Founded by the Coconino Natural Resource Conservation District, Willow Bend’s Board of Directors meets every 2nd Monday from 4:30-6:00p.m. at Willow Bend, 703 E. Sawmill Rd, Flagstaff (meetings are open to the public). Want to attend a meeting or have any questions to the board? Please e-mail email@example.com, or call (928) 779-1745.
Willow Bend Board of Directors
Ariel Leonard, Board President / Forest Planner, US Forest Service
Ariel was born and raised in Maryland. She attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio where she studied biology. Since she graduated in 1987, Ariel has worked for the Park Service and Forest Service in various capacities. She attended graduate School at Northern Arizona University where she received a Master’s degree in Forestry. Ariel has worked for the Kaibab National Forest since 2004 and currently serves as the Forest Planner and Climate Change Coordinator.
Neil Weintraub, Vice-Board President / Archaeologist, Kaibab National Forest (retired)
Neil was born in New York City and received his B.A. in Anthropology from Grinnell College, Iowa. He began his career in archaeology at the Museum of Northern Arizona in 1986. For the past 26 years, Neil has been an archaeologist for the Kaibab National Forest. He enjoys teaching his co-workers, partners, and local youth about the importance of protecting and preserving cultural resources. Since 2001, Neil has served on the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff board and mentors his little brother RJ at Willliams Elementary School. Neil also enjoys trail running and is director and co-founder of Northern Arizona Trail Runners Association.
Mary McKell, Treasurer/ FUSD Counselor (retired)
Mary grew up in Minnesota and received a B.S. in Elementary Education from St. Cloud State University. After graduation she moved to Ft. Defiance on the Navajo Reservation and taught in the elementary grades for 5 years. She then moved to Flagstaff and earned a Masters degree in counseling and an Ed.D. in Educational Administration from NAU. Before retiring, she was an elementary school counselor in FUSD and Killip and Knoles elementary schools. Mary serves on different non-profit boards including CCC& Y (Coconino Coalition for Children and Youth). She and her husband, who is a retired NAU professor, enjoy the many activities and diversity that Flagstaff has to offer.
Jana Sterling, Secretary / Vice President, SWCA Environmental Consultants
Jana grew up in a ranching community in west Texas and received her B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University. She spent the first six years of her career as an itinerant biologist with a focus on field ornithology, and then became a park ranger for the City of Phoenix Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area where she was responsible for leading environmental education programs. Jana has worked at SWCA Environmental Consultants for the past 15 years, starting as a field biologist and was recently promoted to Vice President of their Southwest subregion. Jana enjoys hiking, running, botany, birding and spending time outdoors with family and friends.
Karen Cordasco / Teacher, Artist
Karen is an Arizona native and NAU alumni who has deep passion for both art and the natural world. She shares her love of nature through her artwork, specifically landscape watercolor paintings and outdoor-mosaics. Karen lived and taught K-8 Art on the Hopi reservation, and has worked for a variety of organizations that further reflect her love of the natural world. Karen also worked for Willow Bend when it was still called the Resource Center for Environmental Education. Currently, Karen and her therapy-dog-in-training, visit The Peaks senior living center. She also teaches workshops at Orme School. Mountain biking, hiking, gardening, yoga, birding, plein-air painting, and spending time outside with her husband and dog are her favorite things to do.
Stacey Hamburg / Nurse
After traveling around the country and internationally for years, Stacey moved to Flagstaff thinking she’d get another degree and then keep on traveling. But she quickly fell in love with the mountains, the trails, the sunshine, the culture and the fantastic community and knew she had found her home. She ended up with a Master’s degree in environmental policy, and then in 2019 received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Before becoming a nurse, Stacey spent many years working for and volunteering with various environmental non-profits. She has always believed that clean air and water, as well as fresh food, lead to a healthy body, and that a love of the outdoors leads to a healthy mind and in the long run, a healthier society. In her free time, Stacey enjoys trail running, hiking, and exploring the beautiful Southwest with her dog and family.
Tom Hanecak / Maintenance and Operations Manager, Coconino County
Tom was born and raised in a small town in Northwestern Connecticut, and spent most of his free time playing in the woods with his brothers. He received a B.S. in Biology from Saint Michael’s College, VT. Upon completing his college studies, he headed off to Gabon, Africa for 2 ½ years to serve as an Environmental Education volunteer for the Peace Corps. Shortly after his return to the US, he moved to Flagstaff AZ and is working for Coconino County (holding different positions over the past 10 years). Tom enjoys everything
related to outdoor recreation, but spends the majority of his time observing/filming wildlife and perusing game animals with a bow in hand. He fills the rest of my free time in the company of friends, in the garden and with woodworking projects.
Michele James, Vice President / Research Coordinator, Part-time Faculty NAU
Michele is a Research Coordinator at the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society at NAU and an adjunct professor teaching First Year Seminar classes. She has a B.S in wildlife biology, a Master’s from the Sustainable Communities Program, and a post-baccalaureate degree in Visual Communication. She spent over 15 years managing endangered and threatened species, working for federal agencies and non-profits in Oregon and
Arizona. Michele enjoys hiking and camping with her family, photography, stained glass, poetry, and fixing up an old house in Flagstaff.
Whitney Owens / Montessori School of Flagstaff
Whitney received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, Master’s degree in Educational Foundations, and her Principal Certification from Northern Arizona University. Whitney has taught for 11 years, mainly in the Flagstaff Unified School District. Currently, she teaches Introduction to Education at NAU. Whitney was the 2010 recipient of the Sustainability in Education for the 21st Century Award. In 2015, she was recognized as the Coconino County Teacher of the year, and was a semifinalist for the 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year. A native of Flagstaff, Whitney has great pride in this mountain town, and she cannot imagine a better place to build a life with her husband, and to raise her two children.
Andi Rogers, Senior Program Associate/ Southwest Decision Resources
Andi is a wildlife biologist by training and is currently a Senior Program Associate with Southwest Decision Resources, a local facilitation company. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from the University of Montana and a Master’s degree in Wildlife Science from the University of Arizona. Recently, Andi’s career has focused on fostering collaboration in natural resources including skills in mediation, conflict resolution, and capacity building. She brings much experience, skills, and a passion for wildlife to the board and is excited to help teach/support programming in the community. In addition to her professional life, Andi also loves to ride horses, hike with her dogs, bake bread, cross country ski and of course spend time with her 2 wonderful daughters and family.
Eric Souders / Financial Advisor
Eric is an Accredited Wealth Management Advisor at Ascendant Financial Solutions with a focus on socially responsible and fossil fuel free investing. He has been active in the community during 20 years of living in Flagstaff as a Big through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff, past board member of Flagstaff Friends of Traditional Music, Friends of Flagstaff’s Future, and Townsite Community Land Trust. As a herder of llamas, he has been the Llama Superintendent at the Coconino County Fair Since 2000 and a 4H Llama Project leader since 2006. Since their home is electrified by solar and heated by a “thermal solar/wood stove”, while their gardening ecosystem involves harvested rainwater, pest controlling chickens, and goat and llama fertilizers, one could say that sustainability is the family’s passion.
Jillian Wagner / Event Coordinator, Lowell Observatory
Jillian received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sustainability Studies from Northern Arizona University in 2019. Born and raised in Flagstaff, Jillian is a long-term local who remembers when teachers from Willow Bend visited her classrooms in elementary school. Jillian is passionate about environmental education and spent a year of her undergraduate serving as an intern for Willow Bend. She is also passionate about nonprofits and their impact on the community and began her career in the nonprofit sector in 2022. She loves to hike, read, practice yoga, and play board games with friends.
Jillian Worssam/ Teacher (Retired)
Jillian is a retired public educator, and received her first BS in Forestry, then received a degree in K-8 education and her master’s degree in Bilingual Multicultural Education. Jillian spent two and a half years in the Philippines as a US Peace Corps Volunteer and also spent a year teaching in China. Jillian is certified in teaching all the Project Wild Courses and prides herself on her Outdoor education skills. The last ten years of Jillian’s teaching career were spent teaching Science in a local Flagstaff Middle School. Jillian has participated in research projects in the Bering Sea and the Southern Ocean and has a passion for bringing learning out of the classroom and into the real data driven world.
Coconino Natural Resource Conservation District Board Members
Benny Aja, Chairman / Rancher
Benny is a third-generation rancher, northeast of Williams. He has served on the Coconino County Farm Bureau for 22 years and is their current President. Benny has two daughters and three grandchildren
Jim Parks, Vice Chair / Rancher, Former Coconino County Board Supervisor
An Arizona native, with ancestral history going back 9 generations in Arizona, Jim was a working cowboy for 38 years, after serving on the flight deck of two aircraft carriers during the Vietnam War. Jim worked for many ranches all over the state of Arizona. He joined the Coconino County Farm Bureau and Cattle Growers Association in 1998, serving as president from 2008-2016. Jim was named Rancher of the Year in 2015. Jim ran for public office in 2016 and served as Coconino County Supervisor through 2020. Married to his wife Vickie with two daughters, Betsy and Lisa, 4 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren, most of which live in the Flagstaff area.
Tabi Bolton, Treasurer
Tabi is the Area Supervisor for Campbell Global’s Northern Arizona operations, where he
manages forest activities. He is a Registered Professional Forester in the state of California and
has worked in Washington and Oregon in addition to Arizona. Tabi has worked in fish and
wildlife biology, botany, forest certification (FSC & SFI), safe harbor agreements, land use
agreements, and long-term planning. He also has extensive training in tribal relations,
negotiating effective environmental agreements, facilitation, archaeology, and protocols for
botanical surveys. Tabi holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences from Cal Poly
Humboldt. He lives in Flagstaff, AZ with his wife and their two children
Sam Whitted, Board Member
Sam is a native of Coconino County, currently managing the Reed Ranch Northwest of Williams, AZ. He has worked on this ranch for over 50 years. Sam retired as Chief Deputy of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office after 26 years. He was a member the Southwest Area Type One Incident Management Teams, served on a Southwest Area Command Team, served on a National Incident Management Team (NIMO), was Deputy Chief of the Summit Fire District, and has helped teach the Incident Command System for the US Fire Administration Nation Wide. Sam has been married to his wife Brenda for 45 years and they have one adult daughter, Amanda.
Kit Metzger, Board Member