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
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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.

Contact Margaret with accounts payable or accounts receivable questions.

John Bright

Marketing and Communications Manager

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John comes from a long background of non-profit communications work with the Humane Society, Habitat for Humanity and AmeriCorps. He got his first taste of working alongside Trees Forever during tree plantings in partnership with the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. John works out of the Marion, Iowa office and is responsible for much of the social media and communications you see coming from Trees Forever. He graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and enjoys sharing the accomplishments of Trees Forever and its supporters.

 Nancy Duncan
Executive Vice President & CFO
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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
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Tracy is a graduate of Kirkwood Community College with a focus on database and systems management. She focuses on maintaining the Trees Forever website and creating the digital infrastructure to keep Trees Forever running smoothly. She enjoys crafting unique garments and purses with fabrics, yarns and upcycled items.  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 tech.
 Debbie Fluegel
Field Coordinator, Illinois
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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 15 years.  He has over thirteen 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.  He grows nuts and berries on his farm, NutHaven, in north-central Iowa.  
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.

Kiley Miller

Executive Director

Ext. 111


Kiley Miller is the executive director of Trees Forever, a position he accepted in February 2021. Previously he led economic development organizations in rural Iowa. He also has been a print journalist and served in the United States Army. A native of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Kiley now lives with his wife, Carry, in Shueyville, Iowa. They have two adult children and one in high school. 


 Shannon Ramsay
Founding President and CEO

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.
Contact Shannon to learn how you or your business can support Trees Forever’s efforts Planting a Better Tomorrow.
 Patty Reisinger
Field Coordinator
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, 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
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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
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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 farm west of Cedar Rapids, Iowa and graduated from Kirkwood Community College. She has a special place in her heart for her pets, 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
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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
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Emily holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture from Iowa State University and a Master of Landscape Architecture from Kansas State University. As program manager, field coordinator and design specialist, Emily combines her knowledge of native and ornamental plant material with her project administration and 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.

Molly Walkner

Field Coordinator

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Molly earned her B.S. in Mathematics at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa and has a background in Civil Engineering design. She was introduced to the world of environmentalism through a term with the ConservationCorps. At Trees Forever, Molly uses her conservation experience and design background to help communities plan and facilitate sustainable enhancements. In her free time, Molly enjoys all things outdoors including rock climbing, running, biking, gardening, kayaking, and camping just to name a few.


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.


Our AmeriCorps Members



Wesley Anderson

Wesley is serving at Trees Forever this year as the Growing Futures Support Coordinator through the Green Iowa AmeriCorps Program. Wesley plans to attend Iowa State University to study forestry in the fall of 2021. Wesley spends most of his free time slacklining, climbing, or hiking. 


Gina Errico

Gina is serving at Trees Forever this year as the Marketing and Communications Support Coordinator through the Green Iowa AmeriCorps program. Gina recently graduated with a B.S. in Biology and B.A. in Anthropology from The College of New Jersey. Coming all the way from New Jersey, she hopes to take her passion for conservation along with her background knowledge in science, outreach, and her experiences with AmeriCorps, to attend graduate school and pursue a career in research and science communication. 


Olivia Dove

Olivia is serving at Trees Forever this next year as the Growing Futures Support Coordinator through the Green Iowa AmeriCorps Program. She comes to Trees Forever fresh out of college from Missouri State University, where she earned a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation and Management, minor in sustainability, and certification in Environmental Education. Her hometown is just outside of St. Louis County, and she comes to Iowa to do her “Show Me State” proud by serving as an environmental steward for the great people of Iowa. You can find her wandering around nature trails, reading a good book, or planting trees.


Andrew Lazara

Andrew is serving at Trees Forever this year as the Iowa Tree Planting, Volunteer Engagement and Woodland Support Coordinator through the Green Iowa AmeriCorps program. He earned a B.S. in Geographical Science with minors in Sustainability and GIS at the University of Maryland, College Park. Originally hailing from the neighboring Chicago area, Andrew is excited to help communities discover their sustainability potential through planting native trees and plants across Iowa. He aspires to build off his experiences as an AmeriCorps member and his background in geography to pursue a career in conservation.



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.