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Updated 7/21/2014 by DZG

Steering Committee

San Diego Steering Committee Appointed

On April 11th, 2014, the national Sierra Club Board Executive Committee unanimously approved the San Diego Search Team’s recommendation appointing seven Steering Committee members and two alternates (to fill vacancies). Named to the Committee were Kerry Siekmann, Dr Alan Creutz, Nick Ervin, Karenlee Robinson, Debbie Hecht, Paul Webb, and Davin Widgerow. Alternates were Joe Zechman and Diane Nygaard. Subsequently, Kerry Siekman and Alan Creutz resigned, and Joe Zechman and Diane Nygaard were appointed to fill the vacancies.

In making the announcement, Sierra Club President Dave Scott expressed the Boards appreciation to the local Sierra Club members who served as the Search Team: Lynn Baker, Starla Rivers, Larry Klaasen, Micah Mitrosky and Martin Stevens. “They did outstanding work in recruiting 26 candidates, thoroughly vetting them, and identifying a well-qualified leadership team for San Diego.” said Scott.

“We also want to express our gratitude to all of the members who offered to serve on the Steering Committee. We encourage those of you who were not chosen for the Steering Committee to consider stepping into other leadership roles to help us build the strongest, most effective San Diego Sierra Club possible.” added Scott.

The Steering Committee has been charged with rebuilding Sierra Club capacities and managing Sierra Club functions in San Diego and Imperial counties, rebuilding trust among volunteer leaders and with the national Board and staff, and preparing for a transition to a well-functioning, member-elected San Diego Chapter leadership.

Steering Committee Goals

The Sierra Club Board of Directors on February 21, 2014 in suspending the San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club (“Chapter”) established the following goals for the Sierra Club San Diego Steering Committee and other Club leaders working with members of the Chapter during its suspension:

  1. 1. Rebuild Sierra Club functions in San Diego and Imperial counties and transition to a well-functioning, effective member-elected San Diego Chapter volunteer leadership. This will include establishing new group norms to build trust among volunteer leaders, maintaining intellectual honesty and respectful dialogue, addressing disagreements constructively, and establishing a governance structure that engages people in work that advances the Club’s mission.
  2. 2. Provide support to improve Chapter volunteer leadership and management capacity to engage in addressing potential problems before they evolve into conflicts and constructively resolve disagreements.
  3. 3. Build the capacity of the San Diego groups, sections and committees to engage members and supporters in meaningful ways to advance Club goals.
  4. 4. Build a mutually beneficial relationship with the national Sierra Club.
  5. 5. Maintain the core functions of the Chapter: advancing the Club’s mission (conservation, litigation, and political), providing service to members, supporters and the public, building local resources, and complying with policies and standards.
  6. 6. Ensure compliance with applicable Club policies and requirements.

Steering Committee Members

Nick Ervin

Nick Ervin Nick has been a member of the San Diego Chapter for over 35 years. He served as Conservation Chair of the San Diego chapter for a total of nearly four years during the 1990s. He helped organize the SD Chapter to pass the California Desert Protection Act. He was the chair of the Ancient Forest Task Force and Desert sub-Committee, as well as Chair of the Conservation committee. He served as president of the Desert Protective Council Foundation for 8 years and sat on its Board for many more. He was instrumental in negotiating a settlement of the Mesquite Landfill lawsuit. Major land use issues in the desert have been affected by Nick’s participation. In his professional career, he is now a college professor and has managed mental health departments for several organizations as a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Debbie Hecht

Debbie Hecht Debbie has served on the Executive Committees of the Hawaii Chapter (2008-2011) and the North County Coastal Group here in San Diego in 2013. Ms. Hecht was a Board member with the Tucson Mountains Association (TMA) for 8 years, and President for 6 years. During her tenure, TMA was partnered with the Trust for Public Lands to save 880 acres (partly critical habitat) as a county park and helped to pass an Open Space Bond. She represented TMA on the Steering Committee that wrote the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (a multi-species habitat conservation plan) and organized political debates. In Hawaii, she was involved with the local Sierra Club group and was the campaign coordinator for a petition initiative drive to set aside 2% of property taxes for Open Space acquisition in Hawaii County. She was appointed to the Public Access, Open Space Natural Resources Commission, and is a board member with the Hawaii Pacific Parks Association making grants to the National Parks. She brings many years of establishing non-profits, facilitating groups, creating mission and vision statements, facilitating public forums and debates for political issues, negotiating with groups on diverse issues to reach agreements and conservation land planning in Tucson and Hawaii. She is an avid swimmer, snorkeler, hiker, gardener and tennis player.

Diane Nygaard - 760-724-3887

Diane Nygaard Diane is a Life Member of the Sierra Club and says she is too old to remember when she actually joined. She retired in 1998 as a founding partner of Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, a public transportation consulting firm. Her involvement with the San Diego Chapter began with local hikes, serving as assistant hike leader and then moving into conservation activism. In 2000 she founded and became President of Preserve Calavera, the largest grassroots conservation group in coastal north San Diego County. In that role she has won both local and national recognition for her work in preserving wetlands and natural lands of this area. She has been Co-Chair of the north county MHCP/MSCP Task Force of the San Diego Chapter for the last 14 years, worked on subarea plans for the cities of Carlsbad and Oceanside, Climate Action Plans for several north county cities, and provided comments and testimony on numerous development projects.

Karenlee Robinson - 619-572-8451

Karenlee Robinson During her career, Ms. Robinson has served as Hospital Administrator/CEO of several psychiatric hospitals. Karenlee has Masters Degrees in both Psychiatric Social Work and Healthcare Administration. She has facilitated significant organizational change with several hospital startups and turnarounds. As a leader in large hospital organizations with multi-disciplinary staff, she has learned to work collaboratively and successfully with many stakeholders, including patients, families, physicians and staff, all having varied interests. Over the years, she received numerous awards and recognitions for her leadership. She has been active with many mental health and community organizations including serving on the Board of San Diego Mental Health America for 14 years and as Board President from 2007 to 2009. From 2012 to the present, she has been the Program Coordinator for the San Diego Sierra Club Wilderness Basics Course. Karenlee is an active COL II leader. She has been a leader for both local and national outings. Her organizational leadership and expertise, her enthusiasm for exploring and conserving the outdoors and her availability since retirement will be of value to help lead the Club at this critical transition point.

Paul Webb

Paul has recently retired after spending 35 years as a local environmental professional. Over those years, he served as a coastal program analyst at the California Coastal Commission, a land officer at California State Parks, and Airport Planner for the SD Airport Authority. He has a BA in Zoology and a MA in urban planning and is highly experienced with land use and water entitlements including CEQA/NEPA, Coastal Act, Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act, and is a former certified member of the American Association of Airport Executives. A longtime member of the Sierra Club, Paul is an elected member of his local Point Loma Peninsula planning group. Paul has extensive leadership experience of teams from different agencies under scrutiny from public perception. His administrative law and land use background is weighted with team leadership experience to help lead the club forward.

Davin Widgerow

Davin Wedgerow Davin is an environmental lawyer who recently moved to San Diego to work with a local law firm. His BA is from UC Berkeley, his JD is from U. of Wisconsin Law School, and he was admitted to the California Bar in 2011. His practice is typically focused on toxic contamination clean ups and remediation. He began his law career clerking for a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. Davin is from South Africa, where he grew up hiking in the rural mountains with his grandfather. He remains an active hiker who has hiked in over 15 national parks and monuments across the US, and he has also explored many of San Diego County's hiking trails with Jerry Schad's hiking bible. Davin is familiar with the history of the Sierra Club and the environmental movement, and has been inspired by John Muir, Edward Abbey, Theodore Roosevelt, and David Brower, among others. He describes a passion for devoting his talents and energies to protecting the Earth. At 30 years old, he is eager to build youth membership and increase age and cultural diversity in the club.

Joe Zechman

Joe Zechman Joe is a Life Member of the Sierra Club. He started out with the San Diego Chapter hosting events for the Sierra Singles, became a Chapter Outings Leader I, served on the Singles Board, and then served on the Chapter Executive Committee as a member, secretary, and chair. During Joe’s tenure as ExCom chair, the local Chapter helped get the Sunrise Power Link re-routed around the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.