6 People in Phoenix Who Bring Out the Best in Us (Plus 2 Groups!)

Erika Andiola
Erika Andiola
Griselda Nevarez

The 2016 edition of New Times' Best of Phoenix is out now, making an argument for our status as a border town. Here's our list of the best people in our midst.

Best DREAMer: Erika Andiola
She most certainly isn't the only one, but Erika Andiola is this year's best DREAMer. Andiola has been a prominent Arizona activist for undocumented immigrants for years. The undocumented Mexican immigrant is renowned for confronting the likes of Russell Pearce and even President Barack Obama. She has earned the respect and admiration of immigration advocacy groups around the nation, and she's an inspiration to undocumented immigrants living in the shadows.

Meet Sam and Anita Means and their daughter, Lola. (And their dog.)
Meet Sam and Anita Means and their daughter, Lola. (And their dog.)
Courtesy of Anita Means

Best Power Couple: Sam and Anita Means
Indie-rock royalty and a fashion empire go together like Sam and Anita Means. Which is to say, almost annoyingly adorably. Sam is the musician, a solo artist formerly one half of the Format (with Nate Ruess). He co-founded Hello Merch back in 2008 as a way for bands to sell T-shirts and assorted goods online and on tour without restrictive contracts. A spinoff of the rock-wear company is Hello Apparel, the brainchild of Anita, who wanted to sell leggings for babies on Etsy.

Best Politician: State Representative Debbie McCune Davis
Whether it's her determination to improve health care, get dark money out of politics, or make Arizona a more environmentally friendly place, Debbie McCune Davis has been a progressive Democrat in a pool of conservative Republicans for decades. During her time in office, McCune Davis has sponsored plenty of bills and taken up many causes worth applauding, but it is the work she has done over the past few years as a member of the Child Safety Oversight Committee that wins her this "Best of Phoenix" nod.

Best Entrepreneur: Carla Chavarria
Carla Chavarria is an undocumented immigrant, but that hasn't stopped her from working legally in the country. She is a thriving artist, activist, and entrepreneur working within the constructs of the law to earn a living. As a 19-year-old photographer and graphic designer, Chavarria founded the multicultural millennial marketing agency YCM Marketing and, earlier this year, co-founded Ganaz Apparel, a fitness-clothing line that mixes fashion and culture.

Best Historian: Professor Jack August
It's more than fitting that Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan has appointed Arizona historian Jack August to serve as historian and director of institutional advancement in the state's Division of Library, Archives, and Public Records. Though Reagan is a Republican and August is a Democrat of the old-school New Deal variety, August is a public intellectual and bon vivant who can converse with Rs and Ds as well as commoners and kings.

Best Co-Worker: Jenny Poon
Works well with others? That might be an understatement for Jenny Poon. The creator of the branding and design boutique eeko — which, incidentally, was instrumental in the launch of Phoenix's premier bike-share program, Grid Bikes — has become a much-talked-about entrepreneur in Phoenix over the past several years, thanks to CO+HOOTS, the co-working space she co-founded.

Best Keepers of the Gate: The Zanjeros
We're not here to praise Governor Doug Ducey's business leadership group, Arizona Zanjeros, who (we suppose) are hoping to increase the flow of business opportunities into our state. No, we're talking about actual zanjeros: ditch riders, men and women, who control the flow of water through our city's system of canals by opening and closing the gates on canals and irrigation ditches across the Valley. These zanjeros helped make our desert way of life possible — and continue to do so.

A 2016 Comicon attendee.
A 2016 Comicon attendee.
Benjamin Leatherman

Best People Watching: Phoenix Comicon
Phoenix Comicon offers the best people-watching the city has to offer. And we're not just talking about ogling the impressive costumes of Deadpool, Harley Quinn, and Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens (even though that could be reason enough). Even the non-cosplayer attendees are fascinating and inspire enough questions to keep us entertained for hours. Why are you here? What could possibly be inside that mystery box you're clutching so tightly? And where are you planning to put all of those Pop! Vinyl figures?


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