Captain Bill Sheehan, The Hackensack Riverkeeper
Captain Bill Sheehan is a lifelong resident of the Hackensack River Watershed region, having lived most of his life in Union City and Secaucus, New Jersey. He is the dedicated conservationist who founded Hackensack Riverkeeper in 1997 and continues to serve as the organization’s Executive Director.
Captain Bill, as most people know him, holds a 25-Ton Launch/Tender Master’s license from the US Coast Guard, which he first earned in 1995. Since then he has commanded a series of Riverkeeper research vessels including the Queen Mary E, Robert H. Boyle, Edward Abbey; and currently the Geraldine Theresa. It is from the helm of a boat that Bill does his best work: advocating for, educating about, and patrolling the Hackensack River. And he does so six months out of each year.
In addition to his tireless work in our office and in the field, Bill serves the greater good of our watershed region in many other ways. He is a founding and longstanding member of the Bergen County Trust Fund Public Advisory Committee, and current Chair of the Meadowlands Conservation Trust; the latter being the agency charged with acquiring, holding and managing conservation properties in the Meadowlands and throughout the Hackensack River watershed.
Hackensack Riverkeeper is a founding member of Waterkeeper Alliance, the international coalition of over 300 clean water advocates working on, along and for waterways across the globe. Captain Bill currently serves as the Northeast regional representative on the Waterkeeper Council, one of the Alliance’s governing boards. He is often called upon to mentor rookie Waterkeepers – a job he very much enjoys.
Bill is in great demand as a conference presenter and knowledgeable speaker who will travel almost anywhere to share the river’s ongoing story to audiences large and small.
Both Captain Bill Sheehan and Hackensack Riverkeeper (the organization) have been recognized for their work on numerous occasions by media, government and the environmental and business communities. Proof of that is on the plaques and awards that fill the walls and line the shelves at 231 Main Street.
When he is not conducting Eco-Cruises, chairing meetings, or otherwise advocating for protection, preservation and restoration of the Hackensack River Watershed, Captain Bill enjoys rock and roll music, watching movies with his longtime girlfriend Mary Ellen, and (of course) casting a line into his favorite river.
Hugh Carola, Program Director
Captain Hugh Carola graduated Ramapo College of New Jersey with a BA in Political Science in 1980. During the late 80s he took up birding and developed an avocation as an environmental advocate that included ten years’ service as president of the Ramsey, NJ-based Fyke Nature Association (1993 – 2002). In 1998 he co-founded the Bergen Open Space Coalition, which established the Bergen County Open Space, Recreation, Historic and Farmland Preservation Trust.
Hugh’s avocation led to a career change in January 1999 when he left retail management to volunteer full-time at Hackensack Riverkeeper. In July 1999 Capt. Bill Sheehan selected him to serve as Coordinator of the Hackensack Meadowlands Preservation Alliance. Under his leadership, that ad hoc group grew tenfold from twelve to one hundred twenty member groups by January 2001 when its work was deemed complete.
That same month he joined the staff of Hackensack Riverkeeper as Program Director. In June 2002 he earned his 25-Ton Master’s License from the U.S. Coast Guard. Each year he conducts upwards of 150 Eco-Cruises aboard the 30-foot research vessel Robert H. Boyle II and oversees environmental programs that engage over 10,000 people each year. Hugh is also Riverkeeper’s wordsmith, writing or editing the majority of the organization’s official correspondence. Additionally, he leads the Hackensack RiverCreepers in the World Series of Birding and administers the Ron Vellekamp Environmental Scholarship.
Hugh represents Hackensack Riverkeeper as a member of four regional groups: the Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains, the NYC-based Waterfront Alliance; the Bergen-based Nature Program Cooperative, and the Harbor Herons & Colonial Waterbirds Working Group – part of the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Program.
New Jersey’s environmental community also benefits from Hugh’s volunteerism.
He’s Fyke’s Land Trust Director; an active member of the Hudson River Chapter of Ducks Unlimited; and a Trustee of the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education (ANJEE). Hugh served two terms as ANJEE president (2012-13 and 2014-15) and received the group’s Outstanding Environmental Educator award in 2005.
Hugh’s wife Dorothy teaches high school in Newark, NJ. They have been married since 1984 and live in Maywood, NJ. They have two grown, married children: Daniel and Andrew. The empty-nesters spend their summer vacations each year birding, hiking, boating and enjoying nature & history in New England and Canada.
Mary A. Knight, Operations Director
Hailing from a career in the for-profit retail world and many years as a volunteer in the non-profit sector, Mary has acquired many skills which have proved invaluable in her position with Hackensack Riverkeeper. Mary, together with her husband of over thirty years, owned and operated a highly successful retail florist in Upper Montclair. When they realized they outgrew the space, rather than move and begin all over again, they decided to retire from the flower business.
Mary has always enjoyed the great outdoors. Growing up in an inner city environment, she cherished going to Grandma’s house in the country. By age 7 she attempted to teach herself to fish, unsuccessfully. With her family not owning a car, she would walk or bike. Always looking up, Mary loves birding and astronomy, fascinated with the changing skies day or night. She still loves to be on the water, fishing or paddling, when not out on the water, you will find her cooking or antiquing- a great way to repurpose items and reduce waste!
Passionate about the world around her, Mary found out about Hackensack Riverkeeper in the newspaper and always wanted to take “one of those Eco Tours”. A busy schedule did not allow that to happen, at least not until a job posting became available.
Having spent most of her adult life around boats and being mechanically inclined, Mary’s can-do attitude is apparent. Whether it is behind a desk or under the hull, Mary possesses many of the skills it takes to get the job done. Mary feels her part is just a small piece in a huge puzzle of helping protect our precious environment and that she was made for this work, calling it her “dream job”.
In 2014, Mary led the way to bring the first-ever, Bergen County Earth Day celebration to life. Hackensack Riverkeeper and Bergen County hosted EarthFest Overpeck a day which featured vendors, food trucks live music and another first, a recycled regatta! This event will be held annually with a purpose to raise awareness about our work and the importance of a healthy environment. In the same year, she was appointed to the Environmental Commission in her present hometown of Bloomingdale.
Fishing is probably the top favorite of Mary’s long list of outdoor activities, and in 2016 conceived and successfully hosted Riverkeeper’s first fishing derby – RiverFest:Pirates of the Hackensack. With nearly 200 people in its inaugural year, this pirate-themed event, and over half of the participants were children. Thanks to our event partners, Hudson River Fishing Association (HRFA), every child went home with a rod and reel of their own.
2014 – Commissioner, Bloomingdale Environmental Commission
2016 – Secretary, Hudson River Fishermen’s Association
2017 – Bloomingdale 100th Anniversary Planning Committee
2017 – Women Build Committee
Jodi Jamieson, Project Manager
Jodi found her way to Riverkeeper in 2010 after several years as an art director and design manager in educational publishing. She is a founding member of the Coalition to Preserve the Palisades Cliffs, a former Sierra Club group chair, and a strong advocate for urban parks and open space.
Jodi runs the Urban Watershed Education Program, which introduces hundreds of urban middle school students to their river, pollution and the environmental issues which affect their communities. In addition, she is developing a 26.2 mile-long Hackensack River Paddle Trail. She is also working to reestablish traditional migration and spawning grounds for river herring through the creation of a fish ladder at the Oradell Dam. “Developing places for people to recreate along the river, creating an opportunity for fish to return to their historic spawning grounds – these are things that add value, interest and delight to the Hackensack River. It’s all part of a process to bring these urban areas back to places of wonder. I find this exciting and am proud to be a part of it,” said Jodi. “Working for Hackensack Riverkeeper combines my love of the outdoors, being on the water, and my passion for a clean environment.”
Caitlin Doran, Outreach Coordinator
Caitlin Doran is a graduate of William Paterson University, with a B.A. in English literature. Before coming on as Outreach Coordinator for Hackensack Riverkeeper, she was an editorial and marketing associate for a Hackensack-based public relations firm, as well as the blogger for an online start-up. Some of her most formative years were spent serving up food at a favorite local eatery, The Roxbury Diner, while simultaneously picking up a little Greek and Spanish. An environmental hobbyist, she was a member of her hometown’s green team and other volunteer groups. She now runs the Clean-up Program at Hackensack Riverkeeper. When away from her desk and not cleaning up, Caitlin can be found attending concerts, playing the trumpet, enjoying the great outdoors, exploring New York City, scribbling in a notebook, and drafting better bios.
Michele Langa, Staff Attorney
Michele Langa interned and externed with Hackensack Riverkeeper working alongside former staff attorney Chris Len.
Jennifer Gannett, Grant Manager
Jennifer Gannett has a long history with Hackensack Riverkeeper issues.
Mike Panos, Donor Relations
Mike Panos is a long time friend of Hackensack Riverkeeper, and is very involved in Ducks Unlimited, another organization with a focus on conservation.