Staff & Board of Directors

RCLC is fortunate to have a strong team of staff, volunteers and community members with wide-ranging skills. Our team members have overlapping interests and passions that include conservation, habitat restoration, local history, trails, bird watching, and sharing nature with others.


Jim Elias Executive Director
Amy Wolitzer
Communications Coordinator
Joel Chaban
Joel Chaban Webmaster

Staff & Board Bios

Jim Elias | Executive Director

Jim has devoted his professional life to leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to natural resource conservation and community development objectives. Elias’ work spearheaded acquisition initiatives that permanently protected more than 60,000 acres of natural, recreational, and agricultural landscapes in the Sierra, Rocky Mountains, and Intermountain West.

“Impactful and lasting conservation is always a shared effort. It’s an honor to work with RCLC’s committed Board of Directors, volunteers, and partners to preserve our coastal lands and provide new points of public access,” Elias said. “On a personal note, my family and I have deep roots in the North Coast. You can often find us in the ocean, on a river, or wandering the back roads of the Coast Range by bike.”

Amy Wolitzer | Technical Support

Amy provides technical support, training and database assistance to the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy team. As a young person, Amy enjoyed occasional family trips to Gualala and The Sea Ranch. After two decades working as a park ranger in the San Francisco Bay Area, Amy moved to Mendocino County in 2020. She enjoys revisiting the beaches and trails that she traversed as a youth and is honored to provide technical assistance to conservation organizations that work to protect these beautiful places. Amy loves tech, data, native plants, and sharing nature with young people.

Joel Chaban | Webmaster

Joel and his wife, Pat, moved here from San Rafael, CA, in 2003. He spent 30 years as a software developer, a profession that changed between 1999 and 2003 when he went from servicing his clients onsite to remotely online. It was then he realized he could move and work full-time at his home on the beautiful Mendonoma coast, and, as he says, “Instead of taking a two week vacation every year to a beautiful get-away spot, I could live full-time in a beautiful spot and take a two-week vacation to someplace that made me long for home.” He hasn’t looked back since.

His past advocacy for environmental and climate change awareness motivated his work as a board member with Friends of Gualala River, Power Local Mendonoma, Mendonoma Climate Change Action Group, and Sonoma Clean Power Community Advisory Council. It inspired him to work towards bringing Sonoma Clean Power to Mendocino. He continues to be Steward for Cooks Beach and webmaster for RCLC.

Joel’s career started in the foodservice industry where he opened numerous restaurants in San Francisco, Kentfield, Sausalito, and Beverly Hills. Joel taught Hospitality Marketing and Computer Applications in the foodservice industry at Golden Gate University. He has authored six books, three of which are textbooks. He developed a high-end general ledger for SBT Accounting Systems, has one software patent and several software application copyrights. He loves to hike, garden, read, ski and watch movies.

Joel Chaban

Mark Escajeda | President

“When someone receives so much over the course of their lifetimes, to give back seems the only logical choice. Redwood Coast Land Conservancy offered me a chance on an October Saturday back in 2020, working with other volunteers pulling out invasive plants clogging the understory of Mill Bend Preserve. All the joy of getting dirt under my fingernails while simultaneously doing good kept me coming back for more. We have so much more work to do and I could not be more proud working with people who appreciate each other’s contributions and teach me new things every day.”

Mark works part-time as a pediatric anesthesiologist at PDI Surgery Center in Windsor, Northern California’s only nonprofit specialty dental center devoted to serving both children and developmentally delayed adults. He worked previously at Children’s Hospital Oakland, now part of the UCSF/Benioff Children’s Hospital system. He, Carol and son Andrew live in Gualala. Daughter Marol lives in Southern California and cannot visit Mendonoma enough.

Rich Trissel | Vice President

“My wife, Nancy, and I moved to the Mendocino coast in 2008 and have been steadily setting down deeper and deeper roots in this amazing, unique place. We’ve always been avid nature lovers and were immediately entranced upon discovering this area. My particular passion has long been birding and, specifically, enjoying the observation and identification of a large diversity of bird life. RCLC’s mission resonates with me—conservation and helping to educate people about the area’s nature.”

Rich holds a B.S. in Engineering Physics with a concentration in Optics. His career was defined by challenging ultra high-tech optical engineering projects that spanned the spectrum from deep-UV to Far-IR and micro-optics to meter-class telescopes. His professional science background and passion for natural science has lead him to be excited about citizen science programs and will bring sound scientific methods and communications to his RCLC contributions. He and his wife have been volunteers for Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary BeachWatch program since 2014, surveying area beaches every 4 weeks.

Bob Rutemoeller | Treasurer

“Since we first moved here in 1989, our family has helped in various community projects. Both my wife Mary Sue and I have been helping with our Gualala Bluff Trail and many of the other RCLC projects. We live in such a beautiful place, we want to protect that and find ways to share with our community and visitors and encourage others to continue this important effort.”

Bob was one of the original board members for Redwood Coast Land Conservancy. His professional background includes being an Enrolled Agent since 1987, (licensed by IRS to prepare tax returns). He holds a BSC degree in finance and accounting from Santa Clara University. He also volunteers at Gualala Arts and the local California Native Plant Society chapter.

Bob Rutemoeller

Andrea Lunsford | Secretary

“I first came to the Gualala area when I joined the Stanford faculty in 2000, charged with developing an undergraduate writing program and founding a writing center on the Mendonoma Coast. On a long weekend that spring I drove up the coast, got a room at St. Orres, found the regional park the next morning, and somehow stumbled onto the Sea Ranch bluff trail that led past a lot for sale. Stunned at the natural beauty of this place, I put a down payment on the lot the next day! In the 23 years since then, I have fallen more and more in love with our Mendonoma Coast: I have found my home, at last. It’s been a great adventurous learning curve, since I grew up at the very opposite end of the country, in Florida: but what a joy to learn about the landscape and seascape and soundscape here, about all the creatures and all the trees and plants.“

Soon after moving here, Andrea joined Friends of Gualala River and took up gardening at Posh Squash. She is thrilled to be part of RCLC. A lifetime of studying rhetorical art, theory, and practice has convinced her that we can find ongoing ways to protect, preserve, and honor as much of our precious coast as possible.

John Walton | Director, Immediate Past President

“I first drove through Gualala in 1976 and was so taken with the natural beauty that I decided to live here. My wife Lynn and I married here in 1989, built our home, and still awaken amazed every day. We’ve spent much of our 40 years together in outdoor activities and are committed to enjoying and protecting the local environment. Membership on the Board of RCLC offers me the opportunity to engage with an experienced and dedicated group of environmentalists to protect more of our coastal lands, increase public access, and restore the environment to the benefit of all of our neighbors, human, critters, and plants.”

John’s first involvement with organized environmental action was in mid-1970 with Catfish Alliance in Tallahassee, Florida addressing concerns with the rapidly developing nuclear power industry. He has remained involved in environmental causes as an activist and conservationist.

John had a career in non-profit healthcare spanning more than 40 years. He began working in mental health as a therapist, transitioning to administration, culminating in the position of administrator of a full spectrum mental healthcare system. He completed advanced training in clinical psychology and mediation that facilitated his career. John has always believed that working collaboratively to achieve goals and address issues to the benefit of all is the most effective and rewarding path.

Cheryl Harris | Director

“Through the years, my husband and I spent many vacation days enjoying this beautiful Sonoma Coast and are now able to spend extended periods of time here. We engage in multiple volunteer activities while also enjoying hiking the coastal trails, kayaking the rivers, birding, and dabbling in art and quilting projects. I have been fortunate to live in a beautiful natural area most of my life, enjoying the peace and calm as well as the exhilaration and inspiration it provides. I would like everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy similar experiences. My hope is that working to help preserve and restore our local natural areas through RCLC can help achieve this.”

Cheryl’s experience includes extensive work with volunteers in parks, gardens and interpretive centers. She served on several Napa County Commissions and committees appointed by the Napa County Supervisors. She has also been president of Napa CA. Native Plant Society and the Napa-Solano Audubon Society. She organized and implemented the successful volunteer campaign to establish and manage the 850-acre Skyline Regional Park and served as President. More recently, she worked on the ballot measure that created the Napa County Parks and Open Space District.

Education: BA Environmental Studies & Botany Sonoma State University; post grad work -Non-profit Administration

Cheryl Harris

Jennifer Dumpert | Director

“Sometimes when I walk along the Bluff Trail, or through Stornetta lands, or climb down to Hearn Gulch, I remember lying on a towel on the sand in New Jersey with hundreds of people packed on every square inch of the beach, the smell of coconut suntan oil and the sound of dozens of portable radios. I remember to once again feel so very, very grateful for our incomparable little stretch of paradise here in Southern Mendocino.”

As a child growing up in Buffalo, New York, Jennifer Dumpert’s experiences of nature included visits to “the ultra-crowded beaches of the Jersey Shore” and swims in Lake Erie. Though her family’s annual summer trips to New Jersey to plunge into the Atlantic continued, dips in Lake Erie ceased in the 1970s when officials declared the lake too polluted to enter, an ecological disaster caused by the heavy industry that had dumped waste in the water for decades.

Jennifer’s first real forays into nature began in her early twenties during her undergraduate years in Toronto, when she took up with a group of friends who would drive to Canadian lakes with canoes and tents and an exploratory spirit to spend weeks wandering the waterways. But before moving to Gualala, she always lived right in the middle of a city: Toronto, Paris, Manhattan, Los Angeles, San Francisco and never even had a backyard. “Now I live next to the mighty Pacific, that wild, powerful ocean that carves such incredible beauty all along our coastline.”

Photos provided by RCLC Team Members