SC Staff Report
Two well-known leaders in Southwest Florida water quality issues have joined the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation to expand the organization’s work to restore and protect the region’s waterways. James Evans and Chad Gillis will lead policy and advocacy work for SCCF starting Sept. 8.
Evans will take on the title of Environmental Policy Director and take over the portfolio of the organization’s first Natural Resources Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel who retired in May after serving 14 years. He will carry on her legacy by continuing to expand upon SCCF’s rich tradition of environmental policy.
“I am elated to join the talented team at SCCF and be a part of the foundation’s rich history of conservation and advocacy rooted in science,” said Evans. “I look forward to continuing the strong regional partnerships that we have built over the years to protect and restore our natural systems from the Everglades to the coasts.”
Evans has served as the City of Sanibel Director of Natural Resources since 2012. He began his career with the city 20 years ago as a conservation officer and was promoted to environmental planner then to environmental health and water quality specialist. Evans has authored and co-authored numerous scientific research papers, presented his work at professional conferences and earned several awards throughout his career with the city.
“Having worked hand-in-hand with James on every aspect of our water challenges for years, I personally know he brings his total dedication, unparalleled knowledge and unwavering commitment to protecting the natural environment and our region to the table every day,” said Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane.
Sanibel City Mayor Judie Zimomra announced Deputy Director of Natural Resources Holly Milbrandt will serve as acting director upon Evans departure in September. “It has been an honor to serve the citizens of Sanibel alongside the dedicated and talented employees of the city,” said Evans. “I look forward to continuing to be part of the strong conservation partnership that we have built on Sanibel.”
Gillis will be SCCF’s Policy Advocate, a newly-created position focused on water quality and promoting the organization’s policy positions through various media. He has been an environmental reporter with the Naples Daily News and News-Press. Gillis has focused his two-decade, award-winning journalism career on the Caloosahatchee River, Lake Okeechobee and Everglades restoration.
“James and Chad each bring 20 years of expertise in Southwest Florida’s environment to SCCF,” said CEO Ryan Orgera. “Individually these professionals would be extraordinary additions to our team, but when combined, SCCF benefits from a supercharged policy team. Together they will allow us to advocate for our islands and watershed with a megaphone.”
Evans and Gillis will be joined on the SCCF policy team by Marine Lab’s Research Associate Leah Reidenbach, who has a strong background in water quality science and science communication, and Policy Assistant Holly Schwartz, who worked with Lee County for 11 years and specializes in growth management issues.