Board of Directors

Officers

CORY PETTWAY, President

Birmingham, AL

Black Warrior River Watershed

Meet Qunelius “Cory” Pettway – Community Liaison for Birmingham City Councilor Darrell O’Quinn (District 5). He is currently a member of the Alabama State and Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committees and is co-founder of The Willing Family, a community organization aimed at revitalizing urban neighborhoods in Birmingham. Cory has been awarded the Jefferson County Committee of Economic Development (JCCEO) Early Childcare Community Outreach Award twice for his work on the Kingston site. Cory is also a member of Cahaba River Society Junior Board, The Birmingham Barbers Coalition, Grassroots Coalition Birmingham, Our Revolution-Birmingham and is a Congressional Black Caucus Institute Political Leadership Alumni.

Cory is an uplifting and vibrant “life-centered” person who is dedicated to being the change he wants to see in the world. His experiences in life and career have allowed him opportunities to truly make an impact and that is what inspires him each day. He regularly volunteers with churches and non-profit organizations throughout the area by organizing events. He’s taught and volunteered in the Birmingham City School System and he works closely with elected officials developing policy and empowering power to rise above adversity. Cory believes in spreading a message of peace and love in efforts to encourage the unity of all life and looks forward to serving on the Alabama Rivers Alliance Board of Directors and working with the communities throughout Alabama which depend on our 132,000 miles of rivers and streams.

JONATHAN MCNAIR, Vice-President

Birmingham, AL

Black Warrior River Watershed

Jonathan is a Birmingham native who grew up in the Westend community. As a child, Jonathan spent many weekends and summers on the family farm in Fordyce, Arkansas where he gained a strong value of mankind’s relationship with the land. He has extensive firsthand knowledge of Alabama’s waterways. He is an avid paddler and boater.

“I believe that having a personal connection to nature important for all humans. But this connection is vital for those charged with shaping policies that will either protect or destroy it.”

Jonathan has worked long time as an educator and media technologist. Jonathan’s key professional interest is at the intersection of education and technology. Some of his interests also include drawing attention to issues dealing with racial and economic equity in environmental policy.

SAM STOKES, Treasurer

Birmingham, AL

Cahaba River Watershed

Sam specializes in data analysis as a Geographer/IT Specialist at Ginnie Mae, the social enterprise corporation within the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He has spent over seven years in the GIS industry, performing roles in enterprise administration, software development, and database architecture. Previously, Sam functioned as the Systems Administrator and Senior GIS Analyst at private-consulting firm Geographic Technologies Group, where he completed projects for over fifty government agencies within various hierarchical levels – cities, counties, states, tribal nations, and Canadian provinces. He also has experience working from within local government; he managed the address and parcel datasets for Charleston County, an organization that supports sixteen incorporated municipalities.

Earlier in his career, Sam served an AmeriCorps term doing ecological longleaf-pine prescribed burns at the Georgia DNR, and also learned to save endangered sea turtles as a museum educator with the Outer Banks’ Wildlife Center. His spark for sustainable farming started with the Wake County SWCD, where he dove into programs designed to fuse conservation with commercial food production. These experiences helped form his hobbies that he continues today.

Sam has always enjoyed spending time outside in Alabama, where he grew up. He achieved his Eagle Scout Award with Hoover’s Boy Scout Troop 226, and for his service project constructed Moss Rock Preserve’s first interpretive sign trail. He later returned after college to intern at the Alabama Environmental Council, Alabama Rivers Alliance, and the Southern Environmental Law Center. Sam’s academic background includes a Bachelors of Arts from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where he double-majored in Mathematics and Economics.

 

JULIE LAY, Secretary

Guntersville, AL

Tennessee River Watershed

Julie Lay holds a B.S. Degree from Auburn University in Animal Science. Julie also completed an internship with USDA Forest Service Center for Aquatic Technology Transfer whose main focus was aquatic management issues. She has spent the majority of 16 years working in industrial agriculture food safety, quality assurance, and regulatory compliance. She resigned from her position in industrial agriculture in November of 2019. She is currently enjoying being a stay at home mom and turned her attention towards supporting and bringing awareness to sustainable agriculture methods. Mrs. Lay is a resident of Guntersville, Alabama where she resides with her husband and two sons. Click here to see her tell her story researching biosolids in the 2020 Southern Exposure film, Soiled.

 

DIRECTORS

DR. BARBARA BURKE

Birmingham, AL

Cahaba River Watershed

Dr. Barbara Burke is a graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine. She completed residency training in emergency medicine and holds a Masters Degree in Public Health from UAB. She brings a special interest in international humanitarian medicine to the ARA Board. Barbara has worked with esteemed organizations such as The International Rescue Committee and Doctors Without Borders. Barbara enjoys swimming, hiking and backpacking in the great outdoors. She advocates for clean water for all Alabamians.

TONY DILIBERTO, Past President

Birmingham, AL

Black Warrior River Watershed

Tony D grew up on Cotton Creek in Gulf Shores, Alabama where he developed his passion for Alabama waterways. He spent much of his childhood exploring the woods and splashing in the waters nearby. His dedication to people and nature led him to scouting where he achieved the highest honor of earning the rank of Eagle Scout. Through scouting, Tony gained an appreciation for protecting our natural resources and defending our rivers. With more than 20 years of experience in marketing and advertising, he brings a wealth of knowledge to ARA. Tony has volunteered his time with organizations such as the Birmingham Advertising Federation, Birmingham Artwalk, Sidewalk Film Festival and more. Currently, Tony is president of the Alabama Cup Races which features canoe and kayak racing on the Locust Fork and Mulberry Fork.

In his spare time, Tony enjoys whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, camping, photography and outdoor events.

 

MAGGIE JOHNSTON

Nauvoo, AL

Black Warrior River Watershed

Maggie Johnston grew up in north central Mississippi playing in the woods and streams. She attended the University of Southern Mississippi for her undergrad where she discovered paddling beautiful tranquil creeks such as Black Creek. She taught science at the Alabama School for the Deaf (ASD) in Talladega, AL where she lived on the banks of Talladega Creek in Waldo. She and her dog friends hiked the Pinhoti and played in the Creek in her backyard. She developed a love for whitewater on Talladega Creek and NC creeks, but has settled into more of a drift and fish mentality with her husband, Mark Johnston, in the last few years.

Maggie retired from ASD in 2004 to manage the educational programs at Camp McDowell. She was director of McDowell Environmental Center, helped to start the McDowell Farm School, and then started Alabama’s first nature-based preschool, Magnolia Nature School at Camp McDowell. Maggie’s latest adventure is as Executive Director of Wild Alabama. She is thrilled for this opportunity to protect and defend the waters that make Alabama special. Maggie and Mark have four children and four grandchildren, four dogs, and six chickens, wow!

 

DAWN LEE

Birmingham, AL

Black Warrior River Watershed

Dawn Lee is a Birmingham native and currently resides along the Valley Creek watershed. She is a graduate of UAB and The George Washington University as well as a wife and mother of 2 beautiful little girls. Dawn has worked as an informal educator for the past 13 years and believes investment in building long lasting community relationships and partnerships leads to sustainable, relevant programming. As a child, Dawn’s favorite movie was The Little Mermaid and her most favorite place is the beach, providing her with the relaxation and recharge she needs to fight another day.

VICKEY WHEELER

Springville, AL

Coosa River Watershed

Vickey is a founding member of Friends of Big Canoe Creek and has worked extensively with them on mission development, fundraising and communications since 1990. She is part of the team that initially envisioned and helped guide efforts to establish Forever Wild’s Big Canoe Creek Nature Preserve in Springville. She is President of the Board of Directors for The Friends of Big Canoe Creek and co-convenes The Springville Gathering, hosts of a yearly Environmental Dinner, bringing the Arts and Sciences together for conversation and collaboration.

A lifelong artist and educator, Vickey has exhibited, taught and implemented art based programs in schools and other institutions. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Alabama and both a Masters in Early Childhood Education and a post graduate Educational Specialist degree from UAB.

Vickey’s mother’s family owned the aquifer spring that is at the headwaters of Five-Mile Creek and her grandmother ran Harvey’s Florist in the fieldstone house on the property. It was always a priority for her family to protect the spring, which is now preserved within Reed Harvey Park.

A creative visionary, Vickey has kept volumes of personal illustrations and narratives for decades that manifest the relationships between natural and spiritual realms, and is continuing to explore the connectivity between Aesthetics and Environmental Integrity.

 

NOTE: ARA Board members are elected to three year terms and may be elected to three consecutive three year terms, then extended for one extra year (10 years total) before being termed out for at least a year.