The Board of Directors of Friends of the Verde River are composed of representatives that support Verde River stewardship efforts, including Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition, One for the Verde, and the Verde River Exchange.

  • Chip Norton
    Chip Norton President

    President Chip Norton, a third generation Arizonan, lives next to the Verde River in Camp Verde. He retired from his project management career in 2008 and currently serves on several nonprofit, municipal and regional boards and commissions. Chip is an advocate for community-based solutions to conservation challenges, and he is excited about the prospect of working with a diverse group of partners to achieve conservation goals in the Verde watershed.

  • Tony Gioia
    Tony Gioia Vice-President

    Vice-President Tony Gioia, a retired U. S. Postal Service worker and business owner, has also served on the Town Council and as Mayor for the Town of Camp Verde. Tony is an avid recreational enthusiast excelling in motorcycling, horseback riding and kayaking. He loves the expansive views of the Verde Valley and the up close views of it’s streams.

  • Brent Bitz
    Brent Bitz Treasurer

    Brent Bitz Brent is a retired businessman whose career involved him in large scale commercial real estate projects throughout North America. Since moving to Sedona with his wife Dion in 2006, he has been an active member of the community. In recent years he has been a Board Member of the Verde River Basin Partnership, past Chair of the City of Sedona’s Sustainability Commission and past Vice Chair of its Water Conservation Advisory Committee. Brent believes that Friends is well positioned to work with everyone in the Verde Valley community to help preserve the unique resource that is the Verde River. As a Board Member of the Northern Arizona Audubon Society and an active birder, Brent enjoys traveling around the world to meet new people and see our feathered friends.

  • Peggy Chaikin
    Peggy Chaikin Secretary

    Secretary Peggy Chaikin has been involved with Friends since its inception. She has lived and worked in the Verde Valley and Flagstaff area since the 70’s. She’s a retired teacher, having worked in Cottonwood, Camp Verde and Flagstaff in early childhood, special and elementary education. Now living in West Sedona, Peggy is a hiker, biker, gardener and artisan who values the quality of life provided to us through experiences in natural settings.

  • Susan Culp
    Susan Culp

    Susan Culp is the principal of NextWest Consulting, LLC and has over 15 years of experience in natural resource management, research and policy analysis, conservation advocacy, community engagement, collaboration and coalition building, and issue and political campaign management in the Intermountain West. She currently represents American Rivers as their Verde River project coordinator.

    Prior to starting NextWest Consulting, LLC, Susan was the project manager for Western Lands and Communities, a joint program between the Sonoran Institute and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, where she had oversight over research, analysis and tool development projects pertaining to state trust land management, smart growth and sustainable land use planning and development, and climate resiliency and adaptation planning. Susan holds a B.A. in marine biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a master’s degree in public administration and policy, with a focus on natural resources, from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Business and Public Administration.

  • Marsha Foutz
    Marsha Foutz Founding Board Member

    Founding Board Member Marsha Foutz is the volunteer coordinator and a founding member of Friends of the Verde River. For nearly 30 years, she has found work on behalf of the river to be very fulfilling. Marsha has also taught school for many years, loves to putter in the garden, and work with clay.

  • Jennifer Diffley
    Jennifer Diffley

    Jennifer is a junior partner in Culp & Kelly, LLP, where she practices in the areas of water and natural resources law, providing support to a variety of non-profit, government, and investment clients on environmental issues and water policy. Her work focuses on water scarcity issues in the Western United States, groundwater regulation, environmental impact investing and providing legal support for conservation and ecosystem management projects.

  • Max Castillo
    Max Castillo

    Max Castillo was a Park Ranger IV and Verde River Greenway Coordinator with AZ State Parks from 1998 – 2015. He was a Park Ranger at Dead Horse Ranch State Park and Verde River Greenway since 1975. Max moved to the Verde Valley in 1966 where he lived in Cornville close to Oak Creek. Max is a graduate of Mingus Union High School.

  • Jeni O’Callaghan
    Jeni O’Callaghan

    Jeni O’Callaghan is a third generation artist: “for me, art has always been just there, like breathing.” Her art reflects much of the southwest desert she grew up in and still lives in today. Jeni has been coming to the Verde Valley since her grandfather bought Rancho Tres Brisas on the Verde River in 1963. “It just seemed natural for Mike and I to move here in 2008, Tres Brisas is a paradise.” Besides artwork, Jeni enjoys time with her family, teaching new nurses at Yavapai College, kayaking, traveling—especially to the Sea of Cortez, birdwatching, and raising beef with her spouse, Michael.

  • Siera T. Russell
    Siera T. Russell

    Siera T. Russell is a citizen of the Yavapai-Apache Nation and a direct descendant of the Wipukepa, a separate people of the early Yavapais. Her indigenous ancestors resided in and around Oak Creek Canyon. On October 1, 2016, Siera was elected to her first 3-year term as a legislative member of the Yavapai-Apache Nation Tribal Council. Councilwoman Russell also serves as an associate appellate justice for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Court. Siera holds a B.A. in elementary education from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in education from Harvard. She earned her juris doctorate from Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California at Berkeley. An Arizona State Parks enthusiast, Siera enjoys hiking and discovering the distinctive qualities of our Verde River wildlife and plants.

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