Board of Directors

TLC is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors which sets policy directions and budget priorities for the organization. Board members are nominated by TLC’s Board Development Committee and elected by the general membership. They serve three-year terms and cannot serve more than two consecutive terms.

TLC’s Board Officers include a chair, vice-chair, president, treasurer, and secretary. The Board Officers are selected from among the Board of Directors. The chair presides at all meetings of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee. The vice-chair acts in place of the chair as needed. The president is the chief executive officer of the organization and is responsible for the management of TLC. The treasurer controls the funds of the organization, ensures that the books are kept properly and prepares or causes to have prepared financial reports. The secretary is responsible for recording the minutes of the Board meetings. Officers serve one-year terms. Read our bylaws here.

The TLC Board also has several standing and ad hoc committees: Conservation Strategies, Development, Executive, Finance & Investment, Governance & Human Relations, and Nominating. The Board often invites experts from the community to serve on appropriate committees. TLC also has a Stewardship Advisory Council.

Current Board Members

Mavis Gragg, Chair (Durham): Principal, The Gragg Law Firm, specializing in heirs property, estate planning and administration

Mavis is a seasoned attorney and conservation professional with nearly two decades of experience in real estate, conflict resolution, estate planning, and probate. Mavis serves as the Director of the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Project. Prior to this role, Mavis also founded the Gragg Law Firm, PLLC in which she assisted her clients in estate planning, estate administration, and heirs property matters. Mavis serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors for Triangle Land Conservancy and is a member of the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Authority. With her sister, Mavis co-founded Black Women Drone and the Gragg Family Fund. A native of Black Mountain, North Carolina, Mavis is an alumna of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (B.A., Industrial Relations) and Pepperdine University School of Law (Juris Doctor and Master of Dispute Resolution).

Sam Cook, Vice-Chair (Wake): Executive Director of Forest Assets, North Carolina State University College of Natural Resources

Sam Cook has made his mark on multiple aspects of forestry during his esteemed career. He is currently the executive director of Forest Assets and VP of the Natural Resources Foundation for the College of Natural Resources at NC State University, where he coordinates the management of the forest assets owned or managed by the NC State Natural Resources Foundation, Inc. He also serves as a Board Member for NC Coastal Land Trust and as a Resource Committee Advisor for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), representing the Black Family Land Trust. In previous roles at both the Center for Heirs Property Preservation and as a private forestry consultant, he has played an integral role in developing and implementing a system of support that allows natural resource partners, forest and other landowners of all income levels to increase their forest sustainability and income through sustainable forestry programs. Sam has also worked with the USDA Forest Service Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station in Boise, ID, Duke Energy Progress (formerly Duke Power) in Durham, and the Forest Resource Division of International Paper Company. Sam is and has been very conservation-focused throughout his 35+ year career.

Jack Clayton, Treasurer (Wake): President of Business Strategy for Towne Bank, previously was Regional President, Wells Fargo

Clayton earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Wake Forest University, his M.B.A. from UNC-Chapel Hill, and completed a postgraduate degree at NYU while in New York City. An active member in the community, Clayton has served as Chair of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership and served on the board of North Carolina State University’s College of Management and the Research Triangle Service Center. He is a member of the Fifty Group and the Boy Scouts Executive Council. He is past-Chair of the Greater Raleigh Chamber, WakeMed, and the YMCA We Build People Campaign, and the Boy Scouts Occoneechee Council. He is on the Dorothea Dix Park Conservancy Board, Step-Up Board, and Elder at White Memorial Presbyterian Church and is the Regional Executive for the Wake Forest University Center for Private Business.

Will Morgan, Secretary (Wake): Partner, Manning, Fulton, & Skinner

Will Morgan is a partner at Manning, Fulton, & Skinner, where he is the co-chair of the firm’s Government Relations practice group.  He has experience representing clients at the federal, state, and local level, but his current practice is primarily focused on representing clients at the North Carolina General Assembly, and before state administrative agencies.  Will represents a broad range of clients, including national trade associations, Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, and non-profits.  Prior to joining Manning, Fulton, & Skinner, Will served as the Director of Government Relations for the North Carolina chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and he is proud to continue to advocate for conservation groups through his representation of Land for Tomorrow, a state-wide coalition of the state’s leading conservation groups. He earned a BA in Political Science and Environmental Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his JD from the Wake Forest University School of Law.  Will and his wife Janie live in Raleigh with their son, daughter, and yellow lab.

Jack Blackmer (Wake): Retired Senior Manager, Quality, Environment, Health & Safety at Novozymes

Jack has had a lifelong interest in nature and the environment, exploring woodlands, streams, and ponds while growing up in Michigan. Jack’s last position before retirement was Senior Manager, Quality, Environment, Health & Safety at Novozymes North America – Franklinton, NC. His responsibilities there included environmental compliance assurance and conducting EHS due diligence for mergers and acquisitions in the US and Canada. “I am excited for the opportunity to help shape TLC’s policies and procedures to continue our focus on the four public benefits of conservation as our main mission.  I feel especially passionate about the importance of conserving and protecting important natural areas and I appreciate working with others on the Board and TLC staff that share that passion.” Jack holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Michigan State University.

Johnny Burleson (Durham): Chief Advancement Officer, North Carolina Museum of Art

Johnny Burleson is Chief Advancement Officer for the North Carolina Museum of Art. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University with 18 years of experience in philanthropy, previously leading the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation’s development of local, state, and national relationships to bring philanthropic and federal resources to North Carolina for stronger, healthier communities. Before joining the Blue Cross NC Foundation, he worked in higher education philanthropy and advancement at Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Government.

Marlena Byrne (Durham): Deputy Chief Resilience Officer, North Carolina Office Recovery and Resiliency

Marlena Byrne is a Deputy Chief Resilience Officer with the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency, working to advance resilience of people, places, and natural areas in the state of North Carolina. In partnership with the Department of Emergency Management and through her work with the State Disaster Recovery Task Force, Marlena advises on unmet needs and challenges to the state’s ongoing recovery from Hurricanes Matthew and Florence and coordinates state, federal, and local agencies, as well as nongovernmental partners, in helping North Carolina mitigate and prepare for the effects of climate change. Marlena is an environmental and land use lawyer, with extensive experience advising on large‑scale public infrastructure, planning, and capital improvement projects. Prior to moving to North Carolina, Marlena was a Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco for over ten years, advising city officials and departments on all aspects of urban planning, land use, and environmental law. Marlena earned her law degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and her Bachelor of Arts in English from Stanford University.

Norris Cotton (Durham): First Vice President, Financial Advisor, Cotton Moehrke Group at Morgan Stanley

Norris is a Financial Advisor in Durham, NC. He is a Certified Financial Planner®, a Certified Investment Management Analyst® and First Vice President with Morgan Stanley.  He grew up fishing and water skiing on the Mississippi River and adjacent Delta Lakes. After college, he joined the US Marine Corps, serving 20 years and retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Norris is a member and past president of the Durham/Orange Estate Planning Council. He is also past President of Durham’s Genesis Home Board of Directors which provides transitional housing and services for homeless families. He is past-President of the Forest Hills Neighborhood Association. Norris served on Clean Jordan Lake Board and currently serves on the Durham Veterans Administration Hospital’s Institutional Review Board. An alumnus of Mississippi State University, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business and a Master of Business Administration. He also earned a Master of Business Administration from The George Washington University. Norris holds a US Coast Guard captain’s license and a HAM radio license. He and his spouse, Tracy Mancini, live in Durham and Beaufort with their wire-haired pointing griffon, Mudge, and their squirrel catching rescue dog, Buddy. They enjoy sailing their Shannon 43 sloop Solstice, biking, kayaking, and continental and international travel.

Albert Fisher (Orange) – Retired President & CEO of Community Partnerships, Inc.

Bert Fisher’s professional career included over 35 years in nonprofit management. His last role was as President & CEO of Community Partnerships, Inc., a private, nonprofit agency providing direct services across five counties in eastern North Carolina to individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, mental health or substance abuse issues, and economically disadvantaged youth. Prior to his role at Community Partnerships, Bert served as Vice President of Development for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. A graduate of Duke University, Bert also worked for over 20 years in various roles in Alumni Affairs and Development at Duke. His strengths include strategic planning, nonprofit/organizational management, personnel development, fundraising, and communications. Bert has extensive leadership experience in organizations with operating budgets over $6 million. He understands the critical need for sound fiscal responsibility and works hard to ensure that all agencies and organizations with which he is involved manage their finances with integrity, transparency, and accountability. A native of North Carolina, Bert grew up with a strong interest in, and great appreciation for, nature, wildlife and the outdoors. His hobbies include birding and bird photography. He and his wife, Leto Copeley, currently live in the woods outside of Hillsborough, North Carolina.

Toni Wyche Jones (Wake): Environmental Engineer, Environmental Protection Agency

Toni grew up in rural, eastern North Carolina, where she developed a love of the outdoors and a desire to protect it at a very early age. She has devoted her career to doing just that. Toni has served as an Environmental Engineer with the Environmental Protection Agency since 2009, and previously served as an Environmental Engineer with the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources. “With the threat of rising sea levels, animal habitats disappearing, and changes in weather patterns, I want to be a part of protecting public health and natural resources.  I am excited about the opportunity to work alongside individuals that have a common interest and passion.” Toni holds a Masters degree in Biological and Agricultural Engineering from North Carolina State University and a B.S. in Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Russell B. Killen (Wake): Partner, Parker Poe and Former Mayor, Town of Knightdale

Russell was elected mayor of the Town of Knightdale and sworn in on December 3, 2007. He previously served as a member of the Knightdale town council from 2003-2007. As a partner at Parker Poe, Russell represents clients in the areas of construction, contract negotiation, dispute resolution and zoning and land use issues. He has represented clients throughout the U.S. in both complex disputes and contract negotiations. Russell’s clients include public utilities, national homebuilders, architectural and engineering firms, universities, hospitals, municipalities, pharmaceutical companies, general contractors, national franchise chains, steel manufacturers, multi-national corporations, real estate developers and telecommunications companies.

Jay McLeod (Johnston) – Senior Planner and Project Manager

Jay McLeod has been professionally engaged in land use-related work for over a decade, including public and private sector employment related to planning and urban design. Originally drawn to biology before pursuing planning, he has advanced degrees in both ecology and urban & regional planning. Jay’s focus in recent years is on generating place-sensitive, adaptive local solutions and awareness to climate-related land use challenges. Most of this work is for small- to mid-sized local towns and counties across the state. A lifelong love of the outdoors led him to join TLC in 2019.

David Morris (Durham): Managing Attorney, Forrest Firm, P.C.
David is the managing  attorney of the Forrest Firm’s Durham office.  His practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions, private equity transactions, general corporate matters and business succession planning.  Active in his community, David previously served as Board Chair of the LIFE Skills Foundation, an organization that provides services to at-risk, homeless adolescents and young adults. Currently, he serves on the board of Duke Student Publishing Company, the publisher of Duke University’s independent paper, The Chronicle.  He received his B.A. and J.D. degrees from Duke University and earned his M.B.A. in Finance and General Management at Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business.

Wendee Smith (Wake): Senior Environmental Manager, Scenic Consulting Group
Wendee is a graduate of North Carolina State University and has worked for over 20 years in the engineering and environmental consulting industry. She is passionate about management and consulting on complex projects and improving program efficiency. Most of her experience has been related to transportation, specifically involving environmental and planning projects. Outside of work, Wendee enjoys spending quality time with her husband of 20 years, her two kids, and her black lab, Buck.

Danielle Spurlock (Orange): Assistant Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Danielle is an assistant professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Human Biology at Stanford University and her M.P.H, M.R.P., and Ph.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill. Her specialization is land use and environmental planning and she teaches in the areas of environmental policy and development dispute resolution. Danielle’s research investigates the land development process from stakeholder engagement to the on-the-ground implementation of policies, programs, and projects. 

Sean Lilly Wilson (Orange): Founder and Chief Executive Optimist at Fullsteam Brewery

Sean is the Chief Executive Optimist at Fullsteam Brewery. He founded and led both Pop The Cap and Permit Beer, two beer lobbying organizations that have opened up economic markets to North Carolina’s craft beer industry. He holds both an MBA and Master of Public Policy from Duke University. In both 2012 and 2013, Sean was a James Beard Foundation semi-finalist in the category of Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional.

Jennifer Zuckerman (Durham): Director of Strategic Initiatives, World Food Policy Center at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy

Jen is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the World Food Policy Center, part of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.  Her work focuses on rooting the work of a global center in North Carolina, working specifically to support equitable food development through policy and practice. Jen comes to the World Food Policy Center from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, where she served as the Senior Program Officer for Healthy Living, focusing on increasing access to safe active environments and on providing sources for healthy, locally sourced food. Prior to the Foundation, Jen administered federal and state grants at NC State University’s Recreation Resources Service where she worked with parks and recreation agencies across the state to help develop partnerships for the benefit of community health.

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