Tom CormonsTom 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, Tennessee, 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 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]

Matt WassonMatt 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, 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]

Susan KruseSusan 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 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]

Cat McCueCat 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]

Kate RoothKate Boyle — Director of Campaigns

Originally from the small town of Cashiers in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Kate has more than ten years experience campaigning on energy issues for national and regional environmental organizations. She double-majored in 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 Appalachian Voices’ Director of Campaigns, Kate’s deep-rooted experience in campaign strategy and execution helps ensure the success of each of our campaigns.
email kate [at]

Operations and Development

Shay BoydShay Boyd — Operations Manager

Shay has a B.S. in psychology and a 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]

Maya VikniusMaya 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]

mayzie2Meredith Shelton — Operations and Outreach Coordinator

Meredith, or “Mayzie,” grew up in the intentional community known as The Farm outside Nashville, Tenn. The community works to help insure that all people have access to clean water, sanitation, nutrition and livelihood, a philosophy at the core of her life’s work. 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 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.

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, he served two years with AmeriCorps Project Conserve at the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and Appalachian Voices. After a year as the managing editor of The Appalachian Voice, Brian joined our staff full-time in 2012. He composes fundraising materials, serves as a contributing editor to The Voice, and 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]

Leigh KirchnerLeigh 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 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]

Central Appalachia / Ending Mountaintop Removal

Erin SavageErin Savage — Central Appalachian Program Manager

Originally from Pullman, 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]

Thom KayThom Kay – Senior Legislative Representative

Thom is from Spartanburg, 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 the 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]

Willie DodsonWillie 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, Virginia, 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 he disagrees with about everything.
email willie [at]

matthepler-croppedMatt Hepler — Central Appalachian Water Scientist and Community Organizer

Originally from Bath County, Virginia, 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 office. Matt is a hiker and square dance caller, and loves spending time on the rivers of Central Appalachia
email matt.hepler [at]

Economic Diversification

Adam WellsAdam 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, and in 2013 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]

lydiaLydia Graves — Southwest Virginia Solar VISTA

A native Virginia 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, 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]

terran-croppedTerran Young — Highlander Appalachian Transition Fellow

Our first Highlander fellow, Terran joins the Appalachian Voices team in our Norton office. She is working in 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, Virginia, 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]

North Carolina / Cleaning Up Coal Ash

Amy AdamsAmy 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 encompassing 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]

Nick WoodNick Wood — North Carolina Field Organizer

Nick’s family is from Asheville, but he grew up in eastern Washington next to Hanford, the country’s most contaminated nuclear facility, where his father worked in the clean up effort. He moved home to the Tar Heel state to attend the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where he received his B.A. in communications and J.D. from UNC School of Law. He is a licensed attorney in N.C. and was an organizer with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, where he became the national director of the successful Mt. Olive Pickle boycott. Nick went on to work for a number of other labor unions before getting involved in the environmental justice movement in 2013 when he was hired by NC WARN. Since then, Nick has worked on coal ash, green jobs, fracking and climate justice. Based in Durham, he enjoys hiking, traveling around North Carolina, comedy and Fantasy Football.
emailnick [at]

Virginia / Stopping Fracked-Gas Pipelines

Peter AndersonPeter 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 is enthused to join Appalachian Voices’ Virginia program to work on opposing new fossil fuel investments and promoting a clean energy economy.
peter [at]

Lara MackLara Mack — Virginia Field Organizer

Lara grew up in the suburbs of Northern Virginia with 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 issues of environmental justice and social justice 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 with her husband and two dogs in a country home and likes to spend her free time on long walks in the mountains, writing to penpals, and baking pies.
lara [at]

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]

Lauren EssickLauren Essick — NC Energy Savings Outreach Coordinator

Originally from Asheboro, N.C., Lauren moved to western N.C. 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]

Ridge GrahamRidge Graham — AmeriCorps Outreach Associate

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, during which time he helped students make documentaries and educated 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 as an AmeriCorps member with Appalachian Voices for a second year and engaging the communities of western North Carolina.
emailridge [at]

Katie KienbaumKatie 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 as she joins Appalachian Voices to serve as the 2016-17 AmeriCorps Energy Savings Outreach Associate.
emailkatie_kienbaum [at]

Lou MurreyLou Murrey — Tennessee Outreach Associate– OSMRE/VISTA

Raised in the mountains of northwestern North Carolina, Lou graduated from the University of North Carolina at Asheville where she studied documentary photography and its legacy in Appalachia. She partnered with Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture in Boone to collect stories and photographs of local farmers for The Blue Ridge Farm Book, a project that sparked her interest in using storytelling to build community and expand the narrative of a place to make space for more voices. Lou serves on the steering committee for the STAY Project, a regional network of young people working together to create, advocate for and participate in safe, sustainable, engaging and inclusive communities throughout Appalachia and beyond. A documentary photographer, mountain advocate and archivist, Lou is excited to spend a year as a VISTA member of Appalachian Voices’ energy savings team learning from and engaging in the communities in East Tennessee.
email lou [at]


Jamie GoodmanJamie 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 from Appalachian State University, and has nearly 20 years of experience in print and online media. A self-taught graphic and web designer, she earned two National Newspaper Association awards with, co-founded High Country Press newspaper and Shout! magazine, and served two years as University Webmaster at Appalachian State University. Jamie found her home in environmental work at Appalachian Voices in 2008, filling the roll as editor and now consulting editor for The Appalachian Voice in addition to working on web and print communications for the organization. She also serves as secretary on the Downtown Boone Development Association Board of Directors. An accomplished photographer, 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]

Molly MooreMolly 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]

Lee PayneElizabeth “Lee” Payne, Ph.D. — Communications Associate
Associate Editor, The Appalachian Voice

A native of Boone, N.C., Lee studied archaeology and ancient history, earning first a B.A. from Brown University and then an M.A. from Boston University. She then went on to receive a Ph.D. in Near Eastern languages and civilizations from Yale University, where she specialized in Assyriology, the study of the languages and cultures of ancient Mesopotamia. After graduation, she worked for six years as the conservator for the Yale Babylonian Collection. Throughout her time in southern New England, Lee’s love for the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian region only grew. She is delighted to be back home working with the team that produces The Appalachian Voice.
email lee.payne [at]

Jimmy DavidsonJimmy 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 has 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]

Information Technology

Jeff Deal — IT Specialist

Jeff DealJeff 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 one Fortune 50 company, Jeff worked as a computer programmer (C/C++, JAVA, PHP, UNIX shell scripting), relational database administrator (Sybase, Oracle, MySQL, and DB2), and UNIX systems engineer (AIX, Solaris, and 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]

Board of Directors — Officers

Kim GilliamKim Gilliam, Chair — James “Kim” Gilliam has been involved in the creation and direction of dynamic fundraising programs for over 25 years. Since 2003, Kim has managed a full-time consulting practice, working with boards and staffs across the U.S. and Canada in developing fundraising plans and major gift and capital campaigns. He is a senior fundraising associate for the Santa Fe-based Training Resources for the Environmental Community, which serves grantees working throughout the Rocky Mountains. Kim is also is a lead fundraising consultant for San Francisco’s RoadMap, a non-profit group supporting organizations working on root causes of poverty and social injustice in the U.S. Kim worked for several years as a VISTA volunteer in North Dakota after graduating from the University of North Carolina. From 1988 to 2002, he was the chief development officer for the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charlottesville, Va., where he currently resides.

Dot GriffithDot Griffith, Vice-Chair — Dot Griffith earned her BFA in photography from the University of Georgia and is the founder of the Banner Elk Advocates for Responsible Expansion (BEARE). She is the mother of two and loves to cycle, hike, camp, cook, dance, and now spread awareness about mountaintop removal coal mining.

Bunk SpannBunk Spann, Secretary — Milton G. “Bunk” Spann is the founder of the National Center for Developmental Education at Appalachian State University. As a former member of the Boone, N.C., Town Council, Bunk was instrumental in establishing the Boone Water Committee and for several years chaired the town’s Water Conservation Committee that developed several water conservation programs. Following his tenure on the Town Council, Bunk was appointed to the Planning Commission and shortly thereafter was elected chair. During his 36 years in Boone, Bunk led the effort to establish the town as a “Smart Growth” community. He and his wife Nancy now live in Asheville, N.C., at the Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Community where he is working to help make Deerfield and Asheville an even more environmentally friendly and sustainable community.

Kathy SelvageKathy Selvage, Treasurer — Kathy is a Wise County, Va., resident and daughter of a coal miner who has brought local, regional and national exposure to the destruction that mountaintop removal coal mining is wreaking on her native land and its people. Kathy was instrumental in the fight against Dominion’s Wise County $1.8 billion coal-fired plant and the mile long petition delivered to Virginia’s top government officials. She is the recipient of the St. Francis Ecological Award of the Ecological Network of Sowers of Justice, and has appeared in the nationally distributed Evans/Gellar documentary “Coal Country” to focus the nation on the struggle of mountaintop removal as well as the “Electricity Fairy”, an Appalshop/Tom Hansell film that follows the long controversy over the Wise county coal-fired plant in light of national energy policy. She participates in numerous community groups and organizations to promote the public and a sustainable future for Appalachia.

Read Kathy’s op-ed published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2014: From Southwest Virginia, a path for less pollution

Board Members-At-Large

Clara BinghamClara Bingham — Clara is an award winning journalist, author and former Newsweek White House correspondent. She co-wrote Class Action: The Landmark Case that Changed Sexual Harassment Law (Doubleday 2002), which won the Los Angeles Times book of the year and the AAUW Speaking out for Justice Award, and was adapted into the 2005 Oscar-nominated film, “North Country,” starring Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand. Bingham is also the author of Women on the Hill: Challenging the Culture of Congress, and has written for many publications including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Talk, The Washington Monthly, and United Press International. A Kentucky native, Clara first witnessed the destructive effects of mountaintop removal coal mining while reporting on a story in West Virginia. This experience ultimately led her to produce “The Last Mountain” documentary, a finalist in the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

Pat HolmesPat Holmes — Pat Holmes, MD, DVM, has been a diagnostic and interventional radiologist in Boone, N.C., since 1999. He attended the University of Tennessee Knoxville (DVM, 1983), East Tennessee State University (MD, 1994) and Wake Forest University/North Carolina Baptist Hospital (residency and fellowship, 1998 and 1999). He has had a lifetime interest in environmental issues and was active in opposing Champion Paper Products’ pollution of the Pigeon River while residing in Newport, Tenn., in the 1980’s. He and his wife Jill live in Valle Crucis, N.C.

Rick PhelpsRick Phelps — Rick is a retired consulting environmental chemist experienced in air and water quality analysis, combustion source assessments, and industrial waste treatment technologies. He is a founder of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy in Asheville, N.C., focusing on endangered land and watershed protection. Rick has also served on several Environmental Protection Agency advisory and regulatory development groups, and also on numerous environmental and outdoor recreation organizations. A resident of Tennessee, Rick received a degree in chemistry and has over 40 years of experience in environmental chemistry.

Pallavi PodapatiPallavi Podapati — Pallavi was raised in Hazard, Ky., by Indian immigrants who instilled in her a love of history and of place. She left Kentucky in 2009 to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where she researched American policies developed to protect coal miners from pneumoconiosis (black lung), mining accidents, and the effectiveness of these policies. At UPenn she was a member of the Civic Scholars program and very active at the Penn Women’s Center and Civic House. She earned a degree in health and societies in 2013, and is currently in Wales completing a Master of History degree at Swansea University. Her thesis will be an analysis of policies developed to protect coal miners in the South Wales coalfields post 1948. Pallavi’s long-term goal is to enroll in a doctoral program where her research focus will be on occupational health and safety in the 20th and 21st centuries.

12.3_Scotton_Christopher_c_Lee_Kriel_PhotographyChristopher Scotton — Christopher grew up outside of Washington, D.C., in what was then undeveloped countryside — a place of cornfields and tree houses, dammed-up creeks and secret swimming holes. It was a magical place to be a kid, something that Christopher recaptured in his debut novel, The Secret Wisdom of the Earth, which is set in a fictionalized eastern Kentucky town. As a teenager, developers bought up most of the land and the idyllic bounds of Christopher’s childhood became one big construction site — creeks were backfilled and swimming holes ran to mud. By the time he went to college, the countryside of his youth was solidly suburban. It was in college that Christopher first fell in love with Appalachia. Initially for the music — the spinning lilt of a fiddle reel, the compact fury of a mandolin run, the plaintive harmonies — then, for the beauty, as he came to know the region with little more than a backpack and a camp stove. Christopher currently lives near Washington, D.C., where he is president and CEO of a software company.

Tracey WrightTracey Wright — Tracey is a native of Dickson, Tenn., who currently calls Cleveland, Tenn., home. She spent twelve years in Boone, N.C., where she became more interested in sustainability efforts. As an educator, Wright strives to assist college students in developing into engaged citizens who care about their community and their environment. Tracey, a wife and mother of two daughters, describes herself as an average citizen who is seeking meaningful ways to have a positive impact on our environment. She also seeks better ways to help motivate others to do the same. Wright graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a bachelor’s degree in science in mathematics and master’s degree in educational leadership.

Tom CormonsTom Cormons, Ex Officio — Tom joined Appalachian Voices in 2007 to open our Virginia office. He became our deputy director in 2010 to help develop Appalachian Voices’ programmatic strategy and supervise our program teams,and stepped into the role of executive director in 2013. Tom received his B.A. from the University of Virginia and his J.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles. He is a member of the Virginia State Bar. His previous experience includes working as a law clerk with the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Piedmont Environmental Council, the U.S. Department of Justice, and Environmental Defense. He also oversaw radio-tracking of endangered and threatened migratory terns in South America for six seasons.

Advisory Councils

Chair’s Advisory Council

Jonathan AllenJonathan C. Allen, CPA CFP, CLU — Jonathan is a financial advisor in Boone, N.C. He began his career at Ernst & Young, LLP in Manhattan where he worked as a tax consultant. He currently holds three professional certifications – Certified Public Accountant, Certified Financial Planner®, and Chartered Life Underwriter. In addition to working at Allen Wealth Management, Jonathan has taught financial planning at Appalachian State University and accounting at Wake Forest University. An avid outdoorsman, Jonathan enjoys hiking, golf, and fly-fishing the local trout streams. He is married to Stephanie and the couple resides in Boone with their dog, Deacon.

jessica barba brownJessica Barba Brown — Jessica is currently the Vice President for Program Development at Faith in Public Life, a strategy center advancing faith in the public square. She spent three years serving as communications director and senior aide for former Rep. Tom Perriello, assisting in his rise from long-shot congressional hopeful to one of the highest-profile and widely watched political stories in 2010. Prior to her political career, Jessica worked in the nonprofit sector as communications director for City Year New York and communications and marketing manager for CancerCare. During the 2004 elections, she was one of the founding board members of the Catholic Voting Project, which went on to become Catholics United. A native of the Washington, D.C., region, Jessica holds a bachelor’s degree in gender and sexuality studies from New York University.

Alfred GloverAlfred Glover — A native of Charlotte, N.C., community leader and businessman Alfred Glover has served as president and owner of Boone Ford Lincoln Mercury Dealership in Boone, N.C. since 2003. Following four hears in the U.S. Navy, Alfred obtained a bachelor’s degree in automotive dealership management from Michigan’s Northwood University and completed special training through Ford Motor Company’s Dealer Development Program. Alfred lives in Ashe County, N.C., with his wife and two children.

Randy Hayes — Rainforest Action Network founder Randy Hayes has been described in the Wall Street Journal as an “environmental pit bull.” He currently serves as executive director for Foundation Earth, an organization focused on bringing an earth-centered economy into reality through a major rethinking of society implemented via outreach campaigns. As a former filmmaker, he is a veteran of many high-visibility corporate accountability campaigns and has advocated for the rights of indigenous peoples. He has served as president of San Francisco’s Commission on the Environment, and director of sustainability in the office of former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown. As a wilderness lover, Hayes has explored the High Sierras, the Canadian Rockies and the rainforests of the Amazon, Central America, Congo, Southeast Asia and Boreno.

Silas HouseSilas House — Silas is an award-winning playwright, journalist and environmental activist. He serves as the NEH Chair in Appalachian studies at Berea College and on the fiction faculty at Spalding University’s MFA in creative writing program. Nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and named the 2010 Appalachian Writer of the Year by Shepherd University, Silas’ work has appeared in dozens of publications including The New York Times, Oxford American, The Louisville Review, and “New Stories from the South.” His national bestsellers include “Clay’s Quilt,” “A Parchment of Leaves,” “The Coal Tattoo,” and “Eli the Good.” Silas has been involved in the fight against mountaintop removal coal mining since 2005, and in 2009 released “Something’s Rising,” a series of Appalachian activist profiles co-produced with Jason Howard. Silas is a native of Kentucky and currently calls Berea home.

Listen to Silas talk about his coming up in coal country: Appalachian Writer Silas House on the Double-edged Sword of Coal, W.Va. Public Broadcasting, April 2015

Christina HoweChristina Howe — Christina resides in Valle Crucis where the Watauga River forms the western boundary of her property. She came to Boone after living and working in Miami, Fla., where, with her late husband, she founded two real estate companies that managed, built and sold offices and airport hangers, including the 350,000 sq.ft. Orlando-Sanford International Airport. Christina is a commercially rated single and multi-engine pilot, a sailor and an avid tennis player, and enjoys golf. She served as the president of the High Country Conservancy for four years and fills the role of president for Shull’s Farm. She is currently a partner and the assistant director of Boone Healing Arts Center, a holistic health facility with 14 alternative medicine practitioners. Christina is a passionate environmentalist whose favorite color has always been green.

Van JonesVan JonesVan Jones is a globally recognized, award-winning pioneer in human rights and the clean-energy economy. He co-founded three successful non-profit organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change and Green For All, and is the best-selling author of the definitive book on green jobs: The Green-Collar Economy. He served as the green jobs advisor in the Obama White House in 2009. Van is currently a senior fellow at the Center For American Progress. Additionally, he is a senior policy advisor at Green For All. Van also holds a joint appointment at Princeton University as a distinguished visiting fellow in both the Center for African American Studies and in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Landra Lewis — A native of eastern Kentucky, Landra has a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Kentucky and a certificate in meditation from Duke University. She is involved in a variety of professional associations and environmental organizations. She is dedicated to ending mountaintop removal coal mining and bringing about positive change in her home state of Kentucky.

haskell murrayJ. Haskell Murray, J.D. — Haskell was raised on the rural, Georgia-side of Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tenn., and has enjoyed the outdoors his entire life. At Rhodes College, he majored in business administration, concentrating in international business and finance, while also competing as a member of the varsity football and club rugby teams. While at Georgia State University College of Law, Haskell was elected to the editorial board of the school’s main law review, graduated second in his class, and received high honors for his pro bono work. Haskell served as a judicial clerk in Wilmington, Del., and practiced corporate law at two global law firms: King & Spalding LLP (Atlanta) and Weil, Gotshal, & Manges LLP (New York City). Currently, he teaches corporate law and alternative dispute resolution courses as a tenure-track professor at Belmont University’s business school in Nashville, Tenn. His research is focused on corporate governance and social enterprise related legal issues, including business practices aimed at preserving the environment.

Brenda HugginsBrenda Sigmon — Brenda is a retired school teacher and former member of the North Carolina Textbook Commission. She helped co-found the Catawba County Litter Task Force in Newton, N.C, and currently teaches part-time at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, N.C. She is a long-standing volunteer for Appalachian Voices, including delivering The Appalachian Voice newspaper to two counties in western North Carolina. Brenda is an avid hiker and an active member of Catawba Valley Outing Club, and enjoys helping to maintain hiking trails in the area.


AdrienneFoutsAdrienne Fouts – Editorial Assistant

Adrienne Fouts is a senior at Appalachian State University, pursuing a degree in public relations and journalism with a minor in photography. She lived in Illinois and Georgia before moving to Winston-Salem, N.C., when she was twelve and has called North Carolina home ever since. When she isn’t studying, working or writing for the school newspaper, Adrienne loves going to concerts, hiking, skiing and reading. Adrienne joined the Appalachian Voices intern team as a way to use her experiences to help protect the mountains she loves, and she hopes to continue combining her love of writing, photography and the outdoors throughout her life.

Ashton JohnstonAshton Johnston – NC GIS Intern

Ashton is a student at Appalachian State where she is studying Geographic Information Science with a minor in Anthropology. Growing up in rural North Carolina she was exposed and encouraged to love and value the outdoors. Almost all her free time is spent outside, typically hiking with her dog Khaleesi. As a lover of the snow, she is happy to now call Boone her home. In the future, she hopes to utilize Geographic Information Science to help manage natural resources as well as expose environmental injustice issues.

Hillary PrevostHillary Prevost – NC Social Work Intern

Hillary is a student at Appalachian State University studying social work. She is in her senior year and has sought Appalachian Voices as her internship placement. She is a Boone native and loves her community. She believes in the need to bring together social work and environmental justice on an educational level and is excited to be with Appalachian Voices to help bridge that gap. She is planning on continuing her education with an MSW at Appalachian State and hopes one day to work as an environmental justice warrior.

IMG_0164KaLeigh Underwood – Editorial Assistant

KaLeigh Underwood is a graduate student in the Appalachian Studies Master of Arts program at Appalachian State University. A native of Olive Hill, Ky., she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a minor in Appalachian Studies from Eastern Kentucky University in 2016. Before Appalachian Voices, she worked for the Citizen Voice and Times in Irvine, Ky. As an intern and as she prepares to enter the career field, KaLeigh hopes to use her journalism skills and her passion for Appalachia to make a positive impact within the region.

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