Sustainable Tompkins is governed by a Board of Directors and supported by staff and volunteers.

Board of Directors

Jessica Swindon, Chair
Neil Schill, Secretary
Osamu Tsuda, Treasurer
Cathleen Banford
Roger Beck

Gay Nicholson, President (ex officio)

Staff Support

Gay Nicholson, President & CEO
Holly Hutchinson, Climate Fund Coordinator
Ryan Kincaid, Sustainable Finger Lakes Program Coordinator
Sarah Nickerson, Outreach Coordinator
Sasha Paris, Mini-Grant Coordinator & Office Assistant
Sawbailtal Hsamoo, Bookkeeper
Adriana Diaz, Clean Energy Intern

Board and Staff Bios

 

Gay Nicholson, President

Since 2004, Gay Nicholson has led Sustainable Tompkins in designing and implementing an integrated program to advance the creation of a more sustainable regional community. Gay emphasizes a systems approach to working with partners to build the infrastructure and social capacity for more sustainable ways of living and working. Gay participates in a number of local partnerships related to energy and climate, equity as an economic driver, and sustainable agriculture.

Gay left a career in sustainable agriculture to work in environmental advocacy and education with Cornell’s Program on Ethics and Public Life, and as executive director of the Finger Lakes Land Trust before leading the creation of Sustainable Tompkins. She has been an active volunteer in numerous community and environmental organizations, providing leadership from the local to the national level.

Gay’s undergraduate degree (with High Distinction) is in Environmental Sciences from the University of Virginia (1979), and her Master’s (1982) and Doctorate (1991) are in Crop Physiology and Integrated Pest Management from Cornell University.  She currently serves on the boards of HeatSmart Tompkins and the Tompkins County Planning Advisory Board.

 

Jessica Swindon, Chair

Jessica Swindon grew up in Syracuse, NY next to Onondaga Lake (the most polluted lake in America) which evoked her deep appreciation of the Finger Lakes region. She holds a B.Sc from SUNY Cortland and an M.Sc from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies where her work focused on carbon and nitrogen cycling in rangelands. She currently manages a soil and plant ecology lab that focuses on sustainable agriculture in the School of Integrative Plant Sciences at Cornell University.

Jessica’s work with Sustainable Tompkins focuses on land and resource management including harmful algal bloom education and prevention and carbon offset projects with a focus in agriculture. Jessica is often at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market selling locally made CBD and spends the rest of her time with her dog Ruby.

 

 

Neil Schill, Secretary

Neil specializes in developing technology to transform complex data into useful and accessible information. As an early pioneer and proponent of the internet in 1994, he served as a consultant to over 50 countries, helping them develop and implement communication strategies online and bringing people from different backgrounds together. Today, Neil advocates for sustainable communities and growing a network of people that practice solving persistent social & environmental issues through new ways of inquiry.

 

 

 

 

 

Osamu Tsuda, Treasurer

Originally from Cooperstown NY, Osamu does work around climate resiliency and adaptation planning in the Southern Tier region spanning from Steuben to Delaware County. As a graduate from Cornell’s city planning program, Osamu is very interested in the topics of watershed management and land use planning, which is how he got acquainted with Sustainable Tompkins in 2018. 

As part of the ST board of directors, Osamu looks forward to working with communities to prepare for the effects of climate change and help create a more sustainable future.

 

 

Cathleen Banford

 

 

Roger Beck

Roger Beck grew up on a dairy farm in the Town of Dryden and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Agricultural Engineering. After serving two years in the Navy Seabees, he started Beck Construction, a company doing excavation and grading work.

During the following decades, this company changed its operations and it is now Beck Equipment, located in Preble, NY. Beck Equipment rents, sells and services construction machinery and employs twenty-five people.

Over the years, Roger has worked to get information to the public about a wide variety of issues. To continue these efforts, he is starting a not-for-profit called 21st Century Facts. Roger serves on the board of Sustainable Tompkins and is a member of the Ithaca Sunrise Rotary.

 

STAFF

 

Holly Hutchinson, Climate Fund Coordinator

Holly came to Sustainable Tompkins with a background in organizing and workforce development. In her previous position she assisted advanced manufacturers in creating and expanding their registered apprenticeship programs. Holly has worked as an organizer with mobile home tenants, head start teachers, healthcare workers, and condo service workers. Her commitment to earth stewardship has led her to positions promoting sustainable transportation, recycling, residential energy efficiency programs, and distributed wind power.

Holly grew up in Buffalo and spent 25 years in the western U.S. before returning home to New York State. She came to Ithaca for the beautiful natural world, the sense of community, the creative spark, and the possibility of living in co-housing. She feels blessed to be working with Sustainable Tompkins on the most important issues of our time: climate, equity, and the transition to a sustainable economy.

 

 

Ryan Kincaid, Sustainable Finger Lakes Program Coordinator

Growing up, Ryan Kincaid (she/her) spent a lot of time in the woods and waters near her grandparents’ home on the edge of Seneca Lake. From this early experience, she gained an appreciation for all living things and developed a deep sense of place. She earned a BA in Environmental Studies and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, then went on to teach middle school science at a local school. Both in college and in the intervening years, she has spent extensive time creating and implementing after-school programs to connect youths with the natural world, engage in the creative arts, and contribute their time and talent through community service. Firmly committed to service herself, she spent the past two years serving environmental nonprofits in Vermont and Oregon as an AmeriCorps member. Seeing the environmental degradation and conservation efforts in different parts of the country solidified her desire to support eco-efforts back home, and Ryan is eager to contribute her skills, passion, and enthusiasm to protecting the lakes, forests, and other ecosystems in the Finger Lakes region. 
 
In her spare time, Ryan enjoys singing, hiking, playing board games, snuggling pets, and being creative. She is currently writing her first book!
 

 

Sarah Nickerson, Outreach Coordinator

Sarah Nickerson grew up on fifty acres in a rural town between Cayuga and Seneca lakes. She spent her childhood exploring the forests, fields, and streams around her childhood home and fell in love with nature and the outdoors at an early age. Her love of this region and desire to protect it is what drew her to Sustainable Tompkins. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Professional Writing from SUNY Cortland and brings over six years of experience supporting administrative needs, events, outreach efforts, and communications for local nonprofits in Tompkins County. Sarah loves to learn more about the sustainability efforts of both individuals and communities across the Finger Lakes. As a part of Sustainable Tompkins, she is thrilled to connect more deeply with the people that call these lakes, lands, and forests home. 

Sarah spends much of her free time exploring the outdoor spaces of the Finger Lakes with her young son, Leo, and is also a skilled photographer. 

 

Sasha Paris

 

Sasha Paris, Mini-Grant Program Coordinator and Office Assistant

Sasha Paris grew up in Ithaca and graduated from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, with an interdisciplinary blend of studies in human-environmental interactions. Her career has focused on nature education – former workplaces include Acadia National Park, the New England Aquarium, and the Finger Lakes National Forest – and supporting others’ endeavors to strengthen communities and protect the living world.

She has volunteered with Sustainable Tompkins since 2012, assisting with public outreach and administration of the Neighborhood Mini-grant program, and joined the staff in 2014 as the program’s coordinator. 

She currently volunteers with numerous local organizations, including Loaves and Fishes, the Ithaca Children’s Garden, and the Paleontological Research Institution’s Museum of the Earth.

 

Sawbailtal Hsamoo, Bookkeeper

Adriana Diaz, Clean Energy Intern