The Board of Directors of Friends of Verde River Greenway are composed of representatives that support Verde River Greenway stewardship efforts, including Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition, One for the Verde, and the Verde River Exchange.
President Chip Norton, a third generation Arizonan, lives next to the Verde River in Camp Verde. He retired from his project management career in 2008 and currently serves on several nonprofit, municipal and regional boards and commissions. Chip is an advocate for community-based solutions to conservation challenges, and he is excited about the prospect of working with a diverse group of partners to achieve conservation goals in the Verde watershed.
Vice-President Tony Gioia, a retired U. S. Postal Service worker and business owner, has also served on the Town Council and as Mayor for the Town of Camp Verde. Tony is an avid recreational enthusiast excelling in motorcycling, horseback riding and kayaking. He loves the expansive views of the Verde Valley and the up close views of it’s streams.
Treasurer Harry Sweet is the Treasurer of Friends of Verde River Greenway and part of the advisory committee for One for the Verde. Harry works in the wine industry and is also a river boating enthusiast.
Secretary Peggy Chaikin has been involved with FVRG since its inception. She has lived and worked in the Verde Valley and Flagstaff area since the 70’s. She’s a retired teacher, having worked in Cottonwood, Camp Verde and Flagstaff in early childhood, special and elementary education. Now living in West Sedona, Peggy is a hiker, biker, gardener and artisan who values the quality of life provided to us through experiences in natural settings.
Founding Board Member Marsha Foutz is the volunteer coordinator and a founding member of Friends of Verde River Greenway. For nearly 30 years, she has found work on behalf of the river to be very fulfilling. Marsha has also taught school for many years, loves to putter in the garden, and work with clay.
Max Castillo was a Park Ranger IV and Verde River Greenway Coordinator with AZ State Parks from 1998 – 2015. He was a Park Ranger at Dead Horse Ranch State Park and Verde River Greenway since 1975. Max moved to the Verde Valley in 1966 where he lived in Cornville close to Oak Creek. Max is a graduate of Mingus Union High School.
Jeni O’Callaghan is a third generation artist: “for me, art has always been just there, like breathing.” Her art reflects much of the southwest desert she grew up in and still lives in today. Jeni has been coming to the Verde Valley since her grandfather bought Rancho Tres Brisas on the Verde River in 1963. “It just seemed natural for Mike and I to move here in 2008, Tres Brisas is a paradise.” Besides artwork, Jeni enjoys time with her family, teaching new nurses at Yavapai College, kayaking, traveling—especially to the Sea of Cortez, birdwatching, and raising beef with her spouse, Michael.
Brent Bitz Brent is a retired businessman whose career involved him in large scale commercial real estate projects throughout North America. Since moving to Sedona with his wife Dion in 2016, he has been an active member of the community. In recent years he has been a Board Member of the Verde River Basin Partnership, past Chair of the City of Sedona’s Sustainability Commission and past Vice Chair of its Water Conservation Advisory Committee. Brent believes that Friends is well positioned to work with everyone in the Verde Valley community to help preserve the unique resource that is the Verde River. As a Board Member of the Northern Arizona Audubon Society and an active birder, Brent enjoys traveling around the world to meet new people and see our feathered friends.
Susan Culp is the principal of NextWest Consulting, LLC and has over 15 years of experience in natural resource management, research and policy analysis, conservation advocacy, community engagement, collaboration and coalition building, and issue and political campaign management in the Intermountain West. She currently represents American Rivers as their Verde River project coordinator.
Prior to starting NextWest Consulting, LLC, Susan was the project manager for Western Lands and Communities, a joint program between the Sonoran Institute and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, where she had oversight over research, analysis and tool development projects pertaining to state trust land management, smart growth and sustainable land use planning and development, and climate resiliency and adaptation planning.
Susan holds a B.A. in marine biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a master’s degree in public administration and policy, with a focus on natural resources, from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Business and Public Administration.