‘Woman of Year’ combines nitty-gritty business savvy with a flair for the arts


mary ring photoBy Deborah Hilcove                                                                                                                                         


“I love helping other people, helping solve problems,” says Mary Contreras, a longtime Tempe resident and businesswoman, recently named “Woman of the Year” by the Women of Scottsdale.

Active with the Intel Community Advisor Committee, and both Tempe and Chandler Chambers of Commerce, she directs the Chandler Chamber of Commerce Foundation. A former member of NAWBO, the National Association of Women Business Owners, Contreras is a director of  National Bank of Arizona’s project, Women’s Financial Group. She is an executive board member of Go Red For Women, a national movement of the American Heart Association.

The Women of Scottsdale organization includes business and professional women, community leaders who live, work or play in Scottsdale. A longtime active member, Contreras enjoys “sharing the friendships. My responsibilities [as Woman of the Year] remain multifaceted—being a good citizen, continuing the good works of Scottsdale, sharing the fun of philanthropy, supporting the arts and civic endeavors.”

WOS President JoAnn Holland says, “Mary encompasses all the attributes of Women of Scottsdale. Whatever role she’s in—employer, community leader, friend, wife—she puts her all into it. She’s an outstanding person.”

Growing up on a ranch in South Dakota, Contreras later studied art and engineering. She worked at Allied Signal Aerospace and Honeywell for more than 15 years before becoming a State Farm agent and starting her own agency in Tempe, becoming a Million Dollar Roundtable member.

Contreras encourages small businesses, saying, “I know what it’s like. I know it keeps you up late. I know the worries, the joys,” she says. “My passion is helping people, and I want to show how insurance is a tool to help protect assets. I started out in aerospace engineering. That’s one side of me. Detail-oriented. I  read contracts thoroughly for my clients.” She laughs. “I’m really a contract geek!”

“The other part of me is the creative side. You know, left side, right side brain. Look at this.” She shows a small, framed painting. “It honors my mom and my aunt. They were of Irish descent.”

The painting, inscribed “Where Love and Loyalty Meet,”  portrays a heart, shaped by vivid red and pink roses, poppies and peonies—symbolizing love, remembrance and healing thoughts—surrounded by butterflies, surmounted by a crown.

“It’s a version of the Claddagh,” Contreras explains, “the legendary Irish ring. But instead of the hands of friendship clasping the heart, I’ve painted butterflies, representing beautiful souls. The heart stands for love, and the crown represents loyalty.”

Pausing, she explains, “My mom died 30 years ago from heart disease. That’s one reason I’ve been so involved with the American Heart Association and Go Red for Women. I’m an executive board member and was honored when my design was chosen for our correspondence cards.” 

This year, Feb. 5 is national “Go Red Day,” spotlighting heart disease and stroke, a “silent killer” attacking one of every three women. However, a whopping 80 percent of these can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes.

“Schedule a well-woman visit,” Contreras says, “and have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked.”




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