Board of Directors


Dick Bierly

Dick Bierly, President, Morehead City

A retired corporate manager, Dick brings expertise in human resources, employee recruitment and development, organization and management. He’s devoted to protecting our natural resources by combining economic and conservation interests.  Dick is also a strong advocate of effective land-use planning.

Lauren Hermley, Vice President, Beaufort

Lauren is originally from Syracuse, New York and moved to Beaufort, NC with her husband, Shawn, in 2002. She currently works as the Assistant Town Manager for the Town of Beaufort. Lauren brings to the Coastal Federation a working knowledge of citizen engagement, marketing, and finance as well as a keen interest in developing partnerships between local governments and non-profit groups. She is a member of Rotary and an avid scuba diver and traveler.  

David Paynter, Treasurer, Wilmington

David is the retired director of the New Hanover County Library System in Wilmington. David belongs to the Rotary Club and the New Hanover County Smart Start program.  David enjoys reading, travel, gardening and birdwatching.

Joe Ramus
Joe Ramus, Secretary, Beaufort

Joe has been on the faculty at Duke University for more than 30 years and directed its marine lab near Beaufort for 10 years. His scientific expertise is in estuary and ocean processes and his public interest is in coastal water-quality conservation and restoration. Joe has served on the boards of directors of Carteret County Crossroads and the Carteret County Economic Development Council. On Aug. 3, 2013. the N.C. Coastal Federation board of directors recognized the significant contributions to marine sciences research and protection of coastal resources made by Joe during 45 years of academic service (10 years at Yale University and 35 years at the Duke University Marine Lab), and as a member of the federation’s board of directors and executive committee.

Board Members

Allison Besch, Durham

Allison is a senior program coordinator for the Duke Environmental Leadership program, a division of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. She was formerly the curator of education at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort. She and her family continue to maintain strong ties to the coast and coastal issues.  

Peggy Birkemeier, Kitty Hawk

Peggy brings experiences from her nearly 32 years as a coastal North Carolina resident in Dare County. As the founder of the Friends of Jockey’s Ridge State Park, she is committed to environmental education and responsible stewardship for all state parks and public lands. She combines a career of nonprofit leadership experiences with community foundations, Girl Scouts and the League of Women Voters. Married to a coastal engineer and living on a barrier island has had a profound impact on her life.

Veronica Carter
Veronica Carter, Leland

A retired Army officer, Veronica is on the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission and serves as the political chair and president of the Cape Fear Citizens for Safe Environment, a grassroots group that formed to fight a huge landfill in Brunswick County. The group was instrumental in getting a bill through the N.C. General Assembly in 2007 that effectively stopped four large landfills from being built in Eastern North Carolina.

Sandie Cecelski, Wilmington

Sandie has been teaching oceanography and marine science in New Hanover County for 24 years.She received a  masters in marine science education from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and holds National Board Teaching Certification. Her students are immersed in coastal marine science through hands-on scientific inquiry research to local salt marshes and beaches.

April Clark, Swansboro

April is a long time resident of Swansboro. She is married to Jeff and mother to her daughter Gracie. She is the owner of Second Wind, an eco-tourism business and yoga studio in Swansboro. She holds a Master of Arts degree from UNCW. She’s been a member of the Jacksonville Rotary Club for 13 years and currently serves as club president. She enjoys kayaking, yoga, traveling and volunteering, and has served on the Advisory Committee for the federation for the past year.

Sterling Edmonds, Greenville

Sterling has worked for First Citizens Bank since 1998. He is currently a commercial banker in Greenville.   Before his banking career, Sterling played professional basketball in France and Switzerland. He is involved in various community organizations and currently serves as a commissioner of the Greenville Housing Authority. He has served previously on the boards of the Greenville Community Shelters, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Pitt County, the United Way of Pitt County and the Pitt County Education Cabinet. He has been married for 30 years and has three children.

Donald E. Ensley, Greenville

Donald E. Ensley, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a public health educator with a specialty in health care administration. Don is a professor emeritus, College of Allied Health Sciences, Department of Health Services & Information Management, East Carolina University. He was one of the federation’s founding board members and served as our first president in 1982. Don joined the board again as he continues with his passion for a healthy coast. He lives with his wife, Ramona, in Greenville.

Mac Gibbs, Englehard

Mac is the county extension director for the Hyde County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, which is part of the College of Agriculture and Life Science of N.C. State University. Before joining the extension service 21 years ago, Mac farmed in Hyde County. He has also worked as a commercial fisherman.  He is a graduate from N.C. State with a bachelor of science in agricultural education and a masters in horticulture science.

Ernie Foster
Ernie Foster, Hatteras

Ernie grew up in Hatteras. His father brought the first charter fishing boat, the Albatross, to Cape Hatteras in 1937. After high school, Ernie left the island to attend college and to teach in Raleigh and Manteo. He retired as guidance counselor at Manteo High School in the late 1990s and returned to Hatteras. He now runs the famed Albatross fleet—three boats, all wooden and all built around 1930. He and his wife, Lynne, are active in promoting local fisheries and preserving the heritage of Hatteras.

James Barrie Gaskill
James Barrie Gaskill, Ocracoke

An Ocracoke native and the former owner of the Pony Island Motel in Ocracoke, James Barrie is a commercial fisherman and president of the Ocracoke Working Watermen's Association and a member of the Ocracoke Preservation Society. James Barrie and his family split their time between Ocracoke and Beaufort.

Bill Hunneke, Greenville

Bill is a native of New Jersey whose family has been in North Carolina since the late 1960s. A geologist with a masters’ degree in oceanography, Bill has logged hundreds of days aboard research vessels and dove to the bottom of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans in the submersibles vessels. Bill currently works for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and is a former president of the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation.

Olivia Holding, Raleigh

Olivia is president of E. F. Properties, Inc. and the Ella Ann L. and Frank B. Holding Foundation. She is active in projects statewide and serves on boards including Tryon Palace, the N.C. Aquarium Society, the University of North Carolina’s Institute for the Environment and the Wake Forest University Board of Visitors. 

Mary Hunter Martin
Mary Hunter Martin, Raleigh

Mary Hunter is from Raleigh, but grew up spending her summers on Bogue Sound in Morehead City. She works as a librarian and fundraiser for an elementary school in Raleigh. She has a son at Wake Forest University and several foster dogs at home.

Randy Mason
Randy Mason, Emerald Isle

Randy joined the federation staff in 1992 as business manager. He later became our first educator, leading water-based field trips for adults and families. When Randy retired, he joined the federation board where he is active with our annual Native Plant Sale, membership recruitment and many other hands-on activities.

Katherine McGlade, Hatteras

Katherine is the founder and owner of Seachange Coastal Consulting, an environmental consulting firm focused on environmental policy, fisheries and environmental conflict resolution. She has an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and a master’s degree in coastal environmental management from Duke University. For 25 years she pursued a career in commercial real estate development, holding senior management positions at two major retailers and with a shopping center development corporation. She lives in Hatteras with her husband, Spurgeon Stowe, and her dog, Opie.

Rich Peruggi, Bolivia

Rich, a retired engineer, moved to Brunswick County with his wife, Claudia, in 2005. He was first introduced to the federation a year later when he attended the Lockwood Folly Watershed Roundtable meetings. He served on a technical advisory committee for the Brunswick County low-impact development manual and volunteered  to take water samples and perform flow monitoring on the Lockwood Folly River. Rich  also serves as the chairman of the Environmental Issues Committee for the Alliance of Brunswick County Property Owners Associations and leads the Scientific and Environmental Academy society for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

Lewis Piner
Lewis Piner, Wendell

Lewis is a Morehead City native who went to high school with federation founder, Todd Miller. He has taken an active interest in coastal environmental issues since high school. Lewis is a senior account executive for Underwriters Labs and he travels a large territory in 21 states.

John Runkle
John Runkle, Raleigh

An environmental attorney, John represents communities across North Carolina facing threats from landfills, incinerators, wastewater discharges and over-development. He is counsel for N.C. WARN, a watchdog group tackling climate change, and represents several groups concerned about energy and utility issues. John is one of the federation’s founding board members.

Allie Shefield, Surf City

Allie, a native North Carolinian, grew up in Warsaw and spent as much time as possible at family houses on the Black River, the Northeast Cape Fear River and Topsail Island. Her parents built one of the first cottages on Topsail Island after World War II.  Allie practiced law in Washington for many years before moving to Surf City where she became active in Pender County issues. She serves on a committee in Pender that advises county staff and consultants on a new unified development ordinance and is president of PenderWatch & Conservancy.

Melvin Shepard

Melvin Shepard Jr., Sneads Ferry

Melvin is co-owner of New River Nets and Cofish International commercial fishing supply in Sneads Ferry. He was a member of the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission. Melvin makes it a personal and professional mission to protect and restore North Carolina’s coast.

Bland Simpson
Bland Simpson, Chapel Hill

Bland is a professor of English and creative writing at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the author of several books. He is also a member of the musical group Coastal Cohorts and enjoys words and music and small boats. He is a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; the N.C. Coastal Land Trust; N.C. Maritime Museum; Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and History Center; the N.C. Nature Conservancy; and the N.C. Writer’s Conference. 

Donna Snead, Emerald Isle

Donna was an industrial microbiologist at Miller Brewing Co. for over 24 years. Donna also has an education degree in secondary science and has volunteered as educator for the federation, Cape Lookout National Seashore and the N.C. Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores. Donna is currently working towards her N.C. Environmental Education Certification.

Maria Townsend, Swansborro

Maria works for Jordan Building Co. and is a certified green building professional and Energy Star builder. She also is certified in residential rain gardens. Maria is a board member for the Carteret County Home Builders Association and is the treasurer for the Emerald Isle Business Association. She became involved with the federation while serving on a task force for a LID manual for Cedar Point and Cape Carteret.

Doug Wakeman
Doug Wakeman, Pittsboro

Doug is an economics professor at Meredith College in Raleigh. He is an active member of the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, Haw River Assembly, Apalachicola River Keeper and the N.C. League of Conservation Voters. He's also on the board of N.C. Greenpower. Doug enjoys biking, boating, photography and fishing. Doug wants to ensure that his grand daughter is able to enjoy the beauty of the North Carolina Coast in the future. 

Sarah Williams, Swansboro

Sarah has an MPA from UNC-Wilmington with a concentration in environmental policy and management. She is the deputy clerk for Pine Knoll Shores and gets to work on different projects dealing with the environment. A Swansboro native, she has grown up with the "no wetlands, no seafood campaign".

Angie Wills,Elizabeth City

Angie Wills is a native of Philadelphia and is currently works with River City Community Development Corp. in Elizabeth City as the program manager for River City YouthBuild, a national program that provides youth transformation for high school dropouts. After moving to North Carolina in 1987, Angie was a small business counselor for the N.C. Small Business and Technology Development Center at Elizabeth City State University. Angie has numerous years of experience in fund development, strategic planning and capacity building. She holds a bachelors degree in business administration from ECSU and a MBA from Regent University.