Our Board of Directors

President – Michael Roth

Michael Roth has been moving to increasingly smaller venues his whole life. Born in the Bronx in New York City where he went through the public school system and started at City College, he transferred to Binghamton, where he went to the State University gathering a Bachelor’s and then a Master’s degree in Accounting. After some years working in Binghamton, he moved to Fort Lauderdale which, in 1981, was still a relatively small city.

Having passed the CPA exam before leaving New York, he took a position as an accounting manager in a mid-sized local CPA firm, which led to a partnership a few years later, a position that he maintained for over twenty years. He specialized in small business accounting and taxation, and over the years developed an expertise and became credentialed in business valuation, where he served as an expert witness in many divorce and stockholder dispute matters.

While in South Florida, he became involved in the Fort Lauderdale Children’s theater, where he served on the Board of Directors for many years, including stints as Treasurer and President. He also became a barbershop singing aficionado and performer, serving as Treasurer and President for the local chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society.

After marrying Cindy Noel in 2003, they decided to go into business together, and licensed and opened a diet ice cream store/diet grocery, D’Lites, in Gainesville, Florida, trying to get away from the overgrown South Florida scene. While in Gainesville, Michael also served as Treasurer, Secretary and President with the local barbershop chapter there. In 2009, they found and purchased a property on the Santa Fe River near Branford, which served as a weekend and vacation home until shortly after they sold D’Lites in May, 2016, and moved to the Santa Fe River location permanently.

Vice President – Terry Phelan

Terry Phelan knew what she wanted and where she wanted to live. She and husband Andy moved from the hustle and bustle of Orlando to the casual, friendly atmosphere of High Springs in 2002 in part because of the springs and the Santa Fe River. Many weekends and evenings you will find them in their kayaks on the Santa Fe. They are the founders and the gears and wheels behind Madness & Mayhem, and she is currently vice president of that non-profit organization.

Terry has an A. A. degree with honors from Valencia Community College and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from University of Central Florida, graduating Summa Cum Laude.   This training enables Terry to bring to Our Santa Fe River her many skills in graphic design and photography, in which she majored in college.

Besides Madness & Mayhem, Terry has had experience working with the non-profit Lions Club in High Springs, and in 2013 she received the Lion of the Year Award. She has been very active in OSFR as a volunteer and has given many hours to our events and activities.  Board member since 2016.

Treasurer – Cynthia Noel

Cynthia Noel has been involved in business management for over 25 years. Previously full-charge bookkeeper for several businesses, co-owner of C.J. Worldwide Export and D’Lites of Gainesville, Inc., now currently retired. Knowledgeable in accounting, inventory control for wholesale and retail establishments, human resources and payroll duties.

She is currently the treasurer and administrator for Grow Gainesville, a local food production network, a Master Gardener Volunteer with Alachua County Extension Office, Membership Chair for Our Santa Fe River, Inc., and active in the Stop Sabal Trail Movement, through accounting, fundraising and steering efforts.

Cynthia is a local riparian land owner on the Santa Fe River and is passionate about the issues that are affecting our waterways. An avid gardener, she practices permaculture techniques to use natural resources for soil building, uses no pesticides and practices water conservation with rain collection devices.

She is known to work efficiently and effectively with others, in group settings and individuals, with a strong work ethic and high moral character.

Secretary – Patty Street

Patty Street was born in Dayton Ohio into a military family so has lived in many different places, but came south to make her home near the springs and rivers of North Central Florida. She brings many skills to the OSFR Board, as she holds a Master’s in English and has been a teacher in Georgia and Florida and a professional librarian. In addition to her teaching and librarian experience, she has also done fund raising, grant writing and possesses organizational talents.

The Columbia Seed Lending Library was founded by Patty and has been a huge success. Running totally on donations from large seed companies, vegetable and flower seeds are checked out (distributed free) to library card holders. She has been manager of the Columbia County Fort White Branch Library for the past 25 years and is a member of Columbia County Friends of the Library.

Patty moved to Gainesville in 1968, attended UF and has lived near Fort White and the Santa Fe River since 1980. She has a strong conviction to protect the river and our springs and believes that is its own reward. She is married with two sons, and in her spare time enjoys reading, gardening and relaxing on the river. Board member since 2015.

Director – Rhonda Long

Rhonda Long was an inevitable natural for board membership in OSFR.  She is what could be called a hardcore “Serial Volunteer,” since for the last 30 years she has been involved with many different organizations.  Starting in high school, she has helped Future Business Leaders of America, Dance Alive!, Insurance Professionals of North Central Florida, Madness & Mayhem, Our Santa Fe River, and several other non-profits.

Rhonda has been helping out OSFR as a volunteer for some time, and brings to the board multiple skills including grant writing, creative marketing promotions, fund raising, graphics for posters, brochures and printed media, and on top of that she is a great organizer.  Rhonda has a double pronged attitude which is “We’ll find a way to do it!” and “When do you want it?”  Two qualities not to be taken lightly.

She loves nature and animals and considers herself fortunate to have spent the past 20 years on Rum Island Springs where she raised her son.  Rhonda’s hope with OSFR is to join forces with like-minded individuals to bring together their combined efforts to maximize the awareness and education it will take to preserve our river, springs and aquifer, and also bring them back to their natural splendor.  This sounds rather like OSFR’s mission.  Board member since 2015.

Director – Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson

Merrillee calls home the banks of the Santa Fe River in North Central Florida. Married with two children, she and her husband created Rum 138, a family-run business which has become known as a landmark destination.  Their business is a fine art gallery with regional artists depicting the springs and rivers in North Florida, a Florida-based tourism in canoe/kayak rental, and  a local food restaurant. During her term as OSFR president Merrillee participated as a consultant on writing new curricula for the water studies program at Florida Gate College, gave lectures in secondary schools,and appeared on NPR to explain OSFR’s mission. Merrillee worked for a time with National Sierra Club – Florida as a campaign organizer working with citizens to become part of the process to be a voice for our natural resources.  She has worked directly on stopping Sabal Trail natural gas transmission pipeline, fertilizer and septic issues that impact our waterways, and banning fracking in our state.   Merrillee’s peace of mind is found in artistic expression and movements through direct action, taking great care of area cultural values along the way.  She earned an A.A. ’85, at USF in Tampa and a B.F.A. ’91, at Ringling College of Art in Sarasota.

Director – Kristin Rubin

Originally from SW Michigan, Kristin has lived in Jacksonville, Coconut Grove, and now, in High Springs as of 2010.  In 2005, after a camping trip, she and her husband decided this was an area that they liked and, wanting to live on the river, bought a home in 2006 and moved here in 2010.

From 1972 to 1984, Kristin was a flight attendant with National Airlines and Pan Am Airways.  Later, from 1990 to 1996, she volunteered at Coconut Grove Elementary in Miami, FL., and two of those years she was PTA President. They  generated approximately $30k-$40k a year parking cars in their sports field from the festivals held in Coconut Grove, monies that went to aftercare programs and tutoring.

Kristin worked for her husband as his office manager and other flex jobs in order to be able to be home with their children when needed. When they went away to university, she returned to work at the Clerk of Courts in Miami-Dade from 2006-2010, and also worked for the Alachua Clerk of Courts after moving to Alachua County.

As an Alachua County resident, Kristin volunteered for Women’s International Habitat for Humanity for two years, spending 6 months a year raising monies to build the house and the next six months building. During that period, they built two houses.  From  2014 to 2017 she also joined the Master Gardener’s program.

Kristin states, “As a member of the community and a resident on the Santa Fe River, I now want to help protect something that, once gone, might never be again.”

Director – Jim Tatum

Jim Tatum was born and raised on a farm in rural Custer County Nebraska. He graduated from University of Nebraska, Kearney in 1960 and received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Tulane University in 1962 and 1968 and spent 38 years teaching at the University of South Florida in Tampa.  He received a Fulbright Scholarship and a National Defense Education Act Title IV Scholarship for his graduate studies.

During his high school and college days, he played trumpet and sax in a dance orchestra.   Past hobbies include Indian artifact collecting, classic car restoration, gunsmithing, bird watching, taxidermy, flying (single engine, land), fossil preparation and woodworking. He has been diving Florida’s rivers for fossils since 1977 and currently does fossil preparation and woodworking.  He writes the posts for the OSFR newsletter.  He is an avid reader.

Jim has taught university courses in the National University of Mexico and in Honduras, and has published two books and many articles. As a youth he spent summers working for the Forest Service in Idaho and the Fish & Wildlife Service on Kodiak Island. He has traveled extensively, including Europe, South America, Alaska and remote areas such as the Northwest Territories, Siberia, China and Mongolia.. He is married with two sons, three stepdaughters and nine grandchildren and currently resides in rural Florida on the banks of the Santa Fe River near High Springs.  Board member from 2012-2013 and since 2016.

Director – Erik Wise

For most of his life, Erik lived in DeLand, FL. After graduating from high school he joined the Navy and was stationed in Groton, CT for four years before returning to DeLand. That is when he began working for Volusia County Utilities in 2001. He started as a Tradesworker as he went through college. Erik graduated from UCF with a B.S. in Public Administration and a minor in Urban and Regional Planning. After graduation, Erik was promoted to Environmental Specialist III. He has overseen environmental and regulatory compliance for 13 wastewater facilities and 18 water systems. All these varied in size. While at Volusia he gained several certificates as well as his drinking water license. He has worked with establishing BMAPs for Volusia springs and also nutrient reductions for major Wastewater facilities.

In 2015 Erik decided to leave Volusia County to take on a more prestigious title of Public Works Director in Bronson. According to Erik, “It has been a culture shock, but I feel I have made a great impact already.” In March 2016, Jeanette Ciesla and he moved into their home on the Santa Fe River in High Springs. They enjoy outdoor activities and support many organizations that help defend nature and our environment. They are also very interested in finding alternative ways of removing water hyacinth and becoming more involved in combatting the potential phosphate mine.

Erik is presently employed as Public Works Director for Bronson, Florida

Director – Bill Basta

Bill Basta was born and raised on Long Island Sound in southern Connecticut during the tumultuous ‘60s. He is a survivor of the Red scare, the Head scare, Woodstock, Watergate, the first Earth Day & the Arab oil embargo. He backpacked across Europe during the summer of ‘72. He somehow managed to stay a little focused to earn his BLA from SUNY, College at Purchase (1973). Bitten by the travel bug, the backpacking trip led to several attempts to find a way to travel more, including a marginally successful import/export venture to Peru in the mid seventies.

Married In 1979, and disgusted with the hustle & bustle, the NYC commuting, Bill & bride moved to St. Augustine Beach. Not wanting to be a well-educated waiter all his life, he enrolled and graduated from the St. Augustine VoTech in Solar and Alternative Energy Technology. He helped write the first Florida Model Energy Efficiency Code, fought for the licensure of solar contractors, and became very interested in energy efficient building design for the southern climate. Bill became one of the first State of Florida Certified Solar Contractors in 1981.

In 1982, Bill was hired by the NAHB to teach solar energy installation in southern Georgia. His children were born on St. Simon’s Island, and they were immediately immersed in the life of water. The election of 1986 brought about a near collapse of the solar industry, so in 1989, the family sadly moved back to Fl (Safety Harbor) where Bill entered the world of environmental consulting in Tampa. He became involved in asbestos, lead based paint, indoor air quality, and industrial hygiene projects. In 1993, he graduated from USF with an MPH in Environmental & Occupational Health.

In 1994, tired of the bustle of Tampa, Bill accepted a transfer to the Air Division of the Gainesville office to work on environmental contracts with the Navy. The family moved to High Springs and he has been in this area ever since. The transition to a fresh water environment was a struggle until his introduction to the springs along the Santa Fe and Suwannee. A quick dip at Rum Island or Poe Springs became part of the family routine. The family would often take weekend trips to the Rainbow, Silver River as well as many of the springs throughout the state. Bill did satisfy his salt water roots by getting a little fishing shack by Keaton Beach where the family and friends enjoyed shallow water fishing, and, of course, scalloping.

On behalf of the Navy, he has travelled extensively throughout the southern half of the US, and made occasional trips to Europe and the Caribbean.

Bill recently retired after 30 years in the environmental field. He looks forward to advocating for the entire ecosystem of the rivers, springs, and the Florida Aquifer.

Director – Travis Smith

Travis Smith was born in 1987 in Gainesville Florida. He was raised in Lake City until the age of 12 when he moved to High Springs Florida. When he was 18 he enlisted in the U.S. Army with classification  88M (heavy equipment operator). He was deployed in 2007 on a 15-month deployment and returned in 2009 from Kuwait / Iraq.  He was discharged as E4 promotable/ available for sergeant recommendation E5 and was released with General/Honorable conditions.

Travis has been engaged  as an artist/tattoo artist. He has two sons – Ethan Manning Smith who is 10 years old and lives with his mother who was Travis’s first wife. He then remarried to “my beautiful wife Jessica” in 2015 the same year that they had his second son Siris Manning Smith.

Travis says “I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors and the river was always one of my favorite places to spend time from a young age until now. I’ve always been a clean person and kept up after myself. After a trip to Raven Cliff North Carolina in 2019 my younger brother Maverick and I were on a camping trip where we noticed an abundance of trash on the trail. Upon returning home we noticed that we didn’t have to travel too far. In December 2019 we decided to start a YouTube channel called Trail Trash Outdoors where we educate others on how to pack out your trash and help clean the environment. YouTube gave us a platform to share our experiences and show others that this is a problem bigger than us and it’s going to take all of us to change it. Since the start of our Channel we have organized a mass clean-up and spoke at BOCC meetings to bring more awareness to our Rivers problem.”

“Any opportunity to spread the word or educate more people is what I’m looking for… Education is very important not only for others but myself as well. The more I know, the more I can teach. As far as the future goes, I’m not sure what it will hold but I’m sure it will be great!”

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