Aldaz named Community Leader of the Year

Julie Aldaz recognized for her continued commitment and generosity in Tusayan and Grand Canyon communities.

Julie Aldaz is honored for her commitment to the Grand Canyon and Tusayan communites, she received Community Leader of the Year award. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

Julie Aldaz is honored for her commitment to the Grand Canyon and Tusayan communites, she received Community Leader of the Year award. Loretta Yerian/WGCN

TUSAYAN, Ariz. - Julie Aldaz has spent most of her life living at and giving back to the Grand Canyon community. Recently, Aldaz was recognized for her generosity and ambition at the annual Rotary dinner/dance.

Each year Grand Canyon Rotary on the Rim chooses one person in the community to bestow the title of Community Leader of the Year. The honoree is chosen by the past president, current president, and president-elect and announced during the holiday dinner/dance.

This year's recipient was honored for her commitment to Rotary and to the Grand Canyon and Tusayan communities.

"I am just so shocked," Aldaz said as she accepted the plaque for 2014 Grand Canyon Community Leader of the Year.

Rotary President-elect, Clay Ann Cook put in Aldaz's name as a nominee saying she is one of the most helpful people she knows.

"I nominated her because, Julie never says, no," Cook said. "Julie is always there to support any function, any event that will benefit our community. She has served on the Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce (CVB) board a number of times and she has been consecutively either secretary or treasurer for the Grand Canyon rotary club. She's just an amazing woman."

Rotary secretary Yvonne Trijillo helped choose this year recipient saying rotary chooses the leader based on their contributions and commitment to the community.

"We are always looking for people that contribute a lot to the community," she said. "Weather it's by their presence working here or by how they treat other people. We always look into what (nominees) have done and we look for people who don't blow their own horn. They're in the background, doing stuff, most of the time we don't even ask them and you don't even know about it."

Hard work and giving back to her community is part of Aldaz's makeup.

Aldaz grew up in Iowa but found Arizona's high deserts and the beauty of the Grand Canyon an attraction she couldn't resist.

Her love for the west coast began after a cousin, a former human resource manager at Moqui Lodge, invited Aldaz to work for a season at the Grand Canyon,

"I actually came here in 1989," Aldaz said. "I started at Moqui and worked there for two seasons.

Aldaz's started as a maid at the lodge but soon decided maid work wasn't what she wanted to do.

"I started as a maid but I hated it," Aldaz said. "It's the hardest job, I believe, that anyone does in the hospitality industry. It's thankless and nobody appreciates it."

On the verge of returning to her hometown of West Bend Aldaz supervisor approached her and offered her a position at the front desk. A position she gratefully accepted.

Aldaz has come a long way from her humble beginnings as a maid at Moqui.

After two seasons working at Moqui Lodge, she also started working part time at the Squire Inn in Tusayan. Over the next five years Aldaz worked her way up the ranks at the Squire, before leaving Tusayan for a position in Phoenix.

Aldaz worked in Phoenix for the Arizona Golf Resort for a short time, before taking a position with the Red Feather Lodge after getting a personal invitation from part owner Clarinda Vail.

Aldaz began working at Red Feather where she now holds the position of General Manager. Aldaz said her time with Red Feather has allowed her the opportunity to become the contributing member of Tusayan and the Grand Canyon that she is today. After taking the position with Red Feather it allowed her to become increasingly involved in the community.

In July of 2001 Aldaz started a softball team and became a member of the Grand Canyon Rotary.

"It was decided that I should be active in the area. So I made sure Red Feather got a softball team that year and I joined the rotary," Aldaz said. "It was a way to meet people in the community. Even though I had been in the community before, I still didn't know a lot of people. Being in rotary was a way to meet other people."

Aldaz's was recognized for being the longest standing member in the Grand Canyon Rotary even after taking two years off from the club. She has served as both secretary and treasurer for rotary, This year marks her 15th year with rotary and has been a way for Aldaz to continually give back to her community.

"It was also a way to give back. Rotary's motto is 'service above self' and it was a way to do that," Aldaz said. "At the time, and I still don't, really feel like it's something I have to be conscious about. Because if somebody calls and says, 'Hey, can you do this,' if I can, I'll do it."

Aldaz commitment to the community partially stems out of her commitment to her family. In 2008, Aldaz married her husband, Andrew. Mr. Aldaz, also a former recipient of the Community Leader of the Year is the father of three daughters. When he and married she became their stepmother and in 2006 she legally adopted her niece, Kristen Forsythe. At the time Forsythe was in the fifth grade. The Aldaz's raised all of their daughters in Tusayan and the girls attended Grand Canyon School,

The Aldaz's family has remained close, with one daughter residing in Tusayan, two in Flagstaff and one in Phoenix.

In addition to their daughters the Aldaz's have three grandchildren.

The Grand Canyon and Tusayan communities are grateful for people who invest their lives in their communities to help make it a better place for everyone.

Clarinda Vail said not only is Aldaz a good friend and employee she is also generous to a fault and her financially savviness has helped save the rotary time and money.

"We are so excited for her and it's well deserved," Vail said. "Julie steps up for any entity that needs something. She has done a lot with money management and saved (the club) so much money. She suggested we take the money from a savings account to an investment account and that's a lot of scholarships. You have to have somebody willing to make the deposits and everything else. She has done a lot for everyone."

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