Important update from The American Chestnut Foundation President & CEO Lisa Thomson

Dear TACF Friends and Colleagues,                                                                                          

The 2022 growing season is upon us, and we are adjusting to the new normal while vigorously taking our mission forward.  With all of the disruption from the pandemic, both the for-profit and non-profit sectors are facing heightened employee turnover and challenges in recruiting talent.  We’ve gone through some attrition of good people, and have made some promotions and realigned our structure. I wanted to bring you up to date on these changes. An updated organizational chart is attached.

First, I am excited to recognize the growth and leadership of key staff members.  Our 20-year veteran, Sara Fitzsimmons, has been appointed as Chief Conservation Officer and now serves on the senior management team along with CFO Paul Wingenfeld and myself.  Sara has been invaluable in taking stock of where TACF is as a culture, and how we can best manage our resources now and into the future. She will continue to take a lead role in managing people and help drive our science and restoration goals and serve on our science leadership team with Jared Westbrook, Vasiliy Lakoba, and Eric Jenkins.  Kendra Collins will now serve as Regional Science Coordinators Manager and will continue her focus on the New England chapters.  Cherin Marmon-Saxe will now serve as Director of Operations and continue her integral role in the areas of governance, human resources, and systems and office management.  Shana Zimnoch will now serve as Director of Donor Engagement and manage the membership team and be responsible for growing our membership base and stewarding key donors. 

On the departure side, we say goodbye to two beloved veterans, Judy Antaramian and Tom Saielli. Judy’s 12-year tenure is a strong testament to her love for TACF, exemplified time and again through her customer service and cheerful demeanor with our donors, members, and our extensive TACF family.  She is beginning her well-deserved retirement as soon as we hire her replacement.  And, after 10 years of dedicated service and sheer love for all things chestnut, Tom leaves the role of Mid-Atlantic Regional Science Coordinator to lead PRISM, a Blue Ridge-based non-profit dedicated to invasive species management and eradication.  We will miss Tom’s enthusiasm and positivity, but he promises to stay involved in TACF’s VA Chapter projects.

Also leaving us is the Director of Philanthropy and External Affairs, Samantha Bowers, who after six years of dedication to our mission is pursuing other opportunities outside TACF.  Nursery Manager Lily Kingsolver is moving to Florida to pursue a graduate degree after her June wedding.  Finally, Communications Coordinator Tamia Dame accepted a stellar offer at Dogwood Health that she couldn’t refuse.  We thank these valued colleagues for their contributions to TACF’s success and wish them every happiness in their new ventures.

This leads to our need to be laser-focused on hiring new talent.  All open positions have been posted here on TACF’s employment page, as well as on local and national recruitment sites, to attract those rare individuals who want to work for a mission bigger than themselves.  Join us in our effort to grow TACF’s energetic team.  Please let us know if anyone in your network would be interested in becoming part of our important mission! Additional questions and applications should be sent to

We will continue building the strongest conservation team possible.  Meanwhile, we ask for your patience during this vital time of growth and transition.  We are at a critical crossroads as we await deregulation of the Darling 58 American chestnut, and continue to make great progress in genomic discoveries and improving the backcross selections.  The ever-popular Chestnut Chat will return once we are back at full capacity.  The fall Chestnut Symposium is ON and we hope to see you in beautiful Asheville, NC, from September 28 through October 2, 2022.  Registration will open soon, so keep an eye out for TACF email blasts and other social media communications.  Note the public portion of the Symposium will not have a virtual component in order to encourage in-person participation.

Please know how much your volunteerism and continuing dedicated support drive the work we do.  We are confident that we can recruit new leaders to enable us to fulfill our mission and embrace a future that holds great promise for restoring the American chestnut to our forests, farms, and fields. 

With appreciation,

Lisa T. Thomson
President & CEO
The American Chestnut Foundation
50 North Merrimon Avenue, Suite 115
Asheville, NC  28804