Meet Our Team

Staff  |  Board of Directors  |  Interns


Tom Cormons, J.D. — Executive Director

Tom was hired to open Appalachian Voices’ first Virginia office in 2007, and he took the reins as Executive Director in early 2013. The organization has expanded under his leadership to include new programs advancing energy and economic solutions for the region, new offices in Southwest Virginia and Knoxville, Tenn., and new initiatives to address the harmful impacts of fossil fuels. Tom received his J.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles and a B.A. in political and social thought from the University of Virginia. He is a member of the Virginia State Bar, and his experience prior to joining Appalachian Voices includes clerkships with Environmental Defense Fund, Piedmont Environmental Council, Southern Environmental Law Center, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Tom also worked with endangered migratory terns in South America for six seasons, overseeing aerial radio-tracking of the birds. He lives in Charlottesville, Va., with his wife, Heather, whom he met while working as a whitewater and climbing guide in southern West Virginia, and their children, Brooke, Kai, and Cassie.
email tom.cormons [at] appvoices.org

Kate Boyle — Deputy Executive Director

Originally from the small town of Cashiers in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Kate has more than ten years of experience campaigning on energy issues for national and regional environmental organizations. She majored in both political science and environmental science at Lehigh University. She worked at Greenpeace, where she contributed to several coal, climate and clean energy campaigns, and at Rainforest Action Network, where she contributed to the group’s mountaintop removal campaign. In her role as Deputy Executive Director, Kate’s deep-rooted experience in campaign strategy and execution helps ensure the success of each of our programs.
email kate [at] appvoices.org

Matt Wasson, Ph.D. — Director of Programs

Matt has worked at Appalachian Voices since 2001 and has served in various capacities ranging from Executive Director to the editor of The Appalachian Voice. As Director of Programs, Matt provides the long-range vision for the direction of our program work. He received his B.S. in zoology from the University of Washington, and Ph.D. in ecology from Cornell University. Since his time doing research at Cornell on the impacts of acid rain on birds, Matt has worked on all aspects of the “coal cycle” — from mining, transportation and combustion of coal to the disposal of power plant waste. Matt designs and builds web-based databases with sophisticated search functions for use by professionals and citizens working on coal-related issues. Matt also oversees the award-winning online campaign to stop mountaintop removal coal mining, iLoveMountains.org. A nationally recognized authority on mountaintop removal coal mining and coal economics, Matt has testified before Congress, appears frequently on expert panels, and is a contributor to high-profile media outlets including Huffington Post, Grist, and Daily Kos.
matt [at] appvoices.org

Susan Kruse — Director of Philanthropy

Susan has been advocating for environmental protection and justice for more than 20 years. After launching the Allegheny Defense Project in her native Pennsylvania in 1994, Susan joined the National Forest Protection Alliance, serving as Eastern Field Coordinator and, ultimately, Executive Director. In 2006, she pursued her passion for philanthropic work and became the Director of Development for the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, Va. After 10 years of growing Legal Aid’s development program and becoming a major gifts specialist, Susan joined Appalachian Voices in 2016. She is a graduate of Clarion University in Pennsylvania and resides in Charlottesville, Va., with her husband Mike and their two nature-loving boys, Evan and Sebastian.
susan [at] appvoices.org

Cat McCue — Director of Communications

Cat brings more than two decades of experience in environmental communications and policy. After receiving her B.A. from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and M.J. in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, she went on to become an award-winning environmental journalist in Virginia. She was also Senior Communications Manager at the Southern Environmental Law Center where she supervised media relations and communications campaigns at the national, state and local level. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and outlets throughout the South. She was a Scripps Fellow for Environmental Journalism and completed the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute in 2010. A Yankee transplant to Appalachia, Cat was smitten the moment she saw the Smoky Mountains, and is honored to be a part of the Appalachian Voices team protecting this magnificent region.
cat [at] appvoices.org

Operations and Development

Shay Boyd — Operations Manager

Shay has a B.S. in psychology and an M.A. in industrial-organizational psychology and human resource management from Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. After graduating, she could not bring herself to leave the High Country and has lived in the area for over 20 years. She worked for several local companies and operated her own business before joining Appalachian Voices in 2008. Shay is pictured at center.
email shay [at] appvoices.org

Maya Viknius — Controller

Maya was born and raised in Kiev, Ukraine, and spent her summers in a rural country village where the residents were mostly self-sustainable. She moved to the United States at the age of 21, living in the Midwest and on the West Coast before settling in the mountains of North Carolina in 2011. She has been involved in all levels of accounting over the past 20 years, earning a minor in economics from Kiev’s University of Economics, a B.S. in business administration/accounting from Southern Oregon University, and completing the CPA examination in 2013. Maya feels strongly about environmental sustainability and social justice, and feels fortunate to intimately know and draw from two very different cultures. She currently lives with her husband Brian and two sons, Nicholas and Sauren, near the beautiful Watauga River in Sugar Grove, N.C.
email maya [at] appvoices.org

Mayzie2Meredith Shelton — Operations and Outreach Coordinator

Meredith, or “Mayzie,” grew up in the intentional community known as The Farm outside Nashville, Tenn, a community that works to help insure that all people have access to clean water, sanitation, nutrition and livelihood. The philosophy from The Farm has been at the core of her life’s work ever since. Mayzie received a nursing certificate from Caldwell Community College and is also a certified community herbalist. She co-owned an eco-friendly fair trade store in Boone, N.C. More recently, she worked with the non-profit, Go Conscious Earth, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to document and facilitate the installation of five clean water wells that now serve 10,000 people. Mayzie lives on a portion of 165 acres she helped preserve along the Blue Ridge Parkway, where she has raised her three daughters, Lydia, Rory and Charly.
email mayzie [at] appvoices.org

Brian Sewell — Director of Strategic Advancement

A North Carolina native, Brian received his B.A. in communications from the College of Charleston. After working as a freelance writer for weekly publications and national magazines in Charleston, S.C., he served two years with AmeriCorps Project Conserve, first at the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and then with Appalachian Voices as the managing editor of The Appalachian Voice. Brian joined our staff full-time in 2012. He leads our foundation relations efforts, composes fundraising materials, serves as a contributing editor to The Voice and helps manages our Front Porch blog, activist outreach and social media platforms. He enjoys music, art and journalism — especially reading and writing stories about the relationship between energy and the environment, politics and media criticism.
email brian [at] appvoices.org

Leigh Kirchner — Development Coordinator

Leigh grew up in beautiful Rockbridge County in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. She attended Virginia Commonwealth University for her B.A. in English before going to Appalachian State University for her M.A. in Appalachian Studies. Leigh now lives in Albemarle County, Va., with her husband, and works out of our Charlottesville office. Her role is a multi-faceted one, where she works closely with the operations, communications, and development teams to manage the administrative details of our work with grants and foundations, assist in major donor and Board of Directors’ activities, and coordinate our membership program.
email leigh [at] appvoices.org

Central Appalachia / Ending Mountaintop Removal

Erin Savage — Central Appalachian Program Manager

Originally from Pullman, Wa., Erin earned a B.S. in biology from the University of Washington, where she also minored in philosophy. After college, she traveled through South America and Africa to research strategies in protected-area management. She completed an M.E.Sc. at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where she researched the ecological and social aspects of mountain lion depredation of livestock. She joined Appalachian Voices in 2011 as part of our Appalachian Water Watch program, and focuses on Clean Water Act enforcement and citizen water monitoring in coal-impacted communities throughout Central Appalachia.
email erin [at] appvoices.org

Thom Kay – Senior Legislative Representative

Thom is from Spartanburg, S.C., where he graduated from Wofford College with a B.A. in philosophy. He worked at Greenpeace on chemical security and climate change legislation, and later at the League of Conservation Voters on coal ash disposal and mountaintop removal mining. Formerly in our D.C. office and now located in Raleigh, N.C., Thom continues to work at the federal level — both in Congress and with the presidential administration — to end the destruction of Appalachia’s mountains and streams. He also works closely with our North Carolina and Energy Savings teams on issues related to coal ash and clean energy.
email thom.kay [at] appvoices.org

Willie Dodson — Central Appalachian Field Coordinator

Willie grew up in the piedmont and the mountains of Virginia. He graduated from Berea College with a degree in Appalachian Studies. Since 2004, Willie has been organizing for environmental and social justice in Appalachia with such groups as the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, the Southern Energy Network and the Mission and Service Board of Union Church in Berea, Ky. He lives in Wise County, Va., and is an old-time and not-so-old-time musician, a forager of wild foods and medicines, and a sucker for any grey-haired person who wants to tell a story. He genuinely likes people, even ones with whom he disagrees about everything.
email willie [at] appvoices.org

Matt Hepler — Central Appalachian Water Scientist and Community Organizer

Originally from Bath County, Va., Matt received his B.A. in geography from Virginia Tech with a concentration in Geographic Information Systems and environmental resources. After working in the GIS field for five years, he spent two years in the master’s program at Appalachian State University, focusing on hydrology. Matt returned to Virginia to work for the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in Wise County, leading the group’s water program and helping develop litigation strategies against coal companies. He joined Appalachian Voices in 2017, and is based in our Norton, Va., office. Matt is a hiker and square dance caller, and loves spending time on the rivers of Central Appalachia.
email matt.hepler [at] appvoices.org

A New Economy for Appalachia

Adam Wells — New Economy Program Manager

Adam first walked through the doors of Appalachian Voices as a volunteer while an undergraduate at Appalachian State University. After earning his B.A., he moved to Wise County, Va., to live on the land his family has inhabited for five generations. As Outreach Coordinator for Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, and later as a field organizer for the Sierra Club, Adam dug deep into the movement to end mountaintop removal coal mining in Southwest Virginia. He worked for a time as a Wilderness Therapy Field Guide. In 2013, he joined the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable, focusing on the Guest River in Wise County. Adam returned to Appalachian Voices in 2015 to build our Economic Development campaign in Southwest Virginia. Adam is committed to bringing clean energy and other economic diversification opportunities to the Virginia coalfields. He still lives on his family farm in Wise County with his wife and their dog, where they enjoy spending time in the beautiful mountains of Southwest Virginia, especially on rivers.
adam [at] appvoices.org

lydia_gravesLydia Graves — Southwest Virginia Solar VISTA

A native Virginian who hails from Bristol, Lydia received her B.S. in sustainable development from Appalachian State University. She has worked on local food and sustainable agriculture initiatives with Appalachian Sustainable Development in Abingdon, Va., where she also served on the Sustain Abingdon Commission and helped organize a number of events for the city, including a residential solarize program. At Appalachian Voices, Lydia works on solar development in the Southwest Virginia coalfields as an Americorps VISTA member. She feels deeply connected to her roots in Appalachia and enjoys learning and working on all things connected to its past and future.
lydia [at] appvoices.org

Terran Young — Highlander Appalachian Transition Fellow

Our first Highlander fellow, Terran is based in our Norton, Va., office. Her focus is on a collaboration with Southern Appalachian Mountains Stewards (SAMS) and Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network (LiKEN) on a land study project, a continuation of “Who Owns Appalachia,” a project in the late 1970’s on land ownership in the Appalachian region. A native of Wise County, Va., she attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she studied sociology. Prior to the fellowship, Terran worked in mental health for five years as an advocate and direct support specialist. She is currently studying to become a Master Herbalist and is also a writer/producer for Spaceman Productions.
swvalandstudy [at] gmail.com

North Carolina / Cleaning Up Coal Ash

Amy Adams — North Carolina Program Manager

Raised on the Pamlico River in Washington, N.C., Amy has spent her career in public service for environmental protection. She earned a B.S. in biology and M.A. in environmental science education at East Carolina University, and spent three summers researching sharks in the Bahamas. She served as an outreach specialist for the Center of Applied Aquatic Ecology before joining the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 2004. Over the next decade, Amy rose steadily in the ranks to become the regional office supervisor for DENR’s Washington region in the coastal plains of North Carolina. She enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, Tony, and their two children, hiking, boating, camping and playing music together. Amy brings a wealth of expertise in clean water protection to the helm of Appalachian Voices’ North Carolina program.
amy [at] appvoices.org

Ridge Graham — North Carolina Field Coordinator

Ridge grew up in Rock Hill, S.C., and attended Appalachian State University, where he received a B.S. in ecology and evolutionary biology with a minor in statistics. There he found a niche as an undergraduate teaching-assistant and researcher, helping students make documentaries and educating the public about water quality. With deep roots in the Appalachian region, he enjoys hiking, biking, and playing games and music with his friends. Ridge is excited to be working with Appalachian Voices and engaging the communities of western North Carolina.
emailridge [at] appvoices.org

Virginia / Stopping Fracked-Gas Pipelines

Peter Anderson — Virginia Program Manager

A native of northern Virginia, Peter developed an appreciation for mountains and mountain music while earning his B.A. in philosophy at James Madison University. He began pursuing his interest in environmental policy while earning his J.D. at George Mason University. While there, Peter served legal internships at Resources for the Future and at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. After graduating, he worked on climate change adaptation issues for Environmental Defense Fund and for the Society for Conservation Biology. He is a member of the Virginia State Bar. Peter joined Appalachian Voices’ Virginia program to work on opposing new fossil fuel investments and promoting a clean energy economy.
peter [at] appvoices.org

lara_mack2Lara Mack — Virginia Field Organizer

Lara grew up in the suburbs of Northern Virginia and developed a great sense of love for the outdoors due to the many camping trips and visits to Shenandoah National Park she took with her parents. She graduated from James Madison University with a B.S. in ecology and environmental biology and a minor in dance. She has made the Shenandoah Valley her home base ever since. With a passion for group facilitation and community organizing, Lara has worked on environmental and social justice issues for a decade and considers herself and this work a part of the legacy to build power in our communities and fight oppression in our culture. She lives in a country home with her husband and two dogs, and likes to spend her free time taking long walks in the mountains, writing to penpals and baking pies.
lara [at] appvoices.org

Energy Savings for Appalachia

rory_mcilmoilRory McIlmoil — Energy Savings Program Manager

Raised all across the Southeast, Rory graduated with a B.S. in earth and environmental science from Furman University and spent the next few years traveling in Europe and South America, part of that time volunteering in the Andes of Ecuador. Following a stint as a research intern with Appalachian Voices in 2007, Rory went on to earn his M.A. in global environmental politics from American University. He became Campaign Coordinator for the Coal River Wind campaign, serving under the late Appalachian hero, Judy Bonds, and then joined Downstream Strategies, where he managed the Energy Program and conducted research on coal, renewable energy and energy efficiency with a focus on Appalachia. Now living in Deep Gap, N.C., Rory joined the Appalachian Voices team to launch our Energy Savings for Appalachia program in 2013. He currently also serves on the Board of Trustees of the nonprofit organization WeOwnIt.
rory [at] appvoices.org

Lauren Essick — NC Energy Savings Outreach Coordinator

Originally from Asheboro, N.C., Lauren moved to western North Carolina in 2006 to attend the University of North Carolina-Asheville. Her love of Watauga County drew her to Boone where she graduated from Appalachian State University with a B.A. in interdisciplinary studies, concentrating on place-based efforts to climate change resilience and a clean energy future. Growing up in Asheboro, Lauren worked as an educator at the North Carolina Zoological Park and became interested in ecology and environmental conservation. While in Boone, she has followed her passion to help promote quality of life for communities in various ways, including previously working in an operations capacity for a local planning and design firm, and distributing copies of The Appalachian Voice.
email lauren [at] appvoices.org

brianna_knisleyBrianna Knisley — Tennessee Energy Savings Outreach Coordinator

Born to a family of eight in a small village in southern Ohio, Bri’s passion for rural solutions was formed through her upbringing in a community struggling with economic, social and environmental issues faced by many rural places across the U.S. She obtained her B.A. in sustainable development from Wilmington College of Ohio, where she spent three years as an assistant to the Curator of a Quaker Heritage Center. Through engaging in multiple service-learning projects, interning and working for local nonprofits, and serving on an environmental conservation corps, Bri has cultivated her approach to intersectional problem solving. She is excited to be working with Appalachian Voices and the people of East Tennessee to address their energy efficiency needs.
email brianna [at] appvoices.org

Katie Kienbaum — AmeriCorps Energy Savings Outreach Associate

Katie grew up in the suburban jungle of northern Virginia, but she has fond memories of family trips to the mountains and hiking on the Appalachian Trail. She moved to Pennsylvania to attend the University of Pittsburgh, graduating in 2016 with a B.A. in environmental studies and economics. At Pitt, she was involved in student organizations advocating for gender equality and sustainability. As a student, she also participated in a summer field course on plant diversity in southwestern Virginia. This experience rekindled her childhood interest in the Appalachian mountains, a love she is able to explore while she serves as the 2016-17 AmeriCorps Energy Savings Outreach Associate.
emailkatie_kienbaum [at] appvoices.org

Rebecca Bauer — AmeriCorps Energy Savings Outreach Associate

Rebecca grew up on the outskirts of New York City and moved to Boone, NC to attend Appalachian State University, where she received her Bachelors of Science in sustainable development and a minor in sustainable technology. Although she calls Boone home, Becca finds a connection with mountain ranges all around the world and wants to see natural places conserved and kept accessible. She spends her free time rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, trail running, practicing yoga and mountaineering. In 2015, she began volunteering and interning with Appalachian Voices and fell in love with conservation work. She is excited to be serving western North Carolina as our AmeriCorps Energy Savings Outreach Associate.
emailbecca [at] appvoices.org

levison_ninaNina Levison — Tennessee Outreach Associate, OSMRE/VISTA

Nina was born and raised in New England and graduated from Hampshire College with a B.A. in environmental science and policy. Fascinated by energy, waste, and community impact, Nina began organizing around environmental justice issues from campus campaigns, to local direct actions, regional rallies, and national marches. In the spring of 2015, Nina traveled through Appalachia in a self-designed field study to live alongside and hear from communities impacted by local energy projects, and has been looking forward to returning to the region ever since. Through her position with Americorps VISTA, Nina will work with the Energy Savings team to bring energy efficiency to electric co-op member-owners in East Tennessee. She is very much looking forward to working with and learning from these communities!
email nina [at] appvoices.org

Communications

Jamie Goodman — Senior Communications Coordinator

A western North Carolinian with Appalachian roots stemming back to the early 1700s, Jamie holds a B.A. in English literature and minor in technical photography from Appalachian State University, and has over 20 years of experience in print and online media. A self-taught graphic and web designer, she earned two National Newspaper Association awards with Mountaintimes.com, co-founded High Country Press newspaper and Shout! magazine, and helped establish Appalachian State University’s Web Advisory Council to the Provost in 2005. She found her home in environmental work at Appalachian Voices in 2008, filling the role as editor and now consulting editor for The Appalachian Voice in addition to working on web and print communications for the organization. Jamie has a serious soft spot for all creatures great and small, and is passionate about using her skills to help save the mountains she loves.
email jamie [at] appvoices.org

Molly Moore — Editorial Communications Coordinator
Editor, The Appalachian Voice

Molly is from the Midwest, where she earned journalism and religious studies degrees from the University of Missouri and wrote for several newspapers and magazines. She entered nonprofit communications by co-hosting a mid-Missouri community radio program that explored the connections between health, environment and agriculture, and then provided public relations support at Canyonlands Field Institute in Moab, Utah. Molly served two years with AmeriCorps Project Conserve at Appalachian Voices, assisting with print and online communications, before joining the staff as editorial communications coordinator.
email molly [at] appvoices.org

kevin-ridderKevin Ridder — Communications Associate
Associate Editor, The Appalachian Voice

Born in Arizona and raised in Tennessee, Kevin graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2016 with a B.S. in geology & environmental studies and a minor in trombone performance. Kevin first started working with The Appalachian Voice in 2015 as a freelance writer, where he wrote numerous stories until joining The Voice staff in August 2017 as Associate Editor. Kevin has also freelanced with The Knoxville News Sentinel, held internships at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and The Knoxville Mercury, played in a David Bowie cover band, and recently completed a year of service with CAC AmeriCorps in the City of Knoxville Solid Waste Office. Ecstatic to be surrounded by mountains, when Kevin’s not exploring Boone’s ample hiking trails you can probably find him dog-watching from a coffee shop window.
email kevin [at] appvoices.org

Jimmy Davidson — Graphics and Digital Communications Coordinator

Jimmy has over 25 years of experience in graphic design, photography, illustration and web design. Hailing from the Atlanta area, Jimmy lived in Michigan, Texas, Montana, Pennsylvania and New Zealand before finally settling in the mountains of North Carolina. He earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Georgia and has created infographics, maps and illustrations involving environmental legal issues for his clients. He spends a good bit of his free time playing music and taking care of a large garden, a 125-year-old farmhouse, and various goats, sheep and chickens. He maintains an interest in native plants and their preservation and likes to hike, camp and bike with his wife and daughter.
email jimmy [at] appvoices.org

Information Technology

Jeff Deal — IT Specialist

Jeff received his B.S. in computer science and applied mathematics and has completed graduate courses in computer science and appropriate technology. During his 16-year information technology career in nonprofits, academia and at a Fortune 50 company, Jeff worked as a computer programmer (C/C++, JAVA, PHP, UNIX shell scripting), relational database administrator (Sybase, Oracle, MySQL, DB2), and UNIX systems engineer (AIX, Solaris, Linux). His interests include community renewable energy development, distributed solar electric and thermal design, renewable energy metering and producer-consumer feedback systems, energy efficiency, and sustainable transportation – particularly solar-fueled electric vehicles.
email jeff [at] appvoices.org