A farewell from Executive Director Shannon Wright — And meet our new co-executive directors!

RE Sources’ Board of Directors appointed Ander Russell, Janet Marino and Jay Kosa to assume the roles of RE Sources Co-Executive Directors, effective January 1st.
December 11, 2023

A note from Shannon Wright

At the end of this month I will be wrapping five inspiring and eventful years at the helm of RE Sources, and returning to my previous work in international environmental and climate campaigning.

I owe a deep gratitude to the community leaders who came before me in leadership roles and guided the organization over four decades, including Carl Weimer, Robyn du Pré, Crina Hoyer and Kurt Gisclair, not to mention dozens of staff, board members and community supporters. Thank you.

As I move from staff member to supporter, I am left with two resounding conclusions:

  1. RE Sources plays an unparalleled role in protecting NW Washington’s ecosystems—and our region would be quite different without the organization’s impactful work over the decades.

Many, many organizations and individuals contribute to environmental efforts and victories in our region. Yet five years on the inside, and five years before that working as a close ally during the coal export facility battle, has shown me that no other organization here has the track record, deep roots, or continually innovative approach to changing-making that RE Sources exercises. From protecting shorelines, to halting fossil fuel expansions, to holding polluters accountable, to supporting youth in environmental learning and action, to catalyzing recycling and reuse, to advancing watershed protection, RE Sources has quarterbacked multiple, critical efforts and victories.

  1. Now more than ever, this work is only possible when local donors, businesses, and foundations really stretch and give big.

The truth is that local and regional organizations have only limited access to large-scale foundation and donor funding outside our immediate region. Even big tech money in Seattle doesn’t full trickle up north (at least not yet). I have seen that we must collectively invest here, and invest deep, in the place we love and for the communities we love, to power RE Sources and so many other invaluable organizations locally.

So, let’s stretch. Let’s meet RE Sources’ vision of hope and resilience for this region with the backing it needs. Let’s stretch our own vision of what is possible for our region. Let’s stretch right now in our own financial investment in organizations we care about and believe in, and our own personal efforts to meet the incredible challenges and opportunities of this time and place.

For our planet,

Shannon Wright

Meet the Co-Executive Directors

From left to right: Jay Kosa, Janet Marino, Ander Russell

RE Sources’ Board of Directors appointed Ander Russell, Janet Marino and Jay Kosa to assume the roles of RE Sources Co-Executive Directors, effective January 1st, 2024. All three co-directors are being promoted internally from other leadership positions and will oversee areas of organizational leadership that align with their respective areas of expertise: Russell will oversee RE Sources’ programs and impact, Marino will lead operations and Kosa will lead communications and fundraising efforts.

We sat down with our incoming co-executive directors to share some insight on the paths they took to arrive at this point, their plans for RE Sources, and the road ahead toward our mission of building just and thriving communities here in Northwest Washington. 

What are your first recollections of confronting environmental degradation and/or injustice?

Janet Marino (JM): I was lucky enough to grow up in the Seattle area and even as children in the 80s, I remember visiting the Cedar River Watershed and Morse Lake and learning about water sources and watershed health, but my first memorable account of a disaster situation was In 1999, here in Bellingham. I was just wrapping up my last year in college and working at The RE Store along Whatcom Creek downtown when the Olympic Pipeline explosion happened. I think that, coupled with the World Trade Organization protests that year that emphasized worldwide environmental exploitation, made 1999 a pretty standout year for me.  

Ander Russell (AR): My sense of justice and my love of nature and the outdoors started at a very young age. I grew up in the suburbs of Syracuse, New York. As a kiddo I would go trout fishing with my father and brother in the creeks near our house, I would wander around the banks of Lake Ontario when we would visit my aunt, and visit and hike in the Adirondacks nearly every summer. My first exposure to environmental injustice was probably learning about acid rain and the destruction of the Amazon rainforests. 

Jay Kosa (JK): I grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which borders Philadelphia at the south end and is a rural patchwork of forests and farmland on the north end. Growing up in the north end, I played in creeks and woods almost daily, and I watched suburban sprawl creep northwards, with cookie-cutter developments cropping up in the place of pastures seemingly overnight. That sense of loss and elementary school lessons around dwindling populations of monarch butterflies informed my environmental ethic. 

I also saw the grit, rust, and rampant pollution of communities where steel mills and factories shuttered, but it wasn’t until I was much older that I started tying together the connections between the boom-and-bust exploitation of resources and the exploitation of local communities. 

When did you first arrive in NW Washington and how did you first come into contact with RE Sources? 

JM: My family moved to Western Washington in 1979 from Akron, Ohio. I mostly grew up in the Seattle area and came to Bellingham in 1994 to attend WWU and have been here ever since. I was employed by the RE Store in college and after from 1998-2004, and came back again as a director in 2017.

AR: I moved to western Washington in 1996 to work for WDFW on a project to look at land use patterns of black bears. In 1999 I started my master’s degree work at WWU. My first exposure to RE Sources was through the RE Store. But it was after the Olympic Pipeline explosion in 1999 that I began to learn more about RE Sources’ science, education and advocacy work. I followed RE Sources’ work monitoring and watchdogging pollution from the Georgia-Pacific pulp mill on the Bellingham waterfront. I was impressed that we had such a savvy, connected, and active environmental organization fighting for the place I was quickly falling in love with!

JK: I’m a relative newcomer to Northwest Washington. I took the communications director job at RE Sources in the fall of 2020 and moved up from Portland, Oregon with my wife and son shortly thereafter. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the communities of NW Washington through the many connections that RE Sources holds with decision makers, community leaders and passionate environmental advocates and educators. 

What part of your life path and career thus far do you think best prepares you this new role leading RE Sources? 

JM: I’ve served at all levels in this organization, I have been the executive director of a nonprofit before, and I have been working closely alongside Shannon Wright for years at the director level. I have a very good sense of the workload and the logistics of the organization.  When I was younger, I had that familiar sense of imposter syndrome and at some point you look back at decades of hard work and you realize “Whoa, I’m actually just good at what I do.” What a lovely point to be at.

AR: The climate and nature emergency requires working and leading with a sense of urgency and acting from a relational place — all while needing to be able to sit with discomfort and inspire others to combat despair with action and empathy. I have been working on wildlife, land conservation and climate change issues for 30 years — nearly a decade of that at RE Sources — so I bring a wealth of issue knowledge to my work. I am also a non-binary transgender person who exists in a space outside of normative binary systems and thinking. Now more than ever we must move past false narratives about jobs and the economy versus the environment. We have to replace systems that exploit people and the planet for profit and with systems that are restorative, protective and increase resilience in human and non-human communities.

JK: Leading RE Sources alongside Ander and Janet feels like a natural development in a career full of valuable learning experiences. From working at True Value Hardware as a teenager in Pennsylvania to serving as a contractor for the EPA to my past roles leading communications in the green building and land conservation spaces, I feel like all of it informs my efforts moving forward.

Why did you elect to pursue a co-leadership approach rather than appoint a single executive director? 

JM: Executive directorships are extremely stressful and lonely jobs.  Many nonprofits are experiencing record turnover.  I’ve done that job before and always felt the full weight of that position was not necessarily where I’d want to be again, but this is different. The three of us have complementary skill sets, the weight of a lot of experience in our respective departments.  There is built-in support and resiliency in this model that really appeals to me. 

AR: For me, working on a team in collaboration with others is how I do my best work. This is something we like to put into practice in our program work and it seemed like a natural evolution to bring this to the leadership of the organization. This model will pull from our various strengths and perspectives that I believe will make the organization stronger or more resilient. I am so excited to be doing this with Janet and Jay — I think we are a solid trio to model this structure and set a solid foundation for the future of RE Sources.

JK: I feel like most nonprofit executive director job descriptions are unachievable, demanding expertise in more areas than are reasonable to expect from one person. And when you work on issues as heavy as ecological collapse and climate change, it’s a recipe for burnout. I think our approach plays to our individual strengths and allows for a valuable diversity of perspectives when it comes to executive decision making. I also see this as a unique opportunity to try a distributed leadership model with two colleagues that I really respect, admire, and enjoy working with. 

What’s your pitch as to why someone who lives in NW Washington should get involved in RE Sources? 

JM: The beauty of RE Sources is that we make accessible those pressure points (legislation, public comment, rallies, etc.) where the biggest impact can be achieved. If you’re a supporter and on our lists, you’re going to know that right moment to help us apply that pressure.  

AR: I guarantee you that any issue you care about locally, regionally, nationally or internationally is connected to and will be impacted by climate change. If we could “science and technology” our way out of the climate crisis we would already have done it. Addressing the climate crisis is a relational challenge. Local action, actions taken by cities and counties and states, is driving how we address climate change in this country. RE Sources is leading this region on advocacy wins related to local and regional change on climate issues. We are driving on efforts to get our local governments and state to address access to clean water, flood impacts, sea level rise, forestry practices, and to ensure a just transition off fossil fuels and plan for a clean energy future — all at once, because none of those issues exist in a vacuum.

JK: Local environmental restoration and protection are potent antidotes to despair (paraphrasing Robin Wall Kimmerer a bit). If you’re feeling anxious about our world, sign up with us and we’ll point you to straightforward, timely ways to make the world a little bit better starting here in NW Washington. You’ll meet a tremendous community of people in the process. 

What are some opportunities on the horizon for environmental protections and climate victories that you’re excited about? 

JM: In my previous role as Program Director, one of my favorite times of year was the Washington State Legislative Session. Staff here at RE Sources track the most impactful state legislative bills and clearly and succinctly provide the opportunity where it’s critical for the public to weigh in. I miss waking up every morning during session and tracking all of our bills through committee and to the floor. If you haven’t joined our Legislative Action Team and want to geek out with us on staff, you should do it! 

AR: Working locally and regionally means we always have our ear to the ground for what is coming up! We are all always working together to figure out how our work can have the greatest impact on protecting people and land. We have a few campaigns that will be ramping up in 2024 that will have calls to action to protect our watersheds, and to address water pollution. And of course the state legislative session will be starting in early January. I am excited for us to be out in the community doing outreach and engagement to connect with folks who are ready to take action! 

JK: Well, we’re leaders in a statewide effort to update our approach to forestry in a way that addresses the 21st century challenges of climate change and more extreme water flows. The momentum and energy behind that effort is exciting, and I think Whatcom County is an epicenter for that work. I’m looking forward to how that campaign advances in 2024. We’ve also really dialed in our education offerings to support our region’s youth, educators, and schools. Today’s young people are anxious about the future and also eager to address climate justice and environmental issues today. We’re connecting youth and teachers to local climate solutions as a pathway to hope and resilience.

Ok, on to the really important stuff. What’s the best Star Trek series? 

JM: TNG. I know Ander is probably going to say Janeway, but I’m Geordi La Forge or Riker in this analogy. Get it done.  

AR: Oof. TNG is amazing and I love Captain Picard – that series is in a league of its own. That said, I would be happy to be trapped in the Delta Quadrant with the crew of the Voyager and Captain Janeway. I have also heard wonderful things about Discovery but have not checked it out, yet. I WILL NOT PICK.

JK: Next Generation is really the only answer for me. Where I grew up, the rabbit ears on our TV set only picked up a couple stations and Fox had syndicated episodes of Next Generation playing every day after school. I’m still terrified of the Borg.

What hobbies are you really enjoying lately? 

JM: I’m probably known for having a lot of hobbies among my friends. I just have to know how something works. Lately, I have been experimenting with watercolor painting. I can draw a little and up until very recently, I didn’t know how to get the paints to behave the way that I wanted them to on the paper. I guess I’m having a small breakthrough with that, so I’m finding it very calming and enjoyable. 

AR: My most favorite hobby is being in the woods with my dog. I also love looking for agates and general beach and tide pool explorations with my wife and step-kiddo. After a major surgery last year I got hooked on playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild, now my 10 year old step-kiddo is playing, we love nerding out together on how beautiful and fun the game is. Other hobbies include but are not limited to: gardening, talking about climate change at parties, making cribbage boards out of cool pieces of wood, and reading.

JK: I live in the Lake Whatcom watershed with easy access to the mountain biking labyrinth that is Galbraith Mountain. I spend a fair amount of time on little nature walks with my kiddo, keeping our eyes peeled for birds, mushrooms and salamanders. I also started mountain biking a year ago and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. It gives me a chance to see firsthand how overlapping land ownership, management agreements and recreation plans interact. I’m sensitive to the importance of responsible recreation for all outdoor pursuits and I enjoy conversation about how best to balance ecological health with inclusive public access. Ah crap, I made this about work somehow didn’t I? 

Best advice for a day trip / spur of the moment adventure in NW Washington

JM: Oh gosh, I have internal competing philosophies around sending more people into wild places, so I’ll give you some less wild ones. Just south to Edison, I love visiting The Chop Shop and Smith | Vallee galleries for art, and Tweets or Slough Food for a bite to eat. Alternately, I’ve been loading up my newish e-bike with a picnic and my paints and just hitting the well-established bike trails here in the city. 

AR: You can’t go wrong in the PNW! Just pick a direction and there will be something amazing to do. My wife and I love to go for a hike in the Chuckanuts and then head to Taylor Shellfish after for oysters and the fantastic view. Also, we have a fantastic music scene here in the NW corner – a great trip in mid-August is to visit the Subdued Stringband Jamboree and come say hi to Janet and me!

JK: I’m a sucker for a ferry ride, so I’m always up for a venture to the islands. I’m also lucky enough to have a NEXUS pass for the Canadian border as well as family who live in the Fraser River delta. That delta area across from Boundary Bay is lovely, from the bluffs of Point Roberts to sandy beaches, to estuaries with exceptional birdwatching.