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“If you take care of what’s in front of you, close by, then by extension you’re helping to take care of the world.”

—BEno Kennedy, Facilities manager


Staff • Board •Contractors & Volunteers • Senior Fellows

Staff Members

Small team, big hearts, hard work. Our staff works to care for this organization, its spaces and programs, and its future every day. We love what we do, and bring our fullest selves to work for you and for our shared future.

Thomas Arthur

Resident Caretaker

Thomas lives onsite and works with the team to ensure all participants and visitors find a welcoming home at the Institute. He supports the land and facilities, helping to create an environment that facilitates the life-affirming work happening here. As a photographer, filmmaker, contemplative juggler, and teacher of movement awareness, Thomas seeks to inspire a sense of wonder and delight in our relations with Earth and Other.

Lynne Carlson

Housekeeping Manager

Lynne oversees our housekeeping team and helps tend our lodging and communal spaces onsite. Horses and horse rescue have a special place in her heart. She enjoys spending time with her human and animal family, being physically active, and drinking gigantic smoothies.

Jessica Fuller

Housekeeping Assistant

Jessica is a member of our housekeeping team. In her spare time, she enjoys sewing, painting, and baking. Jessica also loves gardening, spending time with family, working out, hiking, and enjoying her dog and birds.

Photo © Heather Ramirez

Amber Hamley

Housekeeping and Land Care Assistant

Amber assists with housekeeping, land stewardship projects, and flower bed maintenance. When not at work, this mother of two devotes her energy to gardening and family.

Amber Herman

Housekeeping Assistant

Amber works in housekeeping. She is a dedicated mother of four, and enjoys time with her family, knitting, and jewelry-making.

Kimi Hoover

Facilities and Group Logistics Coordinator

Kimi comes from a background in biology, teaching, and environmental science. With B.S. and Master’s degrees in Biology, she has had careers as a chef, biologist, and educator. She is an enthusiastic explorer of the outdoors. When not hiking, birdwatching, or kayaking, Kim might be in the kitchen: originally trained in the French culinary tradition, she now honors both her palate and the planet by preparing vegan foods and teaching others about plant-based nutrition.

Timothy Hull

Land Care Assistant

Timothy grew up here and knows this land well. He’s served for quite a while as the steward of the 30 acre Legacy Forest, near Storyhouse, and is now bringing additional energy to support land care projects throughout the 100 acres. He’s an avid musician and songwriter.

Marnie Jackson

Communications Manager

Marnie came to the Whidbey Institute with a background in non-profit communications and journalism with attention to animal issues, organic agriculture, the environment, and food sustainability. She’s a passionate animal rights advocate and coordinates the Interspecies & Intersectional Justice program. When she’s not at the Whidbey Institute, you can find her playing outside with her three daughters and three dogs, working on home improvement projects, or waxing poetic about her beloved hoofbeasts—Fenway and Arrietty the mules, Missy the goat, and Dahlia the cow.

Heather Johnson

Executive Director

Heather is passionate about ongoing adult development and growing organizations that are committed to positive change. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance, is a graduate of Pacific Integral’s Generating Transformative Change leadership program, and has held previous roles with Sustainable Connections in Bellingham (as founding staff), Sustainable Seattle (as Interim Director), Excellence Northwest (as Interim Director), and Blue Marble Biomaterials (as Director of Finance and Accounting).

Beno Kennedy

Facilities Manager

Beno lives according to a simple philosophy: “if you take care of what’s in front of you, close by, then by extension you’re helping to take care of the world.” Beno has been involved for decades as a volunteer and for several years as a staff member, serving as a handyman/go-to-guy with extensive skills, a creative outlook, and a contagious attitude of honesty, service, and dedication.

Abigail Lazarowski

Westgarden Steward

Abigail stewards our Westgarden, hosts work parties and service learning projects, and helps provide food for our kitchen and community food bank. She co-coordinated the Community Garden Leadership Training (CGLT) program alongside Cary Peterson in 2015 and 2016. Her skills in building community, growing organic food, and helping those in need through her expanding knowledge of small scale vegetable growing have served South Whidbey well since she arrived in 2014 as an apprentice in the CGLT program.


Robert Mellinger

Land Steward

Robert’s academic and professional background includes experience in holistic science, wilderness ecology and education, transformative learning for sustainable living, permaculture design and landscaping, and ecological literacy. In addition to stewarding the land. Robert engages in collaborative organizational strategy, community engagement, and land-based education.

Madisun Stern

Database and Office Administrator

When she’s not at the Whidbey Insistute keeping our office in order, Madisun runs her own brand of community merrymaking as a freelance events coordinator and operates a non-profit program under the Whidbey Island Arts Council. In her free time, she can be found on a historic pumpkin farm, living as a steward of the Reserve with her husband, a rescued street-to-farm dog, and four hilarious ducks.

Board Members

Our working board goes above and beyond, involving themselves as partners in the daily business of running our Institute. Their sleeves are rolled up, their hearts are invested, and they’re pulling with us every step of the way.

Sheryl Harmer

Sheryl helps non-profits, businesses, and public entities become stronger and more effective through her work as a principal at MacDonald Boyd and Associates. She also has a passion for social and emotional learning, and is a strategist working on awareness, policy, and practice in that field.

Cole Hoover


Cole is a Social Impact Consultant/Bridge Builder at Ponto in Seattle, and has held former roles as a lecturer at University of Washington Bothell, Director of I’mact Partnerships at Unleesh, and Director of Education at Global Brigades. He is passionate about creating equality of opportunity, and wants to make our land and programs more accessible to many.

Christie Lynk

Christie teaches at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and Seattle University. She’s one of the founders and former Vice President of The Seattle School, and has spent over twenty years offering training and consultation to agencies and individuals through the exploration of vocation and group facilitation.

Barbara Schaetti


Barbara lived on five continents in ten countries before age 18. Her work with Transition Dynamics, a consultancy she founded to serve expatriate and repatriate communities, is informed by her global upbringing. Before joining the Whidbey Institute Board in fall 2013, and in addition to her work with Transition Dynamics, Barbara co-founded Personal Leadership (PL) Seminars and the PL Facilitator Community of Practice.

Jill Sheldon

Jill has worked in a variety of leadership and development positions in organizations whose work ranges from women’s rights to environmental law and water rights. She’s currently a coach and consultant with Open Road Coaching and Consulting, and makes her home on Whidbey with her wife Dakota, owner of Solid Stone Boxing Gym, and their dogs and cats.

Phyllis Shulman

Phyllis is a consultant focusing on community resilience and organizational renewal. She is a former Senior Policy Advisor to the Seattle City Counsel, and helped found the Puget Sound Regional Food Policy Council and the Washington State Food Policy Roundtable.

Kate Snider


Kate is principal and owner of Floyd | Snider, Inc., an environmental consulting firm, as well as a certified mediator and former Seattle Girls’ Choir board chair. She’s played a key role in fundraising, event production, and strategic leadership.

Ted Sturdevant


Ted is a voice for inclusion, accessibility, and a broader invitation to constituents around the region. He has spent much of his career in public service, with a focus on environmental policy, including as Director of Legislative Affairs and Policy for Governor Jay Inslee through 2014.

Hilary Wilson

Hilary has served the Whidbey Institute since 2012, first as a graduate student-in-service with Bainbridge Graduate Institute—now known as Pinchot—then as a board member. Earlier this year, she brought her background in fundraising and event planning to a short-term role as Development Consultant, seeing us through the simultaneous launch of a development staff office and a capital campaign.

Contractors & Volunteers

Our community includes countless individuals who pour their time, talent, energy, and wisdom into our organization. Those listed below are especially involved in recent and ongoing work.

Mara Grey

Appletree Garden Steward

Mara Grey is a botanist, Celtic harpist, storyteller, master gardener, and author of The Lazy Gardener and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Flower Gardening. Mara has studied Scottish Gaelic for many years, and enjoys experiencing the world from a multicultural perspective. She values the role of storytelling in work and life. 

Christyn Johnson

Executive Chef

Christyn has a great reverence for food as an integral part of a healthy, balanced life. She has had a long career in fine dining and hospitality as well experience and travel in global vegetarian cuisine. In addition to running the Whidbey Institute kitchen, she owns Raw Indulgence, a gourmet organic raw meal service on Whidbey Island.


Robert Keeney


Bob Keeney is an indispensable member of the Whidbey Institute volunteer team, and frequently comes to the land for a day or a week at a time to build trails, remove hazard trees, clear windfall, and support our land care team with his labor, skill, and wisdom. Bob helps at the Whidbey Institute with tasks ranging from plumbing to forestry, but he really shines in stewarding our 100 acres of wooded trails. “My personal belief has been that everybody who’s any good at anything ought to float a certain amount of that talent on the water,” he said. “Since the thing I’m best at is being a sort of a forest handyman, that’s what I’ve got to donate.” Bob is also skilled as a machinist, model railroader, and student of nature.

Matt McDowell

Web Designer

Matt McDowell designed and maintains our website, working closely with our team to understand our organization’s audience and needs, shape content decisions, and provide great design solutions as well as ongoing technical support. He lives in Langley with his wife and two sons, and provides design and consultation services to a number of other organizations and businesses in our community and around the nation.

photo © McDowell

Senior Fellows

The Whidbey Institute’s Senior Fellows are individuals whose relationships with the Whidbey Institute have been enduring and formative. We thank them for their commitments not only to this place and its mission, but also to the ongoing evolution of our organizational development, programs, and purpose. Our Fellows continue to teach, facilitate, participate in, and learn from our programs and in our communities.

Larry Daloz

Larry served as the first dean of the Community College of Vermont and taught at Lesley, Norwich, and Columbia Universities. A member of the founding group of the Whidbey Institute, he was an Associate Director and faculty member from 1997 to 2006. He is the double-award winning author of Mentor: Guiding the Journey of Adult Learners, and co-author of Common Fire: Leading Lives of Commitment in a Complex World. He helped develop and facilitate several current and former Institute programs, including Powers of Leadership, Leadership for the New Commons, and Cascadia Climate Collaborative.

Sharon Daloz Parks

Sharon’s publications include Leadership Can Be Taught: A Bold Approach for a Complex World (2005) and Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Emerging Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith (2011). She served for 16 years in faculty and research positions at Harvard University in the schools of Divinity, Business, and the Kennedy School of Government, and now teaches at Seattle University. She served on the Institute’s founding Board, and as Associate Director and faculty. She helped develop several current and former Institute programs, including Powers of Leadership and Leadership for the New Commons.

John Palka

Johnny is a retired professor of biology at the UW with a specialty in neuroscience, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and recipient of two Fulbright Fellowships for teaching in India and a Guggenheim Fellowship for research in England. He co-founded and co-directed the UW’s Program on the Environment and authored My Slovakia, My Family: One Family’s Role in the Birth of a Nation as well as over 60 research papers and book chapters. He served 6 years on our board and was the main organizer of the annual Lyceum Lecture Series, a collaboration of the Whidbey Institute with other organizations.

Diana Gale

Diana is Senior Lecturer Emeritus at the Evans School of Public Affairs, UW. She has spent 20 years as a department director at the City of Seattle—most recently as director of Seattle Public Utilities. Diana has received several awards regionally and nationally for outstanding civic leadership. Diana served on the Institute board for 6 years and is both an alumna and a former teacher of Powers of Leadership. Along with Larry and Sharon, she led the Institute’s Leadership for the New Commons, a program which has since informed many of the Institute’s programs and practices.

“One of my greatest passions is to build a sense of belonging in the world—a sense of belonging to ourselves, belonging with each other, and belonging on Earth, and that’s what I get to work on every day! I love bringing people together to have deep conversations about what matters most.”

—Dan Mahle, former staff member