Shonna James’ life journey has been one of resiliency, resolution and reward.
This self-made woman moved to Arizona when she was 17 to begin her sophomore year at ASU. She settled in Arcadia and soon after that met her husband, Dave. They married in 1993, and they will celebrate their 30th anniversary next year.
In 1986, Shonna joined Del Webb Corporation, and after working in the real estate divisions, she found her niche in public relations. As part of the corporate team, she learned about media community relations and crisis communications – all on a national stage.
“I started in public relations at Del Webb at an exciting time, as the company was changing from a multi-faceted national company to a corporate entity focused solely on active adult community development,” James said.
After working with numerous PR and advertising agencies around the country, James started her own marketing firm. For nearly two decades, Shonna James Communications was ranked among the top 10 public relations and event planning companies in the Valley.
Active throughout the community, Shonna has served numerous nonprofit organizations, including three decades as a volunteer for the Fiesta Bowl and board service for the Foundation for Senior Living and the Scottsdale Unified School District Foundation. James has also worked with the City of Phoenix, starting with an appointment by Mayor Rimsza to the Senior Services Advisory Committee and coordinating a Presidential Portrait Collection donation to Mayor Johnson for historic City Hall.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with so many business leaders and companies and have learned from so many people along the way,” James said. “Now, hopefully, all my experience and connections can come together to benefit the city and contribute to our community.”
In 2015 Shonna began consulting with the Shemer Art Center and, four short months later, was named Interim Director. She became executive director in January 2016 and since then has been recognized by the board for leading the financial turnaround of the Shemer and helping increase its visibility in the business and arts community.
“Shemer is such an amazing community treasure. We are one hundred percent community-funded, and every day our team is working to show potential donors the impact art makes in people’s lives,” James said. “It is inspiring to continue this legacy and see the impact one person like Martha Shemer can make in a community.”
When Shonna is not at work, she enjoys playing golf with her husband or spending time with their daughter, Katlyn.
“I’m lucky to live and work in Arcadia, and I am so very thankful for the support of my husband and daughter and our great team at Shemer,” said James.
She points to advice received from her mother as the most instructive in becoming who she is today, remembering, “she always encouraged me to ‘go for it.’” Advice Shonna has taken to heart.