Kristen Jensen

This year’s lifetime achievement award went to Kristen Jensen of American Falls

The winners of the second East Idaho Women of Influence Awards have been announced. The awards are meant to recognize the accomplishments of women across eastern Idaho. They were presented by the East Idaho Business Journal and APG Signature Events. Adams Publishing Group (APG) is the Post Register’s parent company.

While last year’s winners were celebrated with a banquet dinner, this year’s have been announced online through a video presentation. It can be viewed at

This year’s lifetime achievement award went to Kristen Jensen of American Falls. Jensen has served on the American Falls City Council for 29 years. She has been the Director of the Great Rift Business Development organization for 14 years. She has served as the President of Idaho Economic Development Organization and the Eastern Idaho Economic Development Partners. She was appointed by David Borak, U.S. Department of Energy to a six-year term as a Citizen’s Advisory Board member for the environmental management of projects at the Idaho National Lab. She is a Board Member of Southeastern Idaho High Country Tourism, Eastern Idaho Development Corporation, Pocatello Regional Airport, and the City of American Falls and Power County Planning and Zoning Board. She is also on the Fly Pocatello committee.

Jensen has written grants that have resulted in benefits for her entire community. She wrote the initial grants for the multimillion-dollar downtown revitalization project, several playground structures, the dog park, the skate park, the band pavilion, baseball fields, benches and birding signs at Willow Bay Marina and several beautification projects in both Aberdeen and American Falls.

“You can hardly go anywhere in American Falls where she hasn’t had an influence on making it a better place to live,” wrote her nominator.

Other recipients included:

• Laura Pickard of Ashton was the honoree in Agriculture and Natural Resources. Pickard is the president of Flying A Ranch where she manages a 5,000-acre farm. She also serves as vice president of the Idaho Crop Improvement Association Potato Advisory Committee and vice chair of United Seed Potato Growers of Idaho.

• Julie Sorensen of Pocatello was the honoree in Arts. Sorensen has been the Artistic Director/Conductor of the Idaho State Civic Symphony do Symphony since 2018, making her one of the only female conductors in the country.

• Amy Rhoads of Pocatello was the honoree in Banking and Finance. Amy Rhoads is president of Citizens Community Bank where she implemented a “You Matter Most” program recognizing the value of the entire staff. Over the years, she has served on numerous community boards, including her present position as chairwoman of Bannock Development.

• Sarah Robey of Idaho Falls was the honoree in Education. Robey is a historian of nuclear science and technology and the modern United States. Currently, she works as an assistant professor of history at Idaho State University and is based at the Idaho Falls campus. Her book, “Atomic Americans: Citizens in a Nuclear State” will soon be released by Cornell University Press.

• Brianne Sloan of Pocatello was the honoree in Entrepreneurship. Sloan is the president and CEO of the Women’s Networking Group Idaho. She has expanded the organization into multiple cities across the state. She also owns a photography business called Bri Sloan Photography.

• Sunny Shaw of Pocatello was the honoree in the category of Government, Public Service and Military. After spending years working on housing in Pocatello, Shaw was recently elected to the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. Through it, she regularly meets with elected officials in Washington D.C. and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to advocate on behalf of national housing programs.

• Mindy Benedetti of Pocatello was the honoree in Healthcare. Benedetti is the CEO of Health West. She worked to ready her clinic for the coronavirus before it ever hit the United States. Health West has stood out during the pandemic as a respiratory clinic for its readiness to handle potential COVID-19 cases.

• Katie Harris of Blackfoot was the honoree in Media and Communications. Harris has built two multi-million-dollar businesses, Get Found First and Perfect Point Marketing. She has won the opportunity to be a contributor to the Forbes Agency Council and has visited Google campuses across the country. Get Found First was named #956 on the Inc 5000 list of fastest-growing independently owned companies in the country this year.

• Sarah O’Banion of Pocatello was the nominee in Nonprofits. O’Banion is the executive director for Family Services Alliance. She has contributed work to end physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and provided victim support by working with her staff to raise funding for emergency shelter, prevention education, counseling and play therapy, victim advocacy, and support groups for survivors of abuse.

• Mary Ann Van Orden Blaser of Blackfoot was the honoree in Real Estate, Construction and Land Development. After working as a realtor for Western Realty for 12 years, Van Orden Blaser purchased her own real estate business called Snake River Realtors and developed her own subdivision.

• Catherine Riddle of Idaho Falls was the honoree in Science and Technology. Riddle has worked as a senior research scientist in radiochemistry at Idaho National Laboratory for the last 21 years. Over the years, she has received eight patents for her work in this area. Her latest invention, CoDeAc (Colorimetric Detection of Actinides), recently won a prestigious 2020 R&D 100 Award which is “considered the Nobel Prize of technology and innovation.”