Steve Farley / CEO, Humane Society of Southern Arizona
Q: Where were you born?
I was born a third-generation Los Angeleno in Ontario, California, and left at 18 to go back east to college. When I moved to Tucson in 1995, I finally found home.
Q: How did you become interested in your career field?
I have had a lot of career fields, many simultaneously, perhaps because I have many interests. I’ve been a photographer, typesetter, animal behaviorist, illustrator, art director, graphic designer, small business founder and owner, public artist, transit activist, state representative, state senator, gubernatorial candidate, and now CEO of the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.
I have shared my life with dogs since childhood. In my mid-twenties I volunteered as an animal behaviorist for the San Francisco SPCA where I worked with shelter dogs to help them learn more social skills and become more adoptable. While in the Arizona State Legislature I led efforts to stop animal abuse and puppy mills, and worked across the aisle to successfully end the cruelty of greyhound racing in Arizona. I was named Humane Legislator of the Year by the Humane Society of the U.S. multiple times.
Q: What is the biggest challenge of your job?
There are always problems to be solved, especially in the challenging times we live in. Due to COVID, we had to cancel and postpone many key fundraising events, so we had to bear down and find other sources of revenue to fill in the gaps and keep our programs vital. Luckily I have a brilliant marketing and development team to come up with creative ideas. Adjusting our public services, staff assignments, and infrastructure to adapt to changing conditions requires a whole lot of flexibility and imagination, and I am continually impressed by how much talent is demonstrated by our staff. When all is said and done, we are responsible for the lives of thousands of vulnerable pets every year. That keeps us focused on achieving good outcomes, no matter how challenging the environment.
Q: What is the greatest reward of your job?
Seeing the positive results of our work every day. I love standing alongside our fantastic adoption counselors and watching the joy in the faces of people adopting a new family member, especially an older animal who had been waiting patiently for the perfect forever home. I love spending time in our admissions department, watching our unparalleled staff handle every situation that walks in the door with grace and love.
Q: What’s your favorite food indulgence?
For a meal, I’ll take three fish tacos on made-to-order corn tortillas at Taqueria Pico de Gallo in South Tucson. For a decadent dessert, I started making mason-jar ice cream at home during the lockdown and experimenting with flavors — my favorite is English breakfast tea with malt powder and Grape Nuts cereal in it. I know — sounds bizarre — but try it and you’ll be hooked!
Q: In 20 words or less, describe your perfect day.
Hearts open to the world, my staff, volunteers, and I save lives at our shelter. We do this every day.