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Meet the NCRACC Members

Read about the current members of the National Civil Rights Advisory Committee to the Chief.

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Committee Co-Chairs

Thomas Morgart, Co-Chair - State Conservationist (Connecticut)

Tom Morgart grew up in western Pennsylvania and spent summers working for relatives on two different family farms. After high school, he attended Pennsylvania State University where he earned a B.S. in Horticulture.

After college, he entered the workforce as a grower at a large greenhouse operation, and then took a job as a crop consultant with the Lehigh Valley Crop Association. His efforts in conservation got him noticed by the North Jersey RC&D Council. He was offered, and accepted, a job with them and was stationed in the NRCS Field Office in Flemington, New Jersey. The position required him to work with NRCS staff on conservation activities. In 2001, when a soil conservationist position for NRCS came open, he applied and was selected; thus, beginning his federal career. From there he was chosen for the position of EQIP program manager in Maryland. He relocated and spent five years in that job before being selected as that state’s assistant state conservationist for programs. During that time, he did a 9-month collateral duty as Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative coordinator, representing the agency at the federal and state level. He also served as the Acting National EQIP team leader during a detail to National Headquarters, and as acting state conservationist in Maryland for several months. He held the position of ASTC-Programs until he was selected as state conservationist for Connecticut in 2015. In 2018, he took on a detail in Washington as acting director of the Easement Program Division.

Morgart quickly acclimated to Connecticut, noting it reminds him of his home state of Pennsylvania. After more than five years, he continues to enjoy his journey with the staff as they work together to keep agriculture thriving in a state that may be the third smallest but has a large agricultural presence with approximately 6,000 farms. He is held in high regard by conservation partners and the state’s producers.

Morgart was the NRCS’ first openly gay state conservationist. He says we are lucky to work for an agency that has zero tolerance for any type of discrimination and where there are opportunities for everyone.

Tom has been married to his husband Luis for 7 years. He enjoys his work, traveling, and the outdoors.

Astrid Martinez, Co-Chair - State Conservationist (Wyoming)
Astrid Martinez, born and raised in San Germán, Puerto Rico, has been the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist for Wyoming since 2012. She received her B.S from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez campus, with a major in agronomy and soils; and her M.S. in soils from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Attended the Federal Executive Institute and is currently in Senior Executive Service Candidacy Development Program.

In her 22+ years with NRCS, she has worked as Soil Scientist, Soil Conservationist, State Soil Scientist, acting National Hispanic Emphasis Program manager for the USDA NRCS-Civil Rights Division, acting State Conservationist for Arizona, acting Regional Conservationist for the Southeast Region, and was part of a team on special assignment to assist with Hurricanes Irma and Maria Recovery in Puerto Rico.

American Indian/Alaska Native Representatives

David Pesicka, Tribal Liaison (South Dakota)

I started my career in 1988 as a Student Trainee working summers with the Soil Conservation Service. I graduated from South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science in Range and a minor in Soils. I have worked in seven NRCS offices in South Dakota over the last 33 years. The last 23 years I have worked as a Tribal Liaison located on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation and I work with 2 field offices (Dupree and Timber Lake).

I am an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. I have been married for 32 years to Lynn and she is a Kindergarten teacher at the Dupree School. I have 2 sons, Patrick 31 and Anthony 29, Patrick works for NRCS and Anthony works for Ziebach County as an equipment operator. I have a ranch that occupies most of my time and I enjoy hunting, fishing, golfing and spending time with family especially my 4 grandchildren.

Suzanne Baker, Resource Conservationist (New York)

Suzanne Baker is a Resource Conservationist for the Southeast Area of NY and serving as Acting Tribal Liaison and Chair of the NYS Civil Rights Advisory Committee (CRAC). Past positions for NRCS include details to Science and Technology Division, NHQ, NRCS Liaison to the USDA NE Climate Hub and Secretary to the NYS CRAC. She obtained her Certified Professional in Erosion and Sediment Control (CPESC) certification almost 14 years ago to support her conservation planning and values her membership in WiN. During her 30 years of conservation work, 14 years have been spent with NRCS, 6 with SWCD and 10 in environmental conservation out west, conducting botanical research in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Prior to living in Southern California where she graduated from California State University in Biology, she graduated from Lawrence Technological University in Engineering and worked in the automotive industry conducting Finite Element Analysis (FEA).

During the Climate Hub detail, she developed a PMC workshop on Declining Habitat and Species of Cultural Importance and the Tribal Soil Climate Analysis Network (TSCAN) pilot project.

Interests include photography, biking, hiking, pottery, travel, museums, the Arts, hot air ballooning and anything with her daughter, Hannah, who is an accomplished 11th grader preparing for college.

Asian Pacific Islander Representatives

Nga Watts, Assistant State Conservationist (ASTC) - Management and Strategy (Florida)

Nga Watts is an Assistant State Conservationist (ASTC) -Management and Strategy in Florida. Prior to her present position, she was ASTC-Operations and Environmental Engineer on the Engineering Section in Florida State Office Engineering Staff. She began her career in 1991 as an Agricultural Engineer in Lake City, Florida. Nga also served as Florida Area 2 Civil Rights Advisory Committee Representative from 1994 to 1997 and Florida Asian American/Pacific Islander Special Emphasis Program Manager Program Manager from 2006 to 2008.

Nga was born in Saigon, Vietnam and moved to the United States in 1977. She was raised in Sarasota, Florida. She received her bachelor’s degree from University of Florida. She and her husband Craig have three children. In her spare time, she follows the University of Florida Gators, practices yoga, and enjoys paddle boarding.

Anand Hase, District Conservationist (Iowa)

Anand Hase is currently serving NRCS as a District Conservationist in SW Iowa. He is a member of the Civil Rights Advisory Committee, serves as the Asian American Pacific Islander Special Emphasis Program Manager, and affiliated with the Asian Pacific Islander Organization (APIO) employee organization. He has held positions all over the state of Iowa as Resource Conservationist, Soil Conservationist, Technician, and Watershed Project Coordinator. Prior to landing in an NRCS office he held positions with Wildlife and Fisheries Departments in Iowa, Custer State Park South Dakota, and SE Nebraska.

Anand calls Northwest Iowa Home. Growing up, Anand worked on a turkey farm and helped a family friend row crop as a teenager through high-school. He has always had a passion for the outdoors and conservation which led him down the path to finding a career in Natural Resources. He attended Iowa State University earning a Bachelor of Science in Animal Ecology in 2011.

Anand still enjoys the opportunity to help with farming practices from time to time. In his spare time Anand enjoys hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, travelling, sports and fitness. He recently ran a half marathon and visited Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs. He usually takes a few trips West to snowmobile and snowboard during the winter.

Black, African American Representatives

Shantel King, Resource Conservationist (Maryland)

Shantel King is currently a Resource Conservationist in Annapolis, Maryland, where she serves on the State Resources Conservationists staff assisting and managing  Grazing, Air Quality, & National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI)  management plans and projects, she started her career with NRCS in Casper, Wyoming as a Natural Resource Specialist in 2010, her conservation expertise and passions include: pasture conservation/restoration, outreach and education efforts, working with small and urban agriculture producers, and helping to continue our agency mission of “Helping People, Help the Land”. She also worked several years with Tennessee NRCS as a Soil Conservationist, during that time she also served on national level teams and details which include working with the Director of Conservation Planning and Technical Assistance as well as details as an Easement Specialist working with the Easement Support Services Team.

Shantel received her Bachelor of Science Degree from Oakwood College (now University) in Biology in continued on to earn her Master of Science in Environmental Science from Tuskegee University .This is where her love for agriculture and conservation was nurtured, and through numerous recruitment and career fairs, she was introduced to many available career opportunities, including possibilities with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Growing up both overseas in the Caribbean islands and in the United States has given Ms. King a unique perspective and outlook towards life and people of all backgrounds, this view of the world has underpinned her desire to ensure that equality and fairness is consistently woven into the fabric of both her professional and personal life.

Shantel has worked with Civil Rights since the start of her career with NRCS, serving as East Area Liaison for the Wyoming Civil Rights Advisory Committee from FY2011-FY2012.

Her work in Civil Rights, amidst her other conservationist duties, continued when she relocated to Tennessee where she served as a member of the Tennessee Civil Rights Advisory Committee from 2014-2017 and fulfilled roles as Chair of the Civil Rights State Brochure and Interim Civil Rights committee Newsletter Editor. Shantel also completed one year as the Civil Rights Committee Secretary from 2016-2017. She has also served on the TN CRAC committee as the Asian American/Pacific Islander Special Emphasis Program Manager for the NRCS Tennessee Civil Rights Committee for FY2018-FY2019, and was a member of the National Civil Rights Compliance Review Cadre Team from December FY2015- FY2018.  

In her spare time, Shantel enjoys amateur photography, camping, traveling, road trips, museums, DIY projects, event planning and collecting unique rocks.

Trevor Hunt, District Conservationist (Tennessee)

Trevor Hunt is a native of Nashville, Tennessee and in 2009 earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from The University of Tennessee at Martin. While at UT Martin, Trevor was a part of the 2006 Ohio Valley Conference championship football team playing fullback and linebacker for Skyhawks. In addition to being a student athlete, he also served in the Student Government Association as a Senator, as well as the President of the Kappa Omicron chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.

Trevor’s introduction to Agriculture came at an early age. His family grew row crops and had a small hog operation. Trevor grew a fondness for time spent on the farm and knew that he wanted to pursue a career in Agriculture. That fondness continues to this day as he owns the farm that he spent countless hours on as a kid and continues to expand the operation.

Trevor began his career with the United States Department of Agriculture in 2009 under the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Student Career Employment Program as a student trainee in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He worked as a Soil Conservationist in Weakley, Washington, and Unicoi Counties prior to being selected as the District Conservationist in Blountville, TN. In 2015 Trevor was selected to serve as the District Conservationist in Nashville, TN. In addition to his role as District Conservationist, Trevor served as the Chairman of the Tennessee State Civil Rights Advisory Committee from 2016-2019. He now serves as the Black Male Representative on the National Civil Rights Advisory Committee. He also is the Beginning Farmer Coordinator for NRCS Tennessee and was selected as a participant in the inaugural Southeast Leadership Development Program (SLDP).

His professional career is dedicated to helping people help the land, but the mission of helping people also applies to his personal life. Trevor is a founding board member of Nashville F.E.A.S.T (Food Equality and Sustainability Taskforce) and is a Lifetime Member of the National Organization of Professional Black Natural Resources Conservation Service Employees (NOPBNRCSE) and has served as the Tennessee Chapter President since 2015. Trevor is also a member of the NAACP.

Trevor and his wife Alicia have two children Alana and Trevor II.

People with Disabilities Representatives

Tony Townsend, Administrative Programs Specialist (Texas)

Tony Townsend is originally from Paris, Texas. He was raised on a small family farm with livestock and plenty of alfalfa hay. After graduating high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force where he served for 23 years. He served in numerous state side and two overseas locations as a Career Advisor, Personnel Specialist,  a Professional Military Education instructor, and as a Military Training Instructor.

Townsend started his career with NRCS in 2011 as a Business Management Leaders Program (BMLP) intern. He trained in Texas, Alaska and Oklahoma prior to his current assignment at the Texas State Office. During his training rotation in Texas, at the Eldorado Field Office, he gained an  appreciation of the conservation issues and practices that field personnel handle daily. As a disabled veteran, Townsend has a great appreciation for the concerns of the group he represents. This understanding  allows him to serve as an integral member of the NRCS Civil Rights Advisory Committee.

He has worked as a Human Resources Specialist in the State Office, and on the original national pilot staffing team during the initial stages of the Administration Transformation. He has worked on several national committees for data integrity and national reporting concerns. Currently, he serves as an Administrative Programs Specialist, the Texas Pathways Coordinator, and as the Texas Disability Special Emphasis Program Manager.

Townsend has two Associate of Arts degrees in Training Management and Personnel Management from the Community College of the Air Force. He also graduated from Southwest Texas State University with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences in Occupational Education, and graduated from Wayland Baptist University with a Master of Arts in Management.  

He is married and has three grown children; one son and twin daughters. He has two granddaughters.

Morgan Morrissett, Soil Conservation Planner (Arkansas)

Morgan grew up on a small farm, just outside of Huntingdon, Tennessee. She always wanted to help others but didn’t have a clear vision of where that calling would lead. Her first exposure to NRCS was through a land judging contest; the soil scientist assisting that day grabbed her attention with his skill and willingness to share with the students. Soon after, Morgan knew she’d found her path. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Morgan began her career with NRCS through the Student Career Employment Program as a trainee in Tennessee. At the same time, she began to understand the importance of locally led conservation while serving as an Earth Team Volunteer and working as a Soil Conservation Technician for the Obion County Soil Conservation District. Soon afterwards, Morgan was hired on as a Soil Conservationist for Tennessee NRCS. During this time, she held a collateral position on the State Civil Rights Advisory Committee. In 2016, she was selected as a Soil Conservation Planner for the Grand Prairie Region of Arkansas, where she works with participants to ensure that they have quality plans prior to entering into Farm Bill Program Contracts. While in Arkansas, Morgan has served on various details at the field and state office levels. She is a member of the Razorback Soil and Water Conservation Society Chapter, and a lifetime member of Women in Natural Resources Conservation Service (WiN)

Her desire to assist in conserving natural resources is closely tied to her family’s love of being in the great outdoors. She hopes her sons can enjoy these simple pleasures with their own children, just as she and her husband currently do with them. Morgan hopes to focus her career development efforts on making the good things NRCS does even better. She believes that our agency’s long-term vision for success must include a renewed focus on sound technical expertise, quality customer service, and timely conservation delivery; and she is committed to incorporating these principles into each day.

Hispanic Representatives

Laurel Qualy, Paralegal-Conveyance Examiner (Wisconsin)

Laurel Qualy hails from Wisconsin’s State Office in Madison and is the Paralegal support to the Wisconsin Easements Team as a Conveyance Examiner. In 2009, she joined NRCS through an internship to work on the Emergency Watershed Protection Program conservation easement acquisitions funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and was hired permanently shortly thereafter. In 2012, she was selected as Wisconsin’s Federal Women’s Program Manager serving for four years where she brought a clear understanding of the challenges facing a woman and overcoming racial barriers in the Federal workforce. She also served on Wisconsin’s Management Advisory Team during that period and has the practical experiences of evaluating and researching issues related to program policy and hiring/retention of staff.

Laurel graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from Upper Iowa University with a focus in Human Resources Management, Management Principles, and Management Strategies which strengthened her understanding of employee relations and civil rights. Her human resource and management skills are further reinforced through her associate degree in Paralegal. Her studies in Administrative Law, Civil Litigation, Business Law and Employment Law strongly emphasized the areas of civil rights, Equal Employment Opportunities, and the Equal Pay Act. Coursework in Legal Research and Legal Writing further enhances her investigative skills into federal, state, and local law when asked to provide guidance to legal acquisition issues through her easement work.

Her father, born near Odem, Texas was Mexican with a sixth-grade education and was married to her mother who was white. He worked as a mechanic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, while her mother, who graduated with degree in nursing, stayed home to raise eight children. Given the financial challenges of raising a family that big with only one income to support all of them, she feels that her parents were successful in instilling clear values and a great work ethic in them all. Laurel, in turn, has been instilling in her two daughters those same clear values and great work ethic. 

Ramon Ortiz, Assistant State Conservationist (ASTC) - Management & Strategy (Maryland)

Ramon Oritz is originally from Lajas, PR. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Mechanization (Engineering) Technology from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez in 2001. After graduating from college Ramon worked for three years for the University of PR as an Instructor of agricultural mechanization courses.

In 2004 he started his “adventure” with NRCS in Rainsville, AL as a Soil Conservationist (a lot of poultry, swine and cotton!). A year and half later Ramon moved a little south and served as Soil Conservationist in Thomasville and Quitman, GA (a lot of peanuts, irrigation and long leaf pine plantation). In 2007 Ramon became a District Conservationist in Naples, FL (a lot of citrus groves, vegetables, ranches and gators!), and served in that capacity for four years before moving north. For the last eight years, Ramon has been the State Planning Specialist, responsible for the planning tools and the technical aspect that help MD field staff carry out our mission “Helping People Help the Land”. In June 2019, Ramon now serves as the Assistant State Conservationist - Management and Strategy in Maryland.

Ramon has served in many capacities including national level details with Technical Service Provider and Conservation Innovation Grant teams and local level detail as Assistant Conservationist-Operations, State Resource Conservationist, Manager of the National Plant Material Center and collateral positions as Civil Right Committee Hispanic Representative in GA, FL and MD.

Ramon is married with two kids and lives in Maryland.

LGBTQ+ Representatives

Liz Crane-Wexler, Easement Program Division Team Leader, Washington, DC

Liz Crane-Wexler came to NRCS in 2007 from the USDA Forest Service. Her work in the Easement Program Division ranges from her current position as Team Leader to program manager to audit remediation. Liz also served as Acting Assistant State Conservationist for Programs in Kentucky.

Liz served in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica and holds a Master of Forestry degree from North Carolina State University and a Bachelor of Science in Forest Management from Clemson.

Because every parade needs a band, Liz served as the President of the Atlanta Freedom Marching Band from 1999 to 2004. The band continues to play at the Atlanta Pride festival and smaller cities in the Southeast. Liz continues her interest in music playing in flute choirs and accompanied the Gay Men's Chorus event at the Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington D.C in 2010.

Liz and her wife live in Silver Spring, Maryland. Both are avid dragon boaters and are on a breast cancer survivor and supporter dragon boat team.

Becky Ross, Assistant State Conservationist for Farm Bill Programs (Colorado)

Becky was born and raised in Oklahoma and her family had a small hobby farm that allowed her to develop her interests in the outdoors and animals. Her parents also instilled in her the love of music, sports and traveling. She attended Oklahoma State University where she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences.

Becky and her wife Julie reside in the suburbs of Denver with their three rescue dogs. She enjoys gardening, hiking, snowboarding, attending sporting events, bowling and working with rescue organizations.

Veteran Representatives

Steven Maras, Administrative Support Specialist (South Dakota)

In August of 2019, Steve Maras began as an Administrative Support Specialist on the Management and Strategy staff in the South Dakota State Office. The primary focus of Steve’s position is outreach, recruitment, and training.

Steve started his career in conservation in August of 1979 as a District Technician for the Lincoln County Soil and Water Conservation District in Ivanhoe MN. His USDA career initiated as a Soil Conservation Technician in Clear Lake, SD 1983. He earned a Soil Conservationist position in 1990 at De Smet, SD where he remained as a District Conservationist until 2010. His next stop was in Mitchell, SD as a Resource, Conservation & Development (RC&D) Coordinator through the spring of 2011 at which time the program was defunded by congress. From the spring of 2011 through July 2019, Steve was a Wetland Specialist.

In September 2019, Steve began serving a second four (4) year term as SD Veterans SEPM. In the last 12 months, November 23, 2018 – November 10, 2019, Steve has led SD in an outreach and recruitment effort for veteran hires and in that 12-month timeframe, SD has brought eight (8) new employees, military veterans, to the agency.

Steve and his wife Joyce are parents of six married children and grandparents to 18 grandchildren, so far. His professional interests include, a passion for outreach and recruitment, "to find good people to carry out the Mission of the NRCS."

Jill Binette, Executive Assistant to the State Conservationist (Florida)

Jill Binette is a native of San Diego, California. Following a 20-year career in the Air Force, she went on to a number of interesting jobs in the private sector—executive assistant & sales manager for a Montana pasta company; jobs in flooring and pipe sales; and five years as assistant to the general manager for a concessionaire in Yellowstone National Park.

She came to NRCS in 2009. Shortly after starting with NRCS, Jill became the Federal Women’s Program SEPM for Montana. She left the state office in Montana in 2011 to become the executive assistant to the Wyoming State Conservationist in 2011 where she remained until September 2019. While there, she served for four years as the state office representative on the Wyoming Civil Rights Committee.

Jill’s husband Paul, is retired and spends his time golfing, making Florida the ideal place for them to reside with two naughty, yappy schnauzers. Jill continues working as the newly-hired executive assistant to the Florida State Conservationist.

White Representatives

Heath Eisele, District Conservationist (New York)

Growing up on a family farm in southwest Ohio, Heath’s passion for agriculture started at a young age. Whether it was riding on a wagon stacking hay, raising market lambs and hogs for the county fair, or helping to prepare the soil for spring planting, agriculture has always been an important part of who he is.

It was this same passion that pushed Heath to pursue a degree in Natural Resources Policy and Planning from The Ohio State University and to seek a position where he could serve those within the agricultural industry.

In 2004, Heath started his career with New York NRCS as a Soil Conservationist. Throughout his 15 years with the Agency, Heath has had the opportunity to serve numerous farmers who were as diverse as their individual farming operations. From large dairies and expansive vegetable operations to small organic and hobby farms, Heath has worked one-on-one with farmers and private landowners to leave a lasting legacy of conservation.

Heath currently serves as District Conservationist for a multi-county field team in Western, New York. When off the clock, Heath and his wife, Tracy, stay busy as a taxi service for their two children and their numerous extracurricular activities. Heath may also be found coaching soccer for the community soccer league, singing in his church praise band, helping with the Scouts, and learning the art of Taekwondo.

Amanda Crowe, Assistant State Conservationist Programs (Alaska)

Amanda is originally from the driftless area of southwest Wisconsin (Ontario), where she spent her summers on construction sites. Her favorite projects were building barnyards for the local dairy farms where the conservation technicians would explain the blueprints and let her help with the concrete tests. Looking up to the technicians, she knew she wanted to dedicate her life to similar work.

Amanda has been a devoted conservationist since her first job with NRCS in the summer of 2002 in Sparta, Wisconsin. She started her career as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Soil and Land Management in 2004. She continued her education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned a master’s degree in Biological Systems Engineering in 2007. Throughout her college years, she gained valuable work experience with NRCS as a Pheasant Forever Intern, then the Student Temporary Employment Program, and finally the Student Career Experience Program.

Upon graduation Amanda worked in several locations in Wisconsin as an NRCS Agricultural Engineer from 2007 to 2014. During that time, she also earned a second master’s degree in business administration from Viterbo University, graduating in 2014. Amanda left her home state in 2014 to become the State Agricultural Engineer in North Dakota. In 2017, following a passion for adventure in her life, she ventured to Alaska, where she is currently the Assistant State Conservationist for Programs.

Amanda enjoys the subsistence and outdoor opportunities Alaska offers such as hiking, paddle boarding, skiing, foraging, and fishing. She’s also an avid yogi and teaches in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley.