Trees Forever Staff

To reach a helpful staff member, dial 1-800-369-1269 plus the individual extension below


 Leslie Berckes
Director of Programs
ext. 258

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. Leslie has a diverse background in environmental and conservation issues, having worked on programs dedicated to reducing solid waste, improving energy efficiency, and promoting sustainable building practices. Leslie directs all Trees Forever programs, and founded the Growing Futures program in 2018, which launched from her home base of Des Moines. She supervises the entire program staff across Iowa and Illinois.
Contact Leslie with any questions regarding funding for Iowa roadside plantings, to become a Des Moines TreeKeeper, or to learn more about how you or your community can get involved with Trees Forever in central Iowa.
 Margaret Birmingham
Finance and Operations Manager
ext. 113

Margaret is the Finance and Operations Manager at Trees Forever.  One of her favorite aspects of the job is writing the grant checks that Trees Forever awards each year to communities and landowners across Iowa and Illinois - helping them plant more trees, beautify roadsides and public areas with native plants and shrubs, and protect and preserve our water and land resources.   Margaret is always looking for ways for us to save money and better manage our limited resources.  The Trees Forever staff is very fond of Margaret, as she also processes our payroll and expense checks!  Margaret lives in Cedar Rapids with her son.

Contact Margaret with accounts payable or accounts receivable questions.
 Nancy Duncan
Executive Vice President & CFO
ext. 117

Nancy brings many years of experience in the non-profit community to Trees Forever.  She has a B.A. from St. Ambrose University in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. Nancy makes sure Trees Forever remains fiscally responsible and that employee policies are up-to-date.  Nancy loves the outdoors and enjoys visiting and camping in National Parks across the county.  She also enjoys singing (music in general), making crafts and cooking.  Nancy lives in Cedar Rapids with her husband.
Contact Nancy if you would like to learn more about Trees Forever’s financial health or policies.
 Tracy Feldmann
Database and Website Coordinator
ext. 287

Tracy has an A.A. degree in Office Administration from Kirkwood Community College.  After spending five years with Trees Forever working with the Iowa's Living Roadways programs, she now focuses on maintaining the Trees Forever website and database system.  Tracy enjoys sewing, crochet, and re-purposing old items into new ones.  She lives near a walnut forest preserve with her family and strives to raise her children to be responsible environmental stewards.

Contact Tracy with any questions about the Trees Forever database.
 Debbie Fluegel
Field Coordinator, Illinois
ext. 263

Debbie has a B.S. in Marine Biology from the University of Maine. She manages Trees Forever’s Illinois Buffer Partnership and it Pollinator Habitat Conservation programs for both Iowa and Illinois. Debbie’s favorite part of her job? “Meeting new people and visiting a lot of unique areas in Illinois that most people don’t have the opportunity to visit.”  Debbie is a member of the Environmental Education Association of Illinois, the Illinois Forestry Association, the Soil & Water Conservation Society and the Association for Temperate Agroforestry.
Contact Debbie with questions regarding Trees Forever’s Illinois water quality or pollinator habitat conservation projects or to learn how you or your community can get involved with Trees Forever in Illinois.
 Jeff Jensen
Field Coordinator, Northwest Iowa
ext. 262

Jeff is Program Manager for the Working Watersheds: Buffers and Beyond program and is Field Coordinator for northwest Iowa. He has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and has worked in the field of sustainable agriculture for the past 8 years.  He has over seven years of experience working with landowners and farmers growing perennial crops and is active with several existing organizations and partners, including the Iowa Nut Growers Association, Minnesota Hazelnut Foundation, and Midwest Aronia Association.  
Contact Jeff with questions regarding Trees Forever’s Iowa water quality or agroforestry projects or to learn how you or your community can get involved with Trees Forever in northwest Iowa.

Geoffrey Johnson

Cedar Rapids Program Coordinator

ext. 114


Geoff is a lifelong nature lover who spent his childhood playing in the woods and picking fruit in his family’s orchard in Iowa City. He studied biology, history, and education in college and earned an A.A. from Kirkwood Community College and B.A. from Coe College. He currently manages the Cedar Rapids Growing Futures program. In his spare time, Geoff grows native plants in his backyard and vegetables in his greenhouse. Geoff lives in Marion with his family and dog. 


Contact Geoff with questions regarding programs and volunteer opportunities in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City corridor area.

 Shannon Ramsay
Founding President and CEO
ext. 111

Shannon Ramsay is Trees Forever’s founding president and CEO.  Shannon serves on the Living Roadway Trust Fund Advisory Committee and is a leading proponent to legislators and other opinion influencers of the significance of LRTF and REAP to Iowa’s economy and transportation system. 
Contact Shannon to learn how you or your business can support Trees Forever’s efforts Planting a Better Tomorrow.
 Patty Reisinger
Field Coordinator and Membership Steward
ext. 280

Patty has a B.S. in Horticulture from Iowa State University. She has been with Trees Forever since 1991, working in many of the program areas, especially community forestry and Iowa’s Living Roadways. Prior to working at Trees Forever, Patty worked for several years as an ISU Extension Horticulturalist.  She is a member of the International Society of Arboriculture, is a Certified Arborist, serves on the Board of Directors for the Iowa Association for Energy Efficiency, is a member of the Iowa Urban and & Community Forestry Council, and is a member of the Iowa Arborist Association. 
Contact Patty to learn how you can become a Trees Forever member or to learn more about how you can get involved with Trees Forever where you live.

Lisa Renfer

Administrative Coordinator

Lisa updates and maintains Trees Forever’s member and partner database. Prior to her time at Trees Forever, she worked nine years at Orchestra Iowa as a Patron Associate and also did the billing and payments for the Orchestra Iowa School.  She has two daughters and enjoys taking walks.

 Brad Riphagen
Field Coordinator, Southwest and Western Iowa
ext. 250

Brad has a B.A. in Biology and an M.S. in Land Resources with a focus on prairie restoration and soils.  He has been a Trees Forever Field Coordinator since 1995 and worked in almost all the program areas, including community tree plantings, Visioning, and buffer/watershed work.  He has a strong interest in reduction of stormwater runoff especially in urban areas through the use of infiltration practices such as rain gardens and bio-retention basins.   Brad is also a Certified Arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture.
Contact Brad to learn how you or your community can get involved with Trees Forever in western and southwestern Iowa.
 Deb Roman
Program Support Coordinator
ext. 110

Deb is best known as the voice of Trees Forever, as she is most often the person answering telephone at our main office in Marion.  Deb supports all the necessary administrative processes for hundreds of grant applications, awards and reports. Deb grew up on a Linn County, Iowa, farm, and has an A.A. degree in Ag Science from Kirkwood Community College.  Deb has a special place in her heart for her dogs and the outdoors and she thrives on hard work and helping others.
Contact Deb with questions about Trees Forever grant programs or project reporting forms.
 Becky Smith
Development Coordinator
ext. 112

Becky updates and maintains Trees Forever's member and partner database.  She also coordinates most of the many mailings throughout the year.  In addition, Becky manages registrations for all the educational events and meetings throughout the year.  Becky has an A.A. degree in Computer Applications from Marshalltown Community College.  She enjoys sharing her love of nature with her husband and daughter.
Contact Becky to register for a Trees Forever event or to add or correct your contact information.
 Emily Swihart
Field Coordinator/Design Specialist, East-Central Iowa
ext. 283

Emily holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture from Iowa State University and is earning her master’s degree in landscape architecture from Kansas State University. As field coordinator and design specialist, Emily combines her knowledge of native and ornamental plant material with her design expertise to help communities plan, organize, obtain funding and implement landscape enhancement projects.  She is the Program Manager for the Iowa’s Living Roadways Trails Visioning program.
Contact Emily to learn how your trail group can apply to participate in the Iowa’s Living Roadways Trails Visioning program or to talk to her about how you or your community can get involved with Trees Forever in east-central Iowa.

Lisa Williams
Director of Development
Ext. 120

Hailing from the longleaf pines of north Louisiana, Lisa has a diverse background in fundraising, nonprofit administration and environmental protection. She earned an M.S. from The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources and a B.S. in business administration from Northwestern State University. Lisa loves local foods, spring migration and fig trees. She and her husband live in Cedar Rapids.



Independent Consultants who Support Trees Forever


Barb Grabner-Kerns


Barb Grabner-Kerns designs publications for Trees Forever as a private contractor. She was a field coordinator with Trees Forever for 12 years before retiring in 2018. She also continues with tree projects as a volunteer in Taylorville, Illinois.



Jo Ann McNiel


Jo Ann’s background with the university and non-profit world in Cincinnati, and her Master’s degree in Environment and Community from Antioch University in Seattle, led her to group facilitation and meeting planning.  With Trees Forever, Jo Ann primarily coordinates the annual Our Woodland Legacy Symposium.  She also volunteers with the Indian Creek Nature Center in their land stewardship, tutors an immigrant in English with the Catherine McAuley Center, and assists at Morning Glory Farm, a CSA in Mt. Vernon.  Jo Ann’s husband Mick is a retired educator, and they golf together when not tending to their gardens and raising Monarchs through the Monarch Research Project in Cedar Rapids.  



Bev Stevenson

Bev keeps Trees Forever's computers and system running smoothly by providing outstanding and timely IT support.  She is a long-time and valued member of the Trees Forever family.