Our People

The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is led by a dedicated group of full time staff, part time staff, volunteer board members, and community volunteers. We’re proud to call these people family and appreciate the efforts they put in on a daily basis to preserve and protect the Catawba-Wateree River Basin.


John Searby

Executive Director

As Executive Director, John is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation and serves as it’s primary fundraiser, visionary, and relationship developer. John brings a diverse background in coaching, athletic administration, fundraising, design, marketing, sponsorship planning, and sales management to the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation.

John grew up in Central Illinois where his passion for the outdoors began while bird hunting with his grandfather. John attended Milligan College in Johnson City, TN, where he was a 3-year starter and captain of the basketball team. John fell in love with the mountains of East Tennessee while earning a Bachelor’s Degree in History and English from Milligan College and a Master’s Degree in English from Tennessee Tech University. After college, John embarked on a ten-year basketball coaching journey at Gardner-Webb University, Tennessee Tech University, Lincoln Christian University, and Auburn University before working in athletic administration at Bradley University. Following his time in athletics, John worked in the business world for XOS Digital, Downstream Design, and Adams Outdoor Advertising.

John currently resides on Lake Wylie in Belmont, NC with his wife, Jessi, and two children, Jack (13) and Josie (10). During his free time, he enjoys all things outdoors – kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, trail running, camping, bird hunting, and fishing as well as consuming as much American History as possible. John also serves the Charlotte region and Catawba-Wateree River Basin as the Chair of the North Chapter of the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, a Member of the Board of Directors of the Carolina Raptor Center, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Catawba-Wateree Relicensing Coalition.


Brandon Jones


Brandon is a native of Gastonia.  He attended UNC-Chapel Hill and earned a B.A. in Economics with a minor in Environmental Science. He is currently in graduate school at UNC Charlotte where he will be defending his thesis this semester to earn his Master’s degree in Earth Science. For the last 12 years he has been a raft guide, primarily at the Whitewater Center and on the Arkansas River in Colorado. Brandon joined CRF in August of 2017 and served as the Director of Technical Programs before he was promoted to Riverkeeper.







Diana Daniels

Associate Director

Diana began working at the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in 2012 after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She earned her B.S. in Business Administration from Kenan-Flagler Business School where she concentrated in Marketing. You’ll find Diana working mostly behind the scenes on fundraising, events, marketing, and administrative projects.

Diana is a native of Charlotte. Her love for the River and desire to protect it comes from spending time at her grandparents’ home on Lake Wylie.





Haley Tedder

Program Director

Haley is a Charlotte native who earned a B.S. in Environmental Science with a minor in chemistry at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

Before CRF, she was an educator for UNCW’s MarineQuest and Fort Caswell Environmental Stewardship programs. She also worked as an Environmental Specialist for Duke Energy. Haley is passionate about educating the local community and preserving local water quality.





Monika Dammann

Community Engagement Coordinator

As Community Engagement Coordinator, Monika is responsible for providing oversight for CRF-sponsored volunteer opportunities and community engagement initiatives.  Her hope is to educate and empower people to engage with the Catawba River in fun and impactful ways.

Monika is a transplant from Arlington, Virginia.  She is currently on track to receive her Master’s in Public Policy and Nonprofit Management from George Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government.





Deb Nahikian

Kayaking Director

Deb is a former 8th grade science teacher with 14 years of experience in the classroom. Prior to being a teacher, Deb was a forester who worked in private industry and with forest landowners on forest land management. She has 8 years experience working with Mecklenburg Park and Recreation with their summer environmental camps. She has a passion for the outdoors and the water and enjoys every opportunity to be on the water sharing this passion.






Tyler Richardson

Chairman of the Board

Tyler Richardson works in Global High Yield Product Management at Barings and is a Lake Norman native. He spent his summers boating, kayaking, swimming and enjoying all aspects of the Catawba River Basin. Tyler graduated a McKissick’s Scholar at the University of South Carolina in Columbia where he studied Finance and Public Relations. After college, Tyler has worked in several roles within the asset management industry. Tyler has been on the Board of CRF since September of 2016 and sits on the Executive Committee. In his free time loves to golf, visit Charlotte’s many breweries, and watch the Panthers play.




Shirley Greene

Vice Chair
Shirley earned an undergraduate degree in Economics from Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, NC, and a master’s degree in elementary education from Temple University, Philadelphia. In 2004, she retired from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia, as National Director of Cancer Control Training and Development. Shirley has been on the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation board of directors since 2014 and enjoys being a mother, grandmother and disciple of Christ active in various church ministries.




Will Piner

Board Treasurer
Will is a partner with Peter Bell, PLLC in Charlotte, NC.  He has been in public accounting in North Carolina for 15 years after graduating from UNC.  He is married to Sara and they have three boys, Alex, Jack & Drew.  Will has previously volunteered with CRF, Carolina Raptor Center & Hands on Charlotte and served for two years as the Treasurer for the Vermillion Homeowner’s Association.  He is passionate about the environment and wants to contribute to keeping our waterways clean for the future.



Katie Forster

Board Secretary
Katie Forster graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a degree in meteorology, which fostered her interest in the environment. She was born and raised in the Lake Norman region and knows first-hand the importance of protecting the Catawba River.  She has been a member of the CRF Board of Directors since 2015 and is an avid runner – completing the New York Marathon in 2016.





Chad Burel

Chad Burel is the Founder and President of LakeHickoryAdventures.com, a Financial Advisor at Edward Jones Investments, a husband to Lisa Burel, a father to 7 children and a grateful follower of Jesus Christ. He grew up as an Eagle Scout on the historic Eno River in Hillsborough, NC where his love of the water began. Chad earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at NCSU and was commissioned as an officer in the USAF. He earned his M.S. in Engineering and Environmental Management at the Air Force Institute of Technology, became a Registered Environmental Manager and taught topics including environmental law, regulatory compliance, pollution prevention and cleanup technology at the Air Force Civil Engineer and Services School. Chad moved to Hickory in 1995 to make his home and raise his family on the banks of the Catawba River at the western end of Lake Hickory. With his investments office on the Catawba River Greenway in Morganton, his home on headwaters of Lake Hickory and his yachting business on the main body of Lake Hickory, Chad’s fondest memories and greatest passions flow daily through the Catawba River Valley.




Rebecca Deal

Beca Deal is a Geologist with Hart and Hickman, PC, in Charlotte, NC. As an environmental consultant she works with State and Federal regulators to protect water quality and the environment throughout the United States.  Originally from Franklin, NC, Beca has lived in Charlotte for 13 years.  She attended Appalachian State University for her Bachelors Degree, and later received her Masters Degree in Earth Science from UNCC.  Beca has previously volunteered with The Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists (AEG) as a board member and meeting planner.  She plans on contributing her scientific expertise and passion for the environment to the mission of the Riverkeepers.  In her downtime, she enjoys gardening, backpacking in the mountains, and kayaking in the piedmont.





Dr. Bob Dawkins

Raised in a home along the Enoree River, Dr. Bobby Gerald Dawkins is a chemist, philanthropist and family man. Retired from PBI Performance Products, Inc. as a Senior Polymer & Fiber Associate in Research and Development, during his career, he co-authored 16 publications and US chemical patents.  His appointments include research positions at Savannah River Laboratory, Celanese Corporation, and Hoechst Celanese Corporation.  Bob graduated from Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) with a B.S. in Chemistry and Cornell University with a PhD in Analytical Chemistry.  In terms of synergistic activities, Bob is a member of the American Chemical Society (Carolina-Piedmont) and served on the Mayor’s Chemical Safety “Blue Ribbon” Study Committee and Citizen’s Advisory Council on Hazardous Materials. He engages in numerable JCSU alumnae activities, including community service projects with fortune 500 brands such as Toyota. Bob also collaborates with faculty researchers at the University of South Carolina, JCSU, and researchers at RPI/Troy, NY.


Randy Kelley

Randy Kelley headshot

Randy, a retired executive from Sonoco Producs, Fenner Dunlop Conveyer Belting Americas, and Caraustar Industries, has been living on Lake Wateree since 2003. He is originally from Hartsfield, SC and is married with two grown children. Randy is active in his community and serves on multiple Boards, such as the Lake Wateree Water Watch Advisory Board (Chairman) and the Fairfield County Zoning and Planning Commission.




Rick Foster

Rick Foster is a graduate of UNC Charlotte with a degree in Finance and is a Charlotte native. As an avid hiker and NC beekeeper, he knows the importance of the Catawba River to the region and how its conservation is the greatest gift we can give to future generations. He also enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter and tailgating at Panthers/49ers games.





Marsha LePhew

Marsha is the founder and president of LePhew Financial Services, Inc. Her practice specializes in providing comprehensive financial life planning, investment advisory, accounting, and tax compliance services. Professional activities include public speaking engagements addressing personal financial planning and investment advisory services at AICPA conferences, SCAPA conferences, and local industries. On a personal level, Marsha is always happiest when close to water and watching things grow. She also loves to read, read, read, and travel as life allows.





Michael Lindsey

Michael and his wife Nancy have lived on Lake Norman with their three sons for 28 years.  The Catawba River is their home and they are proud of what the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation has done to protect the River and to ensure clean, plentiful water for today and for the future. Michael has served three terms on CRF’s Board of Directors and is a former Chairman of the Board. He is an avid river recreationalist – Paddle on!





Susan O. Tompkins

Susan Oast Tompkins grew up in and on the water in Tidewater, Virginia, before moving inland in the late sixties. She lives in the floodplain on Briar Creek with appreciation for water. She was instrumental in getting her neighborhood association to ask the owners of the land fronting Randolph Rd. and Briar Creek to donate 22 acres to the Catawba Lands Conservancy – now the Catawba Urban Preserve. Susan went as a photographer to the BP oil spill off the coast of Alabama in 2010 and continued her service in water on the Mecklenburg Storm Water Advisory Committee for 6 years and one as its Chair in addition to the Charlotte Tree Advisory Committee, the Charlotte Public Arts Commission and the NC Climate Change Commission in Raleigh. Currently she is an art consultant at the Foundation For The Carolinas. She is interested in how to create dialogue with diverse groups about the importance of water.



Bob Webb

Bob Webb is a long-time resident of Lake Norman who cares about the lake, the river and the surrounding environment. He is Chairman of Myers & Chapman where he had also served as CEO until June 1, 2017. Bob is a LEED Accredited Professional and has been advocating for and helping his clients build sustainable, healthy, energy efficient, and water efficient buildings for a number of years. He has also traveled and studied water issues in other areas, including a 2016 trip with an Appalachian State University student group to the Amazon. Bob enjoys time with family and friends and is an avid swimmer, cyclist and gardener. Bob joined the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation Board in 2017.




Bill White

Bill has practiced environmental law with three large law firms and the Environmental Protection Agency.  He lives in Rock Hill with his wife Jane. They have a canoe, three kayaks and  seven bicycles. Bill is serving on the CRF board for the second time.




Volunteer Photographers

Nancy Pierce

Volunteer Documentary Photographer

Documentary still photographer Nancy Pierce’s work often reflects her personal interests in land, air and water protection, active transportation and recreation, equality and the common good. A Minnesota native and U of M Journalism School graduate, she has covered the Carolinas for various publications since moving to Charlotte in 1979 as a Charlotte Observer staff photographer. Since then she has worked in most of the 50 states photographing conferences for non-profit organizations, which she enjoys because she can listen in on interesting proceedings without having to sit still.

Tom Carroll

Volunteer Documentary Photographer

After decades of film photography, Tom entered the digital era in 2007 and has since been making a wide variety of imagery including travel, landscape, macro, flower, wildlife, and, during several bouts of cerebral hemorrhage, wedding photography.  His images have been published in national photography magazines, used by BBC-TV, hung in local art galleries, and earned awards in national and international competitions.  After 30 years in Minneapolis, he now resides in Davidson, North Carolina.