Ken Kendrick, Rusty Bowers honored at 2022 Heritage Awards

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry last week honored Ken Kendrick, the managing general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Rusty Bowers, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, with the chamber’s 31st Annual Heritage Award.

Since 1991, the Arizona Chamber each year has recognized distinguished individuals in Arizona who have served as leaders in business, politics, the arts, athletics and civil society with the Arizona Heritage Award. Notable past recipients include Barry Goldwater, Sandra Day O’Connor, John McCain, Alice Cooper, and Larry Fitzgerald.

Following a special video tribute that featured former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl and TGen President and Research Director Dr. Jeffrey Trent, and after a heartfelt introduction by Diamondbacks Manager Torey Luvullo, Kendrick reflected on his experiences in business and baseball, thanking Arizonans for welcoming him to the state after his beloved West Virginia Mountaineers football team played in the Fiesta Bowl in 1989, an experience that made him want to make Arizona his home.

A successful entrepreneur who founded Datatel, Inc., Kendrick has been a part of the Arizona Diamondbacks ownership group since the team’s inception and has been managing general partner since 2004. During his time as an owner, the Diamondbacks won the World Series in 2001 and have won their division another five times.

Kendrick also oversaw the opening of a nationally renowned spring training facility at Salt River Fields, and the team has eliminated over $200 million in debt under his leadership. In addition to his accomplishments in the baseball board room, Kendrick was honored for his generous contributions in philanthropy, which he often undertakes privately without formal recognition.

Kendrick also took a moment to praise his fellow honoree, Bowers, commending the longtime legislator for his service to the state and his political courage. 

The salute to Bowers featured a musical tribute from state Sen.-elect and former Secretary of State Ken Bennett that humorously reflected on Bowers’ career in politics. Bennett and Bowers previously served in the state Legislature together and were known as the Singing Senators for their song parodies that poked fun at the personalities and happenings in state politics.

Former Gov. Jan Brewer was featured in a video tribute to Bowers, who was then introduced by Russell Smoldon, a longtime lobbyist and former member of Salt River Project’s public affairs team, who reflected on Bowers’ steadfastness and honor to his state, his constituents, and his faith. 

Bowers has served in the Legislature over two different stints, the first beginning in 1993 and then again in 2015, serving as the head of the Arizona Rock Products Association in between. He has been speaker since 2019. 

As a state legislator, Bowers is known for his work defending school choice, public safety, and striking a balance between private enterprise and natural resource management and preservation. He has also worked in construction, education, and as a professional artist, specializing in watercolor, oil painting, and sculpting.

In fact, Bowers, a classically trained sculptor, is the artist who designed the award plaque that commemorates both the honored individual and the state’s legacy. This year, Bowers created two awards: one for Kendrick and one for himself, personally receiving the plaque that he created.

The Heritage Award is molded in clay, caste in bronze, and depicts four historic Arizona leaders: George W.P. Hunt, the state’s first governor; Carl Hayden, Arizona’s first congressman who served for a record 57 years; Barry Goldwater, the first Arizonan to be nominated for U.S. President; and Sanda Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Craig Ruiz

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