Meet the CVNM Education Fund Team

Zoe Barker, Water Associate

Zoe joined CVNM Education Fund in September 2021 as the Political and Policy Associate and is now our Water Associate. She had previously done consulting work on policy, elections, and as a legislative aide during the 2020 and 2021 legislative session. Zoe grew up here in Santa Fe, where she learned to love this state and all it has to offer. She picked up skiing, hiking, camping and a general attraction for outdoor recreation at a young age, which has continued to grow as she has gotten older.

Zoe attended Texas State University, in San Marcos, TX, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Geography, concentrated in Resource and Environmental Studies. While at university, she was involved in an organization called Supporting Women in Geography, where she got to work with other students, alumni and faculty on various projects around the university, all based on supporting and promoting women in the geography/science field.

In her free time, Zoe enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, camping and tending her plant and animal children.

Paula Cassis, Business Administration Manager

Paula joined CVNM Education Fund in 2021 as Business Administrator. She is accountable for supporting the organization’s administrative structure, collaborating with its teams while ensuring that CVNM Education Fund’s core values of equity, diversity, and inclusion are present in each aspect of her work.

Paula has over 20 years of administrative and managerial experience. Her career includes multiple industries, as she has developed operational controls, implementing administrative reporting procedures, allowing the companies to acquire efficiency and competitive advantages in each segment. She has a strong hybrid profile and interest in visual arts, branding, design, and corporate identity. She joined the CVNM Education Fund family motivated by the organization’s conservation mission, credibility, and work.

She is originally from São Paulo, Brazil, and moved to New Mexico in 2011. Paula’s passion for high altitude clear skies and unique desert landscapes made Santa Fe the place she calls home, where she lives with her husband, her daughter, and her Golden Retriever Arya.

Demis Foster, Executive Director

A life-long conservationist, Demis has over 25 years experience working on environmental campaigns and programs in the West. Demis grew up on a five generation family ranch in southern Idaho where she developed a lifelong love for nature, and a deep appreciation for the land and water that sustained the families in her rural farming community.

While earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from Boise State University, she worked for the Wolf Recovery Foundation—the first organization in Idaho dedicated to the restoration of wolves in the Rockies. She then moved to the Pacific Northwest where she spent 15 years working on conservation campaigns, adventure and field science programs for youth, and overseeing a national environmental film festival. Demis was awarded the National Leadership Award for outstanding leadership in protecting public lands for her work as the Director of the Ancient Forest Roadshow—a year-long advocacy tour traveling across the nation with a 1,000-lb. crosscut section from an old-growth Douglas Fir tree.

She moved to New Mexico in 2010 to work on public lands and wildlife campaigns including the Mexican gray wolf recovery effort and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument designation. She took the helm of CVNM Education Fund as the Executive Director in 2013.

Michael Jensen, Communications Director

Michael joined CVNM Education Fund in April 2020, after two years doing communications and public education at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center preceded by two-years as an environmental consultant. Prior to that, he worked nearly ten years for Amigos Bravos doing grants and communications and later as Albuquerque Projects Director.

Michael has 15 years of experience with New Mexico water policy, regulatory, and legal issues. He represented Amigos Bravos as a stakeholder in the first Dairy Rule to protect groundwater; co-coordinated Communities for Clean Water; and worked with the Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment. In Albuquerque, he conducted a two-year water quality monitoring project in the drains and ditches along the Rio Grande that documented the presence of pharmaceuticals and endocrine disrupting compounds, worked with South Valley community organizations and neighborhoods to hold a series of charettes on the use of green infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff, and participated in a year-long national diversity, equity and inclusion project with organizations representing stormwater-impacted environmental justice communities.

While he grew up in California and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz, Michael has lived in Austin and Washington, DC, as well as in Germany, Norway, and Brazil before settling in Albuquerque and raising a family here.

Samantha Kao, Climate & Energy Advocate

Sammi joined CVNM Education Fund as the Climate and Energy Advocate in January 2021. As a lifelong environmentalist, Sammi is eager to bring her commitment to climate change mitigation to CVNM Education Fund, where her role with is to develop and implement policies, with the help of our partners and legislators, to further New Mexico’s renewable energy initiatives.

Sammi grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2015 with B.S. degrees in Biochemistry and Biology. In May 2019, she graduated with her J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law, also receiving a certificate in Natural Resources and Environmental Law.

Before Sammi joined CVNM Education Fund, she was the Voter Protection Director with the Democratic Party of New Mexico for the 2020 General Election. She also worked as PRC Commissioner Cynthia Hall’s Field Director for her re-election campaign in the June 2020 Primary Election. While in law school, Sammi also competed in the Jeffrey G Miller National Environmental Moot Court competition at Pace University.

Sammi is an avid traveler. Her goal is to visit every country by the time she turns 40. Her passion for experiencing new cultures and life outside of her comfort zone inspires her to travel as far and as often as she can. Her favorite travel destination is Madrid, Spain. Sammi also loves cooking, taking care of her houseplants, and spending time with her dog Bailey.

Liz Lee, Director of Philanthropy

Liz joined the CVNM Education Fund team in May 2020, bringing more than 30 years of experience covering all aspects of nonprofit fundraising. Previously she served as Director of Philanthropy at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, and earlier worked in fundraising roles at the School for Advanced Research and Las Cumbres Community Services. She earned her Certified Fundraising Executive credential in 2013.

Liz started her professional life as a journalist, working as a reporter for the Associated Press in New York City, a freelance writer in Paris, and a writer for the Foreign Service Journal in Washington, DC. Before moving to Santa Fe in 1998, Liz worked in her first environmental job in DC, on an international media project that explored the links between environmental degradation and women’s health.

Born in DC, Liz grew up in Turkey, Germany, and Canada as the daughter of a diplomat. When her father left the service, her family moved to a small town in Iowa. Liz received her BA in English Literature with a minor in Spanish from Colgate University. A former rock climber and mountain biker, she moved to Santa Fe (where her parents had relocated) to spend more time outdoors. Along with hiking with her dog Lulu, she has recently taken up stand up paddleboarding. Liz participates in the local Master Gardener program, and serves on the Board of the Santa Fe Watershed Association.

Antonio Maestas, Manager of Equity & Organizational Effectiveness

Antonio joined the CVNM Education Fund staff in September 2018. Antonio grew up in the community of Mountain View located in the South Valley of Albuquerque. His passion for community organizing sprouted from an environmental justice internship with the SouthWest Organizing Project in 2015 where he realized the circumstances of his childhood could be traced back to environmental disparities plaguing low-income communities of color. Following this internship, Antonio organized with the Tibetan Environmental Justice Movement in Dharamsala, India in the fall of 2015.  Returning back to the United States in the spring of 2016, Antonio was a lead education organizer to combat institutional racism and inequality at his college in Indiana.

When he returned to New Mexico, Antonio continued his environmental justice work with communities across Albuquerque, and with pueblo and land grant communities across the state. As a part of this work, he published a chapter titled “New Mexican Land Grants: A History of Conflict in the Chilili Land Grant” in a historical journal accounting the history of his land grant where he currently resides, La Merced del Pueblo de Chilili. One of Antonio’s great mentors told him, “Social movements are spiritual and the principles of environmental justice is our doctrine” for which he incorporates in his community organizing endeavors.

Antonio graduated from Earlham College in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology/Anthropology with a concentration in Socio-Cultural relations. In his spare time, Antonio enjoys traveling, playing music, reading books and trying new foods.

John Martinez, Campaigns & Civic Engagement Associate

John joined CVNM Education Fund as a Campaign & Civic Engagement Associate in September of 2021. He brings over a decade of organizing and campaign experience to help build out and expand CVNM’s ability to engage members and the public with the decision-making process. Organizing and campaign work has been the common thread that unifies his experience and highlights his values. He believes fully in the power of people organizing and mobilizing to effect change.

John joined his first campaign in 2008, organizing volunteers for Barack Obama in Alaska. He spent some years in Washington D.C. obtaining a Master of Public Policy, and then moved to Michigan to support his partner entering law school. In Michigan he joined the 100% grass-roots Voters Not Politicians anti-gerrymandering campaign of 2018 and helped organize the massive canvassing project that led to a victory in passing an anti-gerrymandering ballot initiative. John also worked with the League of Conservation Voters in 2020, virtually organizing members of the environmental community in Arizona.

John moved to New Mexico in 2019 and has wholeheartedly embraced the landscape, environments, and the people. He has an ancestral connection to Northern New Mexico through family that moved from Espanola to Salida, Colorado in the early 20th century. Now John is putting down roots in New Mexico, and he is dedicating himself to fight for environmental and social justice.

Ragan Matteson, Campaigns & Civic Engagement Director

Since New Mexico enticed Ragan with its sunsets and agricultural heritage, she focused her energy on agriculture along the Rio Grande Valley. For ten years she worked with small, local & organic farms – cultivating production, consulting farmers, as management with the Downtown ABQ Growers Market, and coordinating UNM’s on-campus community gardens program. Synthesizing her sustainable agricultural experience with business and renewable energy education, Ragan co-founded a biofuel company, providing foundation for roles with SolarCity/Tesla as a renewable energy consultant and legislative advisor, and also political consulting.

She considers healthy environment, civic engagement and policy crucial for socially just, economically viable communities.

Douglas Meiklejohn, Water Quality & Land Restoration Advocate

As an environmental attorney, Doug brings decades of experience in environmental justice to CVNM. After moving to New Mexico in 1977, Doug worked for the state Attorney General. In 1987, he left to found the New Mexico Environmental Law Center as a non-profit agency with a mission to protect New Mexico’s natural environment and achieve environmental justice for New Mexico’s communities through legacy representation, policy advocacy and public education.

As the long-time executive director of the Law Center, he worked with communities on some of the most significant environmental issues in New Mexico: massive water grabs, uranium mining and legacy waste, hazardous waste, and oil and gas drilling. Doug also played a leading role in the creation of the New Mexico Mining Act and stricter regulations protecting communities in the New Mexico Solid Waste Act.

In October 2019, Doug was also honored as one of Santa Fe’s Living Treasurers for his decades of community representation.

Greg Peters, Senior Advocate – Lands, Water & Wildlife

Greg joined CVNM Education Fund as the Public Lands and Wildlife Advocate in November 2019. His role is to develop, coordinate, and implement policies in the areas of public lands, wildlife, and outdoor recreation, and increase community involvement in public lands decision making.

Greg grew up in western Massachusetts, in the foothills of the Berkshires. While earning a Bachelor of Science in Geography from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Greg worked for the Kestrel Land Trust as a land steward & GIS projects assistant.

After graduating, Greg moved out west and served as the Director of Conservation for Summit Land Conservancy, a Utah-based land trust. Here he worked directly with landowners and stakeholder groups to conserve critical open lands throughout the Wasatch Back. Greg went on to earn a Master of Environmental Law & Policy from Vermont Law School, with a concentration in land use. He joined the school’s land use institute as a research associate where he tracked and advocated for land use legislation and court decisions.

Greg then served as the Executive Director for Hawaii-based environmental nonprofit, Malama Maha`ulepu, working to preserve and protect the ancient Maha`ulepu watershed on Kauai’s south shore. Most recently Greg worked in the outdoor sports industry in Scottsdale, Arizona, managing one of the largest action sports retailers in the southwest.

In his spare time Greg can be found skiing, climbing, and camping in the mountains of New Mexico.

Steven Romero, Senior Director of Finance & Human Resources

Steven joined CVNM Education Fund as Senior Director of Finance and Human Resources in May of 2022. He brings over a decade of experience, having previously worked in multiple business administration roles within higher education. Steven is a Native New Mexican and grew up in beautiful southern New Mexico where he learned to camp, hike, and be a good steward of New Mexico’s incredible environment. 

A first-generation college student, Steven recently earned a Master’s of Business Administration from New Mexico State University where he had previously earned a Bachelor’s of Business Administration with concentrations in Finance and General Business. 

In his free time, he enjoys visiting new places, trying new foods, and spending time outdoors, hiking, biking, or camping. 

Ben Shelton, Political & Policy Director

Ben joined CVNM Education Fund as Political & Policy Director in October 2015. A lifelong environmentalist, Ben brings lobbying, legal, policy development and electoral campaign experience to the team.

Prior to joining CVNM Education Fund, Ben served as legislative counsel for the Judiciary Committee of the District of Columbia Council, and field director for a mayoral campaign. He also helped advance policy for the Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ben earned his Bachelor of Arts in Ecological Studies from Seattle University, and after seeing environmental degradation while working as a river guide in Washington state, he dedicated himself to working on legal and policy solutions. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor from Lewis & Clark Law School, specializing in environmental law. He feels at home in the Southwest and enjoys hiking, biking, and whitewater.

Molly Taylor, Deputy Director

Molly joined CVNM Education Fund in 2009 as a Program Associate, where she worked to build support for local and federal action on climate change. Over her many years with CVNM Education Fund, Molly has also served as facilitator for the Environmental Alliance of New Mexico, lobbyist and advocate, and community organizer. She also was the Program Director for several years, where she launched and managed community organizing and civic engagement programs, like GOTV, across rural New Mexico. Molly brings her extensive program and advocacy knowledge, as well as experience implementing communications and fundraising strategies, to her role as Deputy Director where she oversees and supports CVNM Education Fund’s advocacy, community partnership, and civic engagement work.

Prior to joining CVNM Education Fund, Molly worked with Environment New Mexico where she worked to mobilize public and grasstops support for clean and renewable energy in New Mexico. During her time there, she also worked with local groups on urban sprawl issues, and directed a canvassing operation during the 2008 Presidential Election. Molly received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in geography with a concentration in environmental systems and sustainability. During her undergraduate studies, she also collaborated with several professors, organizations and the City of Minneapolis to conduct research on the public’s attitudes and perceptions of environmental action to help shape the city’s growing sustainability program. Originally raised in Louisiana, Molly attributes her family’s first-hand experience grappling with the aftermath and destruction of hurricane Katrina as the catalyst for her environmental advocacy and dedication to climate justice.

In her spare time, Molly enjoys camping, painting, and spending time with her husband, son and senior rescue dog Eethie.

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