1000 Friends Staff & Offices

Russ Hoeflich, Executive Director

Russ Hoeflich
Executive Director
(503) 720-6656 | russ@friends.org

Russ has a storied history of protecting Oregon lands. He served as the former State Director of the Oregon Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) before becoming Vice President and Senior Policy Director for TNC’s national Restoring America’s Forests Program. He was last acting as President of The Peregrine Fund. He also worked on the Ballot Measure 49 campaign to restore the Oregon land use planning program. 

Hoeflich brings a breadth of leadership experience to 1000 Friends of Oregon, which he will deploy to drive growth for the organization as they pursue ambitious policies in housing, transportation, farm and forest conservation, and community development. His deep passion for Oregon and the legacy of the state’s pioneering land use system drives Hoeflich’s vision for an even stronger, more impactful 1000 Friends in the years ahead.

With roots in Portland going back to the late 1890’s, Russ Hoeflich immediately connected to 1000 Friends’ history. Founded by Governor Tom McCall in 1975, 1000 Friends was established to protect Oregon’s nascent land use laws – a pioneering legislation now modeled in many parts of the world. More than 40 years later, the organization uses those laws to address the impacts of rapid population growth, inequitable housing access, urban pressure on our farm and forest lands, the changing face of food production, climate change, and the need for a modern transportation system.

 

Mary Kyle McCurdy, Deputy Director

Mary Kyle McCurdy
Deputy Director
(503) 497-1000 x130 | mkm@friends.org

Mary Kyle McCurdy earned her BA in Human Biology from Stanford University and her law degree from the University of California at Davis. She served as a law clerk to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Edward Leavy. After two years in private practice, she joined 1000 Friends in 1990 as a staff attorney. She had served 1000 Friends as Policy Director, Staff Attorney, and Deputy Director. With over 30 years working with Oregon land use laws, Mary Kyle is a state leader and trusted voice on equitable land use, housing, transportation, urban planning, and climate solutions.

Ben Asher, Office Project Assistant

Ben Asher
Office Project Assistant
ben@friends.org

A graduate of the University of Kansas, Ben settled in the Northwest for its mild climate. He has a background in proofreading and currently works in various offices around Portland. He first joined 1000 Friends as a volunteer in 2016, and continues to volunteer with Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

Kate Bemesderfer, Director of Membership & Member Services

Kate Bemesderfer
Director of Membership & Member Services
(503) 497-1000 x133 | kate@friends.org

Kate joined 1000 Friends in 2017 after working for several years as the Donations & Communications Manager for EarthShare Oregon, an environmental fundraising nonprofit and network of which 1000 Friends is a founding member. Kate's nonprofit experience spans 20 years and 5 states, and ranges from developing audiences for an offbeat community theater, to establishing a school for young adults with autism, to managing events and public relations for a national landmark, to co-organizing an internationally-recognized 3-day music an cultural festival. She holds a BA in Psychology and Religious Studies from New York University and has advanced training in Applied Behavior Analysis.

Alexis Biddle, Circuit Rider | Urban Lands Advocate

Alexis Biddle
Circuit Rider | Urban Lands Advocate
(503) 497-1000 x8 | alexis@friends.org

Alexis joined 1000 Friends in 2018 as the Urban Circuit Rider addressing issues within urban growth boundaries throughout the state. He holds undergraduate degrees in Geography and Philosophy from Kent State University in his home state of Ohio, and a Masters in Community and Regional Planning and a Law degree from the University of Oregon. While in law school, Alexis was a commissioner on Eugene's Sustainability Commission. He has worked at the Oregon Department of Transportation and as a consultant working on issues related to emerging transportation technologies such as automation and shared mobility. He is particularly concerned with the equity and land use implications of the rapidly evolving transportation industry. Alexis is currently based in our Eugene office.

Lily Burnett, Executive Coordinator & Board Liaison

Lily Burnett
Executive Coordinator & Board Liaison 
(503) 497-1000 x129 | lily@friends.org

Lily joined 1000 Friends in February 2018. Originally from Los Angeles, she studied Theater Arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz where she earned her BA before moving to Portland, OR. Lily has been here for 6 years now and has worked with many local, arts-focused nonprofits such as: Kúkátónón, Vanport Mosaic Festival, The Color of NOW, Cerimon House, and BodyVox. She is excited to be a part of the 1000 Friends team!

Meriel Darzen, Circuit Rider | Rural Lands Attorney

Meriel Darzen  
Circuit Rider | Rural Lands Attorney
(503) 497-1000 x7 | meriel@friends.org

Meriel joined 1000 Friends of Oregon in 2016 as the Circuit Rider Staff Attorney. She focuses on land use issues affecting rural Oregon and rural Oregonians, including the conservation of farm and forest lands. Meriel has a law degree and a Masters in Forest Resources from the University of Washington and a Bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University. Prior to joining 1000 Friends, Meriel practiced law in Bend and volunteered with numerous organizations including Sierra Club and Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Before becoming an attorney she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic where she helped build a USAID-funded fruit-tree nursery.   

Sam Diaz, Community Engagement Manager

Sam Diaz  
Community Engagement Manager
(503) 497-1000 x122 | sam@friends.org

Sam returned to 1000 Friends of Oregon in December 2018 to manage our Land Use Leadership Initiative and our strategic partnerships. Sam brings philanthropic and public sector experience, including managing environmental conservation portfolios at the Resources Legacy Fund and as part California Governor Jerry Brown's administration. He is an alumnus of the Clean Energy Leadership Institute and holds a JD from Lewis & Clark Law School with a certificate in Environmental, Natural Resources, and Energy Law.

Greg Holmes, Food Systems Program Director & Southern Oregon Advocate

Greg Holmes

Food Systems Program Director & Southern Oregon Advocate
(541) 474-1155 | greg@friends.org

Greg joined 1000 Friends in 2002 as the Southern Oregon Advocate, and is currently based in our Grants Pass office. He holds a Masters degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon. Prior to joining 1000 Friends, Greg spent more than 15 years in the energy policy field, including ratepayer advocacy and helping clients identify energy efficiency investment strategies. He also did transportation advocacy work, and has served as a board member or consultant to several nonprofit organizations. Greg became our Food Systems Program Director in 2015, and holds leadership roles in the Rogue Valley Food System Network and the Oregon Community Food Systems Network.

Robin Jennings, Administrative Assistant

Robin Jennings
Administrative Assistant
(503) 497-1000 x125 | robin@friends.org

Prior to joining 1000 Friends in June 2008, Robin Jennings worked for 13 years for the American Tinnitus Association as Executive Assistant. Robin moved with her family to Oregon from Hawaii in October of 1967. Her first memory of Oregon is the color gray. She earned her BS in History from Portland State University. 

Madeline Kovacs, Portland for Everyone | Program Coordinator

Madeline Kovacs
Portland for Everyone | Program Coordinator
(503) 497-1000 x137 | madeline@friends.org

Prior to joining 1000 Friends, Madeline worked for Orange Splot LLC, a small housing development company and general contractor. She has also interned for two years at the City of Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability. In addition to her experience in urban planning, Madeline brings over a decade of entrepreneurial nonprofit fundraising, organizing, and leadership gained predominantly through her work with the youth climate movement, including 3 years co-directing Project Survival Media. She earned her BA in Political Science with a minor in Environmental Studies from Macalester College. Madeline also serves on the board of Proud Ground. 

Emily Mercer, Development Associate | Gift Processing & Data Management

Emily Mercer
Development Associate | Gift Processing & Data Management
(503) 497-1000 x134 | emily@friends.org

Emily joined 1000 Friends in 2018. She holds a BA in Media Arts from the Evergreen State College and is currently pursuing a Masters in Archives and Records Administration from San Jose State University as part of a distance learning program. Emily has volunteered at several non-profits working to improve the urban tree canopy, restore native species, and educate citizens about environmental legislation. At 1000 Friends, she gleans from previous professional experiences including higher education student database management, independent theater management, and technology tutoring aiming to bridge the digital divide. A true lover of Oregon, Emily is thrilled to be on the 1000 Friends team! 

Wendy Mitchell, Development Director

Wendy Mitchell
Development Director
(503) 497-1000 x126 | wendy@friends.org

Wendy joined 1000 Friends in 2018, bringing more than 40 years of nonprofit development expertise from a career that has taken her from California, to Hawaii, to Oregon. Most recently, she spent 4 years as the Development and Community Relations Director for the World Forestry Center. Originally from Boston, Wendy first came to Portland more than 20 years ago, landing at Portland Japanese Garden as their first Development Director, and raising $1.25 million in her first 10 months. She loves gardens, having worked with the University of California Botanical Garden for many years, as well as with the Lan Su Chinese Garden in downtown Portland. She holds MA degrees in Psychology and Education, and is also a child therapist by training and a practicing women's health therapist and coach.

Megan Newell, Development Associate | Digital Media & Graphic Design

Megan Newell
Development Associate | Digital Media & Graphic Design
(503) 497-1000 x135 | megan@friends.org

Megan joined 1000 Friends in 2018. Originally from Yakima, WA, Megan holds a BFA in Graphic Design from Seattle University and has 6 years of experience working as a graphic designer for various organizations, businesses, and within the education sector. She also has many years of experience working in an volunteering for nonprofits, including serving as a Jesuit Volunteer in Baltimore, and as a mentor in the YMCA ASPIRE Program in Yakima. Most recently, she served as Executive Director of Tieton Arts & Humanities, a nonprofit that develops arts and cultural events in the small, rural town of Tieton, WA.