Board & Staff

Our Board

The Gold Ridge RCD has a nine-member Board, including seven directors and two associate directors. Directors serve two year terms and are appointed by the County of Sonoma Board of Supervisors with recommendations from the RCD staff.

Joe Dutton

President

Joe Dutton was born and raised near the town of Sebastopol on his family’s ranch in Sonoma County. In 1964, five years before Joe was born, his parents, Warren and Gail purchased a parcel of property near the little town of Graton just outside of Sebastopol. Joe became interested in the family business as a young boy. He grew up in the vineyards and orchards; operating the farm equipment and helping his father oversee the orchards and expanding vineyards every day after school and during summer vacations. Upon graduating from high school, Joe immediately pursued the family farming operation. Today, Joe and his brother Steve farm 1400 acres. 1200 acres are planted to wine grapes, mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They also are still farming 200 acres of organic apples. In 1995 Joe and his wife, Tracy started Dutton Estate Winery, making wines from the grapes grown by Dutton Ranch. In the last four years they started making a hard apple cider that showcases the local organic apple varieties grown by Dutton Ranch.

Elias Zegarra

Director

Elias’s life has always been centered around animal health and husbandry. He went to school at Cal Poly Pomona in the Animal Science department where he studied animal genetics and earned an MS in Poultry Science. His first job was working for a poultry breeder in North Carolina, where they exported breeder stock all over the world. Elias’s wife is from the Bay Area, so they eventually came back to California, where he continued working for the same company. Elias’s wife has a PhD in Education and started working at the Sonoma County Office of Education.

After that, Elias worked for Merial Select, a Merck company, in poultry vaccines. He was later hired by Petaluma Poultry (now Perdue) as the Live Production Division Manager. His last job was with Neogen, where he worked in Santa Rosa profiling dairy cattle genetics throughout the West. Elias loved visiting dairies all over the West, but especially loved working in Sonoma County. Helping the dairymen choose which calves to keep and which to sell based on their genetic makeup was very rewarding.

Once Elias retired, he wanted to stay involved in the agricultural world, so he initially volunteered for the Farm Bureau, testing the water quality of creeks in Sonoma and Marin counties. Elias also volunteered for the Gold Ridge RCD, which encouraged him to later join the RCD as a Board Director. He also currently volunteers for two Sons in Retirement (SIR) groups.

His hobbies are swimming, which he still does 3-4 times a week, as well as hiking and fishing.

Guy Smith

Director

Guy grew up in Sonoma County where his parents owned a ranch along the Lagune de Santa Rosa. They had orchards with a variety of fruit trees, raised cattle, sheep, horses, chickens, and pretty much everything you can imagine on a working ranch.

Growing up in Sonoma County gave Guy a love of agriculture, and he became familiar with many farmers and ranchers throughout the area. He first became aware of RCDs as a teenager by seeing some of the projects that they helped property owners with. Having known some of the former board members, Guy always felt that it would be an honor to be involved with the RCD. Having had the opportunity to serve on a number of Sonoma County Boards’ has given him great personal satisfaction. At the Lagune de Santa Rosa Foundation, Guy was instrumental in the restoration of the farmhouse and the design and construction of the Learning Center, eventually terming out as Board President.

While attending Santa Rosa Junior College, Guy worked part time fueling airplanes at our local airport. Never losing his love of aircraft, it was easy to become involved in the Pacific Coast Air Museum. As a board member, and eventually President, Guy is very proud to see what it has grown into today.

One of his many interests is maintaining and driving antique automobiles. He shares this hobby with his family and friends, where they have driven nearly every backroad throughout our county.

Guy continues to work in agriculture, helping property owner’s in developing their land for vineyards, orchards, and pastures. Guy is closely involved in timber harvesting, especially in areas where our more recent forest fires have occurred. He finds this work critical in salvaging the burnt timber, allowing the new juvenile trees a chance to mature into a future forest.

Guy feels fortunate to still reside on the ranch that he grew up on. Over the years, Guy has worked hard to preserve and protect the Laguna’s watershed and its incredible wildlife. The best part of Guy’s day is when he and his dog can walk along the shoreline and be a part of such a great place to live.

Mel Sanchietti

Director

Mel is a 3rd generation farmer on his home ranch located on Irwin Lane in Santa Rosa. He has been married to his wife, Janeen, for 41 years, and has 3 children and 5 grandchildren. Mel has been farming for 55 years in Sonoma County. He has farmed apples, pears, prunes, plums, walnuts and now wine grapes. He has also raised oat hay and silage crops. His property had an apple packing house, where he packed and shipped fresh apples for many years.

Mel has served on numerous farm related boards at the county and state level, including the Sonoma County Farm Bureau. In addition, he served on the board of directors of North Bay Farm Credit for 12 years.

In Mel’s spare time, he enjoys spending time with his grandchildren, collecting and restoring Cletrac Tractors, collecting wine, and drinking it. Most days he spends working on the ranch he loves, where he was born and raised.

Mel became a Gold Ridge RCD director on the urging of his good friend, Joe Dutton. Mel enjoys being able to serve as a Gold Ridge director and being able to interact with our dedicated staff on the many “Feel Good” projects that we work on.

Temra Costa

Director

Temra Costa brings 20 + years of work in food systems, agriculture, philanthropy, and more recently, forestry, to Gold Ridge RCD in service of their work and programs.

As a co-owner of a diverse rural land project, Green Valley Farm + Mill, Temra supports ecological forest management and other land stewardship activities. She is the author of “Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat,” and a consultant to businesses and foundations on regenerative agriculture and food systems programing. Toward increasing her understanding of climate beneficial land stewardship practices, Temra recently completed a Certificate of Holistic Farm/Ranch Planning & Design and Carbon Farm Planning Curriculum from Chico State and the Carbon Cycle Institute.

Temra’s endeavors with Gold Ridge RCD and beyond seek to foster programs and collaborations that scale regenerative land stewardship practices for a more resilient and equitable future.

Chris Choo

Associate Director

Chris has been an Associate Director for Gold Ridge since 2016 but was also part of the staff for a short time in 2007-8. Chris has lived in the district since 2000 or so, working for STRAW and then Prunuske Chatham.

Chris grew up in L.A. and always wanted more connection to the natural world. The San Gabriel River flows past her hometown in a concrete channel and not a river. The ocean gave her a sense of place and peace and was a regular outdoor spot for her. Her college major was Conservation and Resources Studies, and she has been working to improve the world ever since! Chris currently works for Marin County Dept. of Public Works planning for flooding and sea level rise, while protecting Marin’s incredible natural resources and communities. Chris loves the RCD for the unique role we play to support natural resources, private landowners, and agriculture. Chris thinks this type of work is so necessary to support our beautiful natural lands, open spaces, and food for our long-term future.

Chris love getting outside, in her backyard or out in parks and open spaces. Over the last year, Chris and her husband, John, spent a lot of time working on their garden and growing food and flowers. Chris and John regularly go hiking in Willow Creek and biking on the West County Trail. Traveling to the Channel Islands was their annual trip for camping and kayaking until COVID-19. Santa Cruz Island is beautiful and close, and Chris highly recommends it! (You can go for the day if camping isn’t an option.) Chris has traveled regularly and appreciates spending time in new places: learning about the culture, the history, eating local foods and drinks. Every single place Chris and John visited has been one they’ve wanted to return to. Chris is excited to have the opportunity to travel again now that the pandemic is over.

Our Staff

Adriana Stagnaro

Forestry Project Manager

Adriana manages a variety of conservation projects focused primarily on forest and fire management and community resilience to wildfire. She is a passionate advocate for fire-adapted communities. She serves as the coordinator for the Sonoma County Forest Conservation Working Group. Adriana has also been responsible for coordinating the youth educational field trip program, as well as leading outreach and community engagement efforts. Adriana holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from Gonzaga University and is currently a MSc Environmental Science and Management candidate at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Adriana has been involved in natural resource conservation since 2013. Prior to joining the RCD in 2014, she was a fellow with the Bay Area Climate Corps, serving the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority (RCPA). In her free time, she enjoys hiking California’s beautiful and diverse landscapes, making art and music, and tending her garden.

Brittany Jensen

Executive Director

Brittany Jensen, Executive Director has worked at the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District since 2005 when she was hired as an intern. Brittany has more than seventeen years of experience assisting private and public landowners implement conservation projects, maintaining positive working relationships, fundraising, performing outreach, managing staff, and engaging with the agricultural and environmental community in Sonoma County. Brittany has been instrumental in receiving millions of dollars in grant funding and provides leadership for RCD programs locally and regionally. An ocean-going native of Southern California, she is now firmly rooted in Western Sonoma and Marin Counties where she has called home for the past 20 years. Her strengths include creating and maintaining relationships with diverse constituents, program development, and project management. She also works as a farmhand alongside her son on her husband’s 6th generation sheep ranch as well as runs a 10-acre farm at her home in Tomales. She received her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from Sonoma State University. Brittany’s love and dedication to the land and the people who manage it keeps her committed to working hard for this community.

Emilie Winfield

Regional Soil Hub Coordinator

Emilie is an agroecologist whose work focuses on agricultural sustainability, soil health, and impactful collaboration. She is motivated by the intersection of climate change and agriculture and is thrilled to join the regional efforts of the North Coast Soil Hub. Most recently Emilie worked at the USDA California Climate Hub where she engaged diverse stakeholders to craft education and outreach materials on climate adaptation practices and climate-smart agriculture. Additionally, she spent 6 years managing farms and agricultural partnerships in NY and CA, supporting successful relationships between farms and restaurants and promoting local foodsheds. Emilie is dedicated to education around sustainable growing practices and soil health and teaches classes at a nonprofit in San Francisco. Emilie holds an M.S. in Environmental Policy and Management from UC Davis and a B.S. in Plant Sciences from UC Santa Cruz. She has conducted research on mycorrhizal fungi and root systems architecture in soil. She is enthusiastic about soil microbes and good food, and believes agriculture plays a key role in creating a more resilient and just future for communities and the planet.

Emma Wood

Climate and Agriculture Resilience Fellow

Originally from Chicago, Emma came to the world of agriculture through international travel. She has worked as an organic farmer for the last 10 years with a focus on organic cut flower production and sustainable floral design. She loves spending time with her partner and dog in the north bay exploring all that Northern California has to offer. She is excited to start this fellowship with Gold Ridge and continue to serve her farming community by helping the RCD in sustainable land management and conservation efforts.

Jason Wells

Partner Forester (with Sonoma RCD)

Jason Wells is a California Registered Professional Forester (RPF), whose focus at the RCD is to provide technical and planning assistance to landowners, help build a forestry program capable of addressing vegetation and fuels management concerns throughout the county, as well as address post-fire recovery efforts. Jason’s work supports the missions of the Sonoma and Gold Ridge RCDs. Born and raised in Petaluma, he graduated from Humboldt State University with a B.S. in Forestry with an emphasis in Forest Conservation; he then worked for six years in private industry throughout Humboldt and Mendocino Counties. His experience includes writing CEQA equivalent Timber Harvest Plan documents, integrating knowledge of forest operations with environmental impact mitigations, silviculture (applied forest ecology), forest health and protection, economics of forest management, and road design and layout. Jason has also been certified by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE) to conduct archaeological surveys for plans in which CALFIRE is lead agency.

Joe Pozzi

District Manager

Joe Pozzi has been with the RCD for 27 years. When he first started working at the RCD, there was a single grant of $25,000, he was the only employee, and the office was his house! Eventually, we hired a few part-time employees, and Joe would give them keys to his house so they could come work. It’s fun to look back on those times.

Over the years it has been very rewarding for Joe to watch the RCD grow as it has. Joe’s current responsibilities at the RCD include assisting other staff members with their projects, and working closely with the board of directors, stepping in when and where he’s needed. Joe has always been passionate about the natural resources of our area and the importance of agriculture here. He especially enjoys working with landowners to assist them in enhancing natural resources on their properties.

In his free time, Joe enjoys hiking and exploring new areas around the country. He also enjoys hunting and camping. In his youth, Joe attended Tomales High School, then graduated from Chico State with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. He is also a graduate of class 28 of the California Agricultural leadership program. Now, Joe operates sheep and cattle ranches in West Sonoma County and cultivates his passion for conservation and the viability of local agricultural production. He is proud to be the fourth generation of a family involved in agriculture, and his daughter, Alexandra, is the fifth. Joe has served on several boards, including the California Wool Growers Association and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, which promote and protect our agricultural heritage. Additionally, Joe enjoys working with his animals, interacting with other local ranchers, and spending time on the ranch…where there’s always a project to do! Joe feels very fortunate to live where he does and appreciate the opportunities he has been given here.

John Green

Lead Scientist and Program Manager

John Green, Lead Scientist and Program Manager at the Gold Ridge RCD, has over 20 years of experience in developing and implementing resource conservation and habitat protection projects. Since joining the Gold Ridge staff in 2009, he has taken a lead role in implementing water conservation and salmonid habitat enhancement efforts, including oversight of multiple programs utilizing alternative water source development and water storage as strategies for enhancing instream flows in coho salmon streams. John has a Master of Science degree in Fluvial Geomorphology from the University of Oregon. Before his time at Gold Ridge RCD, John headed the Bay Area office of Pacific Watershed Associates for seven years as Senior Geomorphologist.

John has been an environmentalist all his life, and has been involved in a lot of work to protect threatened and endangered species and landscapes. He is a big believer in the idea that we should leave the earth to the next generations in better condition than when we came to it. He enjoys anything outdoors, but his favorites are sea kayaking, biking (mountain and road), hiking, backpacking and snowboarding. Channel Islands National Park is one of his favorite places to go, because there’s so much to do there, including kayaking (sea caves!), snorkeling and hiking. John lives with his wife, Chris, outside of Sebastopol

Mare O’Connell

Financial Manager

Mare has been with the RCD for the past several years as Financial Manager, working in the accounting department. Mare is passionate about the work that the RCD does, and believes our work is critical to the preservation and restoration of our environment. The dedication and professionalism of the entire staff and its commitment to working cooperatively with shared values makes this an amazing place to work for Mare. She has lived in Sonoma County for the past thirty years. After growing up on the east coast and upon graduating from Rutgers University, Mare attended two years of law school before changing course and moving to San Francisco, and then ultimately Sebastopol.

Before coming to the RCD, Mare has worked for nonprofits in the social justice and social services sectors in accounting and administrative positions. When she is not at work, Mare enjoys working in her vegetable garden, cooking and canning, and walking her dog, Finnegan. She loves to travel and her favorite trips include: Ireland, Japan, Argentina, France.

Michele Harris

District Administrator

Michele brings over 25 years of administrative and office management experience to the RCD. Working at the RCD since 2012, Michele works in contract administration and budget preparation, invoicing, bookkeeping, and district management as well as maintaining the District records for the Board of Directors. Growing up in Sebastopol, Michele participated in 4-H in the sheep & pig program and she also loves gardening. Michele graduated from Analy High School and is a lifelong local.

Nina Adarkar

Farm to School and Monarch Recovery Coordinator,

GrizzlyCorps Fellow

Nina is the oldest of three sisters from Piedmont, in the East Bay. She graduated from UCLA in 2021 with a B.S. in Environmental Science, with a concentration in Environmental Systems & Society. Since graduating, she’s worked as a boating & fishing guide, a farmhand, and as a GrizzlyCorps fellow with Farm to Pantry, a food recovery and food justice nonprofit in Sonoma County. She’s very excited to spend the year with Gold Ridge RCD to apply her experience in food justice education, and learn more about natural resource management.

Noelle Johnson

Deputy Director

Noelle Johnson joined the Gold Ridge RCD as Conservation Planner in 2008, and now serves as Deputy Director responsible for developing and overseeing multiple programs in climate resilience, water conservation, watershed health, and endangered species recovery. With an M.S. in International Agriculture Development from UC Davis, and an early career working in food security and sustainable ag, Noelle witnessed firsthand the close ties between ecosystem health and that of the human populations it supports. Noelle began her career overseas, managing projects for resource conservation, food security, and research in various countries in Africa and Southeast Asia before returning to northern California in 2005 as restoration projects manager at Circuit Rider Productions, Inc. At the RCD, she works to integrate principles of equity and community resilience into natural resource programming, spearheading collaborative regional partnerships to expand the RCD’s programs beyond its boundaries. Becoming a mother in 2012 has deepened her passion to forge a more sustainable future.

Patricia Hickey

Project Manager

Patricia returned to Gold Ridge RCD in early 2024 after a 15-year hiatus. She served as the RCD’s Agricultural Program Manager from 2005 to 2009. She is excited to resume her duties assisting the district’s dairy farmers and livestock ranches with agricultural conservation planning and practice implementation. Over the course of her career, Patricia has worked for universities, conservation districts, and agricultural land trusts to advance natural resource conservation and the development of innovative conservation programs and partnerships. She has served in executive director roles for the Washington State Association of Conservation Districts and the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District and was until recently the Managing Director of the Carbon Cycle Institute. Patricia spent five years as the Stewardship Director for Marin Agricultural Land Trust, where she worked closely with the Marin RCD and served on the Steering Committee for the Marin Carbon Project. Patricia received her MBA in Sustainable Enterprise from Dominican University of CA, holds master’s degrees in Environmental Science & Management and Community Planning from the University of Rhode Island, and a BA in Politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Patricia’s family home is in the Gold Ridge RCD District. Her devotion to the work of Resource Conservation Districts and California’s food and fiber producers is matched with a love for birding, coastal habitat, and trail running with her Australian Shepherds.

Rebecca Vedder

Finance and Administrative Manager

Rebecca recently started her journey at Goldridge RCD as the Finance and Administrative Manager. Rebecca was born and raised in Santa Rosa, CA. She has spent the last 12+ years working solely with non-profit organizations. Rebecca has a Master’s Degree in Accounting and is a Certified Management Accountant. Rebecca is passionate about working with non-profit organizations and has worked in mental health, social initiatives, foster care, and women’s rehabilitation. In her spare time, she chases around her toddler, Henry. Rebecca is excited to start her position at Goldridge RCD.

Rose Antaki

Forest Conservation Projects Assistant,

GrizzlyCorps Fellow

Rose grew up in Petaluma, and spent the last eight years living in Oregon. While monitoring the spread of invasive plant species in coastal dune systems, she explored up and down the Oregon coast and made sure to find time for hobbies including mushroom foraging, tidepooling, and ceramics. Rose got their B.S. in Environmental Sciences with a focus in Applied Ecology from Oregon State University. She is excited to return to Sonoma County and work on nurturing healthy forests and fire safe communities.

Sierra Cantor

Ecologist

Sierra Cantor, Gold Ridge RCD’s Ecologist since 2010, has been participating in resource conservation planning and conducting biological and ecological surveys of Sonoma County flora and fauna for over 20 years. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz with degrees in Environmental Studies and Biology, she returned to Sonoma County and worked in wineries for two crushes, becoming acquainted with the seasonal rhythms of winemaking and developing a taste for wines she couldn’t afford. After this, Sierra became an Americorps Volunteer at Circuit Rider Productions, Inc. where she was introduced to all facets of ecological restoration, including nursery production, rare plant relocation, and native plant revegetation. Her next decade was spent at the Sonoma RCD learning about her community through environmental education for youth and adults and honing her watershed monitoring and assessment skills.

At Gold Ridge RCD, Sierra has relished the opportunity to work with her community, becoming extensively familiar working with public agencies, local organizations, and private landowners to collaborate on projects that assess and enhance watershed health and function. She conducts biological surveys, water quality monitoring, synoptic storm sampling, evaluation of riparian revegetation and large wood placement projects, as well as participating in biological surveys for California red-legged frogs and California freshwater shrimp. For the past couple of years, Sierra has been focused on her natal stream, Atascadero Creek, working with the watershed community to unravel its mysteries and improve stream habitat and fish passage. There are few things she loves more than tromping around creeks and marshes with her incredible coworkers. And while fish are fantastic, nothing makes Sierra happier than amphibians (please feel free to send her pictures and stories of newts, salamanders and frogs). Having been born, raised, and now raising her own children in western Sonoma County, she has a passionate interest in and commitment to the conservation of the natural and agricultural resources that define the region. Whether you were born here or chose it as your home, Sierra is thrilled to be your neighbor and looks forward to working with you!

Tom Hammond

Partner Engineer (with Sonoma RCD)

Tom Hammond is a Professional Engineer registered in California for Agricultural and Civil Engineering. His responsibilities at the RCD started in 2022 and include providing Partner Engineering services to the Sonoma, Gold Ridge and Marin RCDs. Tom graduated from Cal Poly, SLO in Bioresrouces and Ag Engineering. He has been practicing engineering in Sonoma County since 2007. In that time he has worked for public municipalities, private consulting firms, and private businesses providing solutions for water, power, and soil systems. Tom grew up in Sonoma County and is enjoying raising his family here as well.

Will Boucher

Project Manager

Will Boucher joined the Gold Ridge RCD as a Project Manager in October 2023. Will brings over a decade of experience monitoring endangered and threatened salmonids of the Russian River.  Through this work, Will developed a unique understanding of the salmon life cycle, watershed functions, and the bottlenecks that impede recovery.  Will aims to apply this foundational understanding to assist the RCD in implementing innovative projects that engage with the local community and focus on habitat restoration and watershed recovery.  Will has a deep appreciation for rivers and streams and can almost always be found near a body of water. Will currently resides in west Santa Rosa with his wife Aviv and water loving chocolate lab.

Will Spangler

Project Manager

Will Spangler joined the Gold Ridge RCD as a Project Manager in February 2022. He has over 13 years of project management experience in ecological restoration, vegetation management, and resource conservation throughout California. With Gold Ridge RCD, he implements water conservation, instream and riparian habitat enhancement, and water quality monitoring projects. Will previously served as the Senior Conservation Biologist for the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency where he managed over 6000 acres of reserve lands and designed restoration projects to implement a regional habitat conservation plan (HCP)/natural community conservation plan (NCCP) to protect endangered species. He has managed interdisciplinary teams with multimillion dollar budgets for mitigation planning and implementation as a Senior Restoration Ecologist for H. T. Harvey & Associates and mentored students in restoration ecology and botany while managing protected research lands as a Restoration Steward with the University of California’s Natural Reserve System. Will is a board member of the California Society for Ecological Restoration (SERCAL). Will has dedicated his career to conservation and ecological restoration and is honored to bring his skills and experience home to the community where he grew up. He enjoys hiking, cycling, surfing, skiing, and managing the forest on his family’s property near Freestone. He also collects books and is always interested to learn more about the land use history of a given place.

William Hart

Project Manager

William joined Gold Ridge RCD in September of 2012 as a Project Manager, serving as the dairy/rangeland and soil health specialist for the RCD. At the RCD, William assists landowners on agricultural properties in the development of Carbon Farm Plans and LandSmart Plans and seeks funding to implement the priority projects identified in those plans. He collaborates with the RCD team to develop, promote, and implement conservation management measures and practices that integrate with conventional and organic farm operations, such as range and pasture management, nutrient management, soil health, and habitat restoration. His responsibilities include managing the RCD’s GIS program, writing grant proposals and reports, participating on technical advisory committees, presenting at educational and training events and working collaboratively with landowners, partner organizations and agencies to provide input on technical documents and reports. William believes that for the RCD to succeed in its mission, a wide range of perspectives must be considered and respected. William has a deep respect for the community he serves, and he has been able to develop trusting and productive relationships with the Board of Directors and the landowners we serve.

Prior to joining Gold Ridge RCD, he worked in various capacities for the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Marin Resources Conservation District, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the Friends of the Urban Forest. He also served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Guatemala. William earned a bachelor’s in Soil Science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a master’s from the Hutchins Institute for Public Policy Studies & Community Studies at Sonoma State University. William has been in Sonoma County since 2003 and he has the good fortune of being married to Maggie Hart since 2005. William and Maggie live in Sebastopol with their son, Jack.