Council Members

The Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council (AZSILC) is a Governor-appointed 15 member group, the majority who are people living with disabilities. They volunteer their time to develop and monitor a Statewide Independent Living Plan (SPIL) to ensure people with disabilities in Arizona have access to services and support for living well in their communities with maximum independence. This is achieved by the five (5) Centers for Independent Living (CILs) throughout the state. The Full Council meets four times per year.

Dr. Danita Applewhite (Vice-Chair)

Meghan Cox

Laura Duval (Treasurer)

Peter Fischer (Chair)

Dara Johnson

Joy Johnson LeBarge

Scott Lindbloom (Vice-Treasurer)

Kristen Mackey (ex-officio)

Randy Russell

Paula Seanez

Wendy Swager

Eileen Tohonnie

Our Mission

The mission of AZ SILC is to promote the equality, inclusion, and choice for people with disabilities through collaboration and public policy change.

Our Committees


Melissa Ann Santora

Interim Executive Director

Melissa Ann Santora is presently the Director of Administration at Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council, and Coordinator of Arizona Youth Leadership Forum (AZYLF) for Students and Transitioning Young Adults Who Have Disabilities. Melissa’s human service career began in 1990, when she was blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime to work at a group home for adults who have developmental disabilities. This position crystalized her calling, and became the catalyst for opportunities to serve people who have disabilities of all ages, in additional residential, vocational, educational, and recreational settings.

For a decade, Melissa served as the Founding Executive Director of Same Difference Inclusive Theatre Company, a disabilities awareness, advocacy, and empowerment troupe that performed in Montana, Texas, New York, Nebraska, Utah, Arizona, and in Canada. Melissa’s career also includes positions in corrections, addiction treatment, child protection, early intervention, child and family education, medical case management, strategic planning and results oriented meeting facilitation, domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy, rural services development, poverty alleviation, housing, and Veteran’s services.

Although Melissa has lived in the West throughout her adulthood, she is a native New Yorker, who continues to appreciate growing up in an Italian neighborhood, surrounded by rolling hills, autumn leaves, and the sun and swim of Lake Ontario. Melissa is the proud parent of two amazing adult children, an adorable grandson, and claims about a dozen other youth who call her “MamaLissa,” their “otha motha.” Melissa loves people, cooking, sports, entertaining, writing, Africa, and the 1980’s.

Sara Joehnk

Disability Integration Specialist

Sara Joehnk is the most recent addition to the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council team. Having to balance a chronic autoimmune condition with regular work and family life, Sara feels a deep empathy to the unique and individual struggles faced by the disabled community. As a hobby, she has developed skills in website design and marketing that she got to apply as the Logistical Manager at Arizona Advocacy Network and before that as an intern with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Outside of work, Sara enjoys living in Chandler with her husband, a cat, and three dogs.

Sara is an Arizona native and she graduated from Arizona State University in political science. With her experience in nonprofit management, she strives to bridge the divide between the elected officials and their constituents. She volunteers on the board of Somos America, an immigrant rights organization and she founded an issue-based advocacy nonprofit called People Demanding Action Arizona. Civic engagement is a life-long passion, and she is looking most forward to work with the AZSILC’s Community Leadership Academy.