western organization of resource councils staff 2020
2020 WORC Staff

John Smillie, Executive Director

John graduated from Stanford University in history in 1977, and moved to Montana in 1978. He was an organizer and research coordinator for the Northern Plains Resource Council from 1979 to 1986, and was Campaign Director for WORC from 1986-2014. He has been a trainer for WORC’s Principles of Community Organizing sessions, writer and editor of many WORC publications, and lead staff for several regional and national campaigns on agricultural and natural resource issues. John became Executive Director in 2015. John and his wife, Margie MacDonald, have lived in Billings, Montana. since 1982.

Sara Kendall, Program Director

Sara is a graduate of Middlebury College with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. As Program Director, Sara coordinates WORC’s regional issue campaigns, as well as our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work. She has represented WORC in Washington, D.C., since 1994, monitoring Washington policy decisions that affect WORC’s members, activating our organizations and leaders, and leading issue campaigns. Sara has written and edited many WORC publications, including Uncertain Fortune, Law and Order in the Oil and Gas Fields, and Model Oil and Gas Laws, Regulations and Ordinances.

Kerri Nelson Wolenetz, Development Director/Comptroller

Kerri joined the WORC staff in May 2002 as a college research intern on food safety and GM crop issues. She stayed on staff after graduation in 2003, to become WORC’s Development Director and coordinate joint fundraising for the WORC network. Kerri also provides administrative, accounting and communications support. Kerri is a graduate of Rocky Mountain College with a B.A. in English and Writing.

Leah Berry, Political Director

Leah Berry joined the WORC team in January 2020 leading the Grassroots Democracy Program and working closely with rural and Native voter projects across the region. She was born and raised in rural Central Montana and has a Bachelors of Arts in History and Political Science from Montana State University Billings. She began her start in political organizing with the Montana Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and joined the WORC network in 2016 when she was the Canvass Director for Northern Plains Resource Council and Montana Rural Voters. Most recently Leah worked to build power in Indigenous communities as Field Director and Development Director with Western Native Voice. Leah also serves on Forward Montana’s Board of Directors and is chair of the Forward Montana Voter Fund. 

Rachel Zatterstrom, Leadership and Capacity Director

Rachel joined the WORC network as an organizer for Western Colorado Alliance in 2013 and worked on a variety of state and local campaigns. In 2017, she joined the WORC staff as a regional organizer. She served as WORC’s Training & Capacity Coordinator from January 2018 through May 2019 and transitioned into her role as WORC’s Leadership and Capacity Director in June 2019. Rachel is responsible for all aspects of WORC’s Leadership and Capacity building program including our regional trainings and events and works with WORC’s staff team to identify and deliver capacity-building assistance to WORC’s member groups. She also serves on WORC’s Management Team. Rachel is a passionate facilitator and trainer, dedicated to developing the leadership capacity and skills of people who want to work for positive social change in their community. She spent her formative years on her family’s ranch in Nucla, Colorado where she ate a lot of dirt and rarely came indoors.

Angel Amaya, Communications Director

Angel Amaya is a Mexican-American documentary filmmaker and media specialist from Corpus Christi, Texas. Angel has a BA in English from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and a MA in Media Studies and Documentary Studies from The New School in New York, New York. She started documentary filmmaking at a young age, with local civil rights marches for immigrant rights in South Texas. During her Masters studies, she directed and produced two documentaries, 06 Female Wolf, and The World is YoursThe World is Yours premiered May 2016 in the Truth Be Told NYC film festival. She has also worked as a professional documentary film critic for the 2016 Peabody Awards. Her focus in media has been on human and environmental rights efforts through storytelling. This is reflected in her communications work at Human Rights Watch, Vote Smart, Proof: Media for Social Justice, and Public Citizen. She was an associate producer on the Showtime documentary film called Beyond the Opposite Sex, which premiered on Showtime in 2018. She is also currently a producer on the full feature documentary Elephant Keeper. Angel joined WORC as Communications Director in November 2018.

Marvel Karch, Office Administrator and Donor Relations Coordinator

Marvel has been with WORC since September 1995. Not only does she keep the office running smoothly, she is lead on internal fundraising, donor support and stewardship and uses her 25+ years of logistics knowledge to do outside consulting for large meetings, which brings in extra revenue to WORC. Marvel also supplies support for accounting, training and communication work.

Eric Halstvedt, Regional Technology Coordinator

Eric joined the WORC staff in November 2013. He’s a fourth-generation Montanan with a B.A. in International Commerce & Spanish from Montana State University, and a B.S. in Information Systems from MSU-Billings. Eric has worked in the information technology field since 2000 when he went to work for Microsoft, and has used his technological knowledge in Montana’s non-profit community since 2004.

Jessica Plance, Creative Content Producer

Jessica joined the WORC staff in March 2020. She is an environmental photojournalist from upstate New York. After graduating from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in photojournalism and environmental studies, she spent 4 years living and traveling around the west documenting conservation and research projects while advocating for the protection of public lands. Jessica produces photographs, articles, and videos for WORC’s Homegrown Stories, Homegrown Prosperity, and Living with Oil and Gas storytelling projects.

Eric Warren, Media Coordinator

Eric grew up in Billings, Montana, but has since lived all over the mountain west including northern Wyoming and Colorado’s western desert. He majored in photography at Northwest College and creative writing at the University of Montana. He combined his visual and storytelling skills for almost a decade as a documentary filmmaker focusing on the environment, education, and rural issues. Before joining WORC in 2018, he produced films for Western Native Voice and Northern Plains Resource Council, including Mixing Oil and Water, which screened at dozens of film festivals on three continents.

Sara Cawley, Washington, DC Representative

Sara Cawley joined the WORC team in April 2018, after completing a two-year Wyss Fellowship at the National Wildlife Federation, where she handled public lands defense issues and advocated for increased conservation funding and land protections. As the DC Representative, Sara works to develop and implement policy campaigns on WORC’s federal priorities. Sara earned a B.A. in Political Science and Environmental Studies from Gettysburg College and an M.S. in Environmental Policy and Planning from the University of Michigan. Prior to graduate school, Sara spent a year in Copenhagen on a Fulbright grant studying Danish collaborative natural resource management.

Dan Cohn, Regional Organizer

Dan joined the WORC staff in June 2014 as an intern. As WORC’s lead staff on coal, he helps develop and implement strategy around coal mine reclamation, bonding, coal leasing, and export. He has a bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was involved in community organizing around the coal industry. Dan is on sabbatical from March through August 2020.

David Wieland, Regional Organizer

David joined the WORC Staff in January 2019. After studying Political Science at the University of Washington, David worked in youth organizing, lobbying, and candidate recruitment and development in Washington and Alaska. After a brief stint leading trail crews in National Parks and Forests across the West, he returned to organizing to serve as WORC’s lead on Oil and Gas issues and campaigns.

Kate French, Regional Organizer

Kate French joined the WORC staff team in July 2018 and was previously involved with the WORC network as a volunteer since 2009. She is WORC’s lead staff on Just Transition, Homegrown Prosperity, and Clean and Renewable Energy campaigns. As a former volunteer leader with Northern Plains, she worked on numerous campaigns to address coal mining, coal export, and rural community resilience. She holds a masters degree in Public Administration from Montana State University and Iives in Livingston, MT with her two mutts.

Tim Glaza, Regional Organizer

Tim joined the WORC staff team in 2019 to organize on agriculture and food issues. Born and raised in Iowa, Tim has extensive experience managing canvass teams, recently worked as an organizer with Dakota Resource Council, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer working with family farmers in Zambia on regenerative agriculture and forestry. He earned a B.A. in Political Science from Iowa State University and a M.S. in Political Science from Illinois State University.

Briana Kerstein Bergeron, Development Associate

Briana joined the WORC staff in her current position in February 2020. Until 2016, she was the Campaign Director for the Western Coalfield Alliance, a coalition which included WORC, Northern Plains, Powder River Basin Resource Council, and other regional and national partners. Prior to returning to her hometown of Billings, Montana, Briana spent 7 years in New Orleans working with the Gulf Restoration Network. Briana assists with grant writing, compiling grant reports, and general external fundraising support. She is a graduate of Colorado College with a B.A. in Womens’ Studies.  

Patrick Sweeney, Senior Advisor

Pat served as WORC Executive Director from 1982 to 2014. He is a third generation Montanan and a graduate of the University of Montana in history. He has been a community organizer on natural resource and family farm agriculture issues in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain Region since 1972. He has served on numerous state and federal boards and commissions dealing with energy, mining, reclamation and water. He is a founder of Montana Conservation Voters, Montana Rural Voters and Montana Native Vote with campaign and field experience. He currently serves on the board of Big Sky 55+ as Treasurer and Managing Director of A Better Big Sky, a Montana donor table. As senior advisor, Pat focuses on special projects, civic engagement and voter participation programs, and fundraising.

He serves on the Board of Directors for the Bus Federation Civic Fund – national youth voter engagement programs, and Executive Committee for the Power Past Coal and Western Coalfield Alliance Campaigns. He is a founder of Montana Conservation Voters, Montana Rural Voters and Montana Native Vote with campaign and field experience. As senior advisor, Pat focuses on special projects, civic engagement and voter participation programs, and fundraising.

Kevin Williams, Senior Advisor

Kevin is a graduate of the University of Idaho with a Master of Science Degree in Forest Resources. He recently retired as a full-time employee after 35 years in the WORC network. Kevin held several positions in the WORC network including as a community organizer and then staff director for the Western Colorado Alliance. As a regional organizer for WORC, Kevin helped plan and win a number of issue campaigns in partnership with the member groups focused on oil and gas, clean energy and food safety issues. He was the lead organizer responsible for conducting an organizing assessment in eastern Oregon, which led to the formation of a new WORC member group, Oregon Rural Action. He also helped build the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils. During his tenure on the WORC staff he also provided assistance and support to WORC’s member groups in seven states, and helped design and facilitate countless trainings, workshops, conferences and meetings. In 2020, Kevin will provide advice and consultation on WORC’s Great Plains Organizing Project, which entails building two new WORC member groups in Nebraska and Kansas. Kevin and his spouse Brenda reside in Montrose, Colorado.

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