Charlotte, North Carolina cityscape

SPEAKERS

Director of Corporate Education Partnerships

Discovery Education

Laetitia is the Director of Corporate Education Partnerships at Discovery Education, the global Ed-Tech leader in K-12 digital curriculum. In this role, Laetitia leads and establishes strategic partnerships with corporations, foundations, and nonprofits that support the company’s mission to transform teaching and learning and bridge the gap between real-world and classroom. Before joining DE, she joined KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to equity, youth development and community infrastructure. Throughout her career, she has elevated her passion for education, social impact and community. Laetitia holds her Bachelor’s from the Catholic University of America and her master’s degree from Georgetown University. Laetitia calls DC home, but as a native French speaker, loves to travel and experience different cultures.


Conservation Coordinator

NC Wildlife Federation

Alden currently serves as Conservation Coordinator for the North Carolina Wildlife Federation (NCWF) in Charlotte. He grew up in Wake Forest, NC where his passion for nature and wildlife developed at a young age. He spent his childhood chasing critters, fishing, and exploring the woods that surrounded his neighborhood on Falls Lake. 

Prior to working for NCWF, he worked in the field of environmental education for 10 years. Most notably he spent four years as Program Coordinator for Discovery Place and served for over two years as an Environmental Educator with Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Warren Wilson College and completed his Masters of Science in Environmental Studies at UNC Wilmington in 2015.

Alden is a dedicated volunteer and has spent countless hours giving back to wildlife and his community both domestically and abroad. He is also a Naturalist, Certified Master Gardener, Certified Beekeeper, and a Certified Interpretive guide.


Beth Poovey

President of Board of Directors

Partners for Parks

Beth is the current president for the all volunteer board of directors for Partners for Parks. She splits her time between advocating for parks and open space and working as a practicing landscape architect. Partners for Parks aims to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Mecklenburg County and the surrounding region by preserving, promoting, and enhancing the parks, greenways, open spaces, active play, and recreational opportunities within our community.

Partners for Parks has been an integral advocate for promoting and enhancing parks, greenways, open spaces, active play, and recreation since 1996. We are an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that partners with communities by providing a safe place to raise funds, and by granting assistance to organizations that work on behalf of parks and open spaces. 

In Mecklenburg County, we partner with the Park & Recreation Department, which preserves and maintains over 200+ parks and facilities covering almost 20,000 acres of parkland. With them, we facilitate community outreach and education as a fundraising liaison, working with various neighborhood and citizens groups to enhance the county park and recreation programs and structures.


Riverkeeper

Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation

Protecting the Catawba-Wateree River basin is more than a job to Catawba Riverkeeper Brandon Jones. As Riverkeeper, he focuses on threats to clean water, including monitoring and addressing coal ash issues & permitted pollution discharges, stormwater runoff, concentrated animal feeding operations, and preventing waterborne diseases.

Jones received his M.S. in Earth Science from UNC Charlotte; his studies focused on hydrology, specifically water chemistry. He completed his undergraduate education at UNC Chapel Hill, graduating with a B.A. in Economics & a minor in Environmental Science. That’s where he found his calling in environmental protection. “I took an environmental law course as an undergraduate at Chapel Hill, which was my first introduction to environmental protection. After that class, I knew I wanted to work protecting water.”

Jones joined the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in 2017 as its director of technical programs before being promoted to Riverkeeper in November 2018. As Riverkeeper, Brandon is CRF’s chief scientist and advocate and is responsible for coordinating the organization’s testing, sampling, research, and legislative initiatives. He is also the primary contact for all citizen concerns. Jones is a Gaston County native who’s committed to the environment both inside and outside the office. He spends his free time on the water as an avid whitewater paddler and river guide, and on the trails playing disc golf.


Project Manager

Catawba Lands Conservancy and Carolina Thread Trail

Brittnay has an educational background in Biology with a primary focus in Conservation from Winthrop University. After working as the Executive Director of Nation Ford Land Trust, she accepted the Open Space Planner position with York County. Presently, Brittnay is the Project Manager for Catawba Lands Conservancy and Carolina Thread Trail, prioritizing the preservation of farmland.


Caroline Burgett

Project Manager

Mecklenburg County Storm Water Services

Caroline Burgett is a Project Manager with Mecklenburg County Storm Water Services. After 7 years in the water quality program, she has spent the last 4 years in the Operations group involved in environmental stewardship of county-owned floodplain properties and long-term maintenance of stream restoration projects. She has a bachelors in zoology from NC State and a masters in fisheries from Mississippi State University.


Cherie Jzar

Co-founder and President 

Deep Roots CPS Farm

Cherie Jzar is a certified professional urban planner with a rich background in urban agriculture and community engagement, dedicated to fostering sustainable urban agricultural initiatives that genuinely benefit communities. With extensive experience in urban farming, she is committed to enhancing the understanding and availability of healthy, local food for all, while empowering Black and Brown individuals throughout the food production system. As the creative force behind the farm’s design and layout, Cherie’s vision comes to life in the fields she meticulously plans and oversees. Her expertise also extends to the vital task of planning and managing seed propagation, ensuring the farm’s productivity and sustainability. Alongside her professional endeavors, Cherie shares her life and business with her husband, Wisdom Jzar. Together, they are parents to five children, ranging from 25 to 6 years old, fostering a nurturing and dynamic family environment. Originally from Savannah, GA, she has made her home in Charlotte, NC, for over two decades, contributing significantly to the local community through her work and advocacy. 


Daniel Heaton

Deputy Director and Doer

Envision Charlotte‘s Innovation Barn

Using 14 years of experience as a project manager and process improvement consultant, Daniel works closely with several local organizations to help them accelerate their circular and sustainability efforts. He currently helps partners and programs at Envision Charlotte’s Innovation Barn move forward in a meaningful and impactful way.


Erin Chantry

Division Manger of Design and Preservation

City of Charlotte’s Planning, Design and Development Department

Erin Chantry is the Division Manger of Design & Preservation at the City of Charlotte’s Planning, Design & Development department. Erin has been with the City for 8 years where she has practiced urban design and planning at the Charlotte Urban Designer Center. With a BA in Architecture, an MA in Urban Design, and an MS in Urban Planning, Erin has worked on a variety of projects in both the public and private sectors, with a primary focus on urban design, land development, placemaking and public space. She has expert knowledge in New Urbanism, LEED for Neighborhood Development, and how sustainable city planning and urban design can be used as a catalyst for redevelopment. Erin co-established the City of Charlotte’s Placemaking Program and has spearheaded the integration of public space design in traditional infrastructure projects. Under her leadership the Design & Preservation division advances the design quality of Charlotte’s built environment and public spaces while preserving the history and character of our city.


Jane Love

AICP, Community Coordinator

Carolina Thread Trail

In her role at the Carolina Thread Trail, Jane manages the implementation grant program and assists local government partners in advancing trails/greenways. She has 15 years of prior experience in the transportation planning field, focusing on pedestrian and bicycle modes. Jane holds a Masters degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Jane Singleton Myers

Executive Director

TreesCharlotte

After graduating from Guilford College, I interned with NationsBank during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The following year, I moved to Charlotte to work for Raycom Sports and later to  UNC Charlotte in Alumni Affairs. 

For the next 14 years, I was able to strengthen and diversify my business acumen at Bank of America in finance, investment banking, human resources, marketing, communications, and corporate services (supply chain, corporate real estate and sustainability), among other areas.  Bank of America provided a rich career development environment. 

In 2015, I moved into nonprofit work as Executive Director for The First Tee of Greater Charlotte, where I could apply extensive business knowledge in a new arena that was a passion to me: empowering youth through golf.  It was an incredibly rewarding and successful tenure as we grew the chapter into the top 10 in the country, out of approximately 150 chapters.

Today, I am thrilled with my new mission that combines my love of trees and nature with relationships, business and advocacy. What a humbling mission to be placed in my care.


Jeffrey Robbins

Executive Director

CleanAIRE NC

Jeffrey Robbins joins CleanAIRE NC from the Diverse Paragon consulting agency, where he served as the Managing Director for Sustainable Solutions and ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance). He brings a wealth of experience in marketing and corporate sustainability through past roles at Trader Interactive, Rentokil North American, Scott Safety (3M), FedEx Services, and Motorola SPS. Each of these roles gave Jeff hands-on experience with the environmental permitting process, emissions related to sustainable manufacturing and transportation, and unique insights into the corporate protocols of environmental compliance.

Jeff is passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and spent 12 years across three corporations building DEI programs designed to raise awareness about fair, equitable employee relations. His interest in environmental justice and climate change was sparked by his years of market research, supply chain planning, and project management.

Originally hailing from Chicago, Jeff spent time in the Phoenix area where he earned an MBA from Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, along with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from ASU. He moved to North Carolina in 2009 to take a position with Scott Safety and now considers the state his permanent home. Jeff lives with his wife Sandra G. Robbins, a native of Wilmington NC, and Oscar, their very active Boston Terrier.


Senior Project Manager

Mecklenburg County Land Use and Environmental Services Agency

Joe has been with Mecklenburg County for more than 35 years and is currently a Senior Project Manager with the Solid Waste Department. Current responsibilities include oversite of Capital projects and Regulatory Compliance for the Mecklenburg County Solid Waste and Recycling facilities. 


Jonathan Hill

Executive Director

Keep Charlotte Beautiful

Jonathan Hill has served at Executive Director of Keep Charlotte Beautiful within the Charlotte city government for 6 years; before that, he served as AmeriCorps Community Engagement Manager for Keep Durham Beautiful. Jonathan manages the city’s Adopt-a-Street program, administers the city’s Tree Care and Beautification grants, and oversees an AmeriCorps service program focused on providing litter prevention education to the community, among other things. He recently founded a nonprofit to help financially support his programming. Jonathan holds bachelor degrees in history and public policy from Duke University and a Master in Public Administration from University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill. 


Kristen Wile

Founder and Editor

Unpretentious Palate

Kristen Wile is the editor and founder of Unpretentious Palate, a digital publication covering food and drink in Charlotte. The former editor of Charlotte magazine, she felt traditional media outlets were cutting costs too much to provide the ethical and consistent food journalism readers crave. Unpretentious Palate is old-school reporting and restaurant criticism on a new platform. Before her time at Charlotte, she worked at The Washington Post


CPBT-KA, Director of Avian Operations

Carolina Raptor Center

Kristin has been working with birds, primarily raptors, for over 18 years. Currently, Kristin oversees the Raptor Rehabilitation and Avian Ambassador Programs at Carolina Raptor Center. Her experience in rehabilitating, training, and caring for raptors has resulted in a depth of raptor specific knowledge. Kristin has a strong commitment to conservation and strives to inspire people of all ages to have a caring attitude towards nature and engage in conservation practices. Kristin is driven to help improve the welfare of animals in human care. She also serves as the secretary on the board of directors for the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators.


City Editor

CLTtoday

Maria has worked in journalism for more than 10 years. She started her career with Bloomberg TV before moving to Dayton, Ohio to be a local news producer. That path brought her to Charlotte in 2018, working for WBTV until 2022. Taking a break from broadcast, she launched Charlotte’s first, locally-produced LGBTQ+ podcast, Dishing with Buff Faye and Funsize, while working as a Digital Media Producer for Discovery Place, Inc. The news bug did not stay dormant, she’s since returned to journalism as one of the City Editors for Charlotte’s newest daily newsletter, CLTtoday. 


Meg Fencil

Director of Engagement and Impact

Sustain Charlotte

Meg Fencil (she/her) joined Sustain Charlotte in 2014 and serves as the Director of Engagement and Impact. Meg educates, engages, and unites the community through partnerships and programs to increase equitable transportation choices and promote smart growth in the Charlotte area. Prior to her current role, Meg earned a Ph.D. in marine sciences from the University of Texas at Austin, designed and implemented field research projects in Croatia and Japan, and taught project-based mathematics and science to elementary and high school students. She enjoys uniting her lifelong passion for science with the multidisciplinary work of advancing sustainability to support a healthy environment and better quality of life for all. 


Michael Bowling

General Manager

Carolina Farm Trust

As the General Manager for Carolina Farm Trust, Michael Bowling brings a wealth of expertise in catering and management to the table. His culinary journey, which began in Roanoke, Virginia, was marked by a passion for food and innovation. Recognized for his talents, Michael’s career has evolved into a role that is about much more than just being a chef.

Michael is dedicated to fostering sustainable, local, and community-focused food systems. He excels at orchestrating culinary experiences and managing logistics, all while driving forward a vision of a more sustainable and interconnected food landscape in the Carolinas. His leadership and management skills are key elements of Carolina Farm Trust’s mission, making a profound impact on the organization’s efforts.


Samantha DeRosa

Co-founder

Farmers Market Management Services

Born and raised in the North Carolina mountains, Samantha DeRosa has dedicated her professional life to supporting community connectivity through local food. She is a co-founder of Farmers Market Management Services which currently manages three Charlotte farmers markets in addition to creating opportunities for regional farmers and independent food providers to offer their products to consumers. Her work with farmers markets and other local food systems was recognized in 2022 as Unpretentious Palate named her Local Food Advocate of the Year. 

In her current role as Local Foods Agent for the Mecklenburg County NC Cooperative Extension, Sam creates training and resources to build capacity for supporting regional food systems. She is a leading advocate of North Carolina wines, having developed numerous professional relationships with several NC wineries and vintners, and acted as liaison for several events including the Charlotte Wine + Food and Sensoria Food & Wine festivals.


Sarah Hazel

Chief Sustainability and Resiliency Officer

City of Charlotte

Sarah Hazel is the City’s first Chief Sustainability and Resiliency Officer overseeing the City of Charlotte’s Office of Sustainability and Resiliency, where she leads a team to deliver on the City’s mission to become a low carbon, sustainable city. She worked in the Charlotte City Manager’s Office for six years, where she’s worked on special projects, strategic initiatives, and policy and program development. Prior to her work with the City of Charlotte, she spent seven years running national campaigns for a mission-based consulting firm, specializing in grassroots fundraising and advocacy, including a variety of national environmental organizations. She received a bachelor’s degree in Government and English and her master’s in public administration from UNC Chapel Hill.


Division Director, Division of Nature Preserves and Natural Resources

Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation

Chris is responsible for management, strategic planning, and operations of the Division, which incorporates Mecklenburg County’s nature preserve system, Environmental Education, Outdoor Recreation and the Natural Resources Sections.  The Division of Nature Preserves and Natural Resources protects, manages and interprets Mecklenburg County’s properties designated as Nature Preserves. The 28 Nature Preserves protect the county’s biological resources and natural areas, while providing opportunities for environmental education, nature-based programs, and outdoor recreation.  The Division’s staff offer more than 5,000 programs annually, perform natural resource management, maintain more than 85 miles of nature trails, over 8,000 acres, 4 nature centers and a public campground.

Chris is a Charlotte native and has served on several Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation citizen advisory groups since the mid 1990’s.  He has a BA in Biology from UNC-Charlotte, an MS in Applied Ecology and Conservation Biology from Frostburg State University in Maryland and was designated as one of the Charlotte Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” in 2004.  He spent 12 years in private consulting before joining Mecklenburg County in 2009.  His professional interests include aquatic and terrestrial habitat restoration, freshwater fisheries, stream restoration and stabilization and protected species management. 


Tim Miner

Co-Founder

Charlotte Is Creative

As Creative Troublemaker, Tim manages Queen City Quiz Show, the HUG (Helpful Unfettered Gift) Micro-Grant Program, Creative Entrepreneurs Initiative, CLR Creative Corps project management and The Biscuit media channel. Alongside his creative partner in crime and CIC Co-founder, Matt Olin, Tim organizes the local chapter of CreativeMornings.

Before Charlotte Is Creative, Tim was the “Marketing Dude” at Brixx Pizza; over his 20-year marketing career, Tim helped to shape the modern-day Charlotte brand at Crescent Communities, Charlotte Center City Partners, and the Convention & Visitors Bureau.

A University of North Carolina graduate at Chapel Hill, Tim served on the City of Charlotte’s Arts and Culture Advisory Board and now serves on their Arts and Culture Steering Group. Tim happily married Kim Miner and has two daughters, Grace and Cate. They tell him he’s an embarrassing nerd daily, but they love him anyway.


Tony Mecia

Founder and Editor

The Charlotte Ledger

Tony worked in journalism as the business reporter and editor with the Charlotte Observer before he decided to strike it out on his own. He started The Charlotte Ledger and grew it the old-fashioned way, building relationships locally and relying on word-of-mouth from friends. Today, The Charlotte Ledger is a thriving business with a team of freelancers and regular contributors.


Zachary Turner

Climate Reporter

WFAE

Zachary Turner is a climate reporter and author of the WFAE Climate News newsletter. He freelanced for radio and digital print, reporting on environmental issues in North Carolina.

He has a bachelor’s in French and a master’s in journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill.


Broughton Taylor, Ruby Mangan, and Rachel Stitt

Fridays for Future

Fridays for Future is a youth-led environmental activism organization originally started by Greta Thunberg. Charlotte’s chapter was started by Rachel Stitt, a sophomore at Myers Park High School in 2022. Other members include Broughton Taylor and Ruby Mangan, who are a junior and sophomore respectively.

Fridays for Future Charlotte meets every Friday at 4 pm at Freedom Park to peacefully demonstrate for climate by holding signs with information and petitions. The group focuses on education and often engages in conversations with bypassers, young and old, about the issues. They urge citizens to get involved in the climate issue and use their voices to speak out. They also utilize social media to educate and distribute petitions to more people than the ones they meet at the park.