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 several 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. The board of directors selected him as executive director on March 1, 2020.
Jordan spends most of his off-hours traveling and enjoying the outdoors with his two daughters. His love of the outdoors extends to 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. Before that, he spent eight years as a Senior Biologist/Project Manager at a North Carolina-based environmental consulting firm with projects 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, an 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
Donor Relations Manager
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. Sharon continued as an Administrative Assistant and added Development Assistant to her role in 2014. As the Donor Relations Manager, she now oversees mailings and donor stewardship, all while keeping the office running efficiently.
She lives in the Holly Springs area and loves kayaking, camping, and hiking.
Conservation Outreach Associate
Skye’s primary responsibility as Mainspring’s Conservation Outreach Associate is connecting people to their local landscapes. Join her for a hike, workshop, or another event to get to know the lands, waters, and cultural resources Mainspring conserves.
Skye grew up in Massachusetts and, as a kid, could often be found climbing trees, hunting for salamanders, or chasing fish at her local swimming hole. Her passion for nature grew with her, and in 2020 she earned her Zoology B.S. from the University of Maine. After graduating, Skye bounced around the country on her quest to protect the earth: tracking blackbirds through the mountains of New Hampshire, studying quail in the pine savannahs of Florida’s panhandle, monitoring songbird nests in the sagebrush scrub of Montana, and leading folks on educational adventures on the rocky coast of Maine. She was drawn to North Carolina by the diverse mountains, cascading waterfalls, and the potential to share her love for the outdoors with the communities here.
In her spare time, Skye enjoys hiking, foraging, cooking, admiring mosses and mushrooms, and doing yoga in the sunshine. On rainy days, she can be found painting, playing her ukulele (badly), and cuddling her cat, Felix.
828-524-2711 ext 302
Land Conservation Manager
As Land Conservation Manager, Emmie leads Mainspring’s land protection in the Southern Blue Ridge. 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
Franklin native Wendy Duvall joined the Mainspring team in June of 2023. Wendy grew up taking advantage of the natural resources in her hometown and surrounding region. A graduate of Western Carolina University, she has spent more than 25 years in the finance field, mainly in the healthcare industry. In her free time, Wendy enjoys working on puzzles, singing karaoke, and watching sports (especially her beloved Atlanta Braves).
828-524-2711 ext 312
Land Conservation Associate
Graham Garrett of Andrews serves Mainspring as a Land Conservation Associate. In this new position, Garrett assists the Lands Program Team with all aspects of conservation – meeting with landowners, researching deeds, mapping properties, and helping protect the “best of the rest” in the Southern Blue Ridge.
The Berry College alumnus has a family history rooted in far western North Carolina, but he spent most of his early years on the Ogeechee River in Bryan County, Georgia. After studying agriculture, plant, and conservation biology at Berry, Garrett taught ESL at Champasak University in Laos, Southeast Asia. He and his wife, Anna Rose, returned to the United States and settled in Andrews, where Garrett worked on various projects with the Southwestern NC Resource Conservation & Development Council and the NC State Extension in Cherokee County.
Garrett enjoys walking in the woods, exploring old buildings, and tasting interesting mushrooms and plants. He’s an avid fiction reader, writer, and black licorice fiend.
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 Ph.D. 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 co-founder 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. 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
Molly brings more than ten 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 alumni and development.
As Communications Director, Molly coordinates the integration of Mainspring’s fundraising, marketing, and communications programs.
In her spare time, Molly and her husband Randy are busy renovating an 1872 farmhouse in Macon County and raising their two children.