President & CEO
Dick Foreman brings to ABEC unprecedented knowledge, expertise and credibility that he has built during his much accomplished 37-year career in public affairs and in developing public policy. He also brings to ABEC a wide array of experiences while serving on business, education, and community governing and advisory boards throughout his career. His passion, however, is and always has been public education.
After 27 years, Dick left a very successful career with Southwest Gas Corporation where he was the Director of Corporate Public Affairs for what he calls his “dream job,” to lead ABEC. At Southwest Gas, he was responsible for state and federal legislative affairs, special corporate and regulatory initiatives, franchise negotiations, state and municipal relations, and consumer and community affairs. Prior to Southwest Gas, he led the state legislative affairs for Salt River Project and also served as a research analyst for the Arizona House of Representatives, where he began his career in public policy. Throughout his distinguished career, Dick has created professional relationships with countless elected officials as well as business and civic leaders at the local, state and national level.
No stranger to education, Dick served ten years as a governing board member for the Tempe Union High School District and also served on the school boards of two charter schools – Tempe Preparatory Academy and Great Hearts Academies. He understands that Arizona public schools need resources, and as such, has chaired/co-chaired eleven public school finance campaign initiatives (i.e. school bonds, M&O overrides) over the span of 25 years.
He is also an active leader in the business community, having served on the boards of the Arizona Tax Research Association and its Foundation, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry and its Foundation, and the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. He is a proven leader, respected by the business and education communities alike.
Dick graduated twice magna cum laude from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and a Master of Public Administration degree. In his spare time, he is a community and contributing columnist for several local newspapers and has even authored and published a contemporary Western novel, “A Distant Fire.” He enjoys basketball, writing children's short stories, hiking the White Mountains of Greer, Arizona and exploring the coastline of Oregon with his wife Kate, three children, four grandchildren, and one GREAT grandchild!
Executive Vice President
Jim Zaharis has joined ABEC as Executive Vice President after serving as Vice President for Education at Greater Phoenix Leadership (GPL), a CEO business organization, for 17 years. Prior to that, Jim served 15 years as the Superintendent of Mesa Unified School District No. 4 in Mesa, Arizona; and a total of 35 years in the district as a teacher, coach and district administrator; and he served two years as the Special Assistant to the President at Arizona State University East. He is the sole owner and President of The Zaharis Group, a private consulting firm.
Dr. Zaharis brings 43 years of experience in education! He has served and chaired numerous boards and commissions in the not only the field of education, but also in health care, planning and zoning, and economic development. And he has served as a consultant to various universities, school districts, and corporations in over 47 states and 5 foreign countries. His wide range of roles includes having served as a visiting professor at Arizona State University, Mesa Community College, the American Association of School Administrators, and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Honors Dr. Zaharis has received include being named on The Business Journal’s top 100+ for “The Valley’s Most Influential Business Leaders” in Education; one of “The Executive Educator 100,” as one of the best school managers in North America; Arizona State Superintendent of the Year; and Distinguished Professor, American Association of School Administrators’ National Academy of School Executives; Arizona’s CTE President’s Circle of Distinction; Teach For America’s Homeroom Hero award winner, Significant “Sig” for Sigma Chi National, and member of Northern Arizona University’s Hall of Fame.
Vice President Program Development
Debra was recently appointed as Vice President of Business Development for the Arizona Business & Education Coalition (ABEC). Since 2012, Debra has worked as a consultant with ABEC and has been responsible for the development of the Arizona Middle School Career Exploration Project, which provides a model for community-based partnerships between business and education.
Immediately prior to working with ABEC, Debra served in the Governor’s Office as part of the education policy team. As Executive Director of the Governor’s P-20 Council under Governor Napolitano and as Associate Director of the Governor’s Office of Education Innovation under Governor Brewer, she worked collaboratively and in partnership with a wide spectrum of education, business, philanthropic and community leaders, as well as policy makers, to strengthen the education continuum in Arizona. Prior to joining the Governor’s Office, Debra served for four years as the Director of Policy for the Arizona Department of Commerce’s Workforce Division. In this role, she served as the Executive Director for the Governor’s Council on Workforce Policy. Debra also served for 12-years as an elected member of the Peoria Unified School District Governing Board.
Debra holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science from Arizona State University West. In her spare time, Debra is also a practicing yoga and meditation instructor, trained and certified through the prestigious Chopra Center in San Diego, California. Debra is married, has four sons, and seven grandchildren.
Director Business & Event Services
Karen joined ABEC in March 2007. She brings to ABEC extensive experience in the information technology and customer service industries.
Karen's professional expertise focused on project development and management of business applications for large corporations including Federal Express, Schering-Plough, American Express, and Motorola. She has received numerous awards from her employers for bringing outstanding integrity, dedication, and excellence to her work in both project management and customer service.
Along with her valued knowledge of the business sector, Karen brings much professionalism to her position with her excellent organizational and event coordination skills, impeccable attention to detail, clarity in direction, and great customer service.