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SENIOR MANAGEMENT

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Brian Wiedenmeier

Executive Director

Brian brings over 15 years of nonprofit management, public policy, and fundraising experience to his role as Executive Director of Friends of Urban Forest. Brian joined the organization in 2021 after serving as Executive Director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. He is thrilled to lead a talented and passionate team in ensuring that all San Franciscans benefit from a robust urban canopy and neighborhood green space. Brian can often be spotted riding to Hawk Hill and he indeed appreciates that our office in the Presidio falls on his bike route.

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Mike Yarak

Program Director

ISA Certified Arborist WE-11781A

Mike joined Friends of the Urban Forest as an intern in 2015, right after graduating from San Francisco State University with a degree in Environmental Studies. What brought him to Friends of the Urban Forest was his love for trees. What has kept him here since then is the community engagement and participation to get more trees planted. Outside his interest in all things related to trees, Mike enjoys skateboarding and camping in the wilderness.

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Jim Rogers

Finance and Contracts Director

As Friends of the Urban Forest’s Finance and Contracts Director, Jim brings 10+ years of nonprofit management, accounting, and information systems experience to the role. Prior to this role, Jim held the positions of Controller at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Finance Manager at Greater Farallones Association. Jim enjoys running and hiking near his home in Woodacre, and he can also be found backpacking or backcountry skiing in the Sierra Nevada range.

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Paawan Kothari

Marketing and Communications Director

Paawan joined Friends of the Urban Forest in 2022 in the newly-created position of Marketing and Communications Director. She brings 15+ years of marketing experience from a range of organizations and thrives on building/elevating brands and people through storytelling. Paawan is an avid hiker, and her latest hobby is to count the Friends of the Urban Forest signs during her urban hikes in the city, a skill she has yet to master (there are so many, she loses count!).

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Kelsey Roeder

Director of People and Operations

Born and raised in Northern California, Kelsey has always loved the natural environment. Since earning a degree in Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice from SF State, she’s gained over 10 years of nonprofit leadership experience. Before joining Friends of the Urban Forest in 2023, she was the Director of People and Operations at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. When she’s not working, Kelsey enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, and being in the top 1% of Beyoncé listeners on Spotify.

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Roberta Catalinotto

Vice President, Development

During her 25+ years in the field, Roberta has led development programs for a broad range of nonprofits, including community-based, national and international organizations, and museums such as the Smithsonian Institution. When she became VP for Development at Friends of the Urban Forest in 2018, she felt that she had finally “come home,” because Friends of the Urban Forest’s mission combines her passions for the environment, social justice, and urban planning. Roberta is a life-long student, a political activist, and a serious hiking enthusiast.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

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Alison Torbitt

Co-Chair, Engagement Committee

Lives in: East Bay

Alison is an Energy and Environment partner at Nixon Peabody, helping clients find sustainable solutions to environmental problems, looking for ways to mitigate risk while reducing pollution. She’s the co-chair of Nixon Peabody’s Legally Green Initiative, overseeing a $2M biennial pro bono commitment. Previously she worked as an aquatic toxicologist, utilizing her BS in Aquatic Biology from UC Santa Barbara. She received her JD from the University of Oregon, graduating first in her class. An avid scuba diver since age 15, Alison has been on 300+ dives around the world. Alison joins the Board to help improve San Francisco’s urban environment, increasing tree equity and pushing back against the devastating impacts of climate change. 

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Katie McCloskey John

Neighborhood: Russian Hill

Katie is a Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), focusing on technology-driven transformation with expertise in carbon accounting and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives. Her passion for sustainability was sparked during her college years when she studied abroad in Northern Europe, with a focus on landscape architecture, sustainable transit and waste management. Originally from the Bay Area, Katie holds a degree in Geography from the University of California, Berkeley. She enjoys exploring the outdoors, travel and photography.

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Ray Schreiber

Chair

Chair, People and Operations Committee

Co-Chair, Engagement Committee

Neighborhood: Potrero Hill

Ray joined FUF’s Board in 2020 after having been a Volunteer Planting Leader since 2018. The longtime San Francisco resident believes in the power of trees to improve lives, fight climate change, and make everyone smile. He is committed to restoring and establishing a healthy, thriving tree canopy, especially in underserved neighborhoods.

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Victor Ruiz-Cornejo

Neighborhood: Mission District

Victor Ruiz-Cornejo serves as a policy advisor to San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed, with a focus on small business, economic recovery, arts & culture, cannabis, entertainment & tourism, and LGBTQ policy. Previously, Victor was Communications Director for Senator Scott Wiener. He joined the Friends of the Urban Forest board in 2022. Throughout his life Victor has had a love of plants and nature. Growing up he learned to garden with his mom, and believes everyone benefits from being surrounded by nature. Victor received a degree in International Relations from Stanford University. He was born and raised in Sonora Mexico, before immigrating to the United States at 8 years old.

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Jim Emery

Lives in: San Francisco

Jim grew up in New Hampshire, with woods providing infinite opportunities for play and a natural classroom. He nurtured his life-long love of plants with high school summer jobs at the local garden center. Jim studied botany and evolutionary biology in college; upon graduation, the American Botanical Society named him Young Botanist of the Year. He moved to San Francisco in 1989, putting down roots and raising his daughter here. Jim spent the last 20 years of his law career at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office. He retired in 2023 and is excited to support Friends of the Urban Forest. Jim received his BA and MS in Biology from Yale, and his JD from New York University.

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Lara Hitchcock

Chair, Fundraising, Development, Marketing, and Outreach Committee

Neighborhood: Sunset District

Lara is the Associate Vice President of People Strategy for the YMCA of San Francisco, focusing on culture, employee experience, organizational decision making, and internal communications. Prior to her current role, Hitchcock served as the Executive Director for two YMCAs in the GGNRA, working with partners across government, non-profit, foundation, and corporate functions to provide community programs in healthy living, youth development, and social responsibility. Hitchcock holds a BS from Boston College and loves hiking in her neighborhood and in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area with her husband and teen sons.

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Shaila Parikh

Neighborhood: Bernal Heights

Shaila fell in love with the trees of San Francisco over 10 years ago, walking along tree-lined Folsom Street in the Mission District. She believes a vibrant urban tree canopy is critical for physical and mental well-being and vital in addressing climate change. She is thrilled to be serving on the board. For the last 10 years, Shaila has helped build and scale fast-growing companies in healthcare and tech. Before that, she worked with communities in developing countries addressing issues of health, education, and economics. You can often find Shaila wandering the narrow, mulched pathways of the San Francisco Botanical Garden with her son and husband. 

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Josh Bagley

Chair, Finance and Audit Committee

Neighborhood: Outer Richmond

Josh is the Deputy Chief Business Officer for the Presidio Trust, helping to transform the historic Presidio into America’s first financially self-sufficient national park site and ensuring that the Presidio will be visited and loved by all forever. Josh believes in the power of trees to improve personal health, mitigate climate change, and increase economic stability. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children, and they enjoy reading books, exploring parks, taking hikes, little league baseball, and youth soccer (for which Josh is a volunteer coach). He earned a BS in Urban Planning from the University of Southern California. 

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Lindy Patterson

Neighborhood: Mission District

Lindy brings to the board more than fifteen years’ experience as a brand strategist and creative director, focused on helping mission-driven companies and nonprofits build powerful brands and influence positive change. A long-time San Franciscan and environmental justice advocate, Lindy believes deeply in the importance of urban green space and is dedicated to forwarding the role it plays in making our city healthier, happier, and more beautiful. She also loves biking, reading, disc golf, and growing things.

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Stephanie Noble

Neighborhood: Glen Park

Stephanie started volunteering with Friends of the Urban Forest in 2017 and joined the Board in 2024. She volunteers often as a Planting Leader. Stephanie’s life centers on urban sustainability, equity, and humanism. Her master’s thesis considered the health outcomes of investments in municipal infrastructure such as bike lanes, street trees, transit, and affordable housing. She moved to California to work for the City of San Jose, where she received a Pride of San Jose award for her work on the launch of a department of clean energy. Stephanie currently works for the City Auditor of Oakland, where she evaluates and recommends improvements to the effectiveness and equity of City programs.

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