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Who Decides?

Nick Addamo

Graduate Student
Master of Urban Planning
Hunter College,
City University of New York
Nick Addamo
Evaluation Panel: Member

Nick Addamo is a current graduate student in Urban Planning at Hunter College in New York City. His interests and knowledge include economic development, transportation, design, and sustainability.

A lifelong Connecticut native, Nick is incredibly passionate about Hartford and invested in the city's current and future progress. Prior to beginning his Masters degree studies, he received a Bachelor's degree in Geography and Urban Studies from the University of Connecticut. In tandem with his studies at UConn, Nick also served as Planning Intern within the City of Hartford's Department of Development Services. As intern, he aided in Hartford's Capital Improvement Projects, zoning rewrite efforts, sustainability plan research, Downtown North and Parks master planning, and social media initiatives for the Department, among other work in the Planning, Economic Development, and Marketing, Events, & Cultural Affairs Divisions.

Click Here to see Nick's LinkedIn profile.


Dwight Bolton

Dwight Bolton
Evaluation Panel: Member

Dwight Bolton is a Construction Manager with over 17 years of Construction Management experience. As Principal-In-Charge of D.H. BOLTON, LLC, he manages a diverse array of management services on large and complex construction projects. His firm currently provides management services on the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) Wet Weather Treatment Plant Expansion project, The Connecticut Department of Transportation New Britain – Hartford Busway project and the Capitol Regional Education Council (CREC).

Most recently served as the City of Hartford’s Project Manager for the Construction of the Hartford Public Safety Complex. As a small business owner, located in Hartford, Mr. Bolton provides mentorship and training to Small and Minority Business through his partnership with the Business Resource Center.

Mr. Bolton is past President of the National Association of Minority Contractors – CT Chapter and currently serves on the Board for ‘Our Piece of the Pie’ (OPP). He holds a Bachelor Degree in Applied Science from RIT and resides in Bloomfield, Connecticut.


Sandra Cahill

Director of the
Entrepreneurial Center
University of Hartford
Sandra Cahill
Evaluation Panel: Member

Sandra Cahill is the Director of the Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Hartford.  As Director of the Entrepreneurial Center, she administers programs, advises entrepreneurs, and implements grant-funded initiatives.  Her in-depth knowledge and experience in business, finance, and changing economic landscapes, allowed her to help steer the Entrepreneurial Center during difficult times, and develop deep roots in the community.  Ms. Cahill earned her MBA in Management from Fairleigh Dickinson University, and has experience in both profit and non-profit sectors.   For 14 years at the Entrepreneurial Center she has worked, and continues to work, helping small businesses of all kinds grow and prosper.


Supriyo "SB" Chatterjee

Healthcare entrepreneur & IT consultant
Supriyo Chatterjee
Evaluation Panel: Member

Supriyo "SB" Chatterjee is a Healthcare entrepreneur & IT consultant. He has worked for companies like Aetna Healthcare, US Army Medical Corps, UNICEF, Mass Mutual, Microsoft, IBM & NASA. He has received the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award from 2008 to 2013. He has been active with local startups and entrepreneur groups since 1999 and is a coach/mentor at Startup Weekend events and also to several startups in the region. He holds a MBA (Univ of Hartford), MS Comp Sc (Pace Univ) and MA Econ (Trinity College).   He is an Acting Director of CTDOTNET - an organization of Microsoft development technologists and CTDEVSTARTUP - a group for software startups in CT. To view Chatterjees LinkedIn profile, click here.


Carlos Hernandez Chavez

Hartford Commission
on Cultural Affairs
Carlos Hernandez Chavez
Evaluation Panel: Member

Since the early 1970's Mr. Hernández Chávez served in various capacities, with leadership roles as advisor, co-founder, director, juror, organizer, lecturer, policy-maker, and commissioner, in many CT and Hartford area organizations and institutions, among them The CT Alliance of Black and Hispanic Visual Artists; The American Red Cross, Hispanic Chapter; The Park Street Festival; the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz; the New England Fiddle Festival; the Puerto Rican Parade of CT; Yale University's Afro-American Cultural Center; the (former) Connecticut Commission on the Arts; the Benton Museum, University of Connecticut; the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art; the Community Renewal Team's Craftery Gallery; the Greater Hartford Civic and Arts Festival; Concerned Citizens for Humanity, Inc.; Guakia, Inc., the Evelyn W. Preston Memorial Concert Trust Fund; the Greater Hartford Arts Council, and Leadership Greater Hartford. Mr. Hernández Chávez retired from public service with the City of Hartford in 1993.

He and his late first wife, Georgianne V. Hernández, served for many years as foster parents, adopting five children in addition to their four. Mr. Hernández Chávez currently serves as Chair of the City of Hartford's Commission on Cultural Affairs.


Kevin Chick

Project Manager
Pratt & Whitney
Kevin Chick
Evaluation Panel: Member

Kevin Chick is a technical Project Manager with 19 years of experience with Fortune 500 Industrial, Utility and Aerospace & Defense companies. As a management consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, he led teams to implement SAP at FMC, PSEG, Pratt & Whitney and Delta Airlines. For the past 10 years he has been an IT Project Manager at Pratt & Whitney currently working on Advanced Engine Diagnostics projects for both commercial and military engine programs.

Kevin has a bachelor degree in Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering from Lehigh University, a Master in Business Administration from the University of Georgia, and a Master of Public Policy from Trinity College. Recently Kevin was on the winning team for the 2013 Hartford Startup Weekend.


José Colón-Rivas, Ph.D

Director of the
Department of Families, Children, Youth and Recreation
Hartford, CT
Jose Colon-Rivas
Selection Committee: Member

Dr. José Colón-Rivas, Director of the Department of Families, Children, Youth and Recreation, oversees and directs efforts to coordinate and implement early childhood, youth and recreation planning and policy.  Previously, José served as the Executive Director of the Office for Young Children when he joined the City of Hartford in 2005, overseeing operations of the Office and to implement Hartford’s Early Childhood Blueprint.

José is an innovative, accomplished professional educator who has spent over twenty four years dedicated to his mission of making a profound and positive difference in children’s lives.  Born and raised in Puerto Rico, José came to Hartford in 1989 to further his work as a teacher. He began his career with Hartford Public Schools as a Math Teacher, and later served as High School Principal, and Senior Director of Early Childhood Education and Accreditation. As a high school principal, José was able to secure national reaccreditation to a school that was destined for termination.

He holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico in Elementary and Secondary Education/Mathematics, a Master’s degree from The Inter-American University in Supervision and Administration/ Curriculum Development and a Ph.D. from Penn State University in Individual and Family Studies/ Educational Psychology/Early Childhood Education.

Throughout his academic and professional career, he has empowered thousands of children to create a more powerful and purposeful future for themselves, while motivating their desire to learn and become resourceful citizens.  His love and faithfulness to the Hartford community is demonstrated in his dynamic and unique style as a communicator with proven ability to work effectively with individuals of all ages and diverse cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.  His administrative leadership over time is proven in his ability to serve complex and diverse environments.

Although he has ventured throughout the United States and the world, his loyalty to the cultural beauty and wonders of Puerto Rico remain, which he humbly refers to as home.


Alfred V. Covello

United States District Judge
District of Connecticut
Alfred Covello
Evaluation Panel: Member

Judge Covello was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 12, 1992 for the position of United States District Judge of the District of Connecticut and entered on duty on September 2, 1992. Since 1974, he has served the Connecticut Judiciary in a succession of judicial posts: Circuit Court Judge, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, Judge of the Superior Court, and Judge of the Appellate Session of the Superior Court. He served from 1987 on the Supreme Court of the State of Connecticut, and as Administrative Judge for the Connecticut Appellate System in 1992. In 1986, he was named the best trial court judge in Connecticut by a General Assembly poll of Practicing Attorneys.

Judge Covello received an A.B. degree from Harvard University in 1954 and an LL.B., (Juris Doctor) degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1960. He served on the Benchbook Committee, Rules Committee and Executive Committee of the Connecticut Superior Court and was on the Board of Pardons from 1987-91. He has undertaken numerous programs from judges at the Institute of Judicial Administration and the National College of the State Judiciary, and other organizations.

He was a Partner in the firm of Bieluch, Barry & Covello from 1960-64, and was a partners in the firm of Gross, Hyde & Williams from 1964 until his appointment to the bench 1974. He is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a member of the Connecticut Bar Association and the Federal Judges Association. Judge Covello is an airline transport pilot and flight instructor.


Yvonne R. Davis

President and CEO
DAVIS Communications
Yvonne Davis
Evaluation Panel: Member

Yvonne R. Davis is an internationally recognized leadership development trainer, professional coach, speaker, and award winning journalist. She is an expert in cross-cultural and global emerging markets, understanding what drives government, private sector, and non-governmental organizations in challenging times to bring insight and viable solutions.

Throughout her remarkable 25-year career, she has spearheaded initiatives that impact social and political change to thousands world-wide. A hard-hitting columnist, crisis communications strategist, and au fait traveler, Davis has worked in 59 countries, enabling her to greatly enhance her erudition of the global community. She’s an expert about critical economic and socio-political issues in the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe.

With an impressive academic background in communication theory and application, leadership, business ethics, strategic thinking and scenario planning, international relations and comparative politics, Davis drives management and negotiation stratagems that are utilized by the public and private sector.

Ms. Davis serves the U.S. Department of State in the capacity as a Lecturer, Trainer, and Speaker for the Speakers’ Bureau enhancing and spreading Public Diplomacy on behalf of the Unites States of America. She is called upon to speak about a myriad of leadership issues related to her areas of expertise inclusive of media and public affairs on a national and global level.

Ms. Davis was an appointee of President George W. Bush, and was appointed by former Governor M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut to the position of Commissioner for the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women. She worked closely with the White House from 2001 to 2005 on housing, Education, Small Business, HIV/AIDs (AGOA), Global Trade, and Women’s issues.

She served on the Board of Directors for the World Affairs Council in Connecticut, She was the Vice President of Global Women’s Issues Forum, and member of Board of Directors to Al Waref Foundation (a Middle Eastern policy think tank in Washington, D.C., Lebanon, and Morocco). She serves on the fiduciary board of directors for Connecticut Public Affairs Networks (CPAN). She was an Ambassador for the Good Will Treaty for Peace. In February 2010, Ms. Davis was bestowed a Humanitarian award by Orphans International, a U.N. sanctioned organization for her work around the world.

Ms. Davis holds a Master of Science in Leadership and Business Ethics from Duquesne University and a Master of Art in Political Science from the University of Connecticut, and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications and Political Science from the University of Hartford, graduating magna cum laude. She completed “The Art and Practice of Leadership,” at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Ms. Davis is a Professionally Certified Coach from Duquesne University. She is completed an Executive Leadership Program at Cornell University in November 2012. With a love for language, Ms. Davis studied French for eight years. She speaks Italian studying at the Sorrento Lingue in Sorrento, Italy and with a private tutor. She is also studies Arabic. Ms. Davis led an academic roundtable discussion at the Global Women’s Leadership Conference in Dubai, UAE. In June of 2010, Ms. Davis presented in the Court of the Crown Prince in the Kingdom of Bahrain on Adaptive Leadership.

Ms. Davis is an amateur athlete engaged in intensive fitness training on a daily basis. Her sports of choice are long high intensity band and resistance training on a professional level, and Bikram yoga. A love for philosophy and political theory, she enjoys reading and having thought provoking discussions with others on a wide range of topics. She writes love poetry, is passionate about international travel, and her guilty pleasure is chocolate.


Thomas Deller

Hartford Department of
Development Services
Thomas Deller
Selection Committee: Chair

Thomas E Deller was appointed Director of the Hartford Department of Development Services in April 2012.  In this capacity he directs Planning, Housing and Property Management, Economic Development, Licensing and Inspections and the Marketing Events and Cultural Affairs Divisions.  Thom serves as executive director to the Redevelopment Agency and has been appointed by the mayor to the Capital Region Development Authority. 

Prior to arriving in Hartford, Thom served as Director of the Department of Planning and Development for the City of Providence Rhode Island for nine years.  As director of the Department, Thom served as executive director to the Redevelopment Agency, the Economic Development Partnership, the Housing Trust, the Off Street Parking Corporation and the Public Building Authority.  For fifteen years, Thom served as a board member of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and was chair of the Authority for six years.  Prior to his position as Director for Providence, Thom served as Deputy Executive Director for Programs at Rhode Island Housing, the state’s affordable housing agency.

Thom is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.  He graduated with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island.  He is the father of three teenage sons.    


Barry Feldman

Former City Manager
West Hartford, CT
Barry Feldman
Selection Committee: Member

Barry Feldman has combined a career of leading large complex organizations and teaching and research. Most recently Barry was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at the University of Connecticut for six years (2006-2012). He was also the director of the University of Connecticut's regional campus in Torrington and Professor of the Practice of Public Policy, July 2012 to July 2013. He also taught in the university's graduate program of public policy, teaching courses in local government administration; policy analysis; and the introductory course in graduate public policy.

Prior to joining the University of Connecticut in May 2006, Barry was the city manager of West Hartford, Connecticut for twenty-one years. As city manager, he was the chief executive officer of the town, responsible for the overall well being of the community and its day- to-day operations. He served as city manager during what arguably was one of the most important periods in the city's history. He previously served as city manager in communities in Michigan and Ohio.

Barry and his wife Clare live in West Hartford where they raised their three children, Sara, Benjamin (Trinity 2004), and Alex. Benjamin and Alex were both US Army Ranger trained infantry officers; both sons served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Barry served in the United States Air Force.


Meghan Freed

Freed Marcroft LLC
Meghan Freed
Selection Panel: Member

Meghan Freed has appeared on WNPR's Colin McEnroe Show and Where We Live to comment on current legal issues, and speaks frequently on the matrimonial, custody, and estate planning legal issues, and has been featured in the Connecticut Law Tribune on LGBT legal issues, including regarding immigration for binational same sex couple clients post-Windsor

In 2013 Meghan was a Hartford Business Journal 40 Under Forty award recipient, a Connecticut Law Tribune New Leader of the Law, and a Super Lawyer’s Rising Star.

Meghan attended Mount Holyoke College, and was named Glamour Magazine's Best Woman Commencement Speaker. She received her law degree cum laude from Western New England College School of Law, where she served as the Managing Editor of the Western New England Law Review, and received the school's highest distinction, the Norman Prance Award. 

Meghan’s name appears in the Connecticut Supreme Court’s groundbreaking decision on marriage equality, Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, for which she co-authored an amicus curiae brief. She is a founding member and the Vice Chair of the LGBT Section of the Connecticut Bar Association.

Prior to founding Freed Marcroft, Meghan was Counsel to the Hartford Steam Boiler, where she managed the Company’s litigation. She was formerly associated with Shipman & Goodwin and Bingham McCutchen. She founded Freed Marcroft to bring the best of her big firm and big corporate legal background to individual and small business clients. She is particularly experienced with alternative dispute resolution and is a graduate of Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiation.


Solomon Hall

Director of
Information Technologies
Agenus (biotech)
Solomon Hall
Selection Committee: Member

Solomon Hall is the Director of Information Technology for Agenus; a biotech firm primarily involved in the development of immunotherapeutics in the areas of cancer and infectious disease. He began his career at Agenus in 2000, rose rapidly through the ranks and has been leading the IT group for the last 8 years. As Director of IT he oversees all aspects of Information Technology providing “use of technology” guidance, strategic alignment and general management of the company’s technology resources. He most recently successfully developed and implemented plans to establish and maintain technology operations for offices in Germany and Switzerland.

Solomon was born and raised in the Blue Hills area of Hartford’s North End. After being away in Atlanta for college and a short stint in Boston, he returned in 2006 to the city he loves, very excited to help build and be a part of the city’s future.

Solomon earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Morehouse College in Atlanta and currently resides in the Hartford’s North End with his wife and daughter.


Samuel C. Hamilton

Executive Director and
Samuel C. Hamilton
Selection Committee: Member

Samuel C. Hamilton is the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the HEDCO, Inc.  This Economic Development firm provides technical assistance, loan packaging, debt and/or equity funding for businesses inConnecticut.  Prior to this appointment, he served as Regional Director with the Aetna Life and Casualty Company, a Principal/Partner for nine years with a real estate investment firm and Owner/Operator of a Tennis/Health Facility and Lounge.

Hamilton is a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Clark/Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia.  He has completed additional studies at the University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts and Indiana University.

Currently he serves as Chairman, Keeping African Americans Political (KAPPAC), Member, Community Advisory Council Federal Reserve Bank-Boston, Member, Connecticut Small Business Advisory Council, Member, Metro Hartford Alliance Board of Directors and Trustee, Hartford Seminary.  He is immediate past International President of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and Chairman, Council of Presidents for the 9 Historically Black Fraternities & Sororities, Past Vice President, South End Community Services, Board of Directors and Member, Fleet Financial Community Oversight Committee. Past Chairman Board of Directors, United Way of the Capital Area; Commissioner, Economic Development Commission, Manchester; Local Initiative Service Corporation (LISC); Neighborhood Housing Support Collaborative; Past Moderator, Permanent Judicial Commission Presbytery of Southern New England; Past Trustee, Committee on Theological Education; President, First Presbyterian Foundation Corporation; Ruling Elder, First Presbyterian Church; Director, Greater Hartford Hoop Club; Task Force for the Development of the Black Athlete Institute for International Sport and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity.  He is also a member of the Mystic Shrine and a 33° Mason.

Hamilton has also served in many other civic/volunteer capacities including but not limited to: Director, Village for Children and Families, Inc.; Founder, Transitional Living Center for Teens; Mayor’s Task Force for Economic Development; Chairman, Allocations and Agency Relations, United Way of the Capital Area; Chairman Hartford Neighborhood, Support Collaborative; Member, Hartford Vision Planning Group; Christian Conference of Connecticut and Director, South End Community Services.

Sam and his wife Sandy reside in Manchester.


Ashley Johnson (A.J.)

of Urban Hope Refuge
& Community Organizer
Ashley Johnson
Selection Committee: Member

Ashley Johnson (A.J.), age 30, is a young man of his community and faith who over the past several years has demonstrated his passion, devotion and zeal to see the development and advancement of the Greater Hartford community. In 2008 Johnson graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Religious Studies and Education from the W.L. Bonner College of Colombia, South Carolina. In 2013 after the passing of his father, the late Dr. William M. Johnson, Ashley Johnson took on the responsibility and the challenge of pastoring Urban Hope Refuge located in the heart of the North End of Hartford. In 2014 He was recognized by the Hartford Business Journal as one of the 40 Under 40 award recipients, The Merrilee Milstein Award For Organizing, Activism & Leadership & The 100 Men Color Award.

Today in addition to pastoring in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Hartford, he runs an organization called Small Business Night Out which is devoted to assisting small business owners and young entrepreneurs to advance and stimulate economic development in their local area.

He works as a community organizer at the Christian Activities Counsel, and manages to fit in his own freelance organizing on the side. Johnson sees some similarities between entrepreneurs and those trying to better themselves through religion. He believes both expand off a thought or principle. His spiritual and secular work go hand in hand as he works to expose one world to the other.

Johnson's passion for community organization, revitalization and development has made him an asset to the greater Hartford community and abroad. The beliefs he stands on and his fervent drive, he inspires others which have made Johnson a magnetic figure. His vision is to build neighborhoods back up, stimulate the local economy, and build power within the community . In a spirit fitting for a pastor who also co-founded a business networking organization, he desires to see the church become a major power broker for its local community.


Jessica Jones

Membership and Convention Services
Connecticut Convention &
Sports Bureau
Jessica Jones
Evaluation Panel: Member

Jessica Jones services at the Director of Membership and Convention Services at the Connecticut Convention & Sports Bureau, the state’s official sales and marketing agency for meetings, conventions and sporting events. Jones enthusiastically connects Connecticut’s industry partners to meeting and event planners seeking local services to support their events being held in within the state. She is responsible for the growth and retention of Bureau membership, which is achieved by provided ongoing training, education, promotion and business referrals. Jones has over 15 years of hospitality experience and recently earned the designation of Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), the foremost certification of the meetings, conventions and exhibitions industry awarded by Meeting Planners International (MPI).

Jones is a 2003 graduate of Eastern Connecticut State University and resides in Glastonbury with her two children.


David Lee

General Manager
David Lee
Selection Committee: Member

David A. Lee is General Manager of CTTRANSIT which operates the State-owned bus transit systems serving the greater Hartford, New Haven, and Stamford areas.  He also serves as regional Vice President for First Transit which manages transit systems throughout the country under contracts with various public agencies.  CTTRANSIT’s Hartford operation will shortly be expanded to include CTfastrak, a major new bus rapid transit line scheduled to open in 2015.  Dave previously served CTTRANSIT as Assistant General Manager for Operations and Director of Administration. 

Before moving to Hartford in 1983, Dave served as Director of Planning and Research for the Metropolitan Transit Commission in Minneapolis-St. Paul, as Director of Planning and Policy for the American Public Transit Association in Washington, DC, and in various positions with the former federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration. 

He is a graduate of Colgate University and holds a Master’s Degree in political science from The George Washington University.  Dave and his wife, Jackie, reside in West Hartford.


Kristen Marcroft

Freed Marcroft LLC
Kristen Marcroft
Selection Committee: Member

Kristen Marcroft practices estate planning, family law, real estate, litigation, business and non-profit planning, and LGBT immigration law at Freed Marcroft LLC in the historic Linden building on Main Street in Hartford, Connecticut.  She is a graduate of the Quinnipiac University School of Law and the University of Connecticut.

Kristen was recently featured on a Connecticut Bar Association panel at the UConn School of Law on the ramifications of the recent US Supreme Court case United States v Windsor. She serves on the Executive Committee of the LGBT Section of the Connecticut Bar Association, of which she is a founding member.

Kristen is devoted to Hartford, where she lives and works.  At Kristen’s initiative, she and her partner restored a historic 1880s downtown Hartford building to house their law firm, which was showcased in Hartford Magazine's green office edition and was recognized with a Hartford Preservation Alliance Award for its historical restoration.  Kristen is a proud supporter of the arts, and devotes the majority of her pro bono legal work to helping local arts organizations.


Colleen McGuire

Director of Hartford
Executive Programs
University of Connecticut, School of Business
Colleen McGuire
Selection Committee: Member

Colleen McGuire is the Director of Hartford Executive Programs for the University of Connecticut, School of Business. Ms. McGuire comes to UConn from the private sector and has thirty years of professional business experience.

Prior to the Director position,Ms. McGuire was anorganizational effectiveness consultant providing solutions to senior leaders of for-profit and non-for-profit organizations.Previous senior P&L roles have included Managing Director and Senior Vice President at Wachovia Bank, North America,and Managing Director and Senior Vice President at Mellon Financial Corporation. She is recognized and known for her expertise in merger and acquisition integration effectiveness, sales leadership and sales force effectiveness, work-stream enhancement and cross-functional alignment, and employee engagement and customer satisfaction.

In addition, Ms. McGuire has taught courses in the School of Business’s Marketing and Management departments, including the capstone course “Strategy, Policy and Planning.” She holds a B.S. in Marketing from Central Connecticut State College, an M.B.A. from Harvard University, and has been designated as a Chartered Financial Analyst. 


Tara N. Spain

Vice President
Director of Community Relations
Travelers Foundation
Tara N. Spain
Evaluation Panel: Member

Tara N. Spain is vice president of the Travelers Foundation and director of operations for community relations at Travelers. Ms. Spain manages strategy and operations of the company’s philanthropic arm, as well as key partnerships throughout the United States. In this role, Ms. Spain was instrumental in launching a national small business initiative and a college access initiative for underrepresented students. Prior to her role in community relations, she was a marketing project manager and account manager with Citigroup.

Ms. Spain has served on several boards and is past chair of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hartford and past second vice president of the Greater Hartford Chapter of the Links, Inc. Ms. Spain has received several honors including Business Mentor of the Year by INROADS, Forty Under 40 by Hartford Business Journal, Volunteer of the Year by the Urban League of Greater Hartford, the Outstanding Community Service award by Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and the Recent Distinguished Alumni Award from University of Connecticut.

Ms. Spain holds a B.S. in Marketing from Virginia State University, a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Connecticut, and a Certificate in Community Involvement Leadership from Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.


Dr. Wilfredo Nieves

Capital Community College
Dr. Wilfredo Nieves
Evaluation Panel: Member

Dr. Nieves has been an educator and educational leader in community college affairs for more than thirty years. Dr. Nieves is involved extensively in community relations and in developing partnerships. A well-qualified, thoughtful person of vision with a collaborative leadership style, Dr. Nieves brings an understanding of the major issues and opportunities for community colleges in the next decade and of innovative methods through which an institution can develop and succeed in a challenging environment.

Dr. Nieves earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics from Kean University, Union, New Jersey. He holds a Master of Arts in Guidance and a Master of Education in Applied Human Development, both from Columbia University, New York, and a Doctor of Education in Counseling Psychology from Rutgers, New Brunswick, New Jersey.


Chris Penner

Director of Investments
Connecticut Innovations
Chris Penner
Evaluation Panel: Member

Chris is responsible for sourcing and evaluating investment opportunities, structuring new investments and advising portfolio companies. Chris has considerable experience starting, managing, mentoring and working at several startup companies, primarily in the information technology (IT) sector.

Chris has held executive leadership roles at Deviant Technologies, Barracuda Networks and REMOTV. He has led teams and launched products in several technology segments, including security, communication, compliance, network management and architecture, digital media and mobile applications.

Most recently, he served as the director of the Arrowhead Technology Incubator at New Mexico State University, assisting growing companies and evaluating intellectual property for the university and Los Alamos National Labs.

Chris has engineered more than $100 million in outsourcing deals for Deutsche Bank, Cigna and the Department of Health and Human Services while working as a technical solutions architect for IBM.


Julia Pistell

Director of Writing Programs
Mark Twain House & Museum
Julia Pistell
Evaluation Panel: Member

Julia Pistell is a writer and entrepreneur who has lived in downtown Hartford for six years. She is the Director of Writing Programs at the Mark Twain House & Museum, where she has worked for five years, and previously held positions at Capital Community College, City Steam Brewery, the Hartford Children's Theater, and the HartBeat Ensemble. She has also been a teaching artist for the Hartford Stage for five years. An accomplished writer, Julia has been awarded an Arts and Heritage Jobs Grant from the City of Hartford, and was named a Solo Writing Fellow by the Greater Hartford Arts Council.

Julia is also a co-founder of Sea Tea Improv, a Hartford success story. Beginning as a small group of seven individual comedians, Sea Tea Improv has become one of Hartford's most popular indie attractions. Sea Tea Improv performs hundreds of shows a year, teaches hundreds of students, operates Connecticut's only professional improv studio, and has drawn many of its 20 members to live in Hartford. Sea Tea Improv is known around the state for its collaborations; to date, Sea Tea Improv has collaborated with the Wadsworth Atheneum, Billings Forge Community Works, Charter Oak Cultural Center, Civic Mind, WNPR, The Mark Twain House, UConn, Sacred Heart University, Lincoln Financial, Travelers, and dozens more Connecticut organizations in order to form a stronger community and a better Hartford.


John Shemo

Vice President and Director of Economic Development
MetroHartford Alliance
John Shermo
Evaluation Panel: Member

John Shemo has spent more than 25 years in municipal and regional planning and
economic development in Connecticut. He served as Town Planner for East Hartford for
eight years and as Economic Development Director for South Windsor for eight years.
Before joining the Growth Council (now know as the MetroHartford Alliance), he was
the first executive director of the Corporation for Regional Economic Development,
which serves southeastern Connecticut.

His community work includes serving as President of the East Hartford Rotary Club and
a Director of the Capital Region Workforce Development Board. In 1980, he served as a
member of the Governor’s Aquifer Protection Task Force, which established statewide
regulations governing the protection of aquifers. He is currently a member of the State
Legislature's Planning Commission for Higher Education charged with creating a
strategic plan for higher education in Connecticut.

Mr. Shemo earned his B.A. in Urban Studies from the University of Connecticut, and his
Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Hartford.
He is a Past President of the Connecticut Economic Development Association as well as
the Northeastern Economic Developers Association. In 2002 John received the Developer
of the Year Award from the CT Chapter of NEDA. Mr. Shemo lectures on a variety of
topics on economic development. In 2006 Mr. Shemo received the NEDA Member of
the Year Award. In 2010 he received the CEDS Member of the Year Award.

John oversees Economic Development programs and initiatives for the Alliance.


Ira Yellen

President and CEO
First Experience Communications
Ira Yellen
Evaluation Panel: Member

With a background in public relations, marketing and advertising, Ira Yellen oversees a wide range of marketing and communications projects and provides strategic counsel for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to non-profit organizations. His company has a niche in business-to-business, non-profit, public policy advocacy, and education marketing. He has developed strategic initiatives for companies in the high technology, precision manufacturing, insurance, healthcare, transportation, and financial services sectors. His firm specializes in marketing and communication programs for early childhood education, public and private schools and higher education, digital/internet enterprise commerce, and public policy issues for community economic development, community healthcare, environmental policy, and public education. He believes that by doing objective research and planning in the study of human interaction/motivated factors positive results can be achieved.

Some of his clients served include: DeLoitte & Touche, LLP; Hospital for Special Care; Infiltrator, Inc., HABCO, Connecticut Primary Care Association, Harold Leveer Cancer Center, Laidlaw Transit, Inc.; ADVO, Inc.; Open Solutions, CIGNA; Connecticut Community College System; University of Connecticut; Charter Oak College; Hartford Hospital; United Healthcare; and Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

In 2012, he founded of™. It is based upon his work, for over 20 years, in the health care industry with his agency. He has counseled and provided professional services to health care organizations (hospitals, cancer centers, community health centers, and state agencies) on integrated marketing strategies, on-line marketing and branding, and has advised home care agencies on Internet strategies for finding new clients and recruiting staff. He has given over 100 presentations to businesses, civic groups, healthcare and non-profit organizations. From that experience he created™, whose goal is to help family caregivers who search online to find and match their specific home care needs with a qualified home care agency.

He is a board member of the Connecticut Technology Council and Leadership Greater Hartford, and has mentored dozens of MassChallenge™ finalists with one of them GRIT winning the best Mass Challenge Finalist in 2012. He has mentored start up companies, more recently for the Yale Entrepreneurial Society, Start Up Weekends, and for Connecticut Innovations CTTech Incubators at Science Park in New Haven. He is currently on the Patient Experience Committee at St. Francis Medical Center and on the entrepreneurial innovation committee at MetroHartford Alliance.

He is the author of many articles on marketing, public relations, and leadership involvement and has been recognized nationally for his community and business leadership ability. He has presented at many workshops, seminars, and adjunct instruction on public relations, marketing, fundraising, and community engagement around the country.