Michelle Lanier – Director of North Carolina African American Heritage Commission
Michelle Lanier is a folklorist, oral historian, writer, curator, documentary educator, and specialist in African American narratives of the global South. She is a graduate of Spelman College, where she earned her B.A. English literature and UNC-Chapel Hill where she earned her M.A. in Folklore. Michelle currently serves as the founder and executive director of North Carolina’s African American Heritage Commission. She began her work with department in 2006, when she became the first Curator of Multicultural Initiatives for the Division of State Historic Sites. Additionally, Michelle has been an instructor at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University since 2000. She has traveled to Panama and Ghana to document African Diaspora funerary traditions, and her ethnographic work in a South Carolina Gullah community led to her role as a liaison to the Gullah-Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.
Cindi Wight – Director of Burlington, Vermont Parks and Recreation
Cindi Wight is the Director for Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront in Burlington, VT. She is a passionate professional who is inspired by our pioneers – “the wind beneath my wings”; inspired by our young professionals – “be the change you want to see”; and driven by a desire to make our communities a better place to live, work and play.
Kristen Hess, Owner of HH Architecture
As HH Architecture’s president and business development leader with over twenty years of experience, Kristen believes strongly that great design and outstanding service should be the guiding principles behind every project. With a design process that develops inventive options and flexible solutions for each project, Kristen fosters a project team with relentless energy for the ultimate end‑result—delighted clients and buildings that they love.
Deb Jordan, PhD, Professor at East Carolina University
Dr. Deb Jordan is a professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies at East Carolina University. She teaches courses on recreation and diverse populations and has written two textbooks that include chapters about diversity as well as embed the concept throughout the texts. Dr. Jordan has been making presentations and engaging in diversity education for over 15 years. She has previously presented related sessions at the NRPA, Agents of Change think tank, American Camp Association, and at various universities.
Tara Eggleston, Division Chief, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
Tara Eggleston grew up in Prince George’s County, Md. Today, working for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, she oversees a number of pools, including the one where she learned to swim as a child. Eggleston attended Howard University and graduated in 1999 with a degree in communications. In 2006 she received a master’s degree from New York University in sports business: marketing and media. Her intention was success in the corporate world, and her work experience includes positions with Gap Inc. and the National Basketball Association. Ultimately she decided she would find greater professional fulfillment in a job where she could directly impact her community. It was her passion for swimming brought her back to aquatics and today she serves as as countywide aquatics coordinator and an assistant parks division chief.
Teresa is a Research Associate at NC State University, having received her PhD there in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management in December 2017. In addition, she has a BS in Kinesiology, a Masters in Organizational Management. Teresa teaches continuing education around the U.S. for state and national associations, and consults on operations, management, financial impact, master planning, and policies analysis to help communities thrive. Teresa is Faculty and Co-Founder of GP RED, a national non-profit that providing Research, Education, and Development for health, recreation, and land management agencies. She serves as the Director of the Healthy Communities Research Group (HCRG) for GP RED, focusing on conducting research and assessment for healthy community design through parks and recreation agencies. Teresa is also the CEO and Founder of GreenPlay, LLC, a leading national private parks and recreation management consulting firm that has completed plans and assessments for over 450 communities. Teresa’s career has included over 30 years of private and non-profit business management and teaching, along with six years specifically as an administrator and practitioner for three different public agencies in Colorado. Teresa loves her varied profession that allows her to combine her natural intellectual curiosity with her entrepreneurial spirit and public sector heart.
Dale Smith – CEO, Smith Management and Consulting Services
Dale Smith genuinely has a love for people and a passion for helping them improve. She worked in government for 30+ years in the Parks and Recreation profession and finished her career as the Director of Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation Department. Now through Smith Management, her goal is to work with individuals and teams that seek to improve communication skills, develop positive team dynamics and consistently meet mutual goals. She believes that all individuals and teams have the ability to succeed given the right support and tools. She does that through coaching, training, consulting and speaking.
Joy James, PhD – Assistant Professor, Appalachian State University, Department of Recreation Management and Physical Education
Dr. Joy James has been involved in recreation and parks for over twenty years. She is currently Assistant Professor at Appalachian State University within the Department of Recreation Management and Physical Education. As a life-long learner, Joy has a passion for getting everyone outside enjoying natural areas and parks.
Cindi King – Senior Operations & Program Supervisor at Town of Cary, CPRP
Cindi obtained her Master’s degree from East Tennessee State University and Bachelors of Science degree from Carson- Newman College. She has been in the Parks & Recreation field over 20 years. Beginning her parks and recreation career as a teenager working at the local pool, she continued her love of the field through undergrad working in campus recreation, as well as graduate school working as a grad assistant in campus recreation. She went on to enter the field professionally as a youth coordinator for Lexington Co Leisure Services in Lexington South Carolina and then off to a Director of Student Activities at a college in South Carolina. She and her husband returned to his home state of North Carolina where she obtained a job as the Aquatics Director in Roanoke Rapids, NC. Cindi is currently with the Town of Cary and has been since April 2003. She started as an Assistant Center Supervisor and currently holds the position of Senior Operations & Programs Supervisor where she oversees the daily operations of two community centers. Cindi has served on the NCRPA board in several positions from Regional Chair, vice-chair, secretary, as well as the Executive board as Secretary and Treasurer. She also received the NCRPA Young Professional award, NCRPA Meritorious award, and the NRPA Volunteer Service award. With diverse experience in the field, she continues to enjoy her job on a daily basis.
As a professional in Recreation & Parks for over 30 years, the drive for Lisa’s career stems from enriching the lives of others through quality of life experiences. Her passion stems from building strategic organizations through innovative and creative leadership and programming including the arena of internal and external management of governmental affairs. Lisa’s “Confidence Motto” is enriching the lives of others through play.
Catrina Alexander – Director of Parks and Recreation, Mount Airy, NC
Catrina Alexander grew up in Sarasota, Florida and graduated from Western Carolina University in 1991 with a BS is Parks and Recreation Management. She worked for Surry County for 12 years prior to working for the City of Mount Airy and guided the development of Fisher River Park and the Surry County Scenic Bike Route. She received her CPRP certification in 2010 and is currently Second Vice President for the North Carolina Recreation and Parks Association, member of the National Recreation Parks and Association, Past Chairperson for the City of Mount Airy United Fund Campaign, Secretary of the Reeves Community Center Foundation and is the Foundation Chair for Surry Sunrise Rotary. She continues to serve on the Women’s LeadHERship Conference Planning Committee. She has been successful in receiving 6 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grants for more than 1.8 million dollars in matching monies for local projects since 2001. Catrina attempts to strengthen community partnerships and assists the City Manager directly in the area of Public Information. She was the first recreation director for Surry County and the first recreation director for the City of Mount Airy. She was recently named Citizen of the Year by the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, an honor that she holds dear.
Young Professional Panel
Shawna Tillery – Planner at Greensboro Parks and Recreation
Shawna Tillery started off her schooling at UNC-Wilmington, majoring in Political Science with minors in Spanish and International Affairs. A year after graduating, Shawna moved to Greensboro to complete a Masters in Public Affairs at the UNC-Greensboro. After graduate school, Shawna worked at a Redevelopment Assistant for the City of Greensboro working with homeless grants, redevelopment area projects, and staff to the Redevelopment Commission. The next several years Shawna moved into the position of Community Development Administrator at the City of Burlington, managing two federal grants. Shawna is an active member of the Junior League of Greensboro having served in several leadership roles for the past seven years. She currently serves as the Planning and Project Development Division Manager from the City of Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department. In this role, she manage the departmental efforts in the areas of strategic and long-range planning, Capital Improvement Program, Capital Life Cycle Plan, and recreational bond referendums with regards to open space, greenways, trails, parkland and facilities.
Patricia Magby – Administrative Assistant at Goldsboro Parks and Recreation
A California native, Patricia Magby lives in Goldsboro, NC and is stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base with her currently deployed husband. She is a graduate of California Baptist University; holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. Although new to the Parks and Recreation world, Patricia has a unique take on how she has worked her way into an organization that was only looking for a 6-8 week temp. She began her career(s) outside of California in 2013 with EXOS athlete training facility in Pensacola, FL where she worked with athletes from the beginner to the professional level. Patricia currently works for Goldsboro Parks and Recreation as the Administrative Assistant for the department; this April will be her third year with the City of Goldsboro. Patricia is excited to share how she balances work, life, and being a young professional woman in a male dominated field.
Davina Bell – Recreation Manager at Wilmington Parks and Recreation
Davina received her Bachelor’s in Psychology from Marshall University in Huntington, WV and her Master’s in Sports Leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA. Her path to working in parks and recreation began while working part-time at the Short Pump YMCA in Henrico Co., VA during her time in grad school. Shortly after graduating, she received a job offer from Greenville Recreation & Parks in Greenville, NC for the Youth Athletics Recreation Assistant position, which she held for five and a half years before becoming the Youth Athletics Recreation Supervisor. After holding the Recreation Supervisor position for about a year and a half, she accepted the Recreation Manager position with the City of Wilmington Parks & Recreation Department in Wilmington, NC. As the Recreation Manager, she oversees a variety of facilities including community centers, a fitness center, a parent-child activity center and a nature center.