Assistant to the Vice President - Intern
Alina is a junior at Arizona State University getting a dual degree in Philosophy and Political Science.
During her free time, Alina loves to learn about the world. Whether it be through books, travel, or documentaries, she is interested in learning about different cultures and traditions. Alina is excited to take on this role, as she can learn more about international relations.
Events & Membership Coordinator
Cindy Braun was born in Brooklyn, New York and lived in Los Angeles before recently relocating to the metro area. Cindy’s primary emphasis has been in the Arts, Entertainment and Non-Profit sector, specializing in development, events, operations, community relations and strategic partnerships. She recently joined Phoenix Sister Cities as Events and Membership Coordinator, where she will focus on increasing membership as well as organizing events specifically geared towards our sister cities.
Before moving to Arizona, Cindy was Administrative Director for Everybody Dance LA! Prior to that, Cindy was Director, Membership, Operations and External Relations for the Paley Center for Media, where she launched a variety of membership initiatives and strategic community partnerships resulting in a 62% increase in revenue; drove rental sales which resulted in a 32% rise in new clients and 44% in profits.
Prior to joining the Paley Center, Cindy was AVP, Membership Group where she was responsible for creating appropriate strategies, incentives and programs for recruiting and retaining members. She organized and executed programs and special events for the Board of Directors and top-earning members. She supervised a department of six, as well as overseeing the Group staff of 45. Additionally, Cindy recruited student interns for five national Membership offices, acting as mentor to aide and foster career development. Cindy began her career in advertising and promotions working for the largest promoter in Southern California.
Cindy received her Associate of Arts degree from SD Mesa College. Her passions include music, travel, reading and gardening.
Youth & Education Coordinator
Xavier graduated from Thunderbird School of Global Management with a Bachelors in Global Management and a focus in International Trade. Xavier was raised in Hermosillo, Mexico, Phoenix's first sister city. He has previously worked with Phoenix Sister Cities as a Youth Ambassador from Hermosillo and as an intern here in Phoenix. He has an interest in International Relations and Public Policy as well as Cross-Cultural Management and Communications.
Rick Gerrard is Vice President of Phoenix Sister Cities Inc. and Deputy Director of the City of Phoenix International Relations Office. Phoenix Sister Cities is a non-profit corporation that manages ten sister city relationships on behalf of the city. He has served in this capacity since 1999. His work includes the design and coordination of international exchange projects and events around the world.
Among the major projects that he has managed was the fundraising initiative to finance the construction of a new kindergarten school in Chengdu, China, built after the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province. The kindergarten, named for the City of Phoenix, replaced a school that was destroyed during the earthquake. Rick also took the lead in the development of a training program for doctors and nurses in partnership with the Maricopa County Burn Center to address a critical need for the care of burn victims in Hermosillo, Mexico after the tragic day care fire of 2009 which took the lives of over 50 infants and toddlers. In addition to his sister city related duties, Rick works with international delegations visiting Phoenix on official business, briefing the mayor and city council, and managing matters of protocol for international visitors on official business with the city.
Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, Rick served as Deputy Director at Sister Cities International (SCI) in Washington, DC. He spent ten years with SCI in various capacities. Among his major achievements, Rick organized political, educational, and trade delegations to more than a dozen industrialized and developing countries including some sponsored by the US Department of State. These included the first visit of US mayors to South Africa after the collapse of apartheid (1995); the first visit of US mayors to Vietnam after the normalization of diplomatic ties (1996); and the first visit of US mayors to Northern Ireland, just prior to the Good Friday Agreement (1997). Rick also worked closely with the SCI Board to organize and conduct four Western Hemispheric Fora for municipalities held in the US and Latin America.
Rick has been involved in international affairs for over thirty years. He served for two years as SCI’s State Representative in Arizona and served one year as President of the Arizona State Sister Cities Association. Rick received his Master of Arts in Latin American History from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Sciences and Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He speaks Spanish and Portuguese and served for two years as a United States Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay.
President / CEO
Rita Marko has been with the City of Phoenix for more than 20 years. Initially hired as the Library’s Development Officer, Rita staffed the Phoenix Public Library Foundation and raised funds for critical library services. She was promoted to the position of Library Community Relations Manager, where she was responsible for media relations, marketing and the development of the Library’s website – the City’s first responsively-designed site.
Rita transferred to the City Manager’s Office, where she supported two Deputy City Managers, and staffed three City Council Subcommittees and two task forces. Most recently, Rita served as the Management Assistant II in the Public Works Director’s Office.
Prior to coming to the City, Rita worked for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, raising $1.5 million in about 18 months. She also worked for the Skokomish Indian Nation in Washington state, serving as the community’s Health Planner, Economic Development Planner and Director of Economic Development. Rita has a Bachelors and Masters degree in Anthropology from the University of Arizona, where the focus of her studies was culture change and economic development. Her Masters thesis focused on the Cuban Women’s Federation as an agent of change for women in Cuba.