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By on December 22, 2020 in News, Newsletter

When I started as Executive Director one year ago, no one anticipated that a global pandemic would require widespread lockdowns and social distancing practices to become commonplace. Thanks to the steadfast support of our donors, OVLC has only suffered moderately from the wide-ranging societal effects of the pandemic. However, OVLC has not been spared entirely from its effects. 

Before the onset of the lockdowns, long-time OVLC Office Manager, Marti Reid, retired (for the second time after being pulled back into service for several months after Brian Stark’s departure). Long time OVLC volunteer Dan Pizano was hired to be OVLC’s Operations Director. Dan’s acute attention to detail and technological knowledge will help streamline and modernize OVLC’s business practices. And, as we all quickly moved to working from our homes in March, Dan’s hire came just in time.

Unfortunately, the lockdowns and need to work from home led long time staffer Jill Lashly and OVLC to part ways. Jill was a huge part of our team and this left a big hole in our staffing. But, with change comes opportunity and Jill’s departure created an opportunity to restructure the staffing of our field programs. We brought our restoration and stewardship programs together into a “field operations” structure that enables a more integrated approach to our restoration and stewardship projects. Brendan Taylor has been promoted to Director of Field Programs.

We also promoted Caitlyn Barrera to the position of Restoration Program Manager to guide the implementation of our restoration projects. This includes coordinating with state and federal funding agencies and ensuring that we meet the grant requirements. Caitlyn brings a scientific orientation to our restoration efforts and is already refining some of our practices.

Another staffing change occurred when a departure from the development team provided long-time employee Nathan Wickstrum with an opportunity to diversify his contributions to OVLC beyond his field role. Nathan has embraced the change and is bringing new energy to the development team as the Communications and Outreach Manager. Nathan’s depth of field experience will enhance our outreach on our stewardship and restoration work. This is also a great fit since Nathan’s outstanding photography has long been a source of inspiration to staff and supporters alike!

Importantly, with Nathan’s move out of the field and Brendan’s new more office-based role, OVLC created a wholly new and much needed position of Land Steward. The goal of this position is to provide a presence on the land, interact with preserve users, and help guide and coordinate our dedicated cadre of volunteers. We are excited to welcome Ventura County native and emerging expert in local flora Linda Wilkin into this new position. Please look for her out on the trails and say hi!

Helping to fill Nathan and Caitlyn’s moves out of the field is Kevin McLeod who previously worked on OVLC’s restoration team. He is providing his expertise as Field Crew Supervisor. Kevin’s knowledge of the Ojai Valley and ecology are invaluable additions to the team. Helping Kevin in the field and rounding out the recent staff changes is Nicole Kabey who has replaced Destinee Rabelo and joins Mayra Diaz on the field crew to help with our restoration and stewardship activities. 

These new staff roles synergize perfectly with the work of Deputy Director Tania Parker and Development Associate Xena Grossman, who make the magic happen in the office, and our Nursery Manager Ron Singer, who ensures we have an ample supply of native plants for our restoration projects and our native plant sales.

So, while OVLC copes with elements of the new normal of the pandemic, we are encouraged by the recent staff changes, and look forward to coming through this strange time stronger than ever. Keep your eye out for Linda, as well as our restoration crew, and if you see them out on a preserve, please feel free to introduce yourself and say hello!

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