Central Arizona College recognized this year’s Outstanding Alumni and Athletic Hall of Fame awardees at the 2022 Vaquero Awards on Saturday, Nov. 19.
Each year, CAC inducts outstanding alumni into the Wall of Success. The first honorees were inducted during the 40th anniversary celebration of the Signal Peak Campus in November 2009. The Wall of Success is a tradition to honor alumni and recognize them for their personal and professional accomplishments, according to a press release.
The Vaquero Athletic Hall of Fame recognizes athletes, coaches, and/or administrators who have made outstanding contributions to the intercollegiate athletics program at CAC.
The 2022 Outstanding Alumni award recipient is Arizona Department of Public Safety Lt. Colonel Jenna Mitchell. Paul Tavares, track/cross country coach and professor of biology, is the Hall of Fame inductee.
Mitchell was born in Centerville, Iowa, and moved with her family to Casa Grande in 1985. She graduated from Casa Grande Union High School and obtained her associate degree from Central Arizona College. She graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in business.
Mitchell began her career with the Arizona Department of Public Safety as an officer trainee in July 1993. She attended the Phoenix Regional Police Academy and became a trooper in May 1995. Her first assignment was to the Highway Patrol in District Six, Casa Grande. During this assignment she served as a field training officer, general instructor, phlebotomist, reserve coordinator, and she also coordinated the first Citizen Academy in District Six.
In 2001, she was promoted to sergeant and remained in the Highway Patrol in District Six, Casa Grande. Five years later, she was promoted to captain and held command assignments in the Management Services Bureau, Highway Patrol Metro East District, Southern Gang Enforcement District and the Canine District.
She was promoted to the rank of major in May 2015 and served as the chief of staff for the Criminal Investigations Division, as well as the Agency Support Division. As chief of staff, she was involved with the implementation of major technological improvements in both divisions, with a strong focus on performance management, efficiency, and employee and leadership development.
In July 2019, Mitchell was appointed to assistant director (lieutenant colonel), assigned to the Highway Patrol Division of the Department of Public Safety, and in July 2022, she was appointed to the assistant director position in the Agency Support Division, where she currently serves.
During her 29-year law enforcement career she has received recognition as the District Six and Southern Highway Patrol Bureau Officer of the Year, the Criminal Investigations Division Commander of the Year, and has been the recipient of three Director’s Unit Citations.
Mitchell is a graduate of the Police Executive Research Forum Senior Management Institute for Police, Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command and the Leadership in Police Organizations Command program.
She has been married to her husband, Paul, for 30 years. They have four children: Brandon, Zachary, Ethan and Samantha. Mitchell is active in several ministries at Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church.
Paul Tavares began his collegiate coaching career at Central Arizona College in 2009, and before that, he served as the head coach for Casa Grande Union High School.
Tavares continued the athletic traditions of the college by winning four NJCAA national championships in cross country. He was also a 10-time NJCAA Champion runner-up. His teams have displayed their dominance throughout Arizona. Under Tavares, the Vaqueros won five national championships, 19 regional championships and 20 ACCAC championships.
Tavares was a two-time USA track and Field Coaches Association NJCAA Coach of the Year and three-time NJCAA Coach of the Year. Within 10 years, he established himself as one of the most successful coaches in NJCAA cross country by producing a national championship 50% of the time.
He guided his teams to victory, but he never failed to celebrate the individual successes of his athletes. He also can be called Professor Tavares, as he has been a faculty professor at CAC for 13 years.
Tavares now enjoys retirement from coaching, as he can spend time with his family and gets a healthy seven hours of sleep. His son, David, daughter, Hanna, and wife, Lindsay, supported him and his desire to be one of the most successful coaches in CAC history.