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Address 73-4485 Kahilihili St, Kailua-Kona, HI



Candee L. Ellsworth
Executive Director

Candee is the Executive Director (ED) of Keahole Center for Sustainability (KCS). She graduated with a degree in Biology, with a focus on wildlife ecology and nature interpretation from the University of Findlay, and later with a master’s degree in Zoology from Miami University.

She spent nearly 20 years working as a Conservation Biologist, as the Conservation Coordinator at the Toledo Zoo (in-situ and ex-situ endangered species recovery). Her focus was island biodiversity/island ecosystems and conservation science, but has had a life-long interest in conservation and sustainability; serving on the Lucas County Rain Garden Initiative’s steering committee and the Toledo Zoo’s Green Team, which worked to reduce the zoo’s overall carbon footprint. She is the recipient of the 2007 University of Findlay’s Old Main Award, given to UF alumni who have demonstrated distinctive achievements in a chosen career, civic involvement and/or service to The University of Findlay prior to the age of 36 and the 2013 Daisy Sticksel Award for her work in conservation of the Karner blue butterfly and other native pollinators..

She was also an adjunct professor teaching undergraduate courses for the University of Findlay and graduate courses for Miami University, as well as serving as a reviewer on the University of Toledo’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). In her spare time she also did private biological consulting for a variety of conservation projects throughout the West Indies. More recently she served as the Executive Director of a nonprofit Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation Education Center before moving to the Big Island.

She is also a member of the Hawaii Island Festival of Birds Planning Committee, on the Board of West Hawaii Community Forums (Webmaster), the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce’s Sustainability Committee, a member of the West Hawaii Fisheries Council and a member of the Large Whale Disentanglement Group for West Hawaii.

Tara Spiegel-Lauder
Education Manager

Tara Spiegel-Lauder currently works as the Education Manager at Keahole Center for Sustainability where she uses her skills in education, environmental science, sustainability, and customer service to provide engaging and interactive learning experiences for both her community members and guests.

Tara Spiegel-Lauder has been teaching informal environmental education for over decade while continuing her experience in animal care and rehabilitation. She has worked at both extremely small start-up sites, as well as, incredibly large organizations; through these experiences she has developed skills that can reach and impact a variety of audiences. In developing these skills, Tara has also been able to prioritize supporting the local community through identifying community needs and connecting partners. One of Tara’s greatest skills and passions is relationship development and connecting people/organizations that can support each other’s needs.





Ross Birch, Director, Board Chair
Ross Birch is Executive Director of the Island of Hawai`i Visitors Bureau, and is responsible for overseeing IHVB’s marketing and associated programs impacting the island’s visitor industry. Serving as the lead liaison between the island’s stakeholders and the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau (HVCB), he also oversees the development of relationships with community leaders, government officials and visitor industry marketing partners. Birch has over 25 years of hospitality experience on Hawai‘i Island. Affiliations: Class A Member of the PGA of America and currently serves on Marketing and Economic Development committees of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, and Incoming Chair – Board Directors of Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawaii and Board Director and Hawaii Golf Alliance.

Tyler Dickinson, Vice Chair
Tyler Dickinson is a Business Banking Officer at First Hawaiian Bank – Kona branch. Tyler graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2002 with a B.S. in Business with a major in Accounting. He has worked in the Banking and Real Estate Finance industries for 15 years. Tyler and his wife Michelle Dickinson married in Connecticut and moved to Hawaii in 2011. Affiliations: Kona Kohala Chamber of Commerce, UH of Hilo Vulcan Boosters, and Keahole Center for Sustainability (formerly Friends of NELHA).

Jack Hilton, Treasurer
John A Hilton (Jack) retired 35 year veteran public school teacher, administrator and coach. He has been a mentor teacher for Cradle program at the Worrell Law School at Wake Forrest University, the 6th Congressional District representative to We the People in Washington DC as well as other law related educational activities. He is a retired Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), currently the owner of Hilton Associates, a partner in The Mailbox Waikiki in Honolulu and the managing partner in Hilton’s Dunes Motel. He has in the past, and still serves in different board of director positions on a variety of Nonprofit Organizations and other Corporate entities; both here in Hawaii and on the mainland, including Keahole Center for Sustainability (formerly Friends of NELHA).

Jane Clement, Secretary
Jane is a Public Affairs Manager for the Strategies 360 (S360) Hawaii office. Before joining S360, Jane worked in both government and regulated industries. As the Chief of Staff for the former Hawaii County Council Chair, she worked to draft and successfully pass tobacco legislation raising the age of tobacco sales in Hawaii County to age 21 – the first county to do so in the State of Hawaii.

In her role as Community Consultant for Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO), Jane developed, implemented and coordinated community and educational outreach programs across the island. Her vibrant, engaging personality and understanding of her community made her the ideal representative for the Utility.

As a very active community volunteer, Jane serves on various boards and commissions, including as the Hawaii Island Commissioner to the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, current president of the Kailua Village Business Improvement District, West Hawaii Community Forums and serves as an officer on the Keahole Center for Sustainability (formerly Friends of NELHA) board.

Jane earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education from Cebu State University in the Philippines and immigrated to Hawaii in 1994. While her daughter Rachel and son Isaac give her the greatest joy in life, she enjoys cooking, walking and anything on the Hallmark Channel. Though calm and composed by nature, she is actively working up the courage to go skydiving, to check off just one item on a very long bucket list.

Tom Daniel, Director
Tom Daniel, PhD, retired, has extensive experience in marine research, science education, and ocean technical services and continues to consult in oceanography and ocean energy. Affiliations: Kona Choral Society, Rotary Club of Kona, Aloha Performing Arts Company, Kona Aloha Patrol, NOAA Tsunami Observer Program, Kona Community Hospital, and Keahole Center for Sustainability (formerly Friends of NELHA), among others.

Cyndy Dyal, Director
Cyndy Dyal’s career has spanned both business and nonprofits. She served as Executive Director of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce and currently works in real estate. Affiliations:  Kona Historical Society, ACF Kona-Kohala Chefs Association, the Hawaii Island Board of Realtors, and Keahole Center for Sustainability (formerly Friends of NELHA), among others.

Fern Gavelek, Director
Fern Gavelek is an award-winning veteran journalist who opened Fern Gavelek Communications in 2002. She provides freelance articles and photography for numerous publications and offers public relations services for local events and associations. Affiliations: Hulihe’e Palace, Big Island Press Club, Kona Kohala Chamber of Commerce, and Keahole Center for Sustainability (formerly Friends of NELHA).

John DeFries, Director
President and Principal Advisor, Native Sun Business Group, Inc. Emeritus Member, Board of Directors of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU. n recent years, De Fries has been invited to rare learning opportunities in Hawaii. He has engaged with His Holiness, The Dali Lama; members of the Rapid Evaluation Team from Google X; Gro Harlem Brundtland, the first female prime minister of Norway; Hina Jilani, a renowned lawyer, pro-democracy campaigner, and leading activist in Pakistan’s women’s movement; Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of Cape Town, South Africa; and Sir Sidney Moko Mead, PhD, who created his country’s first department of Māori Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The range of topics within these respective discussions include: sustainable development as a human right, the importance of indigenous knowledge and native intelligence, the potential for Hawaii Island to become a world model for sustainable living, and humanity’s universal responsibility to care for our planet and one another.
De Fries and his wife Ginny have lived in Kona, Hawaii, since 1991.

Randy Kurohara, Director
A longtime Hawai‘i Island businessman, he is an owner of the custom apparel and graphics company Creative Arts Hawai‘i, and both the Parker Ranch Store and Aloha Grown retail operations. He graduated from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa with a bachelor’s of business administration degree in Marketing. He is a board member and past president of the Rotary Club of South Hilo; director and past president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Hawai‘i; board member with the Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce; member of the Hawaii Health System Corporation’s East Hawai’i Regional Board, and a board member of the Hawai’i Island United Way. Randy is the former Deputy Managing Director for the County of Hawai‘i, and served from 2008 – 2012 as the Director of the Department of Research and Development.