The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) provides citizen input to SBEP and assists the Program in sharing information with the public. The CAC also develops action plans to support SBEP programs and projects in an effort to influence public policies that impact on the Bay and its resources.
Citizens Advisory Committee Members
(List presented in alphabetical order)
Justin is Executive Director of Suncoast Waterkeeper, a local environmental organization dedicated to protecting and restoring local waterways. He also has a solo law practice, is the owner of Osprey Motorcar Company, and serves as a partner for SUP Sarasota Watersports. Justin is on the board of the Florida West Coast Resource Conservation and Development Council. Justin graduated from New College of Florida in 1991 with a BA Degree in Environmental Studies. He completed his law degree at Tulane University in 1996. His interests include sailing, boating, swimming, paddle sports, snorkeling, and diving. Justin serves as Chair of the CAC.
Dick is a former City Commissioner for Sarasota from 2007 to 2011 who served as mayor of the City of Sarasota in 2009. He moved to Sarasota in 2001 from St. Charles, Illinois with his wife Marti. The couple visited the area many times beginning in the early 1970’s after Marti’s grandparents bought a house in Sarasota in 1952. Dick had a prior career in the paper industry in the areas of manufacturing management, product development and new business development. He spent many years in Wisconsin and is originally from Michigan. Dick has volunteered extensively in neighborhood associations and business organizations.
Briana is a Senior Planning Technician at the Urban Design Studio with the City of Sarasota. She moved to Florida in 2013 after graduating from the University of Virginia with a degree in Architecture and minor in Urban and Environmental Planning. Briana finished her Master’s in Sustainable Design from the University of Florida in 2016. Her thesis work focused on investigating alternatives to seawalls throughout the coasts of Sarasota County and calculating the suitability of living shoreline and hybrid solutions. Briana also holds her LEED Green Associate where she enjoys finding the balance between the natural and built environment. In her free time, you can find Briana kayaking, paddle boarding and practicing yoga on the beach. Briana has served on the CAC since 2017.
Coming from the business world, Wayne has 30 years of experience in manufacturing management and management consulting. The mission of SBEP, life long learning, nature, kayaking, and volunteering are his passions. In his spare time, you may find him volunteering as a nature guide / kayak instructor in Manatee County’s Preserves or as an instructor in the University of Florida’s Master Naturalist Program. Wayne is the Secretary of the CAC.
Lesley has a strong affinity for human interactions with nature both in her personal and professional life. She is a registered horticultural therapist, Florida master gardener, and volunteer at Anna Maria Elementary School’s edible garden. Author of multiple publications on people-plant interactions including the ebook Therapeutic Horticulture: A Practitioner’s Perspective, she has been active in educational outreach, professional training, and public speaking efforts to share the philosophy of biophilia—humans having an intrinsic need to connect with nature. Her experience includes public policy and planning at local, state and federal levels, board member for several horticultural therapy professional associations, and reviewer for the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture. Lesley has two degrees in Political Science.
Maddy is currently a student in her 10th grade year at Pine View School. She has a strong affinity for nature, and enjoys volunteering at the Venice Wildlife Center, where she cares for numerous animals. She has also worked with the city of North Port to place a deer crossing sign in an area that was constantly frequented by deer and other wildlife. Recently, she attended the STAR Leadership summer program, which moves to promote youth participation in the community. After her completion of this program, she was introduced to the SBEP CAC, of which she soon became a member. Maddy has served as the STAR Student Member of the CAC since 2016.
Nicole is an Environmental Specialist with Sarasota County working in water quality and outreach. Previously, she served as a fisheries biologist and outreach coordinator with the Florida Wildlife Research Institute. Nicole originally hails from Colorado where she studied Evolutionary Biology & Ecology and Biological Anthropology at CU-Boulder. She is a co-founder of Student Outreach and Retention Center for Equity, a student-run center aimed at high school students from under-represented communities. It provides resources for tutoring, college admissions, and scholarships. This led to work in grass-roots organizing with the U.S. Student Association to expand higher education access and funding. Nicole spends her free time paddling, hiking, and chasing her wanderlust whenever possible. Nicole has served on the CAC since 2017.
Always a lover of the natural world, Marion is an advocate for protecting the environment. Most recently, she was president of the Green Lake Conservancy Foundation in Wisconsin, which has preserved and protected numerous acres of environmentally-sensitive lands. In addition to protecting and restoring Green Lake, the Foundation helps educate the public about environmental stewardship and sustainable land management. A former educator, she’s working on her French to enhance communication with her grandsons who lived previously in Paris. She volunteers as a Lakes Committee member in her neighborhood, and at the Anna Maria Island Elementary School’s edible garden.
Yvette earned her BS Degree in Business from the University of South Florida. She owns Simply Green Solutions, a consulting company that helps environmental groups and nonprofits achieve their mission. As a certified Project Professional and grant writer / adminstrator, she helps clients improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Yvette helped expand the Pooches for the Planet Program, a pet waste education campaign managed by Tampa Bay Estuary Program and SBEP. It’s estimated that more than 26 tons of pet waste is deposited each day in Sarasota and Manatee County. Yvette has supported many events over multiple years through her community support and TogetherGreen Fellowship.
Jack retired after serving as the Environmental Manager for Sarasota County. He worked for the organization for 12 years and his background in resource management includes stints with the St. Johns River Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, Florida Department of Natural Resources, Florida House of Representatives, and Hillsborough County. Jack completed his graduate and undergraduate degrees at the USF College of Natural Sciences. He’s been involved with SBEP as a member of the Management Board and previously served as Chair of the CAC. Jack was honored with a SBEP Blue Dolphin Award in 2012. Jack enjoys fly fishing, kayaking, sailing, bird watching, and sunset views.
Lou has degrees in veterinary medicine from Cornell University and veterinary pathology from Michigan State University. His early years were spent as a large animal cowboy vet and rancher in Montana; his later years as director of veterinary diagnostic laboratories at the University of Kentucky and the University of Georgia. In addition to teaching on cruise ships following retirement, Lou has served as a volunteer veterinarian at Mote Marine Laboratory, Pelican Man Bird Sanctuary and in Great Britain during the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak. Lou is best known locally for his wildlife and bird photography.
Ken is a resident in both Sarasota and Manhattan. He is active with the San Remo Homeowners Association and Friends of Roberts Bay. He retired following a career as a consultant for the publishing industry. After serving as editor of the Columbia Journalism Review and as a writer and editor for Time Magazine, he worked for several years as a consulting editor for National and International Wildlife Magazines published by the National Wildlife Federation. He also served as a consulting publisher for other magazines focused on finance, mutual funds and cruise resort travel. Ken earned a MA Degree in General Studies in the Humanities and a BA Degree in Tutorial Studies from the University of Chicago.
Shawn Glen Pierson
Shawn joined the CAC in 2016. As a Sarasota resident and practicing architect, Shawn serves on several other boards in the city, including the Sarasota County Tree Advisory Council and the City of Sarasota Parks, Recreation, and Environmental Protection Advisory Board. Shawn has lived in several places tied closely to large expanses of nature and water and the issues of human interaction with nature. His education and career are fundamentally concerned with how humans create interventions in and utilize the natural environment over a wide range of exclusive or mutual benefit. Shawn received his undergraduate education in Architecture and Planning at The Catholic University of America School of Engineering and Architecture, continued his education at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and is the founder of the nonprofit Friends of Bobby Jones Golf Club, Inc.
Thomas and his wife moved to Sarasota from Cleveland in 1972 after serving in the Army in Vietnam and Korea. As a barber by profession, he’s had many opportunities to listen to the concerns of the community. His interest has always been in the quality of life, so he joined the environmental groups; the Audubon Society, Control Growth Now and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program as a CAC member. The mission of the Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats.
Cyndi joined the CAC in 2008 at the request of the Town of Longboat Key. She has served as an officer of her condo board since 2007. She is also an officer with Longboat Key Turtle Watch and does volunteer work for Mote Marine Laboratory and Keep Manatee Beautiful. Cyndi earned the President’s Volunteer Service Award from Mote in 2010 for contributing 4,000 volunteer hours. She moved here from Minnesota in 2002. Cyndi grew up in Iowa and Wisconsin where she enjoyed fun times on various lakes and rivers. She moved to Minneapolis after graduating from UW-Eau Claire. Her hobbies include sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
Sherri is an Environmental Project Manager at HDR Engineering. She received a BS in Environmental, Soil and Water Science and a Master’s in Global Sustainability, which was an interdisciplinary degree focused on water including topics ranging from coastal tourism to water scarcity. Sherri is a Professional Wetland Scientist and she holds her EnvisionTM sustainability credentials. Sherri was honored in 2015 with a SBEP Blue Dolphin Award. Her personal interests include travel, camping, cycling, sailing, and backyard beekeeping.
Brad is the expert guide for SBEP’s Bay Wise Kayak Tour Program. He’s also the Senior School Programs Coordinator for Mote Marine Laboratory. Brad was born in New Jersey and lived in North Carolina prior to moving to Sarasota in 2004. He has a BA in Environmental Science and a Masters Certificate in Informal Science Education. Brad has led hundreds of kayak tours to expand awareness of coastal habitats and marine life, including the SBEP’s own Bay Wise Kayak Tours. His interests include scuba diving, hiking, boating, skiing, jogging, and international travel. He has also completed two marathons, four half marathons and a handful of triathlons.
Erin “Tommy” Vaughan-Birch
A native born Floridian, Tommy was raised in Florida and graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in advertising. She’s a Florida Master Naturalist and has been a volunteer at Mote Marine Laboratory since 1990 working as an aquarium docent and with the Mote Speakers Bureau. She is a Past President of the Volunteers of Mote Marine Laboratory. She was President of the Bay Island-Siesta Homeowner’s Association for three years and is currently the Secretary. Her interests include teaching aqua aerobics, kayaking and travel.
Chris grew up in Sarasota and served in the U.S. Navy after high school. After receiving his degree in Earth System Science and Policy from California State University Monterey Bay, Chris became an environmental consultant. He works for Environmental Science Associates (ESA) focused on various projects throughout the Gulf Coast. He worked previously for Weston Solutions, Inc., a national environmental services company, and Dewberry. His hobbies include surfing, standup paddleboarding, and boating. He has served previously as the Chair and Vice Chair of the CAC.
Stu retired early after an 18-year career as a consulting engineer, the last 10 in the water resources field with HDR Engineering in Austin, Texas. He then owned a small adventure travel company for six years before establishing the non-profit conservation foundation that he continues to run today. An avid birder since 2000, Stu is an amateur ornithologist and a member of Sarasota Audubon, the National Wildlife Federation, and the American Bird Conservancy. Stu earned a BS Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois followed by an MS Degree in Water Resources Engineering from the University of Kansas.
Rob recently retired from a long career as the Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team (NEST) Coordinator for Sarasota County and now serves as the Conservation Chair for Sarasota Audubon. He has a BA Degree in Geography/Coastal Zone Management from Florida Atlantic University and has been involved in the administration and implementation of environmental management programs in the public and private sector for over 30 years. He grew up in Nokomis and is a lifelong Florida resident with extensive experience in developing and providing environmental education and outreach programs dealing with water resource issues.
Honorary CAC Members
In memory of Charles Edwards
Charles moved to Sarasota in 1993 after a career of teaching, research and administration in biology. His interest in the environment led to him joining the CAC in 1994. His daughter’s interest in sustainable development has helped him in thinking about some of our problems. He lived in Maryland, Utah, Minnesota, New York, worked and traveled abroad, and resided in Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay until his passing in late 2016. The SBEP awarded Charles a Blue Dolphin Award in 2012.
Steve was born and raised by the world’s greatest parents in Martinsville, Indiana on a small farm in the country where he spent as much time as possible exploring nature. He’s an avid outdoorsman who loves to hike, camp, hunt and fish. Steve was the Science Department Chair at Southeast High School in Bradenton where he taught a biology honors course, marine science, and a marine science honors course.
In memory of Virginia Sanders
Virginia was an artist, photographer and avid environmentalist who helped organize the Longboat Key Turtle Watch Program and the Sister Keys Conservancy, which contributed to the Sister Keys being protected as a community resource. Virginia was a three-term president of both the Longboat Key Garden Club and the Sun Coast Camera Club in Bradenton. She also served as a volunteer at Mote Marine Laboratory for more than 25 years. This dedicated citizen raised her family in the Chicago area before relocating to Florida. Virginia passed away in 2016.