The St. Johns Riverkeeper: Lisa Rinaman
The St. Johns Riverkeeper is the chief advocate and public’s voice for the St. Johns River. Responsibilities include: holding regulatory agencies and those polluting the river accountable; identifying and advocating for solutions that will protect and restore the river; working with government entities, businesses, community leaders and citizens to resolve problems that impact the river’s health; and communicating with the media and the public to educate and raise awareness about important river-related issues.
As a former senior staff member for Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton, Lisa Rinaman has extensive experience building consensus around issues and helped implement numerous environmental initiatives and policies. Lisa was instrumental in leading the effort to develop and implement irrigation, fertilizer and Florida Friendly landscaping ordinances to better protect the St. Johns and local waterways. She also played a key role in securing state funding for water quality improvements, organizing the city’s successful Manatee Protection Plan, and pushing for programs necessary to fulfill the River Accord restoration plan for the Lower St. Johns River.
Before being named the St. Johns Riverkeeper, Lisa served as a valuable member of the St. Johns Riverkeeper Water Policy Group (WPG), a group that advocates for water conservation and reuse and policies that are more protective of our water resources.
Office: (904) 256-7591
Executive Director: Jimmy Orth
In addition to assisting the Riverkeeper in the field, Jimmy Orth maintains overall responsibility for budgeting, staffing, program development, fundraising, and public relations. A native of Jacksonville, Jimmy has extensive experience working on environmental issues in Northeast Florida through his involvement with other environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, where he served as an executive committee member for over eight years and as a regional chairman. In 2003, Volunteer Jacksonville awarded Jimmy its Nature of Caring award. Jimmy received his undergraduate degree from Florida State in Marketing, and his master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of North Florida.
Mobile: (904) 485-0164
Office: (904) 256-7591
Education Director: Ashleigh Boice
Ashleigh is a Jacksonville, FL native who has spent most of her free time on or in the water. As a child, she would come to school with tales of her adventures exploring the St. Johns River’s springs and waterways with her dad via canoe. All she wanted was to have other kids love the river like she did – and as Education Director she gets to do just that! She looks forward to growing our education programs and extending them to reach as many students within the watershed as possible.
Ashleigh has both a bachelor’s degree in Florida Anthropology and a master’s degree in Ecological Restoration, focusing on wetlands. She has spent nearly a decade in environmental education, working for organizations such as the National Park Service and Georgia Aquarium. She was most recently a 7th grade science teacher in Metro Atlanta.
Office: (904) 256-7022
Education Specialist: Jamie De Nisco
Jamie works with the Education Director to organize, coordinate, and provide environmental education programming for K-12 students within the St. Johns River watershed. Jamie is a Jacksonville, FL native, and received her Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science from Florida Southern College in Lakeland, FL. Her love for native wildlife led her to begin her career as a natural resource intern for the City of Jacksonville, and later as a Shorebird Biologist for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. She took opportunities within these roles to lead nature walks, train volunteers, and educate the public on the importance of our ecosystems. She is looking forward to continuing her passions in inspiring students and the general public through education and advocating for the St. Johns River.
Office: (904) 256-7908
Development Director: Meredith Jespersen
As the Development Director, Meredith is responsible for supporting the development and implementation of all of St. Johns Riverkeeper’s fundraising initiatives, including the membership program, major gifts, grant writing, planned giving and special events. She comes to Riverkeeper with over 20 years of nonprofit experience in Northeast Florida, including roles at the Florida Theatre, White Oak Conservation Center, and WJCT Public Broadcasting.
Meredith grew up in Jacksonville, attending high school and college in the area. One of her fondest memories of the river was spending days out of school with her grandmother riding the river taxi from the Southbank to the Northbank. When she is not at work, Meredith spends time with her husband, Aaron, and their two rescue pups, Gretsch and Doodles.
Middle Basin Coordinator: Gabbie Milch
Gabbie’s focus in the St. Johns Middle Basin is to assist the community to engage and learn about the quality of the River from Orange County to Lake George. She believes that the St. Johns River should be safe for kayaking, as well as swimmable and fishable. She wants to engage volunteers, members, and the community to participate in activities such as clean ups, River-Friendly Landscapes projects and riparian habitat restorations, riverfront hikes and other social learning activities. She was an UF IFAS Horticulture Agent / Master Gardener Coordinator, Florida-Friendly Landscaping Agent. She worked in the past for the St. Johns River Water Management District as a Watershed Action Volunteer Coordinator (WAV) in the middle basin and is familiar with water quality and quantity issues of the St. Johns. She graduated from Rollins College with a BA in Environmental Studies and has completed MS work at UF in Agricultural Education and Communications program. She loves to kayak, identify plants and animals, hike and photograph the beauty of nature.
Mobile: (407) 607- 2965
Office Manager: Sara Schmalfeld
Sara’s responsibilities include managing all of the St. Johns Riverkeeper membership relations and databases, assisting with event planning and execution, as well as assisting our Outreach Director with communications and design. Sara holds a Bachelors in Elementary Education from Florida State University and has previously worked in non-profit, private schools doing everything from finance to communications for 13 years.
Sara grew up on Amelia Island where spent her childhood playing on the beach and strolling through the marsh. This experience created a love of nature and the environment that has only expanded over time. Outside of work, Sara enjoys being a Girl Scout troop leader to her two daughters, loves photography, and reading as many books as she can.
Mobile: (904) 240-8865
Office: (904) 256-7591
Outreach Director: Karen Estella Smith
As Outreach Director, Karen is responsible for engaging the community through events, programs, and campaigns to raise awareness about the issues affecting the health of the St. Johns River. In addition, she helps provide experiences that connect people to the river, develop partnerships, and foster relationships that activate and empower residents throughout the entire watershed in support of the organization’s advocacy priorities.
Karen is a native of Jacksonville, FL. She graduated from the Florida State University with a degree in English Literature, after which she completed post-graduate studies in London in the area of Museum Studies. She is currently pursuing her master’s in biology in an inquiry-based program called Project Dragonfly, where she is focusing on Conservation and Environmental Justice. The program is based out of the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens. Karen’s career began in public affairs and communications. Her professional background includes having worked on Capitol Hill, the Florida Department of Education, and with the Magnet School Program in Duval County Public Schools. She has also worked with various nonprofit organizations in the Jacksonville community.
Her favorite memories of the St. Johns are family fishing trips that she still takes with her cousins. But, more recently you could find her in the tributaries collecting water samples for her graduate research.
Communications Specialist: Rebecca Vecera
Rebecca is a content creator whose focus is to engage our members (and future members!), and equip you with the knowledge you need to be a more River Friendly citizen. Her responsibilities include print and digital design, email distribution, website maintenance, social media and public relations. Rebecca has a background in nonprofit communications and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Florida State University.
Rebecca grew up in Clay County and loves to get outdoors for a hike or paddle along the watershed. She looks forward to supporting education, outreach and advocacy efforts to preserve the health of the River for generations to come.
Office: (904) 256-7613
Board of Directors
Marty Jones, Chair
Stephanie Freeman, Vice Chair
Kenyon Merritt, Secretary
Steve Cobb, Treasurer
Dr. Gerry Pinto
Jim Schwarz, Emeritus Member
St. Johns Riverkeeper Legal Committee
Hank Coxe, Chair