Photo by Noah Shatzer
The Leadership Committee operates to provide strategic direction and oversight of the South Mountain Partnership. The Leadership Committee was convened in 2011 to ensure direct partner engagement in the Partnership’s work; the Committee represents the diversity of partners and interest areas of the broader South Mountain Partnership, and also reflects the region’s geography.
The Leadership Committee is currently comprised of the following individuals:
South Mountain Partnership
Katie Hess is Director of South Mountain Partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, where she facilitates the South Mountain Partnership, one of Pennsylvania seven Conservation Landscape Initiatives established by the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources. She holds a BA in Environmental Science and Policy (Hood College) and a degree in landscape/regional design and planning from Pennsylvania State University (Master of Landscape Architecture). Hess previously worked with Pennsylvania Bureau for Historic Preservation, the state agency that works to conserve Pennsylvania's historic and cultural resources.
Mike Eschenmann is currently the Division Chief for Community Parks and Conservation within DCNR's Bureau of Recreation and Conservation. This division leads the Bureau's project work for the planning and development of community parks as well as the acquisition of open space for park development and the overall conservation of our great Pennsylvania natural resources. He previously served as the Conservation Landscape Coordinator overseeing the administration of the seven DCNR Conservation Landscapes. Prior to joining DCNR in 2001, Mike served as the Director of Parks and Recreation for South Middleton Township in Cumberland County for twenty-five years. Mike is the DCNR representative on the SMP Leadership Committee
Bryan Van Sweden
Community Preservation Coordinator, Susquehanna Region
PA Historical and Museum Commission
Bryan Van Sweden works for the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in the State Historic Preservation Office. Serving communities in central Pennsylvania, Bryan provides technical assistance to planning and conservation organizations and to local governments that are working to preserve their community’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, and rural landscapes.
District Forester – Michaux State Forest
DCNR-Bureau of Forestry
Roy is the district forester of for the Bureau of Forestry’s District 1, encompassing the more than 85,000 acres of Michaux State Forest in the South Mountain region of Adams, Cumberland and Franklin Counties. As district forester, Roy oversees management and operations of the Michaux State Forest. Prior to moving to the Michaux, Roy worked out of the Bureau of Forestry’s central office in Harrisburg as part of the Planning and Ecological Services Section, focusing on state-wide forest management policy and planning issues. Roy additional owns and operates a grass-based livestock farm in southern Juniata County.
Carolyn Seibert-Drager - Communications Committee Chair
Freelance Writer and Editor
Carolyn Seibert-Drager is chairperson of the SMP communications subcommittee. A Shippensburg native, she is a freelance writer and editor with a background in journalism and public relations. Carolyn enjoys nature photography, and finds sources of inspiration throughout the South Mountain landscape. She also volunteers (behind the scenes) with the Shippensburg Fire Department.
Harlan Lawson - Program Committee Co-Chair
Adams County Office of Planning and Development
Harlan Lawson is a Comprehensive Planner at the Adams County Planning Department, where he has served since July 2016. In this position, Harlan engages in various community planning functions with municipalities and community organizations. He also focuses on Community and Economic Development efforts in the county, working closely with the Adams Economic Alliance, local businesses and other partners. Harlan also has experience with administering federal grant programs at the county, municipal, and project levels. Harlan is the Adams County alternate on the Leadership Committee.
Elizabeth Grant - Program Committee Co-Chair
Cumberland County Planning Department
Elizabeth Grant is a Planning Specialist at Cumberland County Planning Department, where she has served since February 2019. She conducts Subdivision and Land Development reviews, assists municipalities with Comprehensive Planning and Ordinance updates, supports the county’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and is working to develop the Countywide Action Plan for the Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan. She currently co-chairs the South Mountain Partnership Program Committee and is the Cumberland County alternate on the Leadership Committee, as well as South Central Assembly’s Regional Connections Committee, and serves on the Program and Executive Committees for Capital Resource Conservation and Development. She has worked closely with community organizations connecting physical activity initiatives with healthy community design such as Healthy Franklin County and Mercersburg Area Council for Wellness. She earned her American Institute of Certified Planners certification in 2019, completed training in 2017 with the PA Master Naturalist program, and conducts monthly stream monitoring on the Yellow Breeches Creek. Her passions include gardening with native plants and training her rescued cattle dogs in agility and obedience.
Stephanie Williams – Organizational Development Committee Chair
Greenway & Open Space Coordinator
Cumberland County Planning Department
Stephanie Williams is the Senior Planning Manager for the Cumberland County Planning Department. She has worked for Cumberland County for over 20 years and has a degree from Penn State University in Environmental Resource Management. Ms. Williams is responsible for developing and implementing countywide programs designed to promote farmland preservation, natural resource protection, parks and greenways and development of more livable communities. Stephanie is the Cumberland County representative on the SMP Leadership Committee.
Franklin County Planning Department
Steve Thomas is the Planning Director of the Franklin County Planning Department. He oversees the daily operations of the department which include site plan reviews, agricultural preservation, transportation planning, comprehensive planning, housing, and grant administration, among many others. Steve graduated from Shippensburg University in 2004 with dual degrees in History and Geography. He currently resides in Mercersburg, PA with his wife and two children. Steve is the Franklin County representative on the Leadership Committee.
Adams County Office of Planning and Development
Rob Thaeler holds the position of Principal Planner with the Adams County Office of Planning and Development, Adams County, Pennsylvania. He has conducted community planning, comprehensive planning, current planning, and related planning functions for Adams County since 1992. Rob’s professional interests include environmental and landscape conservation, land use policy development and implementation, public recreation provision, spatial analysis, and community and economic development. His personal interests include camping, hiking, travel, sailing, and kayaking. Rob holds a Masters of City and Regional Planning degree from the Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography (Planning and Applied) from the Pennsylvania State University. Rob is the Adams County representative in the SMP Leadership Committee.
York County Planning Commission
Anne Walko has been employed by the York County Planning Commission (YCPC) since 2003. As a staff member in the Long Range Planning Division, Anne’s primary focus is on the York County Comprehensive Plan. She is extensively involved with the York County Open Space and Land Preservation Program. Anne represents the YCPC on a variety of issue related to land conservation, recreation, and trails including, but not limited to the South Mountain Partnership (where she is the York County representative on the Leadership Committee), the Susquehanna Riverlands Conservation Landscape, and the PA Highlands Committee. Perhaps her favorite is the York County Envirothon, an environmental education partnership and competition that teaches hundreds of students in grades 3-12 about the species and environment around them. Other highlights are working with local educators to bring planning and environmental issues into the classrooms and working with local municipalities on their comprehensive planning goals. Anne is a member of the PA Chapter of the American Planning Association. She received a BA degree from Dickinson College and a MA from Temple University. Anne and her husband live in Windsor Township, York County. As recent empty-nesters, they enjoy hiking, traveling, and exploring local craft breweries.
Franklin County Visitors Bureau
Janet Pollard is the Executive Director of the Franklin County Visitors Bureau, a position she has held since 2007. Prior to joining FCVB, Janet worked for the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce for ten years, and has been a freelance writer for over thirty-five years. Working as a freelancer has afforded her the opportunity to research and learn about a variety of topics of which local history is one. Since 2000, she authored two Arcadia Images of America Books—one on Chambersburg and one on Franklin County. Not a native of Franklin County, Janet has called Franklin County home since 1980 and has four children. The South Mountain Landscape is personally important to her because she lives less than five minutes from Caledonia State Park and was married at Kings Gap.
Director of Health Promotion
Partnership for Better Health
Gail Witwer has been employed by the Partnership for Better Health for over thirteen years. As the Director of Health Promotion, Gail manages, coordinates and leads grant making, grant reviewing, and foundation initiatives with the focus on building healthy communities. Prior to her work at the foundation, Gail devoted over 18 years to working in the anti-violence movement, with specific focus on sexual violence. Gail’s first nine years in the anti-sexual violence movement began at Women In Need/Victim Services in Chambersburg, PA. Her experience in providing direct services and managing activities of the sexual assault prevention program led to a technical assistance position with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR). While working at PCAR for over nine years, Gail extended her programmatic-focused activities to include contract management at the state level and eventually program planning and evaluation at PCAR’s National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Gail holds a BA in Social Work from Shippensburg University.
CLUS - Shippensburg University
Antonia Price is the Project Manager for Shippensburg University's Center for Land Use and Sustainability. Throughout her career, she has supported various research initiatives, largely focusing on administrative and communication efforts. Antonia received an Honors Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Utah, with Undergraduate Research Scholar designation. Antonia has a background in community outreach and science education, and enjoys communicating science to diverse audiences. Antonia is the academic lead representative for the Leadership Committee.
Land Conservation Coordinator, Adams County Land Conservancy
Sarah Kipp is the Land Conservation Coordinator at the Land Conservancy of Adams County. She joined the Land Conservancy in 2009 after completing her master’s degree in City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania, where she focused on land use and environmental planning and received a certificate in land preservation. Sarah has served on the board of the Watershed Alliance of Adams County, as a member of the Gettysburg Borough Planning Commission, and on Main Street Gettysburg’s Baltimore Street committee. She is still on her quest to bicycle every road in Adams County.
PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Tyler Semder is a Project Manager at the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). As a Project Manager, he manages trail development, planning and acquisition grant projects across the Commonwealth. Prior to working at DCNR, he worked at the State Historic Preservation Office, PennDOT, Cumberland County GIS, Chester County Planning Commission, and Gannett Fleming. He grew up in Monroe Township, Cumberland County, and currently resides in the Borough of Dillsburg with his wife and two children. In his spare time Tyler enjoys playing the violin, traditional archery, hunting, fishing and walking with the family. Tyler is the DCNR alternate representative on the Leadership Committee.
Franklin County Planning Department
Nicole Boling is the Senior Planner within the Franklin County Planning Department. She focuses on coordinating the implementation of various programs and activities within the department in addition to facilitating municipal and public outreach initiatives. Nicole received her Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Shippensburg University in 2012 and her Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Virginia Tech in 2018. Nicole is the Franklin County alternate on the Leadership Committee.
York County Planning
Mike Shaffer has been employed by the York County Planning Commission since 1987 in the Municipal Planning Division. His main duty at the Planning Commission involves the review of subdivision and land development plans. He also reviews zoning ordinance and subdivision and land development ordinance amendments for various municipalities in York County. Mike was involved for many years with the Codorus Creek Watershed Association and is a past president of the organization. He became involved with the South Mountain Partnership Leadership Committee in 2020. Mike received a BA in Geoenvironmental Studies in 1986 from Shippensburg University and lives in York with his wife and three sons. Mike is the York County alternate on the Leadership Committee.
Chief, Municipal Planning
York County Planning Commission
Kurt Leitholf is the Chief of Municipal Planning for the York County Planning Commission. In that role he coordinates the activities of the division and its planners, reviewing subdivision and land development plans, zoning ordinances, and amendments, for 72 municipalities in York County. Prior to this role Kurt spent more than 15 years as Executive Director for the Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council (CNRAC) within the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), where he planned, developed, and conducted research and investigations related to conservation and resource management issues, then provided recommendations involving policies, procedures, plans, goals and objectives for effectively managing the Commonwealth’s natural resources. He joined the South Mountain Partnership Leadership Committee in 2020 as an Alternate for York County and is excited to be a part of this organization.
Dr. Claire Jantz
Professor, Geography & Earth Science
Dr. Claire A. Jantz is a Professor in the Geography-Earth Science Department and Director of the Center for Land Use and Sustainability (CLUS) at Shippensburg University. While earning her PhD in geography from the University of Maryland, she worked as a full-time research associate at the Woods Hole Research Center in Woods Hole, MA. In 2005 she joined the faculty at Shippensburg, and in 2015 became the director of the CLUS. Dr. Jantz has spent nearly 20 years engaged in the interdisciplinary field of land use science and is recognized as a leader in land use and ecosystem change modeling. She also serves as the chair of the Friends of Michaux State Forest. Claire is the academic alternate on the SMP Leadership Committee.
White Rock Inc.
Patti Nitterhouse and her husband Dennis Zimmerman are the owners and developers of Penn National Golf Course Community in Franklin County, which is rated one of America's top 50 master planned communities. The community borders 85,000 acres of Michaux State Forest. Patti embraced the vision of the South Mountain Partnership in its early years and was attracted to it by the spirit of cooperation with a public/private partnership that spanned geographic and political boarders. Patti serves on several boards including the Franklin County Visitors Bureau, the Stop Transource Leadership Committee, and the South Mountain Partnership. She also supports MACWell (the Mercersburg Area Council on Wellness), where she facilitates and hosts whole food, plant-based educational healthy eating programs. She was the driving force for the TK Nitterhouse & Mary Steel nursing scholarships. Patti is an alternate on the SMP Leadership Committee.