Trees Forever Board of Directors


Board Executives and Officers



Dave Blankenship

Board Chair

Transamerica, retired - Cedar Rapids, IA


David was a senior vice president at Transamerica in Cedar Rapids, coordinating business strategies and initiatives across the company’s Global Funds Group. Prior to retiring, he was also a president of the AEGON/Transamerica Foundation. He is active on the executive board of the Boy Scouts and in many non-profits that work with young people, and is a strong believer in teaching mentoring skills.


Chuck Spencer

Board Vice Chair

Growmark – Bloomington, IL 

Chuck is the director of government affairs for GROWMARK. He previously worked in the area of legislation and policy development for the Illinois Farm Bureau. Chuck has also chaired the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) governmental affairs committee and served on its conservation and environment subcommittee.


Brad Morgan

Immediate Past Chair
Alliant Energy – Cedar Rapids, IA 


Brad is the Regional Director of Operations for Alliant Energy with an office in Cedar Rapids. He has worked in several locations across Iowa in his 30 years with Alliant Energy. Brad served as a member of the Trees Forever Finance Committee before becoming a full-fledged board member. Brad also serves on the board of directors for the Indian Creek Nature Center and is a member of the Fairfax Lions Club. He enjoys spending time with family, gardening, landscaping, boating and golfing.


Shannon Ramsay

Founding President & Chief Executive Officer, Foundation Trustee
Trees Forever – Marion, IA


Shannon founded Trees Forever as a volunteer in 1989, and continues to lead Trees Forever with passion and dedication.  Recognized both nationally and locally for her leadership and accomplishments, Shannon was the 2011 recipient of the Frederick Law Olmsted Award from the National Arbor Day Foundation and a Women of Influence Award from the Corridor Business Journal.  She serves on numerous boards and task forces, including the national Forestry Research Advisory Council, and is a member of the Cedar Rapids Downtown Rotary.


Lu Barta Barron

Development Committee Co-Chair

Linn County Board of Supervisors, retired - Cedar Rapids, IA


Lu Barron is retired from the Linn County Board of Supervisors after 18 rewarding years of public service.  She has chaired more than one dozen community boards including the Linn County Conservation Board where she was a champion for trail development. Lu enjoys adventure travel and recently completed the Coast 2 Coast Walk in England, the Dingle Way in Ireland, the Laugavegur route in Iceland and several hikes in New Zealand and the Faroe Islands. She also enjoys golfing, birding, gardening and cooking, and now wants to spend her time on behalf of the environment.


Teri Gibson

Development Committee Co-Chair

True North – Cedar Rapids, IA


Teri Gibson radiates enthusiasm and positive energy, something she vows to bring to the Board of Directors.  She grew up in Washington, Iowa and remembers when straight line winds ripped through her community and she watched her dad and granddad shed tears over the loss of trees after the storm.   Teri has spent 30+ years as a benefit advisor and is currently a partner with TrueNorth Companies.  Teri attended Kirkwood Community College and Mount Mercy University and has held leadership positions on many nonprofit boards.


Jim Newcomb

Education and Outreach Chair

Advanced Systems, Inc., retired - Cedar Falls, IA


Before retiring in 2012, Jim served as the president and CEO of Advanced Systems, Inc., based in Waterloo, Iowa. Jim is an active graduate of the Master Woodland Manager and Iowa Community Tree Steward courses. In 2013, Jim was named the chairman of the North Cedar Natural Resource Project (NC NRP), a natural wildlife and bird sanctuary that serves as an ongoing learning center for the North Cedar School. He was also honored with a Trees Forever 2016 Outstanding Volunteer Award.


Tracy Peterson

Finance and Performance Metrics Committee Chair & Treasurer

Black Hills Energy - Grimes, IA

Tracy is Vice-President of Iowa Operations for Black Hills Energy, the sponsor of the Trees Forever Power of Trees program. He has more than 30 years of experience in the natural gas industry. Tracy lives in Adel, where he is very active in his community, ranging from Assistant Boy Scout Master to volunteer firefighter. He enjoys getting outdoors kayaking, biking and especially horseback riding on trails.


Mark White

Governance Committee Chair

Syngenta Crop Protection - Macon, MO


Mark is the Regulatory Stewardship Manager for Syngenta.  The role includes managing water quality issues as well as engaging with groups that align with Syngenta’s stewardship goals. With a B.S. in Agriculture from the University of Missouri, Mark has been involved in the agriculture industry his entire career. He previously was Executive Director of the Environmental Resources Coalition (ERC), an affiliation of the Missouri Corn Growers Association that, with partnering organizations, implemented one of the largest public/private water monitoring programs in the Midwest.


Board Members At Large



Doug Boe

US Bank - Marion


Doug Boe hopes to bring his love of the outdoors and financial experience to Trees Forever. As a Senior Vice President of Commercial Lending at US Bank in Cedar Rapids, he travels across Northeast and North Central Iowa as a banking relationship manager responsible for all aspects of his client’s lending, depository, treasury management and international banking needs.  A Minnesota native, Doug attended St. Thomas College in St. Paul.


Abram Carls

Simmons Perrine Moyer Bergman PLC – Cedar Rapids, IA


Abram Carls is a practicing attorney and has earned recognition for his multidisciplinary scholarship in innovation, business, and law, and Dean’s Awards for outstanding academic achievement. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa in civil engineering and business management. He comes from a strong background in agriculture and continues to be involved in his family farming operations


Mike Simonson

Simonson & Associates – Des Moines, IA


Mike leads an architecture firm with many years of experience focusing on planning, architecture and landscape architecture, both locally and regionally. He currently chairs the Board of the Brenton Arboretum and is a member of the City of Des Moines Planning and Zoning Commission, the American Institute of Architects. He is active in various other civic and philanthropic causes, including the Des Moines Art Center, Salisbury House Foundation, and Hoyt Sherman Place. 


Margo Underwood

Underwood Consulting – Clear Lake, IA

Margo is president of Underwood Consulting, a business that provides resource management and public relations services to communities, businesses and non-profits. She has over 20 years of experience working with communities to help them develop solid waste plans. A resident of Clear Lake, Margo chairs the Iowa Natural Resource Commission and is the Keep Iowa Beautiful Hometown Pride Community Coach for communities in Pocahontas County.


Trees Forever Staff Representatives to the Board of Directors (elected by the staff to serve annual terms)



Leslie Berckes

Program Development & Innovation Director – Des Moines, IA

Leslie has a diverse background in environmental and conservation issues. In her role at Trees Forever, Leslie serves as a Field Coordinator for the central Iowa region working with volunteers and organizations throughout the area. She also manages the Iowa’s Living Roadways Projects program and coordinates the Des Moines TreeKeepers program. 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. When not busy at work, Leslie and her husband update and restore their 1935 Des Moines home and spend time their two cats, Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold.


Jackie Wedeking

Communications and Marketing Manager


Jackie works with Trees Forever staff members to promote events and write articles for the Trees Forever website, TreeNews and the Leaflet. She graduated from Wartburg College with a B.A. in Political Science and Communication Arts. With roots in journalism and photography, one of her favorite ways of enjoying nature is with a camera in hand. However, she will set down her camera long enough to go kayaking or to picnic with her family. 


Foundation Trustees



Nancy Lowenberg


US Bank – Cedar Rapids, IA
Former Chair, Board of Directors and Trustee


Nancy is the vice president of commercial banking at US Bank. She is also the president of the Area Substance Abuse Council Board. Since 1998, she has contributed many hours of service to the Trees Forever Board of Directors and Foundation.  Nancy and her husband Randy always make gifts to the Trees Forever Foundation in lieu of sending flowers as a way to memorialize friends and family members--they see their contributions as a fund that will literally grow forever.


Elizabeth Daly

Bankers Trust, retired – Cedar Rapids, IA


A native of Beverly Farm, Massachusetts, Elizabeth has lived in Cedar Rapids for more than 25 years. Elizabeth began her career in the field of social and economic development, both in the U.S. and overseas, and moved into benefit planning when she moved to Cedar Rapids in 1988. She retired in 2011 as the Private Banking Manager at Bankers Trust. An active Rotarian, she is a member of the Day Break Rotary Club in Cedar Rapids where she has served on the International Committee for the past 18 years. She currently serves as the director of the Iowa Rotary Youth Exchange and as an Advisor to the Iowa Women’s Foundation.



Kimm Harris

Lecturer, John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, University of Iowa
Former CEO of IPC of iowa inc. - Cedar Rapids, IA
Former Chair, Board of Directors and Trustee


Kimm Harris is a Lecturer at the University of Iowa, John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center where she teaches Entrepreneurship and Business Consulting.  In addition, she organizes weekend and week long pitch events for students.  Kimm was CEO of IPC of iowa inc., providing software to accountants, CPAs and attorneys for over 25 years. She has been a Rotarian for over 20 years and is a member of Downtown Rotary in Cedar Rapids.  Kimm has supported Trees Forever since it began and was the second Board Chair for the organization.


Janis McFarland

Syngenta Crop Protection – Greensboro, NC


Janis is the director of regulatory affairs for North America for Syngenta Crop Protection. She is responsible for product registrations and the stewardship of Syngenta’s Crop Protection products in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. She has lent her expertise to many boards including the Weed Science Society of America and several U. S. Department of Agriculture committees and panels. Janis has co-authored many publications and worked on research, stewardship and education programs involving university scientists, and agricultural and commodity groups. She lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.


Scott Peters

Peters Law Firm, retired - Council Bluffs, IA


Scott joined the Trees Forever Board of Directors in 1998.  He recently became a Trees Forever Foundation Trustee, helping us reach goals for our endowment.  He has provided challenge gifts for annual campaigns and hosted Legacy Society receptions.  Since touring the Bear Creek National Buffer Site north of Ames, Iowa, Scott has been an avid promoter of planting buffers for water quality and wildlife habitat.  A now-retired trial lawyer, Scott’s legal specialty was product liability. He considers serving on nonprofit and college boards his civic duty.  


Trustees Emeritus



Robert J. “Bob” Latham

Latham & Associates – Cedar Rapids, IA
Former Senior Vice President for Iowa Electric (now Alliant Energy)

Founding Member and Former Chair, Board of Directors

Bob was a founding board member of Trees Forever and early on established a named Trees Forever Endowment Fund. Bob’s vision for a model tree-planting program resulted in the first Trees Forever community program. In 1990, Bob was a senior vice president for Iowa Electric (now Alliant Energy), and helped establish Trees Forever as the ideal partner organization for utility tree programs. Bob was recognized as a Trees Forever President’s Award winner in 2005.



Harry Stine

Stine Seed Company - Adel, IA


Harry is president of Stine Seed Company and a renowned plant geneticist, and has been a longtime friend to Trees Forever. For more than 20 years, Harry has served as a board member and/or foundation trustee. In 2016, Harry was recognized as a Trees Forever President’s Award Winner. 




Board Members/Trustees In Memoriam 


Marty Andreas

Former Marketing/Development Chair
Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) - Decatur, IL

Marty first helped Trees Forever launch the Illinois Buffer Partnership more than 15 years ago. Then a top executive with ADM, Marty brought enthusiasm and lots of time, resources and energy to Trees Forever. Marty served on the Trees Forever Board of Directors and Foundation for more than 15 years. After retiring, Marty moved back to his home on Lake Macbride in Iowa. Most recently, Marty made a major challenge gift to the Trees Forever Planting A Better Tomorrow Endowment Campaign.  In 2015, Marty was recognized as a Trees Forever President’s Award Winner. His family selected Trees Forever as a recipient of his memorial gifts.


Robert Stevenson

Former Finance Committee Chair
LMS North America

 A resident of North Liberty, Iowa, Robert was incredibly passionate about the Trees Forever mission, serving as both a board member and trustee for 20 years. Professionally, he served as finance manager of LMS North America for 25 years. . Robert guided Trees Forever on financial matters by serving as the chair of the board of director’s finance committee, He also helped grow Trees Forever’s endowment while serving as a trustee and chair for the foundation. His family selected Trees Forever as the recipient of his memorial gifts.



Trees Forever Board of Advisors


Julia Badenhope, FASLA, Professor, Landscape Architecture and Director of Community Visioning, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

J.C. “Buz” Brenton, Founder, Brenton Arboretum, Des Moines, Iowa

Dr. Richard Deming, Oncologist and Founder, Above and Beyond Cancer, Des Moines, Iowa

Kathy Engelken, Service learning and civic engagement consultant, New Vienna, Iowa

Beth Hicks, Urban Community Concepts, Des Moines, Iowa

Mark Hirsch, Publisher and Author, That Tree, Platteville, Wisconsin

Andy Lennette, CFA and Forestry Consultant, Marion, Iowa

Brent Oleson, Linn County Board of Supervisors, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Dr. William Sullivan, Professor and Head of Landscape Architecture, University of Illinois, Champaign Urbana, Illinois

Dr. Jan Thompson, Morrill Professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management  (Urban Forestry), Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

Karmen Wilhelm, Vice President of Marketing, Van Meter Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Dr. Kathy Wolf, Research Social Scientist University of Washington, College of the Environment and Associate, Pacific Northwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Seattle, Washington