Brenda Sanchez – District Manager

I believe that the wise and responsible use of our soil and water resources helps to ensure that future generations will have access to clean water and productive soils. Conservation protects water quality, conserves water, generates healthy soils, promotes resilient landscapes, and provides vital habitat for fish and wildlife. As well as all the other natural resource benefits that each of us enjoy or use on a daily basis. From a farm field with a cover crop in Brooks to manage soil erosion to a hedgerow planted for pollinators in Salem I can see plenty of conservation practices in action by the good people of my community. I can see daily that we care for our lands and our soil and water resources. This is why I love what I do.

Janice Calkins – Office Coordinator

Janice is the front-line person for the office. When you call in, it will likely be her voice you first hear, and if you stop by the office, she will likely be the first person to greet you. Though her position title is Office Coordinator, she wears many hats: receptionist, keeper of the office and postal supplies, organizer of informational materials, support to staff and other administrative duties.

She began her career with the District back in 2006. Her duties and responsibilities have morphed and changed every few years, based on District needs. poster/mural contest coordinator, newsletter editor, forms creator, annual meeting coordinator and more.

Susan Ortiz – Programs Assistant

Susan is a native Oregonian, with a lifetime of agricultural experience and a BS in Crop and Soil Science from Oregon State University. Before coming to Marion SWCD, Susan worked for Linn SWCD and OACD. Susan currently serves the Marion SWCD as the Programs Assistant; in this position she assists with internal and external grant programs and performs the District’s bookkeeping.

Sarah Hamilton – Native and Invasive Plant Specialist

Sarah Hamilton in the snow with a red head scarf

I work with landowners to develop conservation projects, improve or create wildlife and pollinator habitat, and answer questions about native and invasive plants.

A passion for nature has been a driving force throughout my life, thanks in part to a childhood of camping, hiking, and exploring the Pacific Northwest and beyond. I believe a healthy natural environment supports healthy individuals, families, and communities.

Prior to settling in Salem, I worked at two other SWCDs in the Portland area where I was employed first as an intern, then an invasive plants specialist. before that, I spent ten years working the field leading a restoration contractor crew, conducting forest health surveys, and collecting data on spotted owl populations.

At Oregon State University, I earned a BS in Environmental Sciences specializing in Forest Ecology. I also have an AA in Horticulture where I focused on native and invasive plants and how people interact with their environment.

Becky Pineda – Ag Conservation Planner

Having roots in Marion County agriculture, I am excited to join Marion Soil and Water Conservation District as the Ag Conservation Planner. I grew up on a hobby-farm that has been in my family for over a century where we raised sheep and rabbits, and baled hay for ourselves and others.

I attended Linn-Benton Community College and Oregon State University. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in General Agriculture and a Master’s of Science in Agricultural Education. While in college I was on the livestock judging team at LBCC and enjoyed taking courses in all aspects of agriculture, forestry, and natural resources. For the last 15 years I have been an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor in the county and I look forward to continuing to work with the great agriculturists who have made Marion County the top agriculture county in the state!

Outside of work, my husband, son and I are enjoying setting up our new small acreage. We have fun showing our Horned Dorset sheep and also plan to get back into showing rabbits in the near future. During the COVID shutdown we added another type of critter – dairy goats –  to our small operation and have started to make soaps and lotions from their milk. I have also started a 4-H club in Linn County to stay involved in ag education.

I look forward to helping you with your projects to keep Marion County an agricultural powerhouse long into the future!

Delani Herb – Conservation Planner

I am excited to be part of the Marion Soil and Water Conservation District as a Programs Assistant. The Willamette Valley is a beautiful place and I look forward to being part of a team that helps protect and conserve these resources for future generations.

I grew up in Southern Maine, moving to Oregon in 2012 to attend Oregon State University where I received three bachelor’s degrees: Animal Science with a minor in Forest Management, Natural Resources with a focus in Animal, Rangeland and Forest ecosystems, and Sustainability. My goal was to find a career where I could help conserve and educate communities about land management. Previously I worked with the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management as a Biological Science Technician focusing on natural resources and wildlife.

I married my husband in 2017, whose family has been in grass seed production for over 30 years. I enjoy helping with harvest and interacting with all the neighboring farmers. In our spare time we enjoy travelling, hiking with our dogs, and taking our horses out on the trail.

Marion County is an amazing location, and I can’t wait to interact with new and old community members alike. Please contact me with questions about natural areas, wildlife habitat, forest management, and oak habitat restoration.

Heath Keirstead – Communications and Education Specialist

Heath enjoying an ice cream for breakfast on her birthday.

I’m a conservation district staffer to the core and couldn’t be happier to be working at Marion SWCD with this collaborative team and community.

I have an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont, and a masters in Soil Science from Oregon State University. I have lived in the Willamette Valley since 1997, except for about 6 months in 2006 when I did field research for the USGS in Moab, Utah studying biological soil crusts. I loved the field work, but sorely missed working with people, which is what brought me to the world of conservation districts later that same year.

I worked for Benton SWCD for 15 years, and over that time I filled a range of conservation roles. Youth and adult education have been central to my programs. I enjoy building relationships with volunteers, co-workers, community partners, customers, and other program participants. My goal is to support residents in their understanding, appreciation, and management of natural resources. I look forward to getting to know you and developing new ways to work together! Contact me to discuss youth or adult education programming, invite MSWCD to attend a community event, website resources, education and outreach partnerships, and CLEAR grants.

Tom Wilson – Administrative Assistant

Tom grinning and holding a tray of ribs.

Tom grew up in Blodgett and was a Rotary International Exchange Student to the Republic of the Philippines.

After graduating from University of Oregon (he is a “platypus”) he joined the Peace Corps as a Natural Resources Educator and served in current North Macedonia and Ecuador, where he met his wife, another volunteer.

They taught English in Thailand for three years and have lived in the Willamette Valley ever since, now residing in Independence. Tom enjoys cooking, archery, playing the drums and eats barbecue whenever he can.

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