Anne E. Keller Ph.D., Board Chairperson – Retired Biologist, Environmental Protection Agency
Anne retired five years ago after nearly 20 years’ working at the U.S. EPA in Atlanta. During her career at the EPA, she served as the St. Johns River Navigator helping river communities in 12 Florida counties under the American Heritage Rivers Initiative. As the regional lead for the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities (2010-2016), she participated with the City of Asheville, Land of Sky Regional Council, non-profits and other federal agencies on projects to improve transportation options in the RAD, enhance energy efficiency and associated budget savings in City and County schools, and develop a regional plan for housing, environment, and economic development. She has a doctorate in aquatic toxicology and master’s degrees in both animal physiology and limnology. She is the author of 19 published papers and book chapters. During her career, Dr. Keller also taught high school and junior college, worked for the St. Johns River Water Management District in Florida, and as a scientist/researcher for TVA and USFWS/USGS. Her interests include improving water quality in our rivers, enhancing community resilience, and looking for cost-effective solutions to other environmental challenges. She enjoys birdwatching, scuba diving, Labrador retrievers and golden doodles.
Susan Puryear, Vice Chair — Professional Banking & Investment Services Director, HomeTrust Bank
Susan has enjoyed a 27-year career in the banking/financial industry working with HomeTrust Bank currently as the Director of Professional Banking & Investment Services. She held several key positions during her tenure with Wachovia Bank & BB&T, serving as a Wealth Advisor, and Commercial & Business Banking Relationship Manager as well as working in Retail Banking. Susan is a graduate of Georgia Southern University with a BBA degree in Finance. In addition to the RiverLink Board of Directors, Susan has served on the Finance Committee for Communities in Schools. Susan volunteers with Women for Women, United Way, Asheville Chamber and is an active member of Biltmore Church. She is originally from Dalton, Georgia and worked in the Atlanta area for 14 years of her career before relocating to Asheville, North Carolina with her family. Susan is active and enjoys the beautiful mountains here in Western North Carolina along with her husband Dan, two boys, Zach and Alex and her friendly dog Herschel.
Eric Michael, Treasurer — Principal at Gould Killian CPA Group
Eric and his family have lived in Asheville since 2007. He graduated from Appalachian State University in 1994 with a B.S. in Business Administration. Eric and his wife Mary began their careers in Charlotte after graduation but were eventually drawn back to the mountains. Eric is a principal at Gould Killian CPA Group here in Asheville. Eric is active in the community with the Rotary Club of Asheville as well as The United Way, and serves on the advisory board for the UNCA Department of Management and Accounting. Eric enjoys being in the outdoors, whether it is hiking or out watching his son play baseball and soccer.
Lowell Grabel, Secretary — Retired, Sungard Availability Services
Lowell is a certified business continuity and project management professional, having spent most of his working career in Atlanta, Georgia, providing IT related consulting services nationwide. After a variety of consulting leadership roles, he became Senior Director for Professional Services at Racal Datacom. Following a turn at several start-up organizations developing their technical staff, he joined Sungard Availability Services as Consulting Principal, leading the delivery of consulting services for business continuity and disaster recovery planning. Lowell oversaw the efforts of 75 national continuity and recovery experts in a variety of industries including financial, healthcare, manufacturing and logistics, providing risk assessments, recovery planning and testing. He served in a senior project management role during the recovery efforts of several financial and healthcare organizations following 911 and Hurricane Katrina. Now retired and living in Asheville, he enjoys the outdoors of North Carolina with wife Susan after raising two sons. Lowell has also volunteered for many years at the Habitat for Humanity Restore. A lifetime runner, Lowell continues to rack up the miles around the Asheville area.
John Oswald, Immediate Past Chair — President and CEO, Mills Manufacturing
John is President and CEO of Mills Manufacturing, a 75-year old family business that is one of only two companies authorized to manufacture military parachutes for the U.S. Armed Forces. Mills Manufacturing is known world-wide for its high quality parachutes and the company has exported their life-saving products to over 65 countries. John has served multiple terms as the Chairman of the Parachute Industry Association’s Government Systems Committee. Locally, John has a long history of community service having been a member of boards of the Asheville Buncombe Economic Development Coalition, Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College Foundation, the Manufacturers Executive Association of Western North Carolina, and the Asheville Hockey League. He has also served on the advisory boards for BB&T and Leadership Asheville. John has a degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. John and his wife, Robin Turner Oswald, are the parents of three teenage children. He and his family are outdoor lovers and can be found ski racing with the Asheville Ski Club in winter or hiking, mountain biking, paddle boarding or fly fishing during the warmer months of the year.
RiverLink Board Members
Michael (Buck) Bragg, Past Chair — Retired Attorney, State Farm Insurance Companies
Michael “Buck” Bragg, JD, CPCU, CLU, ChFC, retired in 2006 from the State Farm Insurance Companies, where he served as Vice President – General Claims Counsel. He spent most of his 30-year career at State Farm’s home office in Bloomington, IL. There, he oversaw State Farm’s 1400-person staff counsel program and a budget in excess of $100 million. In 2010 Buck and his wife Nancy moved to Asheville, NC where he is active in a number of environmental and community affairs.
Tim Collins – Semi-Retired, Craft HR Solutions, LLC (Human Resources)
Tim Collins is a semi-retired Human Resources executive, with more than 30 years of service at two premier companies, Procter & Gamble and IBM. He has traveled to 40 countries, and lived in the UK for three years as an expatriate. Tim has been certified as a Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR), and a Society for Human Resource Management Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). After retiring from IBM, Tim had two “encore careers.” For 3.5 years, he was a major gifts fundraising officer for a leading liberal arts college, and for one year was Director of HR at Kanuga Conferences, Inc., an Episcopal camp and full service conference and meeting center located near Flat Rock, NC. Today he is an Executive Consultant – Talent & Culture for locally-owned Craft HR Solutions, LLC.
Tim is a 2019 graduate of Leadership Asheville Seniors, a community engagement program offered by the University of North Carolina Asheville Asheville Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. He is a member of boards of Blue Ridge Public Radio (NPR for Western North Carolina), Riverlink, Leadership Asheville Forum, Phi Kappa Tau Foundation (Oxford, OH) and the Thoms Estate (Asheville) Homeowners Association Board of Directors, which he serves as President. He is also a member of the Buncombe County (NC) Planning Board.
Originally from Canton, Ohio, Tim has lived in Ohio, Kentucky, the United Kingdom, New York City, and North Carolina. Along with his spouse Tom Wolff and dog Bandit, Tim lives in North Asheville.
Frederick (Rick) Noble — Retired, Director of Madison House (Univ. Virginia)
Rick is a 1970 graduate of the University of Michigan and migrated south to Charlottesville in pursuit of a PhD in Economics. Instead, he discovered an opportunity that would change the entire trajectory of his future. It was the nascent idea of what would become known as Madison House. Now in its 50th year of operation, it organizes and harnesses the volunteer energies of over 4000 UVa students each year. Offered the opportunity to become the first full time paid “President”/Director he served for 7+ years during MH’s initial development. Madison House continues to be a remarkable example of University/Community partnership for the benefit of all. Repeatedly during his career, Rick has been in the right place at the right time and search committees thought he was the right person, giving him the opportunity to be the founding CEO/ED or Board member/chair of a number of other nonprofits in South Carolina. “Retiring” in 2018, after almost 50 years of nonprofit leadership, he now does his best to remain relevant by sharing his “wisdom, wealth and work” volunteer time in Asheville, NC. He considers himself to be a “social architect” and nonprofit entrepreneur.
John Ross — Principal, RossWrites, LLC
John Ross is an author of books on natural ecology and leader of nonprofit organizations engaged in natural resource-based economic development, environmental education, and coldwater conservation. Ross currently serves on the boards of RiverLink in western North Carolina and the Goose Creek Association in northern Virginia. Formerly, he chaired the Virginia Council of Trout Unlimited for which he raised more than $250,000 and established commonwealth-wide Trout-in-the-Classroom in preK-12 schools. He was founding co-chair of, and continues to advise, The Center for Coldwaters Restoration (CCR), the Waynesboro, Va. nonprofit which has secured commitment from the Commonwealth of Virginia to construct a $20 million branch of the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) in the city’s downtown as the anchor for its economic revitalization. As co-chair of CCR, he also served on the board of the VMNH Foundation. The author of more than a dozen books, his latest Through the Mountains: The French Broad River and Time (University of Tennessee Press , 2021) was a finalist for the 2022 Reed Environmental Writing Award from the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Dan Hitchcock — Attorney, Hilderbran Hitchcock PA
Dan Hitchcock is an attorney with the law firm of Hilderbran Hitchcock PA in Asheville, NC. Dan has been practicing law since 2004 after graduating from Lewis & Clark, Northwestern School of Law in 1993. Following graduation, Dan practiced for 10 years in Portland, Oregon. In 2004, Dan moved to Asheville to be closer to family and joined the law firm of Adams, Hendon, Carson, Crow & Saenger. In 2017 Dan and Greg Hilderbran formed Hilderbran Hitchcock PA. Dan’s law practice is focused on commercial real estate and business transactions and real estate finance. He represents clients in land acquisitions, entity formation, loans, sales and purchases of developed and undeveloped properties, and general business and development issues. Dan is originally from Hartville, Ohio, and graduated from Denison University in 1989. Dan lives in North Asheville with his wife Molly and two teenage sons.
Joseph (“J”) Hackett — Founder, Black Wall Street AVL
Joseph T. Hackett “J” is a social scientist with over 20 years’ experience in community and economic development. He is a formerly incarcerated individual that has led teams providing service to local, municipal, faith-based, non-profit, for-profit and government agencies helping to close disparities with marginalized people. Connecting the lived experience with research and creativity has caused him to achieve record-breaking outcomes with agencies decreasing unemployment from 81% to 15% and increasing revenue through social enterprises. J Hackett has worked from the local grassroots level to the regional and international level with NGO’s connecting cultures across the globe. He is the Executive Director of JPR’s non-profit organization, the Founder of the Leviticus Educational Center in Nairobi Kenya, published in NAADAC’s scholarly journal, recognized for his social enterprise model in NC’s Bar Journal, and awarded by the Chamber of Commerce. He is the owner of GRIND, Asheville’s first Black-Owned Coffee Shop, and an Instructor for Lenoir Rhyne University’s Equity & Diversity Institute. Most recently, he was awarded the NCIDEA Black Entrepreneurial Council Grant to help build Black Wall Street in Western North Carolina. Most importantly, he is a diehard fan of Golden Girls.
Roy Harris — Retired engineer; Deacon at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church
Roy R. Harris roams the Southside Neighborhood (Asheville, NC) on a daily basis as “The Unofficial Lion of The Southside Neighborhood.” He has lived in this neighborhood for 35 of the 38 years he has been in Asheville. Roy grew up in the small hamlet of Sladesville, NC. He is a retired engineer having spent 40 years working for Fortune 500 companies up and down the East Coast. He graduated from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, NC, in 1972 earning a BS, Industrial Technology- Manufacturing degree. Roy is very active in the city having served on numerous boards and commissions from religious to civic. He currently serves as a Deacon at Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, is a life member of The NAACP, member of the National Association of Black Storytellers as well as Black Men Monday, and is a graduate of Leadership Asheville, class #10. He is the father of three grown children and the grandfather of three. He spends his time telling stories to all that would listen and serves his community.
Doug Baughman – Retired environmental scientist and Associate Vice President at Hazen and Sawyer.
Doug recently retired as environmental scientist and Associate Vice President with Hazen and Sawyer in Atlanta after 35 years working across the country on water resource planning and permitting, watershed and stormwater management, and environmental assessment and permitting, and ecosystem restoration projects. Based on his experience, it was RiverLink’s focus on the restoration of the French Broad River watershed that drew him to the organization. His daughter has lived in the Asheville area for over 10 years and he and his wife, Wendy, have been coming to the Asheville area to visit and enjoy the outdoors ever since. He hopes that his previous work on riverine corridor restoration on the Chattahoochee River near Columbus, Georgia and the Arkansas River near Tulsa, Oklahoma will help the Riverlink team with future projects on the French Broad River. He also volunteers for the Environmental Quality Institute’s (EQI) Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) and Stream Monitoring Information Exchange (SWIE) programs which support water quality and macro benthic invertebrate sampling on a routine basis. Doug and Wendy are avid hikers and spend much of their free time exploring the western North Carolina mountain trails. He is working on his fly-fishing technique and transitioning from a flat water (coastal) paddler to a more proficient white-water paddler.
Renee Mazurek – Resilient Communities Manager, River Network
Renee is a geologist, educator, researcher, and writer. Holding both BA (University of Pittsburg-Johnstown) and MS (East Carolina University) degrees in geology, Renée has taught college-level geology and environmental science courses at several colleges and universities, including AB Tech and UNC-Asheville. Renee served three years on the City of Asheville’s Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment (SACEE), the committee responsible for developing and recommending policy to support topics such as sustainable energy, waste reduction, sustainable economic development and land use planning. She currently is the Resilient Communities Manager for River Network and a team member of the Urban Waters Learning Network, a nationwide peer-to-peer network of people and organizations working to conserve, restore, and revitalize America’s urban waterways.
An avid kayaker and avowed river lover, Liz lives in Marshall, NC. For over 30 years, she and her spouse designed pre-engineered hazardous material storage buildings to provide secondary containment of chemicals, and prevent groundwater contamination. Liz hosts a weekly radio program that provides a forum for local community and nonprofit leaders to share their work. She is a founding board member of both Sustainable Madison (a nonprofit that encourages governmental and citizen responsibility in protecting our natural resources) and Madison has Heart (a nonprofit providing heating assistance for the needy in Madison County). Liz is also a board member of Empowering Madison Youth to Succeed, an organization providing tutoring and mentoring in Madison County public schools.
Amita Peltz – Attorney at the law firm of Worley and Peltz
Amita is an attorney with the Asheville law firm of Worley and Peltz. She received her BA (cum laude) from the University of Tennessee and her law degree from Wake Forest University. Amita is an active member and past president of the North Carolina Association of Women Attorneys, and participates in the Mountain Area Volunteer Lawyers program with Pisgah Legal Services. She was a founding member of the Highlands Circle group of the United Way of Asheville, and served on the boards of directors for Junior Achievement of Western North Carolina and Girls on The Run. She is currently a committee member for OpenDoors of Asheville, and has been a member of Riverlink’s Watershed Resources Committee since 2017.
Jenny is a former corporate executive with a wealth of business and human resources management expertise. Holding a BS in business administration from The Ohio State University, she spent 25 years with Procter and Gamble Company in Cincinnati, OH. There she held a variety of increasingly responsible positions, culminating in being named department director of global executive compensation in 2015. In this capacity, she supervised the delivery of executive compensation payments to 14,000 executives in 80 countries. While at Procter and Gamble, Jenny presented extensive training on a variety of matters including leadership and diversity/inclusion. Her board experience includes serving as president of the Walnut Hills High School Alumni board of trustees, and on the compensation & benefits advisory committee to the board of directors of the Cincinnati Boys Hope Girls Hope.
Ken is a strong environmental advocate with deep connections to local, regional, and national political communities. A retired corporate executive, he holds a BA and MBA from Texas Tech University. Since moving to Asheville in 2008, Ken has served local nonprofits in key positions including as chair of the board (and chair of the finance committee) for BPR Public Radio, and as chair of the finance committee for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville. Ken is the current political chair of Sierra Club of WNC and past chair of NC Sierra Club Chapter board. He is on the steering committee for the Solarize Asheville/Buncombe Campaign and member of the Neighbor-to-Neighbor subcommittee to fund solar on low-and-moderate-income homes. Ken is a member of the French Broad Water Quality Task Force and chair of the subcommittee to ban single use plastics and Styrofoam.
Dr. Edward “Woody” Orris
Woody is a gastroenterology specialist, who currently practices part time at the Asheville VA Medical Center. He received his BS from Tufts University and his MD from the State University of New York Downstate Medical School. Before relocating to the Asheville area, he managed a large, single specialty medical office and ambulatory surgical center practice in Albany, NY. Woody has been recognized as Physician of the Year by the Capital District Chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation and was a member of their Scientific Advisory Board for many years. His past positions include serving as Chief of Gastroenterology for St. Peter’s Hospital (Albany, NY) and as Chief of the Medical Staff at Albany Gastroenterology. He has been a frequent lecturer and speaker for medical associations and has served on a variety of medical and health insurer committees.