Our board members come from diverse backgrounds, with each individual bringing their expertise to the board in an effort to move forward the cause of preserving western North Carolina’s great outdoors.

Martha Whitfield, Chair

Martha Whitfield, Chair

Environment/Education Advocate & Writer
Burke & Mecklenburg County

Martha previously worked as a journalist and as a studio/teaching artist. She has an MA in International Studies and has been on several boards including Catawba Riverkeeper Association, Community Charter School, and a Homeowners Association.
Robin Brackett, Vice Chair

Robin Brackett, Vice Chair

Business Owner
Cleveland County

Robin is a business man in Shelby, NC and has previously served on Foothills Conservancy’s Board. He is a rural land owner and Certified Tree Farmer, with an interest in conservation and farm land preservation issues.
Sallie Craig, Treasurer

Sallie Craig, Treasurer

Certified Public Accountant
Cleveland County

Sallie, a recently retired CPA, is very excited to be able to spend more time with one of her passions—the great outdoors. As a child, she spent as much time as feasible outside playing with her siblings and neighborhood friends. As she grew older, she began to experience hiking and backpacking first with Girl Scouts and then, later, with adult friends. She continues to hike, backpack, camp and run around the great outdoors with friends, family and especially her granddaughter. When not hiking, she enjoys sitting on her porch, enjoying a great bottle of wine, while bluegrass music is playing in the background.
Ann Costello, Secretary

Ann Costello, Secretary

Retired Businesswoman
McDowell County

Ann was born in Alexandria, Virginia, and pursued a multi-phased career in the DC metropolitan area, culminating in co-founding and then serving as managing partner of a successful consulting company. Fulfilling a dream to build a home on a lake near the mountains, Ann her husband George bought land on Lake James in 2006 and moved in 2012. Here she enjoys visits from family and friends and hiking, biking, horseback riding, and volunteering with the Mountain to Sea Trail crew and Foothills Conservancy.
Christopher Aiken

Christopher Aiken

Engineering & Software Development
Caldwell County

Chris is President and Founder of AikenControls, providing specialized industrial controls and automation systems. His focus is software development and process innovation with business in North America, Europe, and Asia. Having experienced many other natural environments, Chris is committed to preserving the exceptional beauty and treasures of our area. He is a lifelong resident of Caldwell County and resides in Hudson with Janet, his wife of 32 years. Together they have two children, Ethan and Emily, and two grandchildren, Josiah and Amelia.
Andrew Blumenthal

Andrew Blumenthal

Real Estate Broker
McDowell & Mecklenburg County

Born and raised in Charlotte, Andrew’s family owns Wildacres Retreat in McDowell County, which is now protected by a conservation easement held by Foothills Conservancy. Andrew can always be found outdoors with his two rescue dogs by his side and he has a deep appreciation for conserving North Carolina’s natural beauty. He is a commercial real estate broker and investment advisor with Legacy Real Estate Advisors in Charlotte with a focus on sustainable development and urban planning.
Tom Foster

Tom Foster

Retired Ophthalmologist
Catawba County

Biography Coming Soon
Michelle Garey

Michelle Garey

Senior VP, Trust Investment Officer, Bank of the Ozarks
Cleveland County

Prior to joining Bank of the Ozarks in 2015, Michelle worked at BB&T Wealth Management as senior VP in the Professional and Executive Advisory Group, and at Buckhom Capital Management as a portfolio manager and principal. Michelle holds a B.A. in economics from Davidson College and an MBA in international business from Appalachian State University. She is also a member of the North Carolina Society of Financial Analysts and the CFA Institute. She is very involved in her local community as a member of the Shelby Rotary Club, The Banker’s House, Destination Cleveland County, The Earl Scruggs Center, Cleveland County Memorial Library, and the Godbold School of Business at Gardner-Webb University.
Jim Goldsmith

Jim Goldsmith

Attorney
McDowell County

Jim is an attorney from McDowell County and first came on the board of Foothills in 1997, the same year the South Mountain Coalition, Inc. changed its name to Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina. Jim’s outdoor interests include hiking and the identification of plants, fungi, mosses, liverworts, lichens, grasses and sedges.
Kelly Hawkins

Kelly Hawkins

Homemaker & Former NGO Development Director
Burke County

Kelly lives in Morganton with her husband, Seth, and their three boys ranging in age from 13-20. She has been fortunate to live and enjoy many different parts of the country, but is thrilled to call Western North Carolina home. Kelly has worked with several environmental groups as both staff and volunteer, but being part of Foothills Conservancy’s work has always been inspiring and rewarding, as we work to save the places we love forever and for the benefit of all.
C. Lorance Henderson

C. Lorance Henderson

Retired Superintendent, NC School for the Deaf
Burke County

Rance was born and raised in Kings Mountain, NC. He is retired U.S. Navy and a Korean War veteran. He has worked as a teacher, coach, school/program administrator, university faculty, and has been a member of a university board of trustees. He and his wife, Betty, live in Morganton.
David Icenhour

David Icenhour

Director, Alexander County Economic Development
Alexander County

David is a native of Alexander County and has served as economic development director for the county since 2004. He is recognized as a “Certified Economic Developer” by the International Economic Development Council, the largest economic development association in the world. In former careers, he served as Editor of a US Air Force magazine, Managing Editor of the Taylorsville Times Newspaper, Public Information Officer for Alexander County and Human Resources Director for Alexander County. He and wife, Debbie, reside in the Millers Township in Southeastern section of Alexander County.
Randy Loftis

Randy Loftis

Attorney
Burke County

W.R. “Randy” Loftis is a Managing Partner of national labor and employment firm Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, opening the firm’s North Carolina office in 1991. Randy is a 1971 cum laude graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law. He has been a board member for United Way of Forsyth County, Health Impact Council, YMCA of Winston Salem, Cancer Services, Christmas Cheer Toy Shop and is currently a board member for Burke County United Way and Western Piedmont Foundation.
Jeff MacKinney

Jeff MacKinney

Retired Consultant
Burke County

Jeff is a retired airline executive and senior advisor. He most recently served as a partner and senior advisor with Seabury Consulting, an aviation consultancy now part of Accenture. Prior to Seabury, Jeff served as president and member of the board of World Air Holdings, the parent company of two international charter airlines, where he was responsible for worldwide operations of both airline subsidiaries as well as marketing and strategic planning. Other assignments during his nearly 40-year career included serving as chief commercial officer of AirTran Airways and various leadership positions with American Airlines. Jeff is a graduate of Purdue University with a B.S. in Industrial Management and received an M.B.A. from the University of Dallas. He and his wife reside on Lake James in Burke County where he enjoys golf, hiking and spending time with family.
Betty McKesson

Betty McKesson

Retired Social Services Program Administrator
McDowell County

Betty was born and raised in Marion, N.C. She graduated from Marion High School and graduated with a degree in Human Services from Gardner Webb University. She worked for the McDowell County Department of Social Services for 27 starting as a Child Welfare Social worker then finely as a Child Welfare Administrator. Betty enjoys working with the West Marion Community Forum, to help the community she grew up in become the best it can. She enjoys working closely with youth.
Meg Nealon

Meg Nealon

Landscape Architect/Land Use Planner
Catawba County

Meg is a community planner and landscape architect, and the founder of Nealon Planning, PLLC. For over 25 years, she has assisted clients with comprehensive land use planning projects, corridor studies, small area plans, open space and public realm master plans, and community design standards. She was previously employed by a nationally-recognized land planning and urban design firm based in Charlotte. She has served as a member of the N.C. Board of Landscape Architects (former Chair), Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission, City of Charlotte Historic District Commission, the City of Hickory Appearance Commission, and the Deidra Lackey Memorial Park Conservancy Board. Meg graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture in 1991 and from UNC Chapel Hill with a Master of City and Regional Planning in 1998. Raised in South Florida, she has been a resident of North Carolina for almost 30 years and resides in Hickory with her husband, Brad Lail, and three stepdaughters.
Susan Powers

Susan Powers

Retired Geologist & Teacher
Caldwell County

Susan is a resident of Caldwell County and has always been an advocate for a healthy environment. Now retired, she enjoys birding, botany, geology, and all aspects of the natural world. Protecting these assets and our water supply are critical for future generations and she endeavors to work for conservation in our local and regional area.
Jim Sain

Jim Sain

Retired NC Courts Administrator
McDowell County

Jim has lived in Western North Carolina since 1976. Recently, he and his wife Pam celebrated their forty-fifth wedding anniversary. When not walking in the woods with his dog Wagner, he enjoys reading obscure books and creating sawdust in his workshop. Having retired from the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts in 2009 as an administrator with the Guardian ad Litem Program, he began in earnest the completion of an eight-year section hike of the entire Appalachian Trail. Long distance hiking gave him time to reflect on how quickly undeveloped land is being lost in this country and encouraged his interest in land conservation.
Andrew Kota, Ex Officio

Andrew Kota, Ex Officio

Executive Director

Andrew joined Foothills Conservancy in 2005 as an AmeriCorps Project Conserve member. He has more than fifteen years of experience in resource protection and ecological research. In the role of Executive Director, Andrew combines his years of experience with Foothills Conservancy, passion for conservation, and aptitude for leadership, working closely with the conservancy’s Board of Directors, staff, donors and various partners to guide the organization in its mission to protect our region’s natural and cultural resources, public parks, trails and open spaces. He holds a BS Biology from Guilford College, MS Forestry from Utah State University, MBA from Appalachian State University, Nonprofit Management Certificate from Duke University and a NC Real Estate license.