Blake Edwards - president
Blake has served as the CFO of Skyline National Bank since 1999 and as Senior Executive Vice President since 2013. Prior to that, he worked with a public accounting firm where his primary focus was providing audit and advisory services to community banks and municipal, not-for profit, manufacturing, and healthcare organizations. In addition to serving on the BRDC Board, Blake is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Duke Life Point Twin County Regional Healthcare and is on the Government Relations Committee of the Virginia Bankers Association. He is a graduate of Radford University and has attended AICPA's School of Banking at the University of Virginia and the Graduate School of Bank Investments and Financial Management at the University of South Carolina. Blake has been a long time champion of BRDC and brings a regional network of connections along with vast fiscal experience.
Keith Andrews - Vice President
Keith earned a Bachelor’s degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and a Master’s degree from Western Michigan University. He also holds endorsements and certification in Continuous Improvement and Process Reengineering.
He has held various administrative roles in public education, adjunct faculty positions at Virginia State University, facilitator for community leadership development initiatives, and co-creator/leader of several community think-tank initiatives. Keith’s business experience has included various leadership roles: Vice President for a global publicly traded company, creator of a corporate university, owner and lead consultant of a private consulting firm, and currently is a consultant and adjunct instructor at UNCC. He has over thirty-five years of experience in instructional design and technical training, experiential learning, human resources management, and organizational planning.
Gavin Blevins - Secretary
Gavin was born and raised in Chilhowie, VA, and currently resides in his hometown. He received a Bachelors of Science degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 2013. Gavin is both a
Certified Planning Commissioner and Certified Floodplain Administrator, certified by Center for Public Administration & Policy. He has served as Regional Planner at Mount Rogers Planning District Commission since January 2014, Town Manager of Damascus since November 2014, and Senior Planner at Mount Rogers Planning District Commission since February 2017.
Gavin coached Track & Field for Northwood High School for 3 years, Cross County for Chilhowie High School for 4 years, and is an avid enthusiast for trail running, hiking, and just about anything else outdoors. Gavin is also a fan of sports cars and crooked roads. Recently, he was given the 2017 Community Ambassador award from the Mount Rogers Planning District Commission.
Deborah Greif - Treasurer
Deb became interested in environmental issues in high school in New Jersey. As a teacher at Grayson County High School, she has been instrumental in fostering the ECO Club, a valuable resource for various BRDC programs. Deb lives in Grayson County, serves as Treasurer and book keeper for BRDC, and remains involved in environmental and recycling causes, trail maintenance for the Appalachian Trail, and has participated in workshops sponsored by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's Trails to Every Classroom program. Her abiding passion is working with and for kids.
Brenda was born in Hawthorne, California and raised in Gardner, Massachusetts. Upon graduation from Gardner High School she attended Providence College in Rhode Island and graduated in 1986 with a major in humanities and a minor in business administration. She was a distinguished Military Graduate and commissioned as Second Lieutenant in 1986. Brenda brings to BRDC an international experience in civil affairs through her years of service as a Personnel Officer in the US Army and subsequent climb in rank to Lieutenant Colonel. Her duty assignments included the likes of Germany, Korea, California, North Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts and Colorado. After transitioning to army reserves, Brenda continued to serve the public through a myriad of volunteer efforts including: American Projects Chair in in Seoul, South Korea; as a docent at the Fox Creek and Bear Creek Nature Centers in Colorado Springs, CO; through Run and Read program in Kingston Ontario; as a Brigade Spouse Educator and President of the Spouses Club at Fort Sill, OK; as President of the Athletic Boosters Club in McLean, VA; and as Farmer's Market Master at the McLean Farmers Market in Fairfax County, VA.
Her personal fitness motto is "keep moving" and it shows. Her active and dedicated efforts fuel BRDC's mission forward. Brenda's goal oriented approach allowed her to complete the Fichtelgebirge March in Germany, the Berlin Marathon, the Pikes Peak ascent, and section hike the Maryland portion of the Appalachian Trail. Beyond being dedicated to public service Brenda is married to John Fant and they have two sons: Jack and Peter.
Dr. Kevin Hamed serves as Professor of Biology at Virginia Highlands Community College. He is widely respected among his peers in the scientific community as a leading expert on Appalachian salamanders and celebrated on the VHCC campus for getting students out of the classroom and into nature. His findings have been published in a wide variety of scientific journals and shared with the general public through numerous other publications. He is a recipient of the Chancellor’s Faculty Fellowship from Virginia’s Community Colleges, the VHCC Outstanding Faculty Award in Teaching, the VHCC Faculty Award for Professional Excellence, and the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
Dr. Hamed holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Tennessee Technological University, a master’s in biology from East Tennessee State University, and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Tennessee. He and his wife, Misty, have one daughter, Madeline, and currently reside in Bristol, Va.
Sarah Ross is the Director of the University of Georgia Center for Research + Education at Wormsloe (UGA-CREW), in Savannah, GA. UGA-CREW supports graduate student education in units across campus including: ecology, forestry, anthropology/archaeology, cultural history, geography, botany, geology, landscape architecture, environmental planning & design and historic preservation. In addition to UGA-CREW, Sarah teaches environmental studies at UGA, taking multiple classes of undergraduate and graduate students each semester on four-day field trips to study the structure and function of ecosystems in Georgia. Sarah is also President of the Wormsloe Foundation and Director of the Wormsloe Institute for Environmental History. She graduated from Armstrong Atlantic State University with a M.Ed degree in Science Education. Sarah and her husband Dana are active fly fishers, hikers, and organic gardeners. Previously, Sarah held the position of Director of Education for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Prior to this appointment she was the Education Coordinator for NOAA’s National Ocean Service and Education Coordinator for the National Marine Sanctuary Program.
Steven Hopp is broadly trained in the life sciences, and received his Ph.D. in Animal Behavior from Indiana University. He moved to SW VA in 1984 to teach at Emory and Henry College, and has been tied to this region ever since. He taught Ornithology courses at the University of Arizona from 1994 to 2004 at which time he moved back to Virginia full time. He teaches courses in wildlife management and sustainable agriculture in the Environmental Studies program at Emory and Henry.
Dr Hopp has studied different species of Vireos for over 25 years. His main interest is in their vocal behavior, but he has broadly studied their natural history including life history strategies, breeding ecology and behavior on their wintering grounds. More recently, Dr Hopp has become interested in Sustainable Agriculture, and is co-author of the national best-selling book, Animal Vegetable Miracle, with his wife, Barbara Kingsolver. He is founder and director of The Meadowview Farmers’ Guild, a community development project devoted to promoting local products, with an emphasis on agriculture. Part of this project is the Harvest Table Restaurant, a nationally recognized farm-to-table restaurant. He serves on the board of Appalachian Sustainable Development and joined the board of the Blue Ridge Discovery Center in 2018. He lives in Meadowview, VA on a mostly wooded farm with Icelandic Sheep and Dexter Cattle.
Besides being a certified Master Naturalist, Tom is an active community leader, avid mountain biker, and a financial advisor for Edward Jones in Marion, VA.
Dr. Nemeth has had a distinguished career in academia and the private sector. His experience, spanning over four decades, has included research and education in the classroom and laboratory, university research administration and development, as well as executive positions with major environmental consulting firms including LAW Environmental and CH2MHill. During his 15 years at Georgia Tech, Dr. Nemeth was Director of the Environmental Science and Technology Laboratory with a staff of over 100. In 1998, he became to vice president of Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), the largest science and technology based university consortium in the US.
He retired from ORAU in 2009, then October of 2015, Nemeth was invited out of retirement to become CEO and Executive Director of the 100,000-member Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society. He was honored to serve in that capacity through June of 2017, and currently serve on several boards including the National Association of Academies of Science and the American Junior Academy of Science.
He is the president of Education and Research Consulting. He is active in many other organizations such as AAAS, National Association of Environmental Professionals, the Scientists and Engineers for America, and he was a member of the National Academies’ Committee on Under-represented Groups and the Expansion of the Science and Engineering Pipeline, and served as a Fellow to The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute.