Meet the Team

Laurie Small
Executive Director

When Laurie began working in a continuing care retirement community 30 years ago she quickly became enamored with the incredible residents she met and the wonderful fellowship of the team with which she worked.  Laurie’s career began as an Administrative Services Manager and advancing her career through roles of increasing responsibility for several different non-profit provider organizations has been a blessing which she could have never imagined in the early years. 

Laurie earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the State University of NY at Albany after which she worked as an Estates and Trust paralegal at a large NYC law firm.  This interesting work provided an apt foundation for the interpersonal skills essential to leading a continuing care retirement community. 

“The best aspect of my work is the privilege of supporting and guiding residents and their loved ones through the many challenges that aging bring.  I have found with a servant leader attitude and a faithful heart I can do my best work serving the residents and staff of Covenant Living at the Samarkand.”

Jennifer Leggett
Associate Executive Director

With a 30 year career serving seniors in a variety of different roles/settings in many different states. From a range of positions including home health companion caregiver, assisted living caregiver, life enrichment in SNF/AL environments, Social Services Director in SNF setting, Memory Care Management, Community Relations and Resident Life Director, Jennifer has touched every aspect of a CCRC. Covenant Living at the Samarkand is blessed to have her share her knowledge base with our residents.

Jennifer shares that “the experience at Covenant Living at the Samarkand has been life-changing. There exists a palpable, ‘welcoming spirit’ on campus. The residents are engaged, active citizens deeply involved in the welfare of their neighbors and of their community.

“I feel blessed to be a part of the Covenant Living Communities and Services team. “I love making a difference in the lives of seniors… it is my life’s work.  It is a privilege to join older adults along their life journey. As a resident advocate, it is my goal to strive to enhance the lives of the seniors I serve every day.”

Scott Bigler - Photo and Bio to come
Healthcare Admin

Karen Harris
Human Resource Director

A graduate of UCSB, Karen has been a part of the Covenant Living family since 1986 working in the mailroom sorting all the incoming mail for residents. Shortly thereafter she found her way to the Human Resources department working simultaneously in dual roles as the Human Resource Director and the campus Administrative Assistant. Karen's passion in HR comes from her joy in mentoring HR professionals in the community and supporting other non-profits with HR issues.

“Working at Covenant Living at the Samarkand for most of my career has been a joy. I love how employees and residents care for each other. While my focus is on the employees, I enjoy being part of the residents' lives and am happy to help out with resident events and activities. “

Michael Easbey
Director of Assisted Living

Michael joined Covenant Living at the Samarkand as the Assisted Living Director in 2017. He joined our community originally for the "Good Neighbor" position in the Smith Health Center. The Good Neighbor is a resident funded position that seeks to provide companionship and individualized social care to residents in skilled nursing. Afterwards, he served as Admissions Coordinator within the same building. Michael comes from a background in food and beverage management but left his field to seek a career in faith-based, non-profit work. 

Michael is grateful for the opportunities he has been given to serve the residents at the Samarkand. He loves making connections with residents, helping to provide support through challenges, and seeing residents live their best lives! He is a third-generation Santa Barbara native and is married with two children. In his free time, he enjoys playing music and is working toward his master's degree in Eastern Orthodox Christian Theology.


Joshua Abad
Director of Sales

Joshua began working with seniors in high school as a volunteer at a local continuing care retirement community. This opportunity prompted his interest to work in the hospitality industry. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from California Polytechnic University, Pomona. Prior to joining Covenant Living, Joshua worked for the Walt Disney Company in various roles for over 6 years. His passion has always been to create happiness to those around him and working with the Sales team here at Covenant Living has allowed him to do just that. “I have really enjoyed making a difference in the lives of our residents. My main goal is to make one’s journey to our community as seamless as possible. Being able to provide peace of mind to families that their loved ones are cared for is truly rewarding.”

Danielle Tervo-Shiffman
Resident Life Director

Danielle (Dani) was raised on the island of St Thomas, USVI, and completed her Biology Degree at UCSB in Santa Barbara, CA. Her love for the outdoors, physical activity and the ocean kept her in the beautiful Santa Barbara area, and led her feet to the Fitness and Wellness Industry. For 30 years she has been a group fitness instructor, personal trainer and Group Fitness Program Manager, and ran her own business for most of those 30 years providing Personal Training/Wellness Services and creating innovative Corporate Fitness and Wellness Programs for local companies. Dani was our Campus Wellness Coordinator from 2014-2020 and has now expanded her role as our Resident Life Director.

Jose Lopez
Director of Dining Services

Jose was born and raised in Ejutla, Jalisco Mexico and came to the United States at the age of 13. He first began his career in hospitality working at the Fess Parker’s Red Lion Resort and later moved on to serving and managing at a variety of restaurants and Resorts throughout Santa Barbara pursuing his career in Hospitality.

Jose held many positions at Fess Parker’s Red Lion Resort, starting as a dishwasher and eventually becoming an In-Room Dining manager all while simultaneously working at the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara.  While managing at the Red Lion Jose was also working at The Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara as a Bell Man and in Valet Parking. His career has brought him to many different resorts, bars, restaurants and clubs and afforded him the ability to learn in many different positions. Wanting to spend more time with family, he began working for Vista del Monte, as a Dining Service Manager. Jose really enjoyed serving the senior community and worked there for 3 years, until he joined Covenant Living at the Samarkand as Director of Dining Service. Jose loves his job and the residents are incredibly friendly and truly care about the staff. He feels very fortunate to be able to live in Santa Barbara and work for such an amazing community like Covenant Living at the Samarkand.

Jesse Santillan
Executive Chef

Jesse Santillan was born in Michoacán, Mexico. His love for food and inspiration to work in the kitchen started with his grandmother, who celebrated every holiday and occasion by preparing her favorite, traditional dishes. After graduating from high school, Santillan moved to California, looking for better opportunities. With no restaurant business experience, he was fortunate to start as a prep cook in an Italian restaurant in Ojai, California. In one year, Santillan was able to work all stations and realized his dream was to become a chef.

After four years in Ojai, Santillan moved to Santa Barbara, California, to attend Santa Barbara City College while continuing to work. He worked for two years as Sous Chef at Andria’s Harbor Side, the best seafood restaurant in town, and then the Four Seasons Biltmore, where he worked directly with Executive Chef Mel Mecinas.

From 2000-2010, Santillan worked as Sous Chef at Baccara Resort & Spa for the fine dining restaurant Miro, supervising and creating new menus. He also supervised the banquet kitchen, preparing dinners for large conference groups.

In August 2011, Chef Santillan was part of the Pebble Beach team as Chef of The Tap Room where he brought a simple, light culinary style to the restaurant, working with fresh and local ingredients that abound on the Monterey Peninsula. Once Santillan expanded his culinary talents in most of the best restaurants and hotels in Santa Barbara, he joined Covenant Living at the Samarkand as our Executive Chef in 2019. He works daily with the team to bring new flairs and a variety of new dishes to our residents. One of Santillan’s passions, is expanding on the global gastronomy and execute menus from all around the world and does just that for our residents.