A group of devoted individuals, with diverse skills and backgrounds, the Mainspring staff is proud to carry forth the legacy of conservation in the Southern Blue Ridge to ensure the natural and cultural resources and beauty of this region remain for generations to come.
Jordan Smith is the executive director for Mainspring, becoming the third person to lead the organization in its 20+ year history. Raised in western North Carolina, Jordan spent much of his youth outdoors before leaving the mountains to earn a degree in Wildlife Management from Auburn University. He worked for Brosnan Forest with the Norfolk Southern Corporation in Dorchester, South Carolina in a number of roles, including Field Supervisor of the 16,000-acre working forest, and for The Westervelt Company in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as their Hunting Lease Manager and Recreational Properties Coordinator.
Jordan first joined Mainspring in 2016 as its land conservation director, managing the initiatives of Mainspring’s land protection program, including landowner outreach, receiving conservation easements, and land purchases and sales. He was selected by the board of directors as executive director on March 1, 2020.
Jordan lives in Swain County with his wife, Vanessa and their two daughters. The family spends the majority of their off-hours traveling and enjoying the outdoors. The owner of 2 Girls Honey Company, Jordan also enjoys hunting, fishing and gardening.
828-524-2711 ext 311
As Deputy Director, Ben oversees Mainspring’s aquatic and riparian restoration programs and brownfields work. He also works closely with the Executive Director and, with the ED and Finance Manager, preparing and tracking Mainspring’s annual budget.
Ben joined Mainspring in 2012, first as Restoration Coordinator and then as Associate Director. Prior to that, he spent eight years as a Senior Biologist/Project Manager at a North Carolina-based environmental consulting firm, with projects located throughout the Southeast. Ben’s responsibilities included agency coordination and project management, technical guidance, proposal and grant writing, survey coordination and implementation, and Environmental Assessment preparation. He worked extensively with the US Forest Service, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Bureau of Indian Affairs, state Departments of Transportation, local governments and private entities.
Ben’s academic background includes a Ph.D. in Forest Resources (Wildlife Ecology and Management) from the University of Georgia, a M.S. in Biology (Vertebrate Zoology) from the University of Memphis, and a B.S. in Forest Resources (Forest Science) from the University of Georgia.
Ben, his wife Stephanie, and their two children live in southern Macon County and take every opportunity to explore the uplands and waterways in our southern Appalachians.
Sharon Willard Burdette
Development and Administrative Assistant
Sharon grew up in the Otto community of Macon County and graduated from Franklin High School.
Prior to working for Mainspring, Sharon worked with the Little Tennessee Watershed Association from 2008-2011 as their Bookkeeper/Administrative Assistant. There she was responsible for grant reports, accounts payable and membership.
In January 2012 the Little Tennessee Watershed Association merged with the Land Trust of the Little Tennessee and Sharon continued on as an Administrative Assistant, and added Development Assistant to her role in 2014. She now assists with mailings, donor stewardship, grant budgets/reporting, accounts payable and helping maintain land records.
She lives in the Holly Springs area and loves kayaking, camping and hiking.
Land Conservation Associate
Emmie works closely with the Land Conservation Director and helps lead Mainspring’s land protection throughout its service area. You might find Emmie scoping out a prospective land protection area, assisting with biomonitoring and stream education, or in the office brainstorming new projects.
After growing up in the creeks of Chattanooga, TN, she earned her B.S. in biology from Berry College in Rome, GA in 2018, concentrating on conservation, environmental studies, and botany. She spent the next couple of years nestled in the Monongahela National Forest in Davis, West Virginia, working on watershed remediation, forest protection projects, trail maintenance, endangered species advocacy, historic interpretation, and environmental education. After a few great ski seasons in the WV mountains, she felt called to move back down south to the Blue Ridge mountains and continue her land protection journey with Mainspring. She joined the team in Spring 2021 and spends every weekend on the trails with her dog, Mabel, in her garden full of heirloom veggies, or cooking a tasty meal with foraged forest finds.
828-524-2711 ext 307
Land Conservation Director
Sara was born and raised in the Ranger Community of Cherokee County, N.C. and received a B.S. in Environmental Sciences from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013. During her college career, she concentrated on microbiology and watershed science and spent six months working under Rachel Noble, PhD at the Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City. Sara was awarded the Emerging Scholar award for her senior project work on bacterial populations in surface water.
After spending an enjoyable time on the coast, it was clear to Sara that she belonged back in the mountains. Sara joined Mainspring in 2016 managing her hometown watershed – the Hiwassee. “Being able to utilize my science degree to make a positive impact in Western NC is very rewarding.” Sara’s roots in Western NC help her understand the traditional land uses and ways of life that have allowed generations to survive here. Her degree’s focus in watershed science allows her to share best management practices with her community. Together, conserving this landscape for future generations.
In 2020, Sara stepped into the role of land conservation director. She leads the land protection efforts in Mainspring’s service area, including landowner outreach, receiving conservation easements, land sales, and acquisitions. Sara, her husband, “Squarl” and their daughter Rowan have found their little piece of heaven in Nantahala. They enjoy overnight hiking trips, whitewater sports, mountain biking, skiing, reading maps, and finding special places ‘off the beaten path’.
828.524.2711 ext 313
Teresa Falzone joined Mainspring in a part-time capacity before becoming the full-time Finance Manager in the summer of 2020. A native of Massachusetts, Teresa has lived in North Carolina since 2010 and has volunteered in Asheville as a Read 2 Succeed tutor, at FROGS and at Mainspring’s Rickman Store. A graduate of Stonehill College and Boston University, she has more than 25 years of experience in financial administration, making her a great fit for Mainspring’s needs. Teresa lives in Franklin with her two dogs and is spoiling Mainspring staff with her excellent baking skills.
828.524.2711 ext 312
Born and raised in the Ranger Community of Cherokee County, North Carolina, Alex has come home to the mountains after six years of travel, work experience and education. A graduate of NC State with a BS in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, Alex served as a teaching assistant/ornithology instructor at his alma mater before working as an intern ranch biologist, property caretaker and hunting and fishing guide on the 5,000-acre El Tesoro Ranch in south Texas. He moved back to the state in 2019 to work for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission in Halifax, helping to manage public access areas on 35,000 acres of state Game Lands, before joining Mainspring in the spring of 2021.
A lifelong outdoorsman who is known to tell a good story, Alex loves hiking and exploring, and is an avid hunter and fisherman. He also enjoys cooking, baking and reading.
828-524-2711 ext 307
Aquatics Program Manager
As Aquatic Programs Manager, Jason is responsible for engaging youth and adults in the community in the work of Mainspring. He also serves as the Project Coordinator for stream restoration activities and the Biomonitoring Program.
Jason has been an outdoor enthusiast all of his life. He grew up hiking in the woods and swimming in lakes and streams. This background led him to pursue degrees in natural resources. Jason received his B.S. in Marine Sciences from North Carolina State University (2004). He later completed his M.S. in Forestry and Natural Resources (2008) with a concentration in fish/wildlife populations, specifically working with freshwater mussels.
Jason lives in Otto with his wife, Kristen, and children, Katie and Wyatt. He enjoys fishing, paddling, snorkel/SCUBA, hunting, mushroom collecting, and decoy carving.
828-524-2711 ext. 309
Senior Scientist and Aquatic Program Specialist
Founder of the Little TN Project
Dr. William O. McLarney holds a PhD in Fisheries from the University of Michigan but considers himself an aquatic conservation biologist. He has worked in aquatic ecology in the Great Lakes region and Alaska and was a cofounder and director of aquaculture research for the New Alchemy Institute in Massachusetts.
He splits his year between Macon County, North Carolina where he has directed a biomonitoring study of the upper Little Tennessee watershed for over 30 years and the Talamanca region of Costa Rica for over 20 years where he founded Asociación ANAI, one of the most successful conservation and sustainable development organizations in the tropical world.
The Biomonitoring Program at Mainspring is one of the most successful in North America and its success led to the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Water Conservationist of the Year in 1994, the River Heroes Award for Dr. McLarney from River Network in 2004, the Roosevelt-Ashe Society Award for “Outstanding Scientist in Conservation” from WildSouth in 2009, and the Fred A. Harris Fisheries Conservation Award awarded by the North Carolina Chapter of the American Fisheries Society in 2014. Bill also has a terrestrial home and family in the Oak Grove Community.
Stewardship Manager/GIS Specialist
Kelder wears some of Mainspring’s muddiest boots on the ground. He first joined the nonprofit part-time in 2013, assisting with easement monitoring and property stewardship, which became a full-time position in 2015. As Stewardship Manager, he oversees those responsibilities and is Mainspring’s primary GIS technician and licensed pesticide applicator. On any given work day Kelder might find himself on a remote easement boundary, in a thicket of invasive plants, or at his desk making a map.
Kelder grew up in Carrboro, North Carolina. He has earned a B.A. in Geography from the University of North Carolina and Master in Biology at Western Carolina University. Kelder originally got involved with Mainspring as an intern while studying at the UNC Institute for the Environment field site in Highlands, North Carolina. Though he once worked as a seasonal botany technician and made a couple road trips across the continent, Kelder has happily settled down in Sylva with his wife, Heather and daughter, Alice. A lifelong runner, Kelder also enjoys cooking, reading, backpacking and simply playing outside.
828-524-2711 ext 306
Conservation Outreach Associate
As the Conservation Outreach Associate, Rachel leads the outreach efforts for Mainspring, including hikes, events, and volunteer coordination. She also assists with education programs, communications, and stewardship endeavors.
Rachel grew up in Leicester, NC on a horse rescue farm, but was fortunately raised outside of the barn too. Spending the majority of her youth outdoors adventuring in the creeks and woods, she developed a deep appreciation for the natural environment. In 2015, she obtained her B.A. in Environmental Studies and Public Policy at William Smith College. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she served two terms as an AmeriCorps member at a community farm in Knoxville, TN and a food bank in Charleston, SC. In 2019, Rachel earned her Master’s in Environmental Policy and Management at the University of Adelaide in South Australia. Since returning from the other side of the globe, she is happy to be back in the WNC mountains.
Rachel is an avid snow skier and traveler. She also enjoys fitness, trail riding, and using her French language skills.
828.524.2711 ext 305
Molly brings more than 10 years of non-profit development work to Mainspring. She previously served as Regional Director of Development at Pursuant, a Dallas-based full-service fundraising firm that works with non-profits. Molly also worked at her alma mater, Arkansas State University, in both alumni and development.
In the position of Communications Director, Molly coordinates the integration of Mainspring’s fundraising, marketing and communications programs.
In her spare time, Molly is busy with her children, Kate and Eli, and husband Randy.