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Leadership Team

Guided by our Board of Directors, our Leadership Team leads our staff in carrying out our mission to protect and restore redwood forests and connect people with their peace and beauty so these wonders of the natural world flourish.

Sam Hodder. Photo by Paolo Vescia

Sam Hodder

President and Chief Executive Officer

Sam Hodder joined the League as its President and CEO in September of 2013. Sam brings more than 25 years of conservation experience in California, Oregon, Washington, New Hampshire and Maine to guide the League into its second century of protecting redwood forestland.

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Sam has spent his career managing and overseeing land conservation programs from the remote wilderness to the inner city, conserving forests, waterways, green spaces, working farms, urban trails, and all manner of wild places for people to enjoy. Inspired by the social and environmental benefits that open spaces provide, his passion for protecting and connecting people with the outdoors has guided his career and ultimately brought him to the League after nearly 20 years with The Trust for Public Land.

Since joining the League in 2013, Sam has guided the development of its Centennial Vision, a bold 100-year plan to accelerate the pace and scale of the League’s mission to Protect and Restore the redwood forest and Connect people to its peace and beauty. As the League’s Centennial year of 2018 approaches, Sam has overseen: the protection of over 8,800 acres of redwood forestland from the Prairie Creek Corridor in Redwood National and State Parks to the Case Mountain Reserve in the southern Sierra; the stewardship and restoration of thousands of acres of young redwood forest; the advancement of pioneering discoveries in the canopy of the old-growth forest through the League’s Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative; and the inspiration of millions of moments of awe and transformation through investments in redwood trails, education programs, and park improvements.

A graduate of Princeton University and an enthusiastic explorer of California’s parks and trails, Sam lives with his wife Kendra and four sons in the East Bay, where they enjoy the great redwoods of the East Bay Regional Park system.

 

Jennifer Benito-Kowalski

Jennifer Benito-Kowalski

Chief Communications Officer

Jennifer joined the League in 2007 to lead the organization’s marketing communications and outreach efforts to connect people to the peace and beauty of the redwood forests.

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A Bay Area native, Jennifer brings several years of journalism, marketing communications and media relations experience in the public and private sectors to her work. She has worked for Entertainment Tonight, KQED Public Broadcasting, MTV Networks and EXTRA. Jennifer holds a BA in communications from the University of California, San Diego and an MS in integrated marketing communications from Golden Gate University. She is also the recipient of many marketing communications awards including IABC’s Gold Quill, PR News’ Nonprofit PR Award, PR News’ PR People Award, the Communicator Award, California Special Districts Award, California Association of Public Information Officers MarComm award and more. When Jennifer is not working she loves to cook, hike and travel with her husband to random destinations throughout the U.S. to explore cities large and small to learn about our nation’s history.

 

Becky Bremser, Director of Land Protection

Becky Bremser

Director of Land Protection

Becky Bremser, Save the Redwoods League’s new Director of Land Protection, grew up in West Bend, Wisconsin, right along the Milwaukee River.

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“On a western bend of the Milwaukee River, appropriately enough,” says Becky. “We were a company town, known for West Bend Company cookware. Pots and pans.”

The manufacturer of that kitchenware decamped in 2003, but West Bend was and remains an exceedingly pleasant place to grow up. Becky recalls a childhood spent almost wholly outdoors.

“We’d always be swimming and fishing on the lakes, catching frogs and crawfish in the streams and poking around in the nearby woods,” she says. “Also, my great-grandparents had a farm outside of town. It was an incredible place, and we never got tired of exploring it.”

When Becky was older, the family decided to sell the farm, and negotiated a sale of part of the property to the city. It was the portion of the farm that contained the best natural, recreational, and historical values, says Becky.

“There are Native American bird effigies on the property, and the city has since built a river boardwalk, miles of trails, and a lighted ballfield complex,” she says. “I was really gratified when the city turned it into a huge park. It’s a tremendous public asset now and a gift my family is very proud of.”

Little did she know, the process that turned her family’s farm into a much beloved public park left a deep impression on her.

“I kept thinking about the old farm as I went through school, and I started feeling that I wanted to work in conservation,” she says. “Saving special places seemed like a good calling.”

After graduating from high school, Becky enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where she got her Bachelor of Science degree in conservation biology and environmental studies in 1998. On graduation, she took a giant step–or at least, a long flight–and enrolled in a work exchange program at an eco-resort on St. John, the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Wisconsin is a wonderful place, but it has extremely long winters,” says Becky, “and by the time I graduated, I was ready to go somewhere warm.”

Becky had been working one month at the resort when Hurricane Georges hit the Virgin Islands. Residents and visitors alike fled St. John at Georges’ approach, and both were slow to return. But for Becky, the storm’s clouds had a decidedly silver lining.

“About 75 percent of St. John is protected by Virgin Islands National Park,” Becky says. “Like a lot of national parks, it has a private sector partner–Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, in this case–whose mission is to protect and preserve the natural and cultural resources of the park for people to responsibly enjoy. After Georges, I was fortunate enough to land a job as a program manager with The Friends, and I spent the next four years at that position. I worked on managing special projects for the park, including private inholding acquisitions, and we were successful in securing some extremely important transactions while I was there.”

For some of the more complex deals, The Trust for Public Land was tapped for assistance.

“They have so much experience with land protection acquisitions, along with a deep bench of experts conversant in every aspect of negotiations, conservation, and funding,” she says. “They helped us out on several of the more challenging transactions. I learned a lot from them, and developed a deep respect for what they do.”

That high regard was reciprocated. When Becky moved back to the States, the Trust for Public Land promptly hired her for their St. Petersburg office, where she worked on acquisitions for southwest Florida and the Caribbean.

“I was able to continue to contribute to some spectacular projects, including the Sarasota Legacy Trail,” Becky says. “It’s a 10+ mile biking and hiking trail that runs along the spine of Sarasota County, Florida. TPL bought the land from CSX Railroad and conveyed it to the county. The county has developed a safe, recreational trail that more than 225,000 people use annually”

After 10 years in Florida, Becky took a position as senior project manager based at TPL’s headquarters in San Francisco overseeing the acquisition work in Southern California. Among her favorite projects in California were an expansion of Runyon Canyon Park in the Hollywood Hills and the creation of Kellogg Park in the City of Ventura.

“I’m proud of all the work we did, but Kellogg Park was really important,” says Becky. “Virtually all of Ventura’s parks are on the east side of the city–the city has kind of turned its back on the west side, which lacks all the pricey boutiques and restaurants and is primarily Latinx. So we acquired approximately two acres of property on the west side and developed a beautiful park. Along with increasing environmental equity, we were able to achieve a measure of social justice. We were able to right a wrong.”

Becky spent six years at TPL’s San Francisco office, and then accepted the position of Director of Land Protection for Save the Redwoods League.

“Part of my job will be overseeing the League’s land protection program, including transactions,” says Becky, “but I’ll also be working to integrate land protection goals with all the other programs the League supports, such as Redwoods Rising, the Vibrant Forests Program, and Centennial Vision. The best part of the job is simply knowing that we’re preserving the special places, the places that matter. I’ve always felt that way about this work. I may not get to personally visit all the places the League and our allied organizations protect–but I know that they exist, and that they’re safe. For me, that’s enough.”

 

Jessica Carter, Director of Parks and Public Engagement

Jessica Carter

Director of Parks and Public Engagement

Jessica Carter’s career is grounded in the importance of diversity and inclusion in the great outdoors. In her early work, she managed a program that highlighted leadership and career development in science, technology, engineering and mathematics for underserved teens at Girls Inc. There, she discovered that the simple privilege of experiencing nature can be a game changer for individuals, entire communities, and the planet.

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“We regularly went on field trips that provided opportunities for the girls to both learn and take positive risks – outdoor experiential programs offered an unparalleled platform for this,” says Carter. “The girls were engaged and inspired each time we went on an adventure, from hiking or cross-country skiing to kayaking, and I saw how this translated into new perspectives on their everyday lives.”

After a decade of growing partnerships to enhance visitor access and programs at Golden Gate National Recreation Area – where she also led partnership development for a $38 million Alcatraz embarkation site and visitor welcome center – she joined Save the Redwoods League as Director of Parks and Public Engagement in 2018. Her expertise in managing nonprofit, commercial, and interagency partnerships is valuable in expanding the League’s parks support, education, interpretation, and public outreach projects.

Carter’s work embodies a critical issue that has been emerging as a key to conservation: engaging communities that have previously been underrepresented in the movement, and possibly even felt excluded from enjoying natural spaces. “As society becomes increasingly ethnically and socioeconomically diverse, everyone must come to appreciate the value of redwood forests to ensure their protection,” Carter says.

And there is, of course, an even bigger picture. She adds, “Bridging equity gaps doesn’t only serve the conservation purpose, but it also plays a key role in the wellness and prosperity of our society at large. I’ve seen how environmental education and access to the outdoors expands confidence, perceptions, and interests, all of which contribute to the foundation of personal success. Redwoods experiences can serve as a great equalizer in this respect, particularly for low-income communities that may not have access to many alternative resources.”

Carter will cultivate the League’s education programs and park projects, such as the future visitor center at Redwood National and State Parks. She’ll be collaborating closely with partners, parks agencies, and indigenous tribes, among others, to define and engage specific audiences in the League’s Centennial Vision, providing more and more people the opportunity to tap into the magic of the redwoods.

“I’ll never forget the first time I went to Muir Woods National Monument after starting my job with the National Park Service. Being surrounded by the majestic redwoods in the deep quiet of the forest was powerful,” Carter says. “In fact, late in my pregnancy with my son, I woke up one morning with a burst of energy and went on a hike through Joaquin Miller and Redwood Regional parks in Oakland, and then promptly went into labor an hour after returning home. So redwoods have a very special place in my life now.”

 

Rolando Cohen. Photo by Paolo Vescia

Rolando Cohen

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer

Rolando joined the League in 2004 as the Chief Financial Officer.

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He was born in the Congo, lived in Brazil, South Africa and in New York, before finally making his home in San Francisco in 1990. He was a graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and became a Chartered Accountant in South Africa, as well as a CPA in the United States. He has always been passionate about the preservation of the environment, and he finally decided to make the move to marry that passion with his professional vocation in joining the League. He says, “I am so gratified to be able to make my contribution towards the attainment of the League’s mission to save the redwoods. I am humbled when I reflect on these glorious trees and contrast the length of their existence with human history.”

 

Suzanne Moss. Photo by Paolo Vescia

Suzanne Moss

Campaign Director

Suzanne has over 25 years of fundraising, marketing, and conservation experience. She began her career at the Save the Redwoods League as Production Manager, where she wrote and produced all fundraising and communication materials.

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Before recently returning to the League, Suzanne had held several leadership positions in development for the Western Region of the Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization headquartered in San Francisco. Since 1994, she had worked in the capacity of Regional Director of Development, Major Gifts Officer, and most recently, as Director of Campaigns. Her fundraising experience at TPL included raising significant private capital in support of land acquisition projects, in addition to raising funds to launch several new programs at TPL, including the Urban Parks and Playground Initiative in SF and LA, the California Center for Land Recycling, the Hawaiian Islands Program, the California Coastal Campaign, and the Sierra Checkerboard Initiative.

Before TPL, Suzanne held the position of Director of Development for the California League of Conservation Voters and Friends of the River. Suzanne has been an active member of the Bay Area environmental community, and has served on many boards and advisory councils. Suzanne is a graduate of UC Berkeley where she studied physiological and clinical psychology. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, rafting, skiing, photography, music, gardening, international travel, and fine food and wine. She lives in Walnut Creek, California, with her husband and son.

 

Harry Pollack. Photo by Paolo Vescia

Harry Pollack

General Counsel

Harry joined Save the Redwoods League’s staff in 2011. He brings over 30 years of experience in the fields of law and real estate transactions.

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Prior to joining the League, Harry Pollack was the owner of Conservation Partners, a conservation law firm dedicated to promoting the preservation of land for the public interest. In addition to his professional work, he has served on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations. Harry is on the Board of Directors of the California Council of Land Trusts (CCLT) and also serves on CCLT’s Government Relations Committee. In his spare time, he also serves on the City of Berkeley’s Planning Commission.

 

Paul Ringgold. Photo by Paolo Vescia

Paul Ringgold

Chief Program Officer

Paul joined the League in July 2015. He came to us with nearly 30 years of land management and conservation experience.

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Most recently, Paul was vice president of land stewardship at Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) in Palo Alto, Calif. He was at POST for 16 years, creating strategies for the permanent protection of conservation values and natural resources on all POST-protected lands and easements. Prior to that, he worked as a policy research associate at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation in Washington, D.C., and served as staff forester, lands manager and ecosystem research program director with the University of Washington. He holds a master of forest science degree from Yale University and a bachelor of science degree in forest resources management from the University of Washington. He currently serves as advisory council chair of the Bay Area Open Space Council. A Los Angeles native, he lives in San Francisco with his wife and son.

 

Tim Whalen. Photo by Paolo Vescia

Tim Whalen

Chief Development Officer

Tim Whalen has over 20 years of fundraising leadership experience in the San Francisco Bay Area and a proven track record of creating and implementing comprehensive development programs and campaigns to achieve fundraising goals.

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Recognized as a creative, dedicated team leader and a highly effective manager, Tim was most recently the Associate Director of Development at the San Francisco Symphony where he was responsible for the Symphony’s individual giving programs, raising over $23 million annually. Prior to the Symphony, Tim was the Senior Director of Development and Gift Planning a the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco where he conceived and implemented a $25 million endowment campaign, exceeding the campaign goal by raising a total of $31 million while significantly increasing the annual giving programs during the same period. Additionally, Tim has served in development leadership roles for Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, and KQED, San Francisco’s public television and radio station. Prior to his fundraising career, Tim was a Captain in the United States Army. Originally from the Black Hills of South Dakota, Tim received a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

“Ever since I arrived in the Golden State over two decades ago, I have been in awe of the redwoods which are emblematic of California’s natural beauty,” Tim said. ” As we gain new understandings of the redwoods and their benefits to mitigating the impacts of climate change, I’m even more inspired to help protect and restore the redwood forests.”

 

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