Our Team

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Jessica Hocz

Executive Director

Jessica grew up in Vermont and completed her undergrad there, at Castleton University. She worked on trail crews in the Sierras and at Glacier National Park, before moving to North Carolina to study Landscape Architecture at NCSU. Since 2009, Jessica’s work at Mountain Valleys has included wind turbine installations, over 40 renewable energy projects on farms, stream restorations, stormwater management projects at schools, and helped create the Ivy River Partners watershed group.

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Mariah Hughes

Water Resources Program Manager

Ivy River Partners

Shade Your Stream

Mariah has lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains her whole life, except for a few years when she was earning her graduate degree at NCSU in science education. A background in environmental sciences and work with nonprofits, a renewable energy start-up, and government agencies has prepared Mariah for the varied tasks at hand in resource conservation work. She joined Mountain Valleys in 2014 to help manage the formation of the Ivy River Partners watershed group and continues to coordinate the development of this project. She also manages Shade Your Stream and other water quality projects for Mountain Valleys.

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Jen Haas

Forest Program Manager

Wildfire Preparedness Coordinator

Jen joined Mountain Valleys in Fall 2019. Originally from Raleigh, NC, she lived in western Montana for 10 years working on federal trail crews, state fire crews, obtaining a degree in Geography and GIS from the University of Montana, and coordinating volunteer programs and special events for the International Wildlife Film Festival. Since joining Mountain Valleys RC&D in 2019, Jen has worked with communities to coordinate community wildfire preparedness and mitigation efforts based on mitigation best practices. She participates on the US Forest Service's Community Mitigation Assistance Team (CMAT). She has a passion for bringing people and ideas together to cultivate connection and growth, ultimately creating more resilient communities and landscapes.

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Veronica Gentry

Green Energy Program Manager

WNC EnergyCAP Project Coordinator

Veronica has spent her entire life in the mountains of Western North Carolina. She earned a degree in Biology with a teaching license in Secondary Science Education. Upon graduating, she immediately began teaching in her hometown. In her ten years as a teacher, she enjoyed providing students with hands-on science experiences and coaching students in the NC Science Olympiad and Envirothon. She joined Mountain Valleys in Fall 2021 as project coordinator for WNC EnergyCAP. 

Council Members

Russell Blevins, Madison County

Richard Smith, Polk County

Andrew Brannon, Henderson County

Bob Carter, Buncombe County

Robert Watts, Buncombe County

Maurice McAlister, Madison County

Barbara Meliski, Rutherford County

Harold Hunter, Madison County

Ashley Wooten, McDowell County

Loring McIntyre, Buncombe County

John Vining, Polk County

Albert Moore, Rutherford County

Lex Garey, Rutherford County

David Caldwell, Cleveland County