The Center’s staff collaborates with others to achieve a shared vision for the region based on three essential ingredients: thriving communities, healthy forests and innovative and resilient local economies.
The Center’s staff brings years of experience in regional strategy development, economic development, forestry, communications, conservation and organizing to their work.
Maura Adams, Director of Community Investment
Maura loves finding non-obvious connections between ideas and sectors, which is why it makes perfect sense for her to direct both our wood heat and mountain biking programs and contribute to all our community revitalization work. She oversaw development of the Feel Good Heat and Bike Borderlands campaigns and works with dozens of partners to implement them across the Northern Forest.
Before joining the Center team in 2013, Maura built an environmental stewardship program at St. Paul’s School, consulted on green building projects for the Jordan Institute, and led a campus energy reduction program at Harvard University. She’s also been involved in ecological restoration research, mostly in urban settings. Maura has a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Mitch Breton, Marketing Manager
Mitch joins the Center as Marketing Manager to help build markets for Northern Forest products, destinations and communities. With deep roots in western Maine and four years working in the editorial and journalism space, Mitch has a solid background to help shape marketing initiatives for Feel Good Heat, Bike Borderlands and other programs. He's looking forward to serving the communities that have supported his growth and development both personally and professionally.
Prior to working at the Center, Mitch oversaw the curated section of Outside Magazine's video channel, promoting stories of adventure through film. Additionally, he worked as Event Coordinator for the Ski Maine Association and reported on several of Maine's communities through his writing for Downeast Magazine.
Julie Renaud Evans, Program Director
Julie has worked as a Program Director at the Center since 2009. She was part of the team that originated the Community Forest model and is a national leader in helping communities and non-profits acquire and manage Community Forests to provide a sustainable flow of ecologic, economic, and social benefits. Julie uses her skills as a forester and former community planner to prepare communities and coach residents for their roles as permanent stewards of Community Forests. She guides them as they create governance structures, develop forest management plans and engage a wide spectrum of community voices in each project.
Julie manages other place-based projects that integrate multiple strategies to benefit vibrant communities and healthy forests, including the redevelopment of a historic, 11,000-square-foot building that will house a local foods market at street level and apartments above to create in-town living spaces in Lancaster, NH. She has led numerous collaborative programs with other non-profits and state agencies.
Julie has more than 30 years’ experience working in the Northern Forest including college-level teaching, facilitating conservation projects, and advising landowners on forest stewardship. She is co-author of several publications, including Community Forests: A Community Investment Strategy, and is currently serving as the President of the New England Society of American Foresters.
Julie earned both her M.A. in Environmental Education and B.S. in Forest Management from the University of New Hampshire.
Carrie French, Director of Operations
Carrie brings a determined focus for continuously improving efficiencies and operations of the Center. She oversees the operations and financial reporting of the organization, aggressively seeks out cost controls and ensures our good standing. She brings a wealth of experience in program management and financial oversight, after spending nearly 13 years with the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund. She began as Assistant Director of the MicroCredit-NH Program, followed by many years as the Executive Coordinator for the entire organization. Carrie served the State of New Hampshire as the Assistant Director of Economic Development in the State’s Department of Resources and Economic Development.
Brittany Grutter, Katahdin Project Manager
Brittany manages the Center's Millinocket Housing Initiative (MHI) and other community projects in Millinocket, Maine. The focus of MHI is to make more quality rental housing available through the acquisition and renovation of residential properties in downtown Millinocket. The project is the foundation of the Center’s efforts to support community revitalization in Millinocket.
Brittany moved to Millinocket from Virginia to help the community become a destination. In past work, she led community-based initiatives for local farmers for the Catawba Sustainability Center, served the US Forest Service in southern Appalachia, and honed her community outreach and engagement skills through other positions. Brittany finds fulfillment in roles in which she can create space and experiences for individuals to feel ownership within their communities. \
Leslie Karasin, Adirondack Project Manager
Leslie manages our Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative. She serves as your go-to, based in Saranac Lake, if you have questions on how to apply to the program. She coordinates program delivery and ensures a smooth and high quality wood pellet boiler installation for program participants.
Leslie draws on a variety of community outreach experiences. She worked to engage local government officials on collaborative sustainable development projects at the Wildlife Conservation Society Adirondack Program. Her ability to translate complex problems into understandable terms and her extensive land use experience positioned her to effectively manage stakeholder input processes such as Community Values Mapping and Waterfront Revitalization Efforts.
Rob Riley, President
Rob Riley joined the Center in 2007 as director of programs to lead development of programs emerging from the Center’s Sustainable Economy Initiative, and assumed leadership of the Center in spring 2008. Rob has guided the Center to become the respected regional innovation and investment partner it is today, and launched the Center’s first impact-investment opportunities to support the Millinocket Housing Initiative and Lancaster Main Street Fund.
Rob led creation of the Northern Forest Board Forum and the Rural Development Innovation Group, a partnership with the Aspen Institute and the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities. He is particularly proud of the Center’s team and its ability to bring expertise and resources to help Northern Forest people and communities while advocating for the region at the national level. The New Hampshire Union Leader included Rob in its 2003 list of Forty Outstanding Leaders Under 40 in New Hampshire.
Sarah Schmidt, Grants & Development Coordinator
Sarah brings a passion for fundraising to her position as Grants & Development Coordinator for the Center. Prior to joining the Center, she worked for Canterbury Shaker Village in marketing and development, working closely with donors and helping craft fundraising strategies. Sarah was integral to the annual fund team and auction committee and became the donor database expert after migrating the data to new software. She learned the ropes of donor management and fundraising through her work with McDonough Scholarship Foundation. She looks forward to building new relationships at the Northern Forest Center in the coming years.
Joe Short, Vice President
Joe leads regional strategy and public policy initiatives at the Center, works in all our forest economy program areas, and oversees core operations. He first came to the Center in 2003 as a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow, and joined the staff full-time in 2004. He has combined his systems thinking, facilitation and project management expertise to lead numerous regional initiatives for the Center, including the Sustainable Economy Initiative (2006-2008), Northern Forest Investment Zone (2009-2014), the development of the Northern Border Regional Commission’s strategic plan (2015-2016), and the Future Forest Economy Initiative (2019-present). Collectively these efforts have secured and guided the investment of tens of millions of dollars in rural economic development in the Northern Forest.
Kelly Short, Communications Director
Kelly brings her writing, graphic design, and media relations acumen to the Center with nearly 30 years in nonprofit communications. She is responsible for crafting the outward brand of the Center, and directs our messaging across the Center’s marketing and communications efforts, including print and online publications, and constituent and media outreach. Two of Kelly’s favorite challenges are showcasing the Center’s impact across 4 states every year in our annual report, and ensuring that our website is engaging and informative for new audiences as well as long-time donors and partners.
Lila Trowbridge Thorne, Director of Development
Lila is all-hands-on-deck as the Director of Development and liaison to the Center’s generous supporters. A native of Peterborough, New Hampshire, she grew up with pond hockey in her bones and a fierce pride for bug season, mud season and the beautiful forests that make this place home. The Northern Forest Center’s work strikes at the heart of the issues that most intrigue Lila about this region: What are the factors that enable young people to thrive in rural towns? How do the many economic and recreational benefits of our forests contribute to strong communities? She is proud to be part of a team committed to exploring these answers.
Mike Wilson, Senior Program Director
Mike serves as the backbone for program development at the Center. His wealth of experience connecting and engaging with the traditions of the Northern Forest has led him to spearheading an effort to develop quality recreation tourism destinations in the Maine Woods and the region. He also offers his expertise in guiding the Center’s strategic planning and organizational development.
Mike was the lead coordinator of a 325-mile canoe expedition through the Maine Woods to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the publishing of Thoreau’s The Maine Woods. Previously at the Center, Mike served as principal researcher and author of the Northern Forest Wealth Index: Exploring a Deeper Meaning of Wealth. He led development of the Center’s National Endowment for the Humanities-funded mobile museum, Ways of the Woods: People and the Land in the Northern Forest, as well as several publications.
Laurel Will, Director of Finance
Laurel is the secret to keeping our financial house in order. She produces financial statements, administers staff payroll, and keeps track of where our resources are moving. Laurel has been instrumental in achieving efficiencies in tracking and reporting grant expenditures and improving the security of the organization.