Staff

Trees Forever Staff

To reach a helpful staff member, dial 1-800-369-1269 plus the individual extension below

Kacie Ballard

Des Moines Program Coordinator
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Kacie is a graduate from Iowa State University earning a degree in Child, Adult, and Family Services. Kacie’s true passion, along with serving the community, lies with environmental and conservation efforts which led her to Trees Forever. She has experience working with youth and volunteers through previous non-profits in the human services and animal welfare fields. Kacie enjoys walks with her dog and exploring nearby parks and trails. 

Leslie Berckes

Director of Programs
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Leslie earned an M.A. in Public Policy, with an emphasis on environmental policy, and a B.A. in Marketing from the University of Northern Iowa. Leslie has a diverse background in environmental and conservation issues, having worked on programs dedicated to reducing solid waste, improving energy efficiency, and promoting sustainable building practices. Leslie directs all Trees Forever programs, and founded the Growing Futures program in 2018, which launched from her home base of Des Moines. She supervises the entire program staff across Iowa and Illinois.

Margaret Birmingham

Finance and Operations Manager
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Margaret is the Finance and Operations Manager at Trees Forever.  One of her favorite aspects of the job is writing the grant checks that Trees Forever awards each year to communities and landowners across Iowa and Illinois – helping them plant more trees, beautify roadsides and public areas with native plants and shrubs, and protect and preserve our water and land resources.   Margaret is always looking for ways for us to save money and better manage our limited resources.  The Trees Forever staff is very fond of Margaret, as she also processes our payroll and expense checks!  Margaret lives in Cedar Rapids.

John Bright

Marketing and Communications Manager
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John comes from a long background of non-profit communications work with the Humane Society, Habitat for Humanity and AmeriCorps. He got his first taste of working alongside Trees Forever during tree plantings in partnership with the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. John works out of the Marion, Iowa office and is responsible for much of the social media and communications you see coming from Trees Forever. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and enjoys sharing the accomplishments of Trees Forever and its supporters.

Nancy Duncan

Executive Vice President & CFO
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Nancy brings many years of experience in the non-profit community to Trees Forever. She has a B.A. from St. Ambrose University in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. Nancy makes sure Trees Forever remains fiscally responsible and that employee policies are up-to-date. Nancy loves the outdoors and enjoys visiting and camping in National Parks across the county. She also enjoys singing (music in general), making crafts and cooking. Nancy lives in Cedar Rapids with her husband.

Emily Ehley

Field Coordinator, Central and Southern Illinois
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Emily Ehley has a BA in Environmental Education from Warren Wilson College. She has spent the majority of her career so far helping children and adults find joy in exploring the natural world around them. In her free time, she tends her garden and practices tree ID while hiking with her dogs. She is a Certified Interpretive Guide and a Master Naturalist. She is excited to meet the many people and trees of Southern Illinois through her position with Trees Forever.

Tracy Feldmann

Database and Website Coordinator
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Tracy is a graduate of Kirkwood Community College with a focus on database and systems management. She maintains the Trees Forever website and creates the digital infrastructure to keep Trees Forever running smoothly. In her spare time she enjoys crafting unique garments and purses with fabrics, yarns and upcycled items. She lives near a walnut forest preserve with her family where she keeps a pollinator garden and raises monarch butterflies.

Debbie Fluegel

Program Manager, Illinois
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Debbie has a B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of Maine. She manages Trees Forever’s Illinois Buffer Partnership and it Pollinator Habitat Conservation programs for both Iowa and Illinois. Debbie’s favorite part of her job? “Meeting new people and visiting a lot of unique areas in Illinois that most people don’t have the opportunity to visit.” Debbie is a member of the Environmental Education Association of Illinois, the Illinois Forestry Association, the Soil & Water Conservation Society and the Association for Temperate Agroforestry.

Jeff Jensen

Field Coordinator, Northwest Iowa
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Jeff is Program Manager for the Working Watersheds: Buffers and Beyond program and is Field Coordinator for northwest Iowa. He has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and has worked in the field of sustainable agriculture for the past 15 years. He has over thirteen years of experience working with landowners and farmers growing perennial crops and is active with several existing organizations and partners, including the Iowa Nut Growers Association. He grows nuts and berries on his farm, NutHaven, in north-central Iowa.

Teresa Kurtz

Program Manager, Eastern Iowa
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Teresa is Senior Program Manager based out of the Cedar Rapids/Marion office. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, she has many years of experience in sustainability, previously working as the Executive Director of the Iowa Recycling Association and as the Education and Communications Coordinator of the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency. Teresa has a passion for working with area non-profits and helping programs develop and succeed.

Kiley Miller

President & CEO
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Kiley Miller is the President & CEO of Trees Forever, a position he accepted in February 2021 after a national search. Previously he led economic development organizations in rural Iowa. Mr. Miller has been a print journalist and served in the United States Army. A native of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Kiley now lives with his wife, Carry, in the Cedar Rapids metro area. They have two adult children and one in high school. Kiley is passionate about the Trees Forever mission and is leading the next five-year strategic plan in collaboration with the Board of Directors and Foundation Trustees.

Shannon Ramsay

Founder & Trustee
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Shannon founded Trees Forever as a volunteer in 1989, and served as President & CEO until 2021. Recognized both nationally and locally for her leadership, Shannon is the 2021 recipient of the Lifetime Stewardship Award from the Arbor Day Foundation and the Nonprofit Leader of the Year from the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. Ms. Ramsay is leading the ReLeaf Cedar Rapids planning team and is a Trustee of the Trees Forever Foundation.  

Patty Reisinger

Field Coordinator
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Patty has a B.S. in Horticulture from Iowa State University. She has been with Trees Forever since 1991, working in many of the program areas, especially community forestry and Iowa’s Living Roadways. Prior to working at Trees Forever, Patty worked for several years as an ISU Extension Horticulturalist.  She is a member of the International Society of Arboriculture, is a Certified Arborist, and is a member of the Iowa Arborist Association. ois.

Lisa Renfer

Administrative Coordinator
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Lisa updates and maintains Trees Forever’s member and partner database. Prior to her time at Trees Forever, she worked nine years at Orchestra Iowa as a Patron Associate and also did the billing and payments for the Orchestra Iowa School. She has two daughters and enjoys taking walks.

Brad Riphagen

Field Coordinator, Southwest and Western Iowa
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Brad has a B.A. in Biology and an M.S. in Land Resources with a focus on prairie restoration and soils. He has been a Trees Forever Field Coordinator since 1995 and worked in almost all the program areas, including community tree plantings, Visioning, and buffer/watershed work. He has a strong interest in reduction of stormwater runoff especially in urban areas through the use of infiltration practices such as rain gardens and bio-retention basins. Brad is also a Certified Arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture.

Deb Roman

Program Support Coordinator
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Deb is best known as the voice of Trees Forever, as she is most often the person answering telephone at our main office in Marion.  Deb supports all the necessary administrative processes for hundreds of grant applications, awards and reports. Deb grew up on a farm west of Cedar Rapids, Iowa and graduated from Kirkwood Community College. She has a special place in her heart for her pets, the outdoors, and she thrives on hard work and helping others.

Molly Walkner

Field Coordinator
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Molly earned her B.S. in Mathematics at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa and has a background in Civil Engineering design. She was introduced to the world of environmentalism through a term with the ConservationCorps. At Trees Forever, Molly uses her conservation experience and design background to help communities plan and facilitate sustainable enhancements. In her free time, Molly enjoys all things outdoors including rock climbing, running, biking, gardening, kayaking, and camping just to name a few.

Lisa Williams

Director of Development
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Hailing from the longleaf pines of north Louisiana, Lisa has a diverse background in fundraising, nonprofit administration and environmental protection. She earned an M.S. from The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources and a B.S. in business administration from Northwestern State University. Lisa loves local foods, spring migration and fig trees. She and her husband live in Cedar Rapids.

Trees Forever and Iowa DNR Partnership Staff

Nick McGrath

Nick is the Community Disaster Recovery Coordinator, a new position in partnership with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. He is assisting community tree planting efforts across the derecho disaster area. Previously, Nick was the nursery stock manager for a local garden center and facilitated pest management solutions as a Certified Commercial Pesticide Applicator. He graduated with a B.M.E. in Music Education from UNI and spent many years as a choral director and athletic coach in the Cedar Valley corridor. Nick is excited to bring his networking skills and knowledge of urban forestry to Trees Forever as the state recovers from the August 10 derecho.

Mark Runkel

Mark is the Community Forest Health Technician, a new position in partnership with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Mark is working with sawmills all over the state to set traps for invasive insects. He’ll also be visiting communities and assessing trees during urban tree inventories. Previously, Mark has worked for local county conservation, soil and water conservation districts, YMCA’s Y-Camp, Science Center of Iowa, and Soil-Tek. He graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Communications.

Independent Consultants who Support Trees Forever

Barb Grabner-Kerns

Barb Grabner-Kerns designs publications for Trees Forever as a private contractor. She was a field coordinator with Trees Forever for 12 years before retiring in 2018. She also continues with tree projects as a volunteer in Taylorville, Illinois.

Jo Ann McNiel

Jo Ann’s background with the university and non-profit world in Cincinnati, and her Master’s degree in Environment and Community from Antioch University in Seattle, led her to group facilitation and meeting planning.  With Trees Forever, Jo Ann primarily coordinates the annual Our Woodland Legacy Symposium.  She also volunteers with the Indian Creek Nature Center in their land stewardship, tutors an immigrant in English with the Catherine McAuley Center, and assists at Morning Glory Farm, a CSA in Mt. Vernon.  Jo Ann’s husband Mick is a retired educator, and they golf together when not tending to their gardens and raising Monarchs through the Monarch Research Project in Cedar Rapids.  

tree in the middle of the field golden hour photography

Bev Stevenson

Bev keeps Trees Forever’s computers and system running smoothly by providing outstanding and timely IT support.  She is a long-time and valued member of the Trees Forever family.