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Our Staff

Meet the team.

Our Staff

We are a team of farmers, lawyers, fundraisers, creative minds, and land conservation experts who live and breathe our mission. We hike, we fish, and we’re regulars at local farmers markets. Most of all, we care about the people of Tennessee and are passionate about conserving land that is important to our communities.

Jake Blessing

Conservation Project Manager

Jake serves as a Conservation Project Manager for The Land Trust for Tennessee. In his role, he works directly with Tennesseans to achieve their vision for conservation on their land.

Jake grew up in Southeast Michigan, where as a kid he grew a wildlife garden in his backyard. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Williams College and a Master’s in Ecology from Cornell University.  Before coming to Tennessee, he worked for land trusts in Michigan and Montana, developing a passion for the conservation of working and recreational private lands.

Outside of work, Jake enjoys exploring rivers with a fishing rod, trying new things in his garden, and hiking in new and familiar places. He and his wife take any chance they can get to play outside with their two boys.

“I am honored to collaborate with landowners to protect some of Tennessee’s most beautiful and productive open spaces for future generations.”

Land Trust For Tennessee - Virginia Comer

Virginia Comer

Director of Development & Engagement

Virginia Comer develops meaningful partnerships and events that express the passion and skills we have for protecting land important to Tennessee. As Director of Development & Engagement, Virginia works collaboratively with supporters, vendors, and volunteers to create meaningful experiences that celebrate and garner support for The Land Trust.

Born in New Orleans and raised on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Virginia grew up surrounded by beautiful shorelines and river systems, as well as all of the recreational opportunities the Gulf of Mexico has to offer. She graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology after spending time working in development departments of the New Orleans Museum of Art, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, and Auburn University. Prior to joining The Land Trust, Virginia served as a Development Coordinator and later Development Manager of Annual Giving at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, where she oversaw the institution’s corporate giving and sponsorship program, as well as internal donor cultivation and appreciation events.

In her free time, Virginia enjoys cooking, hiking on nearby trails, and exploring Nashville’s historic places, or spending time with her dog Molly.

I learned at a young age that what is here today is not guaranteed to be here tomorrow. I am thrilled to work with such a thoughtful organization to help conserve these beautiful landscapes, so that they continue to exist for present and future generations.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Emma Davidson

Emma Davidson

Director of Transactions & General Counsel

Emma Davidson provides her legal expertise and passion for conservation to strengthen The Land Trust for Tennessee’s mission. Emma oversees land transactions, serves as project management for our conservation team, facilitates the legal needs of the organization, and serves as our General Counsel.

Emma grew up in New York City and graduated from Duke University, where she majored in psychology and minored in biology. Emma spent six years exploring the beautiful mountains and landscapes of Colorado where she earned her law degree. Eventually, Emma and her husband were drawn to Nashville in 2014 by the exceptional food, waters, and southern hospitality Tennessee has to offer. Emma joined our team as a volunteer in 2015 but quickly realized she had found a perfect fit at The Land Trust and formally joined the team within a few months.

Outside of work, Emma can be found walking the Warner Parks trails with her sons and dogs or enjoying a delicious meal at one of Nashville’s many renowned restaurants.

I love the variety of challenges my job offers—everything from negotiating a contract term to brainstorming conservation strategies for a unique property —but it is the people I get to work with each day that make my work particularly special.

Mary Grace Donaldson

Donor Engagement Coordinator

Mary Grace Donaldson fosters relationships built on a shared interest in protecting Tennessee’s unique character. As Donor Engagement Coordinator, Mary Grace manages donor data and serves as the staff liaison to The Land Trust’s Board of Directors.

Mary Grace grew up surrounded by Nashville’s rolling hills. While earning her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Covenant College and enjoying the scenic vistas of Lookout Mountain, Mary Grace developed an interest in stewarding our natural environment.

Previously, she provided policy and communications support to local elected officials through the UT Institute for Public Service. She has also worked with the United States Census Bureau and the Williamson County Election Commission. Mary Grace’s background in public service informs her sense of community across Tennessee and motivates her to care for the state through its natural resources.

Outside of work, Mary Grace can be found hammocking with a book on social science or religion, frequenting local bakeries, and reminding her family how to compost.

“The work of The Land Trust for Tennessee is both inspiring and grounding. I’m thankful to be a part of caring for Tennessee in the long-term through this organization.”

Gaston Farmer

Conservation Project Manager

Gaston Farmer serves The Land Trust as a Conservation Project Manager. Based in Chattanooga, Gaston works one-on-one with landowners and like-minded organizations to conserve Tennessee’s natural character. On a personal level, he believes in the unique power of connecting people to the open spaces and he brings a true passion to his role.

Born in the Chattanooga, Gaston has deep roots in the region: his ancestor served as mayor of the city back in 1880. After venturing to Georgia, Gaston returned to Chattanooga in 2010 to work for Rock Creek Outfitters managing several of their store locations. Over the past decade, Gaston has built strong ties to the community, especially within the outdoor industry. Prior to joining The Land Trust, he worked for Outdoor Sports Marketing as their Field Service Representative and subsequently with the Lula Lake Land Trust.

Gaston currently serves on Advisory Boards for the City of Red Bank’s Parks and Recreation Department and TwoBikes Chattanooga. He is also the Advocacy Director for Chattanooga’s Southern Off Road Bicycle Association, where he has also held previous volunteer roles focused on stewardship, trails, membership, and marketing.

Outside of work, Gaston is likely on a bike or amongst the flora and fauna. During recent years, his adventures have taken him on two trans-continental bicycle tours, instilling an everlasting appreciation for the spaces he’s been fortunate to travel through. Back home, Gaston has served on the Board of Directors for the Chattanooga chapter of Bike Walk Tennessee. Currently, he is the Stewardship Director for Chattanooga’s Southern Off Road Bicycle Association. He has previously held the volunteer positions of Trails, Membership, and Marketing Director.

It is a privilege to work with those who share the common goal to protect and preserve the natural resources and open spaces that compose our great state of Tennessee. I can think of no better team to be a part of and to carry out these efforts than The Land Trust for Tennessee.

Kate Hatfield

Glen Leven Project Manager

Kate Hatfield serves as the Project Manager for The Land Trust for Tennessee’s 64-acre farm and Nashville office, Glen Leven Farm. As the Glen Leven Project Manager, she is responsible for stewarding the property and acts as resident historian. Kate received her undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee and her masters in Historic Preservation from Middle Tennessee State University. While at MTSU, she worked at the Center for Historic Preservation and wrote her thesis on the history and gentrification of Nashville’s Edgehill neighborhood. As a graduate student, she interned with The Land Trust. It was during this time that her personal definition of preservation was broadened to encompass the work of land conservation. As a Nashville native, Kate has seen firsthand how quickly places can change and she is passionate about preservation. In her free time, Kate enjoys sewing, gardening, and working on her house in Inglewood.

“Glen Leven is an invaluable resource for connecting people to the land and its history, and I hope it acts as a model for the variety of ways places like it can be utilized.”

Anna Holman

Stewardship Coordinator

Anna Holman works closely with the Director of Stewardship to uphold over 400 conservation easements across the state. This includes annual monitoring of conserved land and communicating with landowners about their conservation easements.

As a native Tennessean, Anna is passionate about protecting this state’s beautiful landscapes. She graduated from UT Chattanooga with a degree in Environmental Science and a minor in biology. Prior to joining the Land Trust for TN Team, she worked at Long Hunter State Park, Appalachia CARES AmeriCorps, the Cumberland Trail State Scenic Trail, and Ivy Academy Environmental Charter School.

Anna spends her free time playing disc golf, canoeing with her husband and 12-year-old-dog, hiking, and camping.

“I am so humbled to be part of such an impactful organization, and I look forward to working with landowners and The Land Trust for Tennessee team to conserve Tennessee’s unique landscapes for future generations to come.”

Lillie Howell

Stewardship Field Coordinator

As the Stewardship Field Coordinator, Lillie visits protected properties across Tennessee. On her days in the Nashville office, she also assists with other components of the stewardship program including land management, working with landowners to understand their conservation easement, GIS mapping and analysis, and record keeping and data management. 


Lillie is a native of Nashville and a graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South. After working as an intern with The Land Trust in 2019, she went on to earn a master’s in environmental law & policy from Vermont Law School and an MS in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. She is thrilled to be back in her home state working to protect the special landscapes of Tennessee.  


In her spare time, Lillie can be found working in her vegetable garden, reading, and hiking at Radnor Lake. 


“Tennessee has been the backdrop for my life – I appreciate the strong sense of place we have here and feel passionate about protecting it for generations to come.” 

Land Trust For Tennessee - Luke Iverson

Luke Iverson

Director of Conservation Impact

As the Director of Conservation Impact for The Land Trust for Tennessee, Luke furthers our statewide conservation mission with his geospatial research, data analysis, and cartography expertise. Luke’s ability to create insightful, accurate maps enables us to better identify opportunities to protect valuable land facing critical threats

While born and raised in a small town outside of Chicago, Luke grew up working on his family’s cattle ranch in central Montana. His experiences in those vast, wild spaces gave him a love for nature, agriculture and open lands, with a desire to protect our natural, rural landscapes.

Luke’s love of music brought him to Nashville, where he graduated from Belmont University with a degree in philosophy. Luke joined The Land Trust for Tennessee in 2013 and has held many roles within the organization, ranging from fundraising to GIS specialist. Luke is based in our Chattanooga office, where he and his family enjoy exploring our beautiful state. You will often find them hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, or just plain exploring.

I love working for The Land Trust because I know the work I do helps to ensure that there will still be natural, untouched open spaces for future generations, as well as for this generation.

Lynn Lentz

Administrative Coordinator

Lynn Lentz serves The Land Trust for Tennessee team as the Administrative Coordinator. She is happy to be in a role that allows her to support the team in a variety of ways.

She was born in Western North Carolina, and while her family lived in other places, returning to visit family and “Grandaddy’s Mountain” has been a constant in her life.  Lynn is a graduate of the University School of Nashville and the University of Tennessee. Before coming to the Land Trust, she worked at Vanderbilt for many years coordinating educational programs. She and her husband, who is that rare Nashville native, live in Nashville. When not working, you are most likely to find her gardening, reading, and visiting children and grandchildren as often as possible.

“It is exciting and humbling to support the mission of the Land Trust for TN.  It feels like we’re saving the world one acre at a time for generations to come.”

Jackson Lundy

Jackson Lundy

Conservation Project Manager

Jackson Lundy works closely with landowners and partners to conserve important landscapes in Tennessee. Through his work, Jackson cultivates, engages and maintains relationships with private landowners to permanently conserve land.

Originally from Kingston Springs, Tennessee, Jackson grew up in Middle Tennessee and has developed an appreciation for the natural beauty of the area. Jackson earned his bachelor’s in environmental science from Sewanee: The University of the South. Jackson then spent two years working for TDOT where he facilitated land acquisitions for infrastructure projects in the Middle Tennessee area.

In his free time, Jackson can often be found exploring the many waterways of Tennessee by kayak. He enjoys hiking, fishing, running, and trying new restaurants. Jackson is also an avid sports fan.

“It’s inspiring to work with a group of committed staff and dedicated private landowners to protect the landscapes of our state for future generations to enjoy.”

Paul Malone

Director of Finance

Paul Malone works in partnership with The Land Trust Leadership Team and the Finance & Audit Committee to oversee the financial operations and financial planning of the organization.

Paul grew up in a suburb of Kansas City, Kansas, where he developed a deep appreciation for the outdoors through the beauty of tall grass prairies and open skies. He earned his Bachelor’s in Social Entrepreneurship and his Master’s in Accountancy from Belmont University. Paul is a licensed CPA and an active member of the AICPA and TSCPA. Before joining The Land Trust, he served in finance and development roles for Mending Hearts, The Brown Center for Autism, and the Tennessee office of the US Tennis Association. Most recently, Paul was a member of HCA Healthcare’s Internal Audit department where he performed financial and control audits of HCA hospitals across the US.

In his free time, Paul enjoys spending time cooking, tending his vegetable garden, hiking nearby trails, and reading sci-fi.

“I’m passionate about working with our team to ensure that we have the resources to fulfill our mission to protect uniquely special places throughout our state into perpetuity. I couldn’t think of a more powerful motivator than upholding the promise we’ve made to our partners, landowners, and fellow Tennesseans.”

Liz McLaurin

President & CEO

Liz McLaurin believes that land connects us to one another and reminds us that we are a part of the natural world. During her fourteen years of service to The Land Trust for Tennessee, Liz has been devoted to ensuring that the organization grows in its strength as one most effective, strategic, and respected land trusts in our nation.

Liz was drawn to Tennessee as a student by the sense of place offered by the Domain of Sewanee: The University of the South. She started her career in theatre, acting in both New York City and in regional theatre. Before joining The Land Trust for Tennessee, Liz held positions at universities, public television and public radio stations, and worked on political campaigns.

She is currently in Class IX of Leadership Tennessee, serves on the Land Trust Alliance National Leadership Council, the Williamson County Stormwater Appeals Board, and the Board of Franklin’s Charge.

Liz received the EQB Award from the Associated Alumni of The University of the South, is a graduate of Leadership Franklin, was a winner of Nashville Business Journal’s 2014 Women of Influence Awards and has been named to Nashville Post’s “In Charge” List for the last seven years. She has served on many nonprofit boards and advisory committees in communities she’s called home.

Liz lives with her husband, three sons, horses, and dogs on a farm in the Leiper’s Fork community of Williamson County.

We work with extraordinary landowners from all walks of life who have share a common perspective: they see the life of the land beyond their own lives. We all consider it a privilege to help them achieve their generous visions for their land. It is so fulfilling to work with such a dedicated team to protect these places that make Tennessee distinctive.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Kayla McBride

Kayla Noel

Director of Operations, HR, & Culture

Kayla Noel embodies the true team spirit of The Land Trust for Tennessee – dedicated, passionate, and always ready and willing to go the extra mile to support our mission. Kayla serves as Operations & Finance Manager, overseeing a wide range of tasks to ensure The Land Trust operates as efficiently as possible.

Growing up, Kayla fell in love with the beauty and adventure of the outdoors while exploring what was then rural Smyrna, Tennessee, with neighborhood friends and attending summer camp at Horton Haven Christian Camp in Chapel Hill, Tennessee. Kayla has long felt the importance of sharing nature and knowledge with future generations, especially through her work at Horton Haven as a camp counselor and then working with at-risk youth at Rocketown in Nashville. She graduated from Lipscomb University with a degree in Family Relations and Management.

Kayla spends her spare time sharing a meal and playing games with her family and friends. She enjoys gardening and seeking out historical and scenic landmarks with her husband, RC, and their dog, Beverly.

I love having a direct hand in the conservation of the land I have grown to cherish so much. I fully believe that what we are doing here is directly impacting the lives of the present and future generations for the better, and that makes what we do extremely important.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Sarah Orear

Sarah O’Rear

Director of Stewardship

Sarah O’Rear ensures we are actively upholding our 300+ conservation easements across the state. As Director of Stewardship, Sarah guides all of our stewardship activities, including annual monitoring of conserved land, reviewing and approving activity requests, and communicating with landowners about their conservation easements.

Sarah graduated from Sewanee: The University of the South with a B.S. in natural resources. She previously worked for the Kentucky Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, where she supported a wide range of projects, including drafting and monitoring conservation easements. Her education and experience have taken her from Belize to North Carolina.

Sarah spends her free time living it up with her husband and daughter in the outdoors-loving town of Chattanooga. Sarah is a hands-on mom who loves hiking, going to Lookouts games and concerts, and finding the best Mexican cuisine anywhere she goes. She has a travel bug that keeps her searching for the next great adventure.

 I feel fortunate that I get to see so many parts of my home state that I would normally never have the opportunity or excuse to see otherwise. But the best part is the amazing stories and experiences we hear from our landowners, it makes you realize how important your work is and how land shapes people’s lives.

Land Trust For Tennessee - Emily Parish

Emily B. Parish

Vice President

Emily Parish oversees the conservation and stewardship efforts of the Land Trust for Tennessee, including the projects of nine staff in the Nashville and Chattanooga offices. Emily joined The Land Trust as a Land Protection Assistant in 2004. The longest tenured member of the team, she has been instrumental in protecting more than 120,000 acres of land.

Emily earned her undergraduate degree from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and a Master’s in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School. She won the 2012 Nashville Emerging Young Leaders Award for “Environment & Sustainability.” Emily was a founding member of the Farmland Legacy Partnership, a 13-agency working group focused on the protection of Tennessee farmland.

Over the years, Emily has represented The Land Trust on The Tennessee Preservation Trust’s Board of Directors, the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association’s Board of Directors, and the Land Trust Alliance Standards and Practices Advisory Team. She currently sits on the USDA-NRCS Technical Committee and serves the Alliance’s Conservation Defense Committee as an alumni member. She also serves as the Southeast representative on the Land Trust Alliance’s Terrafirma Members Committee. Emily is nationally recognized as an expert on conservation easements and regularly presents on topics relating to land conservation.

Emily is also a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) graduate who’s hiked three 15,000-foot mountains.  Outside of work, Emily serves on the Glendale Elementary PTO. On the weekends she can be found lifting weights or enjoying time outside with her husband and two daughters.

I am inspired by the amazing people that I get to work with every day, who choose to protect their land for future generations of Tennesseans to enjoy.

Savanna Roaldsand

Savanna Roaldsand

Community Engagement Coordinator

As Community Engagement Coordinator, Savanna Roaldsand connects our communities with The Land Trust for Tennessee’s mission through engaging educational programs, outreach initiatives, and volunteer opportunities that focus on conservation.

Savanna, a Nashville native, received her B.A. in Sustainability from Sewanee: The University of the South. She previously lived in Asheville, NC,  where she worked in the non-profit conference and event space. She served as The Land Trust for Tennessee’s Conservation Volunteer Program Leader as an AmeriCorps member for eleven months before joining as full-time staff.

In her free time, Savanna loves walking Nashville’s vast greenways systems (particularly around the Harpeth River and Shelby Bottoms) and spending time with friends and her rescue pup, Hester.

Being a part of this incredible team, witnessing the genuine sense of responsibility and passion that ignites among fellow Tennesseans for conserving our cherished state’s important places forever, fills me with joy!

Land Trust For Tennessee - Mike Szmkowicz

Mike Szymkowicz

Associate Director of Stewardship

Mike Szymkowicz is committed to being a good steward of land. As the Associate Director of Stewardship, Mike coordinates our dedicated team of monitoring volunteers and is often out in the field meeting directly with landowners of conserved land.

Mike developed a love for the outdoors and open spaces while growing up in Upstate New York. When he wasn’t traveling to compete in sporting events, he was fishing the rivers with his father or exploring his family’s property with friends.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from The State University of New York at Potsdam in 2014, Mike relocated to Nashville where he became involved with The Land Trust as a passionate stewardship volunteer. Today, as a full-time member of our team, Mike serves as a great steward for the beautiful Tennessee landscapes he now calls home.

When he is not exploring Tennessee’s green spaces with his wife and family, Mike can be found enjoying live music, trying new places to eat, or working on a home improvement project.

Looking out over a protected property with the landowner is the best part of my job. There is mutual sense of comfort knowing the land we are looking at in that very moment will look similar in 5, 50, and 500 years.

Anna Walker

Events Coordinator

Anna Walker serves as the Events Coordinator for The Land Trust for Tennessee where she develops and executes meaningful events that support and further the mission of The Land Trust.

Anna was born and raised in Atlanta, lived in Orlando for a few years, and now resides in Nashville. She graduated from Berry College in Rome, GA, with a degree in communication with a focus in public relations and a minor in psychology. Professionally, she has worked as an event coordinator for a media association, planned and directed weddings, and served as a program coordinator for a non-profit that provides leadership training to students.

In addition to trying new restaurants or exploring new cities and national parks, she loves being outside in nature during her free time either hiking, paddle boarding, or gardening. New to Nashville, Anna looks forward to exploring the city’s history and beautiful surroundings.

“I have always felt that there is nothing quite like the joy of seeing an event come together, but even more than that, planning events that serve the mission of The Land Trust means my work every day contributes to a lasting impact. It is an honor to play a small part in our mission to conserve Tennessee for future generations.”