Laura Snyder – CEO, responsible for the financial and operational success of RHA. With over 17 years of experience with Public Housing, Laura has assisted in the development of our safety and security programs and, currently holds certifications as a Housing Choice Voucher specialist, Public Housing Manager, and Tax Credit specialist. Laura has been a valued member of the RHA Directors and Leadership team. Formerly the Director of Housing Operations for the RHA she was responsible for leading the Housing Choice Voucher, Public Housing, and Maintenance teams to peak performance and to develop and implement initiatives to improve program integrity within Section 8 and Public Housing programs.
Chairman Karen Hoffman has resided in Rockford, Illinois since 1957. She graduated from East High School in 1965. She then attended Rock Valley College where she earned two degrees, an A.A.S in Human Services and the second an A.S degree with an emphasis on business. During her working career, she pursued a Bachelor Degree at Western University through the Regional Academic Center in Rockford.Mrs. Hoffman’s early business experience was in banking and managing a large affordable housing development on the east side as well as other rental properties. In 1979, she began working for the Winnebago Department of Human Services (formerly known as Public Aid) as a caseworker for family cases as well as all related refugee programs. In 1990, she was appointed as Administrator of the Boone County Department of Public Aid. During her tenure, she increased the number of minority employees from 10% to almost 30% in that office. In her pursuit to diversify the Department, she hired the first African-American in the history of that office, who eventually not only became the Administrator of Boone County but went on to become the Administrator of two large downstate facilities.In 1997, Mrs. Hoffman returned to Winnebago County after also serving in the Elgin office. She became responsible for moving 4,000 local families from receiving Aid to Dependent Children to Self-Sufficiency.Mrs. Hoffman’s responsibilities not only included moving people off of assistance but preparing them for independence. She was therefore held accountable for developing programs and services to help clients become self-sufficient.Because of her interactions with both her clients and community organizations, Mrs. Hoffman became a community activist. In 2005, she was elected to the Winnebago County Board where she served until 2010.In January 2008, after two tragic floods in her neighborhood, Mrs. Hoffman cofounded the Rolling Green Association. The Association was instrumental in getting the City of Rockford to implement a flood mitigation plan within six months. The Association continues to educate and unify its residents and has doubled in territory.In order to fulfill her duties, Mrs. Hoffman worked with other community programs. She consequently served on the Rockford Community Action Council for 14 years, eventually becoming the secretary for the board. During that time, she also became the council’s representative on the Head Start Family Council Board and served for three years in that capacity.In 2012, Mrs. Hoffman became a member of AAUW (American Association of University Women) a group which actively works and lobbies for increased civil rights for women.In July of 2014, Mrs. Hoffman was appointed to serve on a committee named CLI (Community Leadership Institute). The CLI group has focused on establishing good neighborly relationships and developed a program and video. The video is currently being shown in various community meetings.Mrs. Hoffman also serves on the Rockford Neighborhood Network Board.“Although I am now retired from State employment, it is my belief, that since the people of my community invested, over the years in training me and preparing me to serve, I have an obligation to use the knowledge and resources that I have received for the betterment of the area in which I live.”
Vice Chairman Jeffrey DiBenedetto has lived in Rockford all his life. He is a graduate of Boylan Catholic High School and Northern Illinois University. At NIU he studied at the College of Business and earned a Bachelor of Science in marketing. Jeff is Executive Vice President of DiBenedetto & Associates, Ltd., a boutique wealth management firm in Loves Park IL. He currently serves on the Rosecrance Health Network board of directors, where he is most recently past Chairman. Jeff also serves on the Rosecrance Foundation board of directors, the Rockford Country Club board of directors, the Boys and Girls Club of Rockford board of directors, and as Chairman of the Boys and Girls Club of Rockford Foundation. Jeff is married and has two children.
Commissioner Ken Oliver has dedicated his life to helping people in the social services field. He was a volunteer at the 4th Street Bridge, a halfway home for runaway teenagers, from 1977-1981. Ken also worked at Highland Living Center from 1986-2004. Ken is currently the President of the Brewington Oaks Resident Leadership Council and serves on the ORCHiD Neighborhood Group Board.
Commissioner Jamie Sanchez is a native of Chihuahua, Mexico and has been a Rockford resident since 1983. Jaime is a graduate of Rockford East High school, and is a 30 year member of Carpenters Local 792. He began his career as an apprentice with the carpenter’s union, and has also worked as a construction foreman and most recently as an Organizer for Local 792. Jamie is a past Trustee on the Local 792 Executive Board and currently serves as the Local’s Treasurer. In his spare time, Jamie enjoys travel and boxing. He is a volunteer coach with the Patriot’s Gateway Boxing Club.
Commissioner Ziyad Shihadah graduated from the University of Illinois at U-C with his Masters’ degree in Civil Engineering in January 1986, and has since worked both in the US and overseas, in engineering, construction, management, and real estate development in the private sector. He currently owns his own consulting firm, 360 Project Advising, LLC. He is also active in various community organizations, including Fordham Forward, based on the Purpose Built Communities model, working in distressed neighborhoods in Rockford to break the cycle of poverty through improvement in education, wellness, infrastructure, and housing. Ziyad and his wife Kathy enjoy traveling when they have the chance; their four children are grown and scattered all over the country. While the family lived overseas, He and Kathy were involved with the American community as Scout leaders and baseball coaches, as well as community organizers. Ziyad absolutely believes in the good of every member of the community, and recognizes that generational poverty is a massive barrier to success. It requires our whole city pulling together, offering thoughtful, multi-pronged help–with accountability–to everyone who wants to rise up. He hopes he can offer leadership in reducing hardship in the city he has grown to love.