Kathy Swartz, Interim Executive Director

Kathy Swartz is thrilled to join Western Slope Conservation Center as the Interim Executive Director. Originally from Ohio, Kathy moved to the North Fork Valley almost 20 years ago and has made Paonia her homebase to pursue her passions of clean energy, locally grown food, and healthy watersheds.  “It is such an honor to have been asked to help WSCC during this transition because our public lands and watersheds are the heart of this valley. They are the reason why so many of us live here and WSCC is vital in their protection.”  Kathy previously served as the Executive Director for Solar Energy International, a world-renowned solar training non-profit based in Paonia and with campuses in Oman and Costa Rica. After serving for nine years, she left in 2021 for a long sabbatical to dive into her passion of food, including working at a local organic farm and at several of the local eating establishments. She also started a small catering company to use food as a catalyst to bring people together. When not running non-profits or cooking for others, Kathy can be found walking  her dogs, biking, and enjoying all the Valley has to offer.

Ben headshot

Ben Katz, Public Lands Program Director

Ben joined the Western Slope Conservation Center in 2019. He grew up in Connecticut and graduated from the University of Vermont in 2012 with a B.S. in Environmental Science. His interest in public lands began after college, when he worked as a Wilderness Ranger in the Weminuche Wilderness in San Juan National Forest. Travelling throughout southwest Colorado that summer, the natural landscapes and breathtaking scenery ingrained a desire to defend wild areas for future generations. After a second summer working as a Wilderness Ranger in the John Muir Wilderness, he moved into a role as a Wilderness Fellow with USFWS, writing baseline Wilderness character monitoring reports for Wilderness areas within wildlife refuges in Alaska and Nebraska. After working for a few years in water quality, Ben is excited to focus his efforts on protecting and preserving the public lands on the Western Slope. In his free time, he enjoys long distance backpacking, hiking, snowboarding, and relaxing with a good book.

You can reach Ben here!

Photo of Karen

Karen Tarnow, Community Outreach VISTA

Karen joined the Western Slope Conservation Center in February 2022 as the Community Outreach VISTA. She grew up in upstate New York and spent the majority of her adult years in Oregon. Unlike many VISTAs, Karen elected to become a VISTA at the end of her career rather than the beginning. She spent 20+ years working in environmental policy and planning for local, state and federal agencies. In 2018 she left that path to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in The Gambia where she helped her village improve food security and access to clean drinking water. She spent the last two winters volunteering at Capitol Reef National Park and vows to never spend another gray and rainy winter in the Pacific Northwest! Karen is excited to be part of the WSCC team and call Paonia home for a year (at least). She plans to spend her free time exploring the area on foot and bike, and spending many hours transforming the local bounty into tasty and healthful meals.

Give Karen a shout here!

photo of Heidi Hudek in front of Lamborn mountain at Sunset

Heidi Hudek, Bookkeeper

Heidi Hudek is an entrepreneur, a creative, and a mother. She owns her own business as a Bookkeeper, and is a professional musician and photographer. Heidi is a community advocate and connoisseur of locally grown foods. Heidi has been a Bookkeeper for various organizations for 4 years, including retail, restaurant, and design businesses, and she specializes in non-profits. She has been Treasurer, Secretary, and Executive Director of three nonprofits, and has been a Bookkeeper for six nonprofits. While raising her son as a single mom, Heidi has lived in Delta County since 2005. She sees the North Fork Valley as an inspirational place, worthy of celebration. She enjoys cooking at home with locally grown foods and values the land and water we enjoy here. Heidi works to build community connections and collaboration, and to provide arts education for kids.