Tempe Neighborhoods as a political entity. The group met monthly for 14 years frequenting over 30 locally owned businesses in the area during that time to promote conversation between neighborhoods (a long-time Susan Harter proposition) as well as Tempe’s wonderful locally owned dining establishments.

Gitlis worked for the Tempe Elementary School District as an itinerant Speech Language Pathologist providing service across grade levels at 14 or 15 of the district schools and to a variety of special populations. She retired in 2005 after 30 years of service.  For relaxation, she enjoys gardening, reading, making photographs and learning Spanish. She and husband Phil Douglass, a retired woodworker, have lived in the Maple Ash Neighborhood since 1980 and enjoy traveling throughout Arizona.


  • Maple Ash Neighborhood Association (MANA) – 1986 to present
  • Citizens  Committee on Aviation Impacts –  several years in the late eighties or early nineties
  • Vision Tempe Task Force – 1991
  • Ad Hoc Commission on Historic Preservation – 1994 (Formed by Mayor Harry Mitchell to develop a Historic Preservation plan for Tempe)
  • Tempe Aviation Commission (TAVCO) – 1995 to 2001
  • Neighborhood Pub Night! – 2002 to 2014
  • Tempe Historic Preservation Foundation (THPF) – 2008 to present
  • Tempe Aviation Commission (TAVCO) – 2008 to 2014
  • Tempe South Corridor Study Ad Hoc Advisory Committee – 2010
  • Tempe Streetcar Community Working Group – 2011
  • Eisendrath House Docent Program – 2013 to present
  • Chuck Malpede City of Tempe Neighbor of the Year Award – 2013
  • Recognition by the Arizona Republic  as a Tempe Notable Person of 2013
  • Tempe Neighborhoods Together (TNT) 2014 to 2019 (currently consultant to)
  • Membership in Tempe Woman’s Club – starting 2019
  • Tempe Streetcar Community Advisory Board (CAB) – 2019

Past recipients of this award from 1990 to present: Eva Patton, Nancy Leach, Lawn Griffiths, Bobbie Cassano, Len and Jean Copple, Mel Kessler, Zita Johnson, Christine Wilkinson, Gail Fisher and Linda Spears, Joseph Spracale, Jim Buchanon, Bill Regner, Steve Bauer, Neil Giuliano, Diane and Nick Hughes, Sharon Doyle, Cliff Jones, Margaret Hunnicut, Pen Johnson, Beth Fiorenza, Harvey Gibson, Shana Ellis, Mike Jennings, Peggy Moroney, Judy Aldrich, Elizabeth Cling