Foothills Conservancy is staffed by a dedicated team of professionals who love Western North Carolina and believe its natural resources are precious and worth protecting.
Andrew Kota, 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.
Beth Willard-Patton, Associate Director
Beth began as the conservancy’s Development Director in 2014, helping to expand Foothills Conservancy’s base of private support from people and businesses with strong ties to our eight-county region. As Associate Director, she helps to raise awareness for the conservancy through outreach, fundraising and events. Beth graduated from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington with a BS in Business and Accounting and has more than 15 years of professional experience in marketing, accounting, grant management, and event direction. Beth and her husband Corey reside in Morganton with their daughter and son.
Tom Kenney, Land Protection Director
Tom has been on staff with Foothills Conservancy since March 2000. He holds a Master’s degree in Natural Resource Analysis & Geographic Information Systems from Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota and a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from N.C. State University. With a background in conservation planning and years of experience securing agreements with landowners for the purchase or donation of lands and conservation easements, he gladly works with partners to save land, waters, and farmland of the Blue Ridge Mountains and foothills area of value to our communities and rural heritage.Tom serves on the N.C. Natural Heritage Advisory Committee and the South Mountains State Park Advisory Committee. Tom, his wife Wendy live in Morganton. He enjoys canoeing, hiking, and experiencing nature often in Pisgah National Forest and the South Mountains as well as gardening, music and travel.
Ryan Sparks, Stewardship Director
Ryan has been on staff with Foothills Conservancy since 2016. His love for the Blue Ridge Mountains, coupled with a passion to protect their one-of-a-kind forests and natural features, inspired him to pursue a career in forestry. After earning a Master of Forest Resources and a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Organizations from the University of Georgia, Ryan is proud to be putting his skills and knowledge to use helping protect and steward lands as Foothills Conservancy’s conservation associate. He was born in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina and despite many moves throughout the state and the South, he always felt a strong calling back to his childhood mountain home. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his family, collecting vinyl records and enjoying music, and backyard birding.
Sophie Shelton, Communications & Outreach Associate
Sophie is responsible for implementing outreach and communications programs to increase the conservancy’s community visibility and the public’s understanding and support of Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina. She was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, among the Blue Ridge Mountains. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies: Organizational Communication and Public Relations from Longwood University. In 2013, she moved back to North Carolina, where her increased interest in outdoor recreation ignited her passion for conservation. She enjoys camping, hiking, collecting antiques, and discovering new music.
Isaac Crouch, Office & Finance Administrator
Isaac joined the Foothills Conservancy staff in 2017. He grew up in Morganton and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Appalachian State University and a Master’s degree in Science Education from Michigan Technological University. His passions include science, music, and podcasts. He loves the community, is involved in various service-driven organizations, and feels privileged to have the opportunity to lend his talents to the important work Foothills Conservancy does.
Americorps Project Conserve
Brittany Watkins is an AmeriCorps Project Conserve member serving as the Volunteer Coordinator for Foothills Conservancy. She is responsible for volunteers and volunteer projects. Brittany graduated from the University of North Carolina, Asheville with a BS in Literature & Environmental Science. Outside of school she has been involved in such environmental efforts as trail restoration, with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corp and educating children about healthy food options, at Asheville’s RAD Farmer’s Market. She is passionate about community engagement and loves encouraging others to explore the outdoors. She is very excited to be working with AmeriCorps and Foothills Conservancy to help develop a volunteer program that will serve to protect and sustain some of Western North Carolina’s beautiful landscapes.