Shelly Chandler, IACP Executive Director

Shelly Chandler
IACP Chief Executive Officer
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Shelly Chandler grew up in Newton, attended Morningside College, then moved to Boston for her master’s degree. She lived and worked there for 15 years before coming home!

Shelly was a provider for 25 years in the Boston and Des Moines areas. In Boston, she worked as an overnight residential staff, employment specialist, job placement coordinator, state VR Counselor, and program manager for Massachusetts’ Statewide Head Injury Program (SHIP) facilitating the country’s first supported employment program for individuals with brain injury. She moved back to Iowa in 1997 and worked as a VP/Operations and CEO of two providers in Iowa (both of which are IACP members!) before coming to IACP in 2006. 

Shelly has always been a relentless advocate. It is her personal mission to be the voice for those who have none and is passionate in her belief that ALL people have the right and the responsibility to be full and contributory members of their community.

When not relentlessly advocating, Shelly spends her time traveling, walking, biking, watching baseball and football, reading, and playing classical piano. She loves the Pats and Sox (red only)!!

Shelly is motivated by providing opportunities for people, then getting out of their way and watching them succeed! She is inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” and “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” Also inspirational is Abraham Lincoln, who said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power,” and “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.” 

Susan Seehase
IACP Chief Operations Officer
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Susan Seehase has over 20 years of experience in providing a broad spectrum of disability services impacting people in a variety of ways.  This 20 years and counting professional career path was found completely by accident.  After receiving her undergraduate degrees in political science and psychology from Luther College and a last-minute decision not attend law school, she entered the adult world as a job coach.  It wasn’t long before Susan knew her career would be dedicated to serving persons impacted by disabilities.  Her graduate work in Rehabilitation Administration from Drake University as supported her employment positions from direct support to executive director in provider organization with both small and large operating budgets.  She served on number commissions, workgroups and tasks forces at the state level in Iowa and nationally.  Most recently Susan left the provider world to begin work with the Iowa Association of Community Providers as the Chief Operations Officer.  

“Seeing people just as they are – PEOPLE!” has been her mantra since the beginning of her career.   She is deeply motivated to support people in achieving the best possible Self regardless of the circumstances.  She credits her life successes to the persons she has worked with over the course of her career.  One of her most notable career experiences was the work done in the nationally-covered case of Henry’s Turkey service.   The case magnified the work still left before us in identifying and resolving issues of abuse occurring in our communities.  

In addition to her career, Susan is married to her high school sweetheart.  Together they have four children ranging in age from 22 to 12 and a beloved white Lab named Louis.  The family shares a passion for outdoor activities and sports as noted by the oldest two playing collegiate sports and the youngest two hoping to follow their older siblings.  

Gayla Harken, Outreach Director

Gayla Harken
Outreach Director 
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Gayla is IACP's Outreach Director and supervises the Technical Assistance team. Her duties include providing quality assurance and quality improvement information and training to members, as well as representing provider interests in meetings. She works diligently to bring necessary stakeholders together for efficient and effective ways to collaborate with the goal being improved quality for all.

Gayla has been with IACP for five years, but previous to that she was the director of the Story County Community Life Program, a county-operated program that provided RCF, SCL, Supported Employment, Day Habilitation, and Respite services. Gayla also had a private consulting business and has a Masters of Science degree from Boston University in Psychiatric Rehabilitation. 

Gayla strives to assist providers to deliver the highest quality services possible for Iowa’s Medicaid members. By providing information, education, and collaboration between all stakeholders, Gayla ensures that IACPs mission to relentlessly advocate for providers is well-served. 

You will find Gayla at the Lake of the Ozarks in her free time. She has grand plans to someday operate a “wiener boat” on the lake, selling hot dogs, brats, burgers, and margaritas all summer - and maybe doing some quality control sampling! In the meantime, she does catering and spends time with her husband of 40 years, their two adult daughters and their husbands. She is waiting for grandchildren, but currently has 7 grand cats and a grand dog. 

Gayla is inspired most by working with people who are motivated to do what is right, even when it is not the easy thing to do. People who are willing to work together, have positive attitudes and show respect and kindness are attributes that she highly values. She is also inspired by a good laugh and mediocre jokes!

Gayla talks often of Dorothy M. who was the mother of one of her clients when she first started in the field. Dorothy challenged her, and not always in the most gentle of ways, to think about things from the perspective of the client and not from what we thought was necessarily best for the person. As far back as the late 70’s, she credits Dorothy to introducing her to what person-centered planning was about and why it mattered. 

Gayla has 54 first cousins on her mother’s side of the family and none on her father’s. She reports she had to marry her husband Mike because he was from out of state and there was less of a chance that he was a relative she hadn’t found out about yet!

Brita Nelson, Technical Assistance Specialist

Brita Nelson
Communications Director
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Brita is a native Iowan who started her career in human services as an intern doing data entry (sometimes in her pajamas, usually while eating sausage and sauerkraut pizza). After maturing a bit, she was hired as a direct support professional and continued working for a residential service provider in NEIA for the better part of a decade. 

Brita loves to work with systems and data. She also likes to write reports and is only slightly embarrassed to admit it. She has worked within the technical assistance and DirectCourse programs since beginning work at IACP in 2012. Since then, she has helped grow the DirectCourse program to over 100 agencies and 18,000 active learners. 

Brita is inspired by the work of Iowa’s human service providers, who show up day after day to do ridiculously important work. 

Brita's heroes include Ron Swanson, Brene Brown, and her grandfather. She owns a dog named Otis who knows how to open BOTH the garbage and the refrigerator.

Craig Syata, Policy Director

Craig Syata
Policy Director
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With 19 years of association involvement, Craig Syata has developed an impressive resume of experience in the areas of health and human services.

Craig has served as Director of Government Relations for Iowa Health Care Association, Executive Director at IACP, VP Government Relations at Hospital Association of Rhode Island, Executive Director at Rhode Island Council of Community Mental Health Organizations, and is currently on his third year as Policy Director at IACP. During this time, he has also been an active member with national associations, such as: ANCOR, NCBH, AHA, and AHCA.

Because of his lengthy history with Medicaid funding and policy, Craig is positioned to effectively advocate for IACP regarding members’ primary funding source. He is motivated by knowing the better IACP represents its members, the better they are equipped to do their important work with vulnerable populations.

Growing up around sailing, Craig spent some time as a competitive sailor. He is a sports fan in general and spends much of his free time on the golf course, while not eating vegetables…because he hates them.

Ben Woodworth, Training Director

Ben Woodworth
Training Director 
bwoodwor[email protected]

Ben Woodworth has 20 years of experience in human service agencies serving people who are experiencing disability in a variety of roles. Prior to coming to the Association in 2009, Ben was the Statewide Administrator for Iowa’s Brain Injury Service Program within the Iowa Department of Public Health. He has served on a variety of boards and commissions including the College of Direct Supports National Advisory Board, the board of the National Association of State Head Injury Administrators and the Mayo Clinic’s Brain Injury Model Systems advisory committee. Ben also serves as an Adjunct Instructor in the School of Social Work at the University of Iowa teaching coursework in the Masters of Social Work program in Iowa City.

Ben brings a distinct and diverse set of skills to the association. His broad experience at the policy and individual level of service delivery allows him to see issues from a fresh perspective. He advocates at the policy, organizational and individual levels of service to ensure that all Iowans live in healthy and welcoming communities. Ben is motivated by helping organizations see service delivery in a new and exciting way to help ensure that community is a reality for everyone regardless of ability. 

When asked who his hero is, Ben quoted Maya Angelou when she said, “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”

Ben’s proudest accomplishment is being the father to three wonderful daughters (Hannah, 16, Claire 14, Meredith, 11) who keep him extremely busy attending and coaching softball, spotting back walkovers, and catering to Betty, a 7-year-old Jack Russell terrier, who truly runs the house. One thing you won’t find him doing is eating at the neighborhood gathering because he has a strange aversion to potlucks!