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 (on leave)
Cathleen Banford
Roger Beck
Gay Nicholson, President (ex officio)

Staff 

Gay Nicholson, President & CEO
Holly Hutchinson, Climate Fund Coordinator
Milena Bimpong, Clean Energy Intern for Tenant Engagement
Sasha Paris, Mini-Grant Coordinator & Office Assistant
Sawbailtal Hsamoo, Bookkeeper

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. (Osamu is on leave for the Fall 2022 semester as he enters graduate school at SUNY ESF.)

 

 

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.

Intern Milena Bimpong

 

Milena Bimpong, Clean Energy Intern for Tenant Engagement

Milena is originally from Lawrenceville, New Jersey and graduated from Cornell University with a BA in Biology & Society in May 2022. She is passionate about science communication, environmental health, and climate justice. She became interested in clean energy after interning with HeatSmart Tompkins from November 2021 until May 2022. Milena believes that clean energy infrastructure should be accessible to all communities, and she is looking forward to working with Tompkins County residents to explore their options for affordable clean energy sources. She aims to dedicate her future endeavors to building a sustainable future, particularly through climate change policy.

 

 

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 began volunteering with Sustainable Tompkins in 2012, assisting with public outreach and administration of the Neighborhood Mini-Grant program, joined the staff in 2014 as the program’s coordinator, and additionally became the Office Assistant in 2015.

She has volunteered 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

Sawbailtal grew up in a refugee camp on the Thailand/Burma border and lived there for more than 14 years. On June 19, 2011, he came to the United States as a refugee from Myanmar (also known as Burma) and settled in Ithaca, New York. Sawbailtal knew very little English when he arrived in the United States, so he quickly enrolled in the TST-BOCES English as a Second Language (ESL) program to learn more English. A few years later, he received his GED and then went to TC3 to learn accounting and earn his accounting degree. 

For the first few years after graduating from TCS, he worked for Get Your GreenBack Tompkins as an energy navigator and community educator organizer. He found he enjoyed learning about energy and doing billing and joined Sustainable Tompkins as the organization’s bookkeeper in 2021.

Sawbailtal enjoys learning about climate change and looks forward to working with and sharing his knowledge with Karen and Burmese communities.