Bishop Henry L. Barnwell (Courtesy of Aubrey Barnwell)
When Bishop Henry L. Barnwell passed in 2017, he left big shoes to fill. The Bishop dedicated his life to fostering a strong community founded on faith and social justice.
Growing up in Florida, he witnessed a lynching outside his grandmother’s home. He cited this incident as one of his earliest formative experiences.
“Rather than inspiring anger and animosity, it spurred a lifelong dedication to civil rights, social justice, and community advancement,” according to his son, Aubrey Barnwell.
Bishop Barnwell joined the U.S. Airforce and completed a tour in Vietnam. In the late 1950s, he was stationed at Williams Air Force Base. There he formed a relationship with Rev. H.Y. Stevenson of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church. This connection inspired his faith journey. He became a pastor first in 1966 and grew his congregation to over 1,000 members before his son, Aubrey Barnwell, took over in 2005. He went on to mentor and counsel many, from young pastors to youth in juvenile detention.
Despite threats to his life, Bishop Barnwell was a vital figure in the struggle to make Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a state holiday. He led protest marches, meetings, and vigils to advance the cause. He started the Bishop Henry L. Barnwell/Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund for students who otherwise would not have access to higher education. The fund is still granting scholarships to local students.
Commissioner Sandra Kennedy
Commissioner Sandra Kennedy started her public service when she was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in November 1986, where she served for six years. During her tenure as a House member, she co-authored and introduced with fellow member Patty Nolan Arizona’s first Domestic Violence Bill. She found that working across the aisle, many issues could be accomplished with bipartisan support, and the people of Arizona would benefit greatly. In 1992, she ran successfully for a seat to represent her District in the Arizona State Senate, where she served for three terms. Commissioner Kennedy has always been a strong voice to those she represents, never shy about being outspoken. Some of her accomplishments include: sponsoring legislation that was signed into law regarding Domestic Violence Shelters, Foster Care Placement, Pre-Natal Care Education Fund, and City Powers regarding Fair Housing. Concurrent with her stint in the legislature, Commissioner Kennedy was elected to serve on the Phoenix Union High School Governing Board for a four-year term in 1990. Governor Mofford appointed her to the Arizona Employment and Training Council.
Commissioner Kennedy was first elected to the Arizona Corporation Commission in 2008 on a platform of promoting solar energy in Arizona, and as a fierce consumer advocate. In her first term at the Corporation Commission, she worked with the Republican majority led by Kris Mayes to advance Solar Energy and Energy Efficiency. She is the first and only African American in Arizona to hold statewide office and the first statewide elected official west of the Mississippi.
Commissioner Kennedy was re-elected to the Corporation Commission in 2018 on a platform of restoring integrity and transparency to the Commission, lowering unjustified utility rate increases, and creating more solar and renewable energy in Arizona, especially rooftop solar.
Her many past and present community and civic projects include Tutor, Valley Christian Center and Valle Del Sol (grades 5-8); Board member, Arizona Cactus Pine Girl Scout Council; ex-Officio Member, Phoenix Community Alliance; Board member, Community Excellence Project; Member, First Institutional Baptist Church.
Commissioner Kennedy was voted Outstanding Young Woman of America for 1984. She is a member of the National Association of Female Executives, was a delegate to the Foreign Relations Conference in June of 1988 for the American Council of Young Political Leaders in Washington, D.C., a member of the National Conference of State Legislators, and a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.
Commissioner Kennedy is a wife, mother and grandmother.