Staff Bios

© Werner R Slocum

© Werner R Slocum

Shelly Benford, Executive Director

Shelly Benford is thrilled to join the Colorado Chautauqua Association (CCA) following over 30 years of corporate and consulting experience. Having served as Chair of the Board of Directors of CCA and Interim Executive Director for nearly a year, Shelly brings a deep understanding of Chautauqua’s mission, values and strategic objectives.

Prior to moving to Colorado, Shelly spent many years in Chicago where she progressed through corporate positions in finance, marketing and strategic planning before starting her own consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, organizational change and leadership development. In her role as Principal and Managing Partner of the firm, Shelly was responsible for developing strategic alliances with key partners, managing relationships with numerous corporate clients, developing and validating leadership assessment tools for use with high-level executives, and training associates to deliver services across the United States.

Shelly has an MBA and a doctorate in clinical psychology and has served on numerous non-profit boards supporting the arts and underserved youth. She has been elected twice to the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) Board of Education, with responsibility for developing and overseeing the implementation of achievement and equity goals impacting 56 schools and over 30,000 students.

David Lurie, Director of Operations

David Lurie is the Director of Operations and responsible for all the operating departments as well as marketing. He comes to us from Free 2 b Foods (inventor of Sun Cups) as Founder- David was one of the original three founders of the Company then Seth Ellis Chocolatier, LLC. A Swiss-trained chef, David has had a 40 plus years career in the food and hospitality industry. Previously David was General Manager of Boulder’s St. Julien Hotel and Spa, managing 201 rooms, a 12,000 sq. ft. spa, and a 125-seat restaurant. He has very broad experience in creating and managing high-touch hospitality and food businesses, at a variety of phases, from startups to multi-million-dollar corporations. Past highlights include: Director of Catering for the Atlanta Hilton; General Manager of Merv Griffin’s Resort Hotel & Givenchy Spa; Director of Operations for La Mansion del Rio San Antonio, Texas; Food & Beverage Director and Director of Operations for the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California; and Director of Catering for the Reno Hilton Hotel & Casino.

Sue Perkins, Director of Finance and Administration

Sue Perkins is Director of Finance and Administration at the Colorado Chautauqua Association. In this role, Perkins is responsible for overall financial leadership of the Colorado Chautauqua Association including accounting, finance, risk management, information technology and administration.
Before joining the Colorado Chautauqua Association in 2005, Perkins worked in finance and accounting in both the private and public sectors for over 20 years. She brings valuable expertise from previous experience working with seasonal, entertainment and other nonprofit businesses. Perkins holds a Master of Science in Accounting and Finance and is a certified public accountant.

Wanona Tara, Director of Sales and Hospitality

Wanona is a strategic thinker, trend spotter, motivator and problem solver with an artistic eye.  She joined the Chautauqua team in September of 2013 and has been instrumental in elevating Chautauqua’s ability to deliver a full and rich guest experience.  Her love of Chautauqua can be clearly seen in the recently upgraded décor that focuses on the historic roots that make Chautauqua so special.  With over twenty-five years of experience, Wanona has an exemplary career in hospitality and extensive expertise in the many facets of management and operations. She has consistently been chosen for  leadership roles throughout her career due to her deep commitment and communication skills.  Wanona values the human connection that hospitality supplies and the ability to build and nurture relationships within her immediate community.

Jeff Medanich, Facilities and Preservation Manager

Jeff Medanich has been building, remodeling, restoring and preserving residential buildings for 35 years. For the 14 years before joining CCA in May 2008, Jeff was involved in the construction of new homes, working with Harvard Communities, a leading high-performance home builder, and with McStain Neighborhoods, a pioneer in the Green Building industry. Jeff has been a featured speaker at numerous national conferences including the U.S. Green Building Expo, the International Builders Conference, and the Urban Land Institute’s national conference. He is certified by the U.S. Green Building Council as a LEED Accredited Professional, by Colorado State University as a Green Building Professional, and by Naropa University as a Permaculture Designer. He is a contributing editor for the Green Building Advisor. Jeff was inducted into the Colorado Built Green Hall of Fame in 2005. He is currently a member of the Berthoud Historic Preservation Commission and formerly was a member of the Lafayette Historic Preservation Board. He lives in a 110 year-old farmhouse.

Jason Hill, General Manager, Property Operations

Jason oversees the historic buildings, grounds, capital spending and risk management across the Colorado Chautauqua campus. He holds a B.S. in Natural Resource Management from the University of Maryland and an M.S. in Environmental Policy from the University of Massachusetts. Jason comes with over 12 years of experience in the land management, property management, and construction industries across the private, public and nonprofit sectors. Prior to coming to Colorado Chautauqua, Jason spent six years in nonprofit leadership focusing on land conservation in the Greater Boston metropolitan area.

Kevin Jacobs, Manager of Marketing and Communications

Kevin Jacobs is the Manager of Marketing and Communications for Chautauqua. He is responsible for the voice of Chautauqua – from how we look and sound to how we feel and act, he’s uniquely prepared for such an integral role. His insights and leadership will guide Chautauqua into the next age of growth and development.

Before coming to Colorado, Kevin lived in Washington, DC – he loved the history, food and culture of the city but is glad to avoid motorcades and the summer heat. He originally hails from central North Carolina where he received both his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Public Affairs degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (Go Spartans!). Fun fact: Kevin has four sugar gliders named Tuck, Penny, Remy and Coco!