Celebrating Our Growing Team On Employee Appreciation Day

For Employee Appreciation Day I’d like to express how grateful I am for my colleagues at Green Foothills. These nine people are the core reason we create impact day after day on our mission to protect local open space, farmland, and natural resources. With shelter-in-place hit, they worked together to ensure we met the challenge of transitioning to remote work with a flourish and, remarkably, 2020 was one of our most impactful and successful years yet by nearly every metric. They are brilliant, dedicated, passionate, and give us all hope for the future. Check out our 2020 annual report to get a feel for what we are accomplishing together in large part because of their hard work (and your support!).

Would you help me extend a big thank you to the Green Foothills team by signing this eCard by Employee Appreciation Day? I am sure they would love hearing from you.

Get to know more about your Green Foothills team

Since our founding in 1962, Green Foothills has shifted from a volunteer group of advocates to a professional staff. Advocacy, education, and grassroots action has been our long-standing vehicle for change. We achieve this by: 1) Engaging in local land use issues, 2) Holding decision-makers accountable, and 3) Empowering community members. Below you can learn a little more about the special individuals on our team who I have the good fortune of working with.

Brian Schmidt is both the newest member of our team and one of the longest serving employees. He was on staff as a Santa Clara County Legislative Advocate from 2003 to 2011, joined our Board of Directors from 2015-2020, and transitioned back onto our staff in June 2020 on an interim basis to support local advocacy. Brian is an environmental lawyer by training and one of the most effective land use advocates in the region with experience as a Senior  Program Director at Greenbelt Alliance, past public service as a Santa Clara Valley Water District Director, and current public service as President of the Mid-Peninsula Water District Board. I’m pleased to announce that as of February 1 we welcomed Brian back as a Legislative Advocacy Director. Brian brings expertise, experience, and effectiveness that will immediately serve us in Santa Clara County and regionally. His joining our team now allows for more proactive advocacy initiatives and policy work throughout the region. What inspires me about Brian is what a big picture thinker he is. We can always count on him to think outside the box and bring new ideas to the table. Welcome back, Brian!

Alice Kaufman also serves as Legislative Advocacy Director with a growing focus in San Mateo County. She first joined our Board of Directors in 2010 and joined our staff in 2012. Together with Brian, Alice oversees the Advocacy Department’s priorities regionally, as well as engaging directly in advocacy. It has been an inspiration to work alongside Alice since I started in 2013 and watch her grow in her effectiveness and impact, championing large campaigns including our work to protect the Coyote Valley region and the Cargill wetlands site, among many other campaigns. Alice can always be counted on for her brilliant writing and her dogged persistence. There are times where we lovingly refer to her as “Green Foothills’ mom,” and she can always be counted on to bring yummy food to a meeting and to do whatever needs to be done to get a project done. Thank you, Alice!

Lennie Roberts joined our board in 1968 and our staff as Legislative Advocate in 1978 and has dedicated her life to championing good land use in San Mateo County. 50 years! She has served Green Foothills as long as all of the years our staff has worked for Green Foothills combined. If Alice is our “mom,” Lennie is our godmother and heroine. She is famous in the region for her work to protect the San Mateo County Coast, including the decades-long campaign to defeat a highway bypass and instead approve the Devil’s Slide Tunnel. Lennie is a big reason why we still have miles and miles of redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains and is the one everyone turns to when there is a threat to forests. For so many of us, Lennie is Green Foothills and Green Foothills is Lennie. She has the sharpest mind on our team and can pull content from conversations and government meetings off the top of her head from decades ago. Lennie embodies our values of expertise, persistence, integrity, and camaraderie. She was the deciding factor for why I decided to join Green Foothills in 2013 and we are all so lucky to have the opportunity to work alongside this local legend.

Julie Hutcheson joined Green Foothills in 2009 as we expanded our work into southern Santa Clara County. Through grit and determination, she worked with community members to successfully protect thousands of acres of farmland in Morgan Hill, Gilroy, and unincorporated parts of the County. In 2017, Julie took a one year hiatus to serve the San Jose Conservation Corps as External Affairs Manager and returned in 2018 to become our Director of Impact. In her role, Julie keeps our entire team organized and accountable, now leading major projects for the organization and managing many of the day-to-day operations to increase our program impact. Since rejoining, she has professionalized our systems and led the process to update our new name and logo. She is one of the most detail-oriented people I have ever worked with and has helped my professional development and personal growth in my role as Executive Director. We are fortunate that Julie chose Green Foothills and I am thankful to have her as a partner and colleague.

Andrea Fraume Valencia joined our team in January 2020 as our first ever Leadership Academy Program Director. I met Andrea in 2018 at a Bay Area Open Space Council (now Together Bay Area) conference and was immediately impressed by her confidence, intelligence, and gentle approach as an outdoor educator and environmental justice advocate. She went through our Community Advocates Leadership Academy program in 2019 and I was excited to hear of her interest when we created the Leadership Academy Program Director role at the end of 2019 to lead the program with it’s reimagined curriculum that had a greater focus on engaging graduates in Green Foothills mission and environmental justice across the region. Andrea has been the heart of this reimagined program and has demonstrated her resilience time and time again with the impacts on COVID meaning she would have to reinvent herself as an interactive, in-person educator only several months into her role. I have learned so much from this young woman and it is a real privilege to watch her shine so early in her career. Thank you for all that you do, Andrea!

Will Wyman joined us as Development Director in March 2020, and his first day at Green Foothills was also our region’s first day of shelter in place. He is one of the most energetic, positive people I have ever worked with and a real trooper to say the least given he started with us in the early days of the pandemic. Will also has one of the most fascinating stories among us. I’ll never forget reading his cover letter in excitement, finding out he is a long time family friend of our famous founding Board President Wallace Stegner and his family. He grew up in our heartland on Skyline and is an experienced Development Director with decades of experience in fundraising and development for local environmental nonprofits and land trusts. We are very lucky to have Will on our team and I am looking forward to the day when we can work in the same office and not over zoom and email!

Justyne Schnupp has served Green Foothills as our Community Engagement Manager since 2015. To share a fun story, a little over a decade ago our offices at the Peninsula Conservation Center in Palo Alto used to be in a different part of the building and the nonprofit Environmental Volunteers were where our offices are now. Justyne worked for Environmental Volunteers at the time and her desk then was exactly where her desk at Green Foothills now is. Small world! Justyne is a total joy to have on our team and she has the brightest, most positive attitude one might ever hope for. She also happens to be an incredibly organized events manager and has brought us every single fabulous event Green Foothills has offered since she started. We appreciate you, Justyne!

Leslie Lopez Holder is our Marketing Manager and she brings a special, uncompared magic to her work. She joined our team in 2018 and brought the Protect Coyote Valley brand to life, laying the foundation for so many of the recent, grassroots-infused advocacy wins. Taking that experience to the larger Green Foothills organization she advocated for an update of our brand and website. She spearheaded the monumental task of creating our new website from scratch, a relatively unheard of undertaking for an organization our size, but that is Leslie for you. She is a talented designer and marketing professional, and one of the most dedicated employees I have ever worked with. Currently Leslie is pursuing her masters degree in Chicago while working for us in anticipation of becoming a librarian one day. As long as Leslie will have Green Foothills, there is a place for her here. We are so happy you found us Leslie!

Moises Mena joined our team in 2019 as our Development and Marketing Coordinator. He brings a special flair to his daily work that is simply a joy. His dry sense of humor was evident from day one as he questioned whether he would be the  “token male” among Green Foothills all-female staff at the time. As it just so happens, we have tripled the number of male staff since. Moises has brought much to his role. He drove the assessment of our organizational database needs and transition to a new database tool to better manage our growing base of community partners and supporters.  He has also improved our donor acknowledgement process, and is preparing to help implement our social media strategy.  He is a wiz at keeping us operating smoothly and I look forward to having him with us for a long time! We are better for your leadership with Green Foothills, Moises! Thank you for being a part of our team.

The people at Green Foothills are the finest around and genuinely a dream team for this Executive Director. It is an honor and privilege to work with them day in and day out and I am so appreciative of them.  If you haven’t yet, please help me extend a big thank you to the Green Foothills team by signing this eCard in recognition of Employee Appreciation Day. Thank you! 

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