Trina Hineser: Lifting Others Into Leadership Roles

On March 1, 2020, Trina Hineser became the new Executive Director of the Land Trust of Santa Clara Valley, a nonprofit that protects natural habitat and agricultural lands in Santa Clara County through conservation easements and land acquisition. We are very pleased to see Trina, who graduated from the Green Foothills Leadership Program in 2018, step into this leadership role. While the Land Trust has faced some very challenging times over its 22 year history, Trina is equal to the task and excited by the opportunity to elevate the organization’s work and impact.

Over 15 Years of Community Service

For Trina it’s never been about the size of her role in any given endeavor, it’s about helping to obtain the best outcome. This has been true since her first foray into community advocacy more than 15 years ago. It began with her involvement in a case of horse abuse across from her home in San Martin, in southern Santa Clara County. Along with other neighbors, Trina gathered documentation of violations and brought it to the attention of the County’s District Attorney and helped connect horse rescue organizations with the County’s Animal Services. The owner of the animals was eventually convicted and sentenced to jail time and strong restrictions were imposed on his owning animals in the future.

The incident served as a catalyst to greater commitment to her community and the environment. A strong believer in acting on what you want changed, Trina became involved in the San Martin Neighborhood Alliance (SMNA), a nonprofit working to protect the community’s rural atmosphere through responsible growth and community engagement. First helping with graffiti removal efforts and a scholarship program for various community endeavors, Trina went on to become a SMNA Board Director and served six years as Board President. 

During her tenure as SMNA President, she instituted quarterly meetings with guest speakers from a variety of agencies that allowed the community to relay and discuss issues of concern and receive timely and relevant information. The community valued these meetings to the point that SMNA had to change their meeting location to accommodate the increase in residents’ attendance. 

Trina also led the SMNA through a number of significant land use issues, including joining Green Foothills in opposing the City of Morgan Hill’s plans to annex and develop on farmland in the Southeast Quadrant, an area adjacent to San Martin. Her appointment to the San Martin Planning Advisory Committee (SMPAC), which she now chairs, has provided her with another outlet to weigh in on land use matters that affect her community. As a member of SMPAC, she has worked with the County’s Planning Department to increase the committee’s visibility and voice in its advisory role to the County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors and advanced the discussion about the future of this rural community.

Lifting Others into Leadership Roles

In 2019, Trina stepped down from her role as SMNA Board President and became a Director Emeritus. She credits the Green Foothills Leadership Program for providing her with the valuable advice of knowing when to take a step back to enable others to step into a leadership role. Implementing this advice helped SMNA transition to new leadership after having Trina be the driving force of the group for more than 6 years. 

Appreciating the knowledge gained as part of the Leadership Program 2018 cohort, Trina encouraged other Board members to apply for the program. Since then, two other SMNA Board members have graduated from the Leadership Program.

From Horticulture to Land Conservation

Once a political science major who switched to horticulture, Trina’s journey so far has woven political and environmental issues together in service of her community. From visits to County Supervisors’ offices to champion San Martin land use and code enforcement issues, to writing articles in local newspapers highlighting challenges faced by her community, to bringing neighbors together for Trash Bash events for which she gained support from the County, Trina’s persistent efforts have earned her the respect of San Martin residents.  

But for Trina, the most gratifying part of her work has been facilitating connections that bring people together to find solutions to issues big and small. We know that this will serve her well in her new Executive Director role, working collaboratively with other agencies and organizations like Green Foothills to protect the natural habitats and agricultural lands of Santa Clara County.

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