The St. Johns Riverkeeper: Lisa Rinaman
As the St. Johns Riverkeeper, Lisa Rinaman serves as the chief advocate and public’s voice for the St. Johns River.
Her 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 Mayors John Delaney and John Peyton, Lisa Rinaman has extensive experience building consensus around issues and helped implement numerous environmental initiatives and river friendly policies.
Lisa was instrumental in the creation of Waterkeepers Florida, a formal collaboration of 15 Waterkeeper Alliance programs united across the state. She is also one of the founding members of the Free the Ocklawaha River Coalition working to reunite Silver Springs, the Ocklawaha and the St. Johns as the Great Florida Riverway.
She enjoys Florida’s waters and natural wonders with her husband, Mark, and two boys, Mark Jr. and August.
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
Advocacy Specialist: Soraya Aidinejad
Soraya was born and raised in Jacksonville, FL. She is a Jacksonville University alum with a B.S. in geography with a specialization in the environment. She has always been passionate about the river – growing up on the St. Johns left her weekends filled with river-based activities such as kayaking, boating and fishing.
Before coming to St. Johns Riverkeeper, Soraya was an environmental specialist at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in Panama City. Her primary job was as a wetlands evaluator within the Compliance Assurance Program. Her secondary job at FDEP was as a Stormwater Management Inspector. After her time working at the state, Aidinejad moved back to Jacksonville to work at a private environmental company where she worked as a biologist doing various job functions such as tree surveys, wetland delineations, wetland reviews with jurisdictional agencies, invasive plant control, and wildlife assessments.
Soraya looks forward to continuing efforts to protect the river in finding new and constructive ways to preserve and monitor the health of the St. Johns from emerging threats for future generations to come.
Office: (904) 256-7036
Education Director: Jamie De Nisco
Jamie organizes, coordinates, and provides environmental education programming for K-12 students within the St. Johns River watershed. Jamie is a Jacksonville, FL native, and received her Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Florida Southern College. Her love for native wildlife and ecosystems led her to spend time working for Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, City of Jacksonville Parks, and Florida Fish & Wildlife (FWC). She took every opportunity within these roles to educate the public on the importance of the natural world and continued on to join the St. Johns Riverkeeper team as Education Specialist. Now as Education Director, Jamie 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
Community Engagement Coordinator: Jessica Finch
Jessica is responsible for raising awareness, engaging residents and leaders, and building support in Putnam County for St. Johns RIVERKEEPER’s advocacy priorities. A primary focus of her role is on the restoration of the natural flow of the Ocklawaha River to reunite Silver Springs, the Ocklawaha and the St. Johns. As a former owner of the Suwannee Valley Campground and the Welaka Lodge & Resort, Jessica is keenly aware of the importance of rivers to the economy and quality of life of the local community. She is a graduate of Flagler College with a B.A. in psychology. Jessica lives in Welaka with her husband and son, where she serves as the President of the Welaka Town Council and President of Friends of Welaka, a nonprofit organization she helped create in 2018.
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
Outreach and Engagement Specialist: Steph Morse
Steph comes from a long line of central Florida natives stretching back to Spanish colonial days. Her earliest memories of Florida are of walking cow paths on her grandparents’ rural property, swimming in creeks and catching minnows with her sisters. Her passion for native ecosystems and wildlife has continued throughout her educational and professional journey. Today she hopes to engage others with firsthand experiences of the watershed to create meaningful connections between citizens and their environment.
Steph has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Central Florida, as well as a master’s degree in international affairs from the University of North Florida. She has an extensive background in experiential education, having worked for the University of North Florida, and most recently, the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens.
Office: (904) 256-7614
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
Education Specialist: Cassie Underwood
Cassie was born and raised in Central Florida, where she spent much of her childhood exploring local waterways and spending as much time learning about animals as possible. She attended the University of Central Florida where she gained a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Environmental Science and a minor in Psychology. After graduating she worked within the zoological field, most recently at Marineland Dolphin Adventure, where her passion for environmental education really blossomed. Cassie credits environmental educators who inspired her as a child for the career path she has chosen, and she hopes that through this role she can inspire future generations to care about our natural world just as much. Outside of work Cassie can be found kayaking with her family, working in her garden, or at the beach with her dog.
Office: (904) 256-7022
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
Stephanie Freeman, Chair
Bud Para, Vice Chair
Dr. Gerry Pinto, Secretary
Steve Cobb, Treasurer
Jim Schwarz, Emeritus Member
St. Johns Riverkeeper Legal Committee
Hank Coxe, Chair