Unless otherwise indicated, all terms expire in November 2025.
First Vice President Kevin Howe
Kevin was first elected to the board in 2019. He and his wife Betsy Washington retired to the Northern Neck from Northern Virginia about eight years ago. He grew up in northern California, spending all the time he could hiking, backpacking, skiing, climbing, kayaking, hugging redwoods—anything outdoors. After pursuing biology in college in California (University of California, Berkeley), teaching high school biology for two years and graduate school in California then Oregon (Oregon State University), Kevin taught and did research in ichthyology and aquatic ecology at various universities in the Northwest and the South before ending up at the Smithsonian Institution working in environmental education. After some time, he left the Smithsonian to continue a family construction company from which he retired eight years ago. He has been a member of four state native plant societies since 1969–California, Oregon, Washington, and Virginia. He has held various board positions in all, including president of the Potowmack (1980s) and Northern Neck (2016–2017) chapters of VNPS. In retirement he has kept active in environmental groups including VNPS, Virginia Master Naturalists, Audubon, and Northern Neck Land Conservancy.
Conservation Chair Barbara Ryan (Term expires November 2023)
Barbara is currently the Conservation Chair, having been appointed by the VNPS board of directors to a one-year term. She has been a resident of McLean for over 30 years. She currently serves as Chair of the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) Environment, Parks, and Recreation (EP&R) Committee, on the Board of the McLean Trees Foundation, and as the Dranesville District representative on the ResilientFairfax Community Advisory Group (CAG). She is the former Treasurer on the Board of the Chesapeake Conservation Landscaping Council (CCLC) and Governor and former President of the Potomac Boat Club.
Barbara’s significant native plant credentials include a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Landscape Design from George Washington University, a Virginia Certified Horticulturist (VNLA), a Level 2 Certified Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP), and a Certified Fairfax Master Naturalist. She also serves as the Invasive Management Area (IMA) Site Leader for Pimmit Run Stream Valley Park, is a Certified Interpretive Guide (NAI) and is currently pursuing coursework in herbal medicine, with a focus on native plants. Barbara offers native landscape design services through her company, Chain Bridge Native Landscapes LLC.
In addition to her horticultural background, Barbara spent her professional career as an economist focused on policy issues in the private and public sectors. She holds Bachelors, Master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in Economics, and has taught Economics as an adjunct professor at local universities. Before her retirement from the federal sector in 2018, she served as Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chair – Melody Starya Mobley
Melody was appointed to this new position on the board earlier this year and is seeking a full term with this election. She was featured in the Summer issue of Sempervirens. Believing that nature and the outdoors should be a welcoming place for everyone, Melody has spent a lifetime breaking down barriers to fulfill that vision. In 1977, she became the first African American female forester with the U.S. Forest Service. Two years later, she became the first Black woman to earn a degree in forest resource management at the University of Washington. Although she faced incredible obstacles because of her race and gender, she became a highly respected senior advisor in the science of forestry. It was not always easy, but she found strength from within – after all, her middle name is “Starya,” a word that draws from her Cherokee heritage and means “stay strong.”
After retiring from the Forest Service, Melody remained in northern Virginia where she enjoys getting out in nature, what she calls her “sacred spaces,” often as a volunteer at local schools or the Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington. She is ready to embrace her newest volunteer project as VNPS’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chair. Melody states, “ALL people must be involved in saving our native plants in our state, country and around the world. Historically, people of color have not been involved for several reasons and we must change that. It begins with education and understanding. We must have the best minds involved in decision-making too and that includes people of color. I will work very hard to make sure that the board consists of members that are representative of the U.S. society as a whole.”
Education Chair – Joey Thompson
Joey is completing his first partial term on the Board, coordinating our annual workshops and special statewide educational presentations. Since January Joey has held the position of a vegetation ecologist in the Natural Heritage Division of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. He was born and raised in Richmond, where he now lives. He has been a naturalist for as long as he can remember and developed a specialty in field botany, which he practiced as an environmental scientist at the engineering firm VHB from 2017-2021. He received biology degrees from the College of William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University. He takes every opportunity to assist with work related to native plants. He serves on board of directors of the Flora of Virginia Project, teaches at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, is a coauthor of several recent botanical publications, and volunteers for individuals and organizations that seek botanical input on local projects. He and his wife Sarah are expecting their first child in September.
Publications – Virginia Witmer
Virginia has served as Publications Chair since the beginning of 2021 and was profiled in the Winter 2021 edition of Sempervirens. Professionally she is the Outreach Coordinator for the Virginia Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program, a network of state agencies, localities, and non-governmental partners, headquartered at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in Richmond. For the last 25 years, she has been responsible for coordinating all facets of the program’s communication strategy, including publications, website management, media relations, exhibits and workshops. She particularly enjoys her work on social marketing campaigns focused on increasing native plant use and decreasing marine debris. Virginia worked with partners on the Eastern Shore to design the first regional native plant campaign and has since supported campaigns across coastal Virginia and into the Piedmont and Mountain regions. As part of the campaigns, she has collaborated with partners to produce marketing materials, including the regional native plant guides. Specifically, Virginia was the editor and graphic designer for the ES, NOVA, Capital/RVA, SEVA/HR, and Central Rapp guides. In her role with Virginia CZM, Virginia also initiated and is the current coordinator of the Virginia Native Plant Marketing Partnership, and she co-led development of the partnership’s Action Plan. Virginia designed and serves as the primary administrator of the PlantVirginiaNatives.org website, which is home to the partnership and hosts some of the regional campaigns.
Virginia graduated from Allegheny College with a major she designed focused on the social, political, and economic factors influencing environmental protection. She attended the environmental resource policy master’s program at George Washington University. Married with two young adult daughters, Virginia loves to be outdoors, enjoys reading, sings in a choir, and wishes to spend more time with a camera.
Publicity – Ashley Moulton
Ashley has been serving as Publicity Chair for a few years and she also initiated and administers the VNPS presence on Instagram. She was featured in the Spring 2020 issue of Sempervirens. Ashley works for the Capital Region Land Conservancy as a land conservation specialist in Richmond and runs her own horticulture business, Moulton Hot Natives. As an undergraduate at Virginia Commonwealth University, she studied wetland seed-bank dynamics from seed collected at the VCU Rice Rivers Center. For her master’s degree at VCU, she worked on one of the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research study sites on the Virginia Coastal Reserve, studying how increased nutrient availability (expected with climate change) alters plant-community composition in a coastal grassland. During her graduate studies, she worked at Chesterfield County’s Extension office and realized that she had a passion for Virginia native plant outreach. She is secretary of the Pocahontas Chapter and serves on the board of directors for the Flora of Virginia Project.
Director-at-large – Invasive Plants Educator – Jim Hurley
Jim is a retired organizational consultant who is completing his first term on the board. More than 20 years ago, concerned about the link between widespread degraded habitat and declining bird populations, Jim began working on introduced plant invasions in natural areas, first with private properties and public parks in Northern Virginia, and since 2013, on his and Susan Roth’s 156-acre property on the lower slopes of the main Blue Ridge in Greene County. The beautiful property had significant invasions of Japanese stiltgrass, multiflora rose, wineberry, Japanese honeysuckle, smartweed, perilla, and others, largely in portions of 110 acres of forest, and more species in fields and open areas. Jim has taken the knowledge and experience gained in Northern Virginia projects and applied them on a landscape scale in Greene and used that experience to work on county and statewide scales with the Blue Ridge Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM).
In addition to his extensive activities with BR PRISM, Jim is a Master Naturalist, Tree Steward, and a member of the Virginia Noxious Weed Advisory Committee.
Director-at-large – Natural Heritage – Johnny Townsend
Johnny is Senior Botanist with the Natural Heritage Division of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and has served on the VNPS board for many years. His work as part of the division’s inventory team has focused primarily on rare vascular plants and their conservation. He was previously curator of the herbarium at Clemson University. As a co-author of the Flora of Virginia, his work included editing of taxonomic descriptions; editing of illustrations, ensuring that they accurately and truly depict key characters; and the provision of Virginia-specific information on status and habitat.
Director-at-large – Joseph Villari (to fill an unexpired term ending November 2023)
Joe manages the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve in Northern Virginia, which is VOF’s largest and most-visited reserve. His focus is on implementing science-based management practices that balance the conservation needs of the property, while maximizing its scientific, artistic, and educational potential. Originally from Prince George’s County, Maryland, Joe grew up in the rural landscape of Fauquier County and considers the small towns of Paris, Delaplane, and Marshall home. Fascinated with animals at an early age, he would go on to earn his bachelor’s in conservation biology and master’s in environmental science and policy (with a focus on biocomplexity) from George Mason University. Before coming to VOF, Joe worked for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, where he received a Peer Recognition Award for his contributions. Joe is a passionate advocate for habitat conservation, field and specimen-based scientific research, and making science more accessible to the general public.