Stephanie Freeman, Chair
Stephanie Freeman truly enjoys advocating for the river! Stephanie has worked in government affairs, infrastructure development, and zoning and permitting entitlements. She received her law degree and masters of business administration from Stetson University and has undergraduate degrees in both real estate and finance from Florida State University. Stephanie specializes in land use law and real estate finance. Most recently, Stephanie has served as the Vice President of Development for Berlin Atlantic Capital and an entitlement consultant for Florida East Coast Rail. Stephanie served as the Director of Finance for the County of Erie, board member for the County Economic Development Board, and a local gaming board. Stephanie and her husband live on Fishweir Creek with their two children. They love to fish, boat, and kayak in the St. Johns river.
Bud Para, Vice Chair
Bud and his wife, Kathy enjoy kayaking, swimming, and sailing in the St. Johns River and its tributaries. Bud retired from JEA in 2015 after working as an engineer and manager in the electric, water, and wastewater systems including responsibilities for environmental services and government relations. He has served on the boards of the Jacksonville Urban League and the RPC Youth Basketball League, as scholarship chair and a volunteer referee.
Dr. Gerard Pinto, Secretary
Gerard F. Pinto, Ph.D. is an Associate Research Scientist at the Marine Science Research Institute at Jacksonville University. He is project director of The State of the River report for the Lower St. Johns River Basin. Gerry gathers and evaluates data, and authors the sections on biological impacts of salinity, fisheries, submerged aquatic vegetation, and federally endangered & threatened species (manatees, bald eagles, wood storks, shortnose sturgeon). He assists efforts to increase the use of local data, from the SJR Report, in STEM education in the Duval County School System and colleges. Over the last 25 years, he helped to develop and implement approved State and Federal Manatee Protection Plans for Duval and Clay Counties. He is a consultant to the City of Jacksonville Waterways Commission and conducts research to monitor manatee populations in northeast Florida. He gives presentations to the public regarding manatee ecology and behavior, and the health of the St. Johns River watershed. He works to raise public awareness about manatee issues through the Manatee Research Center Online (MARCO) website, safe boating, and speed zone advisory guides, educational seminars, TV and print media. He is a board member of the Jacksonville Science Foundation. Additionally, Gerry’s specialty is in fisheries and aquaculture. He conducts research, teaching, and has worked on commercial fish production systems and marketing in the Caribbean, Kenya, Armenia, and in the U.S. His research interests include fisheries sampling and the impact of freshwater withdrawals, sea level rise, and harbor deepening activities on the flora and fauna of the Lower St. Johns River Basin. He is married to Deborah Renee Pinto, Ph.D. and they have three children that enjoy fishing, kayaking, hiking, and seeing wildlife.
Steve Cobb, Treasurer
Steve is a Jacksonville native, who grew up in Arlington and spent many years fishing and shrimping along the St Johns. After attending Florida State University, he returned to Jacksonville and started as a computer programmer for Cybernetics and Systems, later to become CSX Technology. What was initially thought to be a 3-4 year career starter, turned into a 34 year career in Information Technology for CSX railroad. A lifelong Florida State Seminole, Steve was President of the Jacksonville Seminole Boosters in 1993. Steve joined the St Johns Riverkeeper organization in 2011, finding alignment with their direction, efforts, and strategies. A desire to get more involved led to a role on the River Patrol Steering Committee, which later included being the lead captain for the SJRK showcase vessel, the Kingfisher. He also found additional front-line responsibilities for the Low Country Boil and Oyster Roast. In 2020, he joined the Board of Directors and moved to the role of Treasurer in 2021. Steve still loves to fish and boat. He also enjoys golfing and has hiked extensively on the Florida Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and in Spain. He is married, with three children and three grandsons.
Hank Coxe, Director
Hank Coxe grew up in a tiny town that overlooked the Hudson River in northern New Jersey. He has spent his professional career as a lawyer in Jacksonville and has served as President of the Florida Bar, the Jacksonville Bar, and the Rotary Club of Jacksonville. He lives to fish anywhere but his greatest experiences have been traveling the river with Ron Littlepage – a 15 minute encounter with an escaped but trained dolphin in Sisters Creek, accidentally hooking a large manatee (safely freed) in the St. Johns, a huge sea tortoise at Matanzas, and a monster gar at the mouth of Fishweir. All memories worth saving.
Lisa King, Director
Lisa King was born in sight of the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville and has been blessed to live on the river for most of her life. A political science major at Stetson University in Deland, she started her career staffing a U.S. Congressman and a member of the Florida House of Representatives. She joined the private sector in 1991 and currently serves as Senior Vice President of Langton Consulting, a full-service grant consulting firm serving cities and counties. Her proudest professional achievement was authoring the grants credited with saving the St. Johns River Ferry. Lisa believes public service is her highest calling and has served as Chair of Jacksonville’s Planning Commission and Vice Chair of the Jacksonville Housing and Community Development Commission. Most recently she served as a subject matter expert to Jacksonville’s Special Committee on Resiliency. She and her husband John have lived on the St. Johns River on Heckscher Drive since 1998. Together they have three children, four grandchildren, and a very spoiled orange cat.
Marty Jones, Director
Marty Jones is a Pisces who can never be far from water. She has spent her career in the insurance business including executive positions with Kemper Insurance and Ford Credit and is currently a Partner with the Holmes Organisation Private Client Group. Community involvement over the years of board service at The Cummer Museum, Fleet Landing, and The World Affairs Council of Jacksonville. Marty and her husband Dick Jones live nicely positioned between the St. Johns River and the Atlantic Ocean in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Ron Littlepage, Director
Ron Littlepage has been called many names — Ronald, Ronnie, Ron, Page and Idiot, which was often used when he was writing a column for The Florida Times-Union. During that almost 30-year career, one of his favorite subjects was the St. Johns River and the need to restore and protect it. He has enjoyed many adventures on the River (for details see the bio of fellow board member Hank Coxe). Since retiring five years ago, Littlepage spends most of his time on his and his wife’s farm in Gadsden County. He now goes by Simple Farmer.
Kenyon Merritt, Director
Kenyon Merritt is a native of Jacksonville spending the majority of her life living on or near the St. Johns River. In her younger days, she sailed, canoed, and skied off of her bulkhead and now enjoys kayaking, bird, alligator, and manatee watching. Kenyon is very passionate about preserving the environment and its natural resources. Over the past four decades she has worked professionally and in a volunteer capacity in development and, has been active with the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Memorial Park, The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, Leadership Jacksonville, and several other non-profits. Kenyon can often be found walking the beach, her renourishment!
Tina Nichols, Director
Tina Nichols was born and raised on the Atlantic Ocean in Cohasset, MA. She studied International Relations at Tufts University in Massachusetts. A seasoned traveler, Nichols lived in Paris for a year in 1984; where she studied at l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques and the Sorbonne. She then went on to achieve her J.D. with Honors from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Nichols practiced general civil law for 5+ years, including Preservation 2000 land purchase, Superfund cleanup, and land use/development. She then retired from law to raise 3 kids, who are now 29, 27, and 23 years old.
Social & Civic Memberships: The Women’s Giving Alliance of Jacksonville (Grants Core Decision Team); Board Member, Greenscape of Jacksonville; Steering Committee Member, Jacksonville Climate Coalition; The Florida Yacht Club; Ponte Vedra Inn & Club; St. Augustine Sailing Crew and Women on the Water.
In her free time, she enjoys tennis, photography, sailing/boating, Florida’s beaches, hiking, nature/animals, and travel. Fun fact: Tina is fluent in French!
Ben Oxnard, Director
Ben was raised on the Wilmington River, Herb Creek, and Wassaw Sound in Savannah, Georgia, chasing redfish on tidal flats and learning to crab and shrimp. He believes that volunteering his time to the Riverkeeper’s efforts to conserve our waters will help to preserve a way of life for future generations to enjoy. Ben graduated from James Madison University with a B.S. in Psychology and a concentration in Behavioral Analysis. Before joining Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in 2012, he worked as a management consultant in Washington, DC, where he helped institutional clients navigate and streamline organizational change. He lives in the Venetia area of Jacksonville with his wife Whitney and son Benjamin. In his free time can be found on the water, playing golf, and relaxing with his family.
Bill Zoby, Director
Bill grew up in Norfolk, Virginia on Broad Creek, a tributary of the Elizabeth River, where he spent days fishing, crabbing, and enjoying nature. He received a B.S. degree in Sociology with a concentration in Criminal Justice from Old Dominion University in 1972. A forty-year management career in the consumer products industry then took him to East Providence, Rhode Island, Atlanta, Georgia, Columbus Ohio, and Miami, Fl before he settled in Melbourne with his wife, Brenda, in 2002. Wherever he lived, his interest in and appreciation of rivers and lakes was evidenced by membership in groups such as Save the Bay (Narragansett Bay) and The Lake Lanier Association (Georgia).
Bill has been a UF/IFAS Florida Master Gardener since 2007 and created the Vineyard/ Orchard section of the Brevard Discovery Garden after serving a term as Chairman of The Board of The Brevard Botanical Garden. Bill was also a member of the Leadership Council and served as Vice-Chaiman of the Board of the Brevard County Take Stock in Children scholarship program. Since 2017, Bill has been a member of The St. Johns Riverkeepers Headwaters Advisory Council as well as a volunteer with the UF/ Fisheries and Aquatic Studies, taking monthly water samples for analysis from Lake Washington and Blue Cypress Lake, two key lakes formed by the St. Johns River.
Jim Schwarz, Emeritus Member
Jim believes the St. Johns River is vital to the environment, economy, and enjoyment of people in Northeast Florida and he is passionate about protecting the entire watershed for the benefit of this and future generations. His profession has been as a management and nonprofit governance consultant, helping corporations and nonprofits achieve their goals. Jim’s community engagement includes serving on the boards of several environmental nonprofits and as a Shellfish Commissioner for his previous community of Stamford, Connecticut. Jim and his wife Trisha love to kayak and hike the many beautiful areas of our state.