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 holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Ramapo College of New Jersey. Shortly after graduating in 1980, he began a career in retail management that lasted until 1999. During that time Hugh took up birding and nature study; and developed an avocation as an environmental advocate that included ten years’ service as president of The Fyke Nature Association (1993 – 2002). He was a founding member of the Bergen Open Space Coalition (BOSCo), the group that helped establish the Bergen County Open Space, Recreation, Historic and Farmland Preservation Trust in 1998.
Hugh’s avocation became his career in January 1999 when he left the retail world to volunteer fulltime at Hackensack Riverkeeper as an assistant to Captain Bill Sheehan. In July of that year he was named Coordinator of the Hackensack Meadowlands Preservation Alliance (HMPA). Over the next eighteen month under Hugh’s leadership, the ad hoc alliance grew tenfold from twelve to one hundred twenty member groups by January 2001 when its work was deemed complete. During that time, Hugh continued to work closely with Capt. Bill to expand the community outreach and educational effectiveness of Hackensack Riverkeeper (and he learned how to handle a boat).
In January 2001, Hugh joined the staff of Hackensack Riverkeeper as program director. Since then has overseen the organization’s Eco-Programs which engage upwards of ten thousand people annually. In June 2002 Hugh earned his 25-Ton Launch/Tender license from the U.S. Coast Guard (and the right to be called Captain). Each year he conducts upwards of 150 Eco-Cruises aboard the Riverkeeper vessel Robert H. Boyle. Hugh is also our organization’s wordsmith, writing or editing the majority of Hackensack Riverkeeper’s press releases, policy documents, newsletter articles and official correspondence. He leads the Hackensack RiverCreepers – our World Series of Birding team and administers the Becker-Vellekamp Environmental Scholarship.
In addition to his work at Hackensack Riverkeeper, Hugh continues to serve the environmental community as a volunteer. He is the Fyke Nature Association’s Land Trust Director; helping the group protect wildlife habitats in the Ramapo Mountains of Bergen County. He is also an active member of the Hudson River Chapter of Ducks Unlimited. Hugh served two terms (2012-13 and 2014-15) as president of the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education (ANJEE); and received the group’s Outstanding Environmental Educator award in 2005. While residing in the city, he served three terms on the Hackensack Environmental Commission from 2003-10.
Currently, Hugh is Hackensack Riverkeeper’s representative to three regional groups: the NYC-based Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance; the Nature Program Cooperative, the Bergen-based association of environmental education providers; and the Harbor Herons & Colonial Waterbirds Working Group, part of the NY/NJ Harbor Estuary Program.
Hugh and his wife, Dorothy have been married since 1984 and live in Maywood, NJ. They have two grown children – Daniel and Andrew – and a wonderful daughter-in-law Natalie, who is married to Dan. The empty-nesters spend their summer vacations each year birding, hiking, boating and enjoying nature in upstate New York, New England and the Canadian Maritimes.
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 valuable 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, they decided rather than move and begin all over again, decide 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 tried to teach herself to fish and was always walking or biking somewhere. Always looking up, Mary loves birding and astronomy, being 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 2013, 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.
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.”
Andrea Leshak, Staff Attorney
Andrea Leshak is the joint staff attorney for Hackensack Riverkeeper and NY/NJ Baykeeper. Previously, she was a Ford Foundation legal fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and has held internships with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Andrea is a graduate of New York University School of Law and Penn State University, where she studied Environmental Resource Management and Philosophy. Originally from Hershey, PA, Andrea grew up on her family’s dairy and crop farm, which is where she first developed her appreciation for nature and a desire to protect and conserve her natural surroundings. When she’s not working to protect the environment, Andrea enjoys running (including 2 marathons), attending concerts, and listening to podcasts.
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.