Professional Staff

Clinton Begley

Executive Director

As American Whitewater’s Executive Director, Clinton brings with him over eighteen years of nonprofit experience as both a staff and board member including most recently as executive director leading the Long Tom Watershed Council in Eugene, OR. Clinton also brings with him nearly two decades of volunteer work and interaction with American Whitewater. Starting as a volunteer Streamkeeper for AW in 2004, Clinton has also frequently participated in letter writing to elected officials, has testified in a state committee on behalf of American Whitewater, and has helped organize local AW fundraisers and events. Clinton has lived, worked, and paddled in many of American Whitewater’s regions of focus, including formative years exploring the front range of Colorado, leading canoeing and rafting trips throughout the Southeast while working at Georgia State University, chasing spring melt in the Clark Fork and Flathead watersheds in Montana, and kayaking with the Merrimack Valley Paddlers affiliate club throughout the Northeast while living in New Hampshire. Clinton holds an A.A. in Psychology from John Wood Community College in Quincy, Illinois, a B.S in Parks, Tourism & Recreation Management w/ a Minor in Nonprofit Administration from the University of Montana in Missoula, and a M.S. in Recreation Management and Policy from the University of New Hampshire in Durham. He currently lives along the McKenzie River in Western Oregon.

Kevin Colburn

National Stewardship Director

Raised in Pennsylvania, Kevin moved south to attend the University of North Carolina at Asheville where he earned a undergraduate degree in environmental studies, with an emphasis on field ecology. While at UNCA, Kevin co-founded the UNCA Paddling Club and avidly explored the regional steep creeks both on foot and in a kayak. Shortly after graduation Kevin headed west to the University of Montana to get a masters degree in environmental studies that was focused on stream restoration and ecology. Montana proved an excellent base to paddle wild multi-day rivers, and to playboat on the Clark Fork and Lochsa. In 2001, Kevin was hired as AW's Eastern Conservation and Access Associate to tackle several tough dam relicensings and other projects across the east. Based in Asheville again, Kevin quickly developed a skill set focused on river management, negotiation skills, natural resource law, and regulated river restoration. Kevin became AW's National Stewardship Director in 2005, and has since split his time between Missoula, MT and Asheville, NC.

Scott Harding

Stewardship Associate

Scott joined American Whitewater in late 2019 and works across all regions to help advance AW’s river stewardship mission. Whitewater rivers have been a central part of his life since learning to paddle on the Chattooga River at age 13 and he has been guided through life by a passion to enjoy, protect, and restore rivers. He has worked as a hydrologist, a professional outdoor adventure photographer, a kayak instructor, and as an advocate for restoration of the Klamath River system, including dam removal, clean water, and healthy tributaries. Prior to joining American Whitewater, he was working with the Salmon River Restoration Council on forestry and fire issues as they relate to watershed restoration and salmon recovery. Scott is based on Northern California’s wild and scenic Salmon River, conveniently located at a put-in and take-out for some of the best whitewater in the nation. In addition to paddling a variety of whitewater craft, you’ll find him flying his paraglider, hiking, biking, and putting in the work of off-grid, backcountry living with his girlfriend, cat, and chickens.

Heidi Heisler

Finance Director

Heidi was born and raised in Oregon’s Willamette Valley where she grew up outdoors camping and fishing throughout the state along with enjoying summer floats on the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers. For the last nine years, she worked for the nonprofit, Long Tom Watershed Council (LTWC) as their Finance Director. In addition to working for LTWC, she also teamed up with multiple regional partners and assisted with budgeting and tracking for collaborative funding efforts. Heidi currently lives with her husband, raising their triplet daughters. She enjoys watching them grow and find their love for the outdoors.

Hattie Johnson

Southern Rockies Restoration Director

Hattie grew up canoeing, camping, and hiking around the southeast with her family and a close band of friends. Yearly trips down the Hiawassee or Ocoee were a highlight, but not yet an obsession. After her first year of college, she needed a way to spend her summers outdoors. Raft guide training on the Ocoee River sparked a love and connection to rivers and she hasn’t looked back. Guiding rafts took her to around the country, eventually landing her in Colorado where she calls home to this day. After a few years of guiding on Clear Creek and ski bumming she found a so-called ‘real’ job with River Restoration, a mission-based engineering firm focused on enhancing and revitalizing the social, economic, and environmental value of rivers. Hattie worked as a Landscape Architect with the company for six years, gaining an understanding of the connection of western communities to their waterways and how that connection encompasses long standing law and tradition as well as constant evolution. In addition, this work provided experience with resource agencies and collaborative stakeholder processes. Hattie has a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Georgia and is a licensed Professional Landscape Architect in Colorado. Her training as a landscape architect provides an interesting perspective on humans and their connection to the natural and built environment. For the past four years, Hattie worked with American Whitewater as their event coordinator for the annual Gore Canyon Festival. Hattie is based in Carbondale, Colorado and enjoys paddling, backcountry skiing, and biking.

Kestrel Kunz

Southern Rockies Protection Director

As the Southern Rockies Protection Director, Kestrel co-leads the Southern Rockies Program with Hattie Johnson. Kestrel directs local, state, and federal efforts to proactively protect rivers in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. Protection strategies include leveraging tools like the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, environmental planning, Outstanding National Resource Waters, and local collaborative water management efforts. In coordination with the Restoration Director, Kestrel helps improve river access in the Southern Rockies and to ensure that our community can enjoy the special rivers that we work to protect and restore. Kestrel first joined American Whitewater as the Colorado Summer Outreach Intern in 2015 before becoming the Southern Rockies Stewardship Assistant the following year.

Kestrel grew up paddling with her family in Vermont and Eastern Canada, and later found her passion for protecting rivers while kayaking in Ecuador during high school. She graduated from Quest University Canada in 2016, where she received a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences focused around the question, “How can we best manage freshwater resources?”. She received a Distinction Award for her undergraduate thesis – an international field research project investigating physical lake dynamics in British Columbia and Peru. After graduating, Kestrel moved to Colorado to join the American Whitewater team and currently lives in the small mountain town of Crested Butte. On the weekends, Kestrel can be found ski patrolling in Crested Butte, mountain biking, and exploring new rivers.

Theresa L. Lorejo-Simsiman

California Stewardship Director

Theresa brings over a decade of river advocacy experience to the position of California Stewardship Director. Since she first started whitewater kayaking in 1999 she has made it a point to get involved at the community level to advocate for river sheds and lands in in her back-yard. She cut her teeth in the world of hydropower by actively informing and encouraging advocacy from local paddling groups for the relicensing of the FERC Upper American River Project (UARP) owned and operated by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). After a stalemate in relicensing discussions, Theresa represented boater interests and helped bring SMUD back to the negotiating table. She was subsequently invited to join the relicensing negotiations by the UARP coalition, which included American Whitewater, Friends of the River, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, American River Recreation Association, Camp Lotus, Foothill Conservancy, California Outdoors and Hilde Schweitzer. A relicensing settlement agreement for the project was signed in January 2007 bringing year around recreational flows to the South Fork American (SFA) River below Chili Bar, new recreational flows on the SFA below Slab Creek Dam and on South Silver Creek below Ice House Reservoir. With a predictable flow schedule in place, Theresa then spearheaded community efforts to get a grant from the El Dorado County Air Quality Management District (AQMD) to fund a boating shuttle service in Coloma on the SFA below Chili Bar. In 2008 she wrote and secured the first matching grant from AQMD totaling over 76K for the shuttle program.

In time, Dave Steindorf recruited Theresa as a volunteer for American Whitewater asking her to be the Ecological Resource Committee representative for the FERC Mokelumne River Project owned by Pacific Gas & Electric. She later agreed to represent American Whitewater during the relicensing process for the Merced River Hydroelectric Project and help with efforts to stop the roll back of National Wild & Scenic protection on the Merced River. Having gained practical knowledge working with utilities, federal, state & local agencies as well as local partner organizations, Theresa was eventually brought on to the American Whitewater staff as the California Stewardship Assistant in 2013. In this position she protected recreational flows on the Mokelumne River during the drought, advocated for State Wild and Scenic River status for the Mokelumne, helped remove an illegal fence blocking access to the Cosumnes River, and helped implement the first license required recreational flow releases on the South Fork American River below Slab Creek Dam and on South Silver Creek below Ice House Reservoir. Ph. 916-835-1460

Bob Nasdor

Northeast Stewardship Director

Bob is based out of Massachusetts and has been an avid paddler of the rivers of the Northeast for the past 10 years. Bob joined the staff of AW in 2012.

Bob brings a wealth of experience to the position from his 20-year career as a public interest attorney. Bob served as the executive and legal director for several programs aimed at improving policies and services benefitting low-income and homeless families. Following these roles he served as the Assistant Attorney General for the state of Massachusetts and has since formed a private law practice. These roles honed Bob’s advocacy, legislative reform, legal, grassroots organizing, and outreach skills.

Sadie Mathison

Membership and Operations Specialist

Sadie Mathison’s multi-faceted background makes her ideal to fill the role of Membership and Operations Specialist. Her past career is full of operations, administration, customer service, outreach, and communications experience with private, public, and nonprofit organizations. Her education is in natural resource management (A.A.S. Fox Valley Technical College, Appleton, Wisconsin) and food systems with an emphasis in agroecology and water quality (B.S. University of Minnesota Twin Cities). Sadie has also volunteered with several nonprofit organizations assisting with membership, outreach, communications, education, and fundraising.

Sadie’s first taste of whitewater was a brisk, unintentional swim in a 42 degree fahrenheit Middle Fork Salmon River and then another a few days later. She also spent 3 years living on the Mississippi River on a houseboat in downtown St. Paul (yes, even in the winter!) Nowadays she takes it chill with a paddleboard on inland Wisconsin lakes or in a fishing boat. More often, she can be found in the kitchen creating exotic international delicacies, in the woods riding a bicycle or pulling buckthorn, or tending her collection of edible plants.

Thomas O'Keefe

Pacific Northwest Stewardship Director

Tom first got his start paddling and playing in the water during early childhood canoe trips to the Adirondacks in upstate New York. After a brief diversion as a competitive swimmer and water polo player through high school and college, Tom came back to paddling and began his first serious whitewater while on a trip to Japan in 1992 and shortly thereafter became a full-fledged fanatic with the University of Wisconsin Hoofers. Tom has traveled across the country and around the globe in search of great rivers; in 2003 he completed a final descent of the Yangtze River through the Three Gorges, before the gates were closed on the world's largest dam.

Tom began work with American Whitewater in a volunteer capacity in 1995 and served as a Regional Coordinator in the Pacific Northwest before joining the staff in 2005. Tom received his undergraduate degree at Cornell University before completing his graduate work in aquatic ecology at the University of Wisconsin where he received his PhD in Zoology. Tom worked at the University of Washington where he coordinated research projects focused on the dynamics of nutrients returning salmon bring to river ecosystems and the structural development of riparian forests along large floodplain rivers. Through his work as a river ecologist, Tom gained experience working with resource agencies including the National Park Service and Forest Service as many of his research projects were conducted on public land. Tom has also taught courses in aquatic ecology, including watershed ecology and management, both at the university level and for youth programs. Bringing a wealth of experience to the organization, Tom contributes skills in river and fisheries ecology, teaching and outreach, grant writing, multimedia, web development, and inspiring local volunteers to help build American Whitewater's stewardship program. He is based in Seattle, WA and works closely with volunteers throughout the Pacific Northwest region on projects in Coastal WA/OR, the Columbia River watershed, Puget Sound, Fraser River watershed, coastal BC, and Alaska. In addition Tom covers project work in the Upper Midwest. And when the water's up, Tom still finds time to play on the water with family and friends.

Pacific Northwest Office
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115-3639
ph. 425-417-9012

Bethany Overfield

Membership and Engagement Director

Bethany has been an outdoor adventurer for most of her life, but wasn’t exposed to whitewater until she was in her early 30s. Once she started kayaking, she went on a multi-year stint where she only thought in terms of navigating through life on the water. She was forced to slow down after a couple of bad shoulder injuries, however, and now finds joy in being on or near any river, creek, or lake. She’s an avid mountain biker, paddler, reader, gardener, traveler, and observer. Raised in Kentucky, she earned a B.S. double majoring in geology and geography from Western Kentucky University and later earned an M.S. degree in geology from the University of Kentucky. Bethany spent the first part of her professional career as a research geologist at the Kentucky Geological Survey working on derivative maps focusing on the impact of geology on human health. She can talk about river morphology for hours and will continue to nerd out on rocks for the rest of her life. Bethany was heavily involved in the National Paddling Film Festival in various roles as Director, Volunteer Coordinator, Donor and Sponsor liaison, and Emcee from 2010-2017. Her exposure to working with every facet of the whitewater community compelled her to switch careers and hop on the AW train. Bethany is based in Brevard, North Carolina, and on whatever couch or paco pad she's sleeping on at the time as she's constantly on the go slinging memberships for American Whitewater across the country.

Evan Stafford

Communications Director

evanbiopicsq.jpgWhen a college girlfriend suggested they take a spring break raft trip training to be raft guides, Evan had little clue that it would change the course of his life forever. Attracted to the water and rivers from a very early age, Evan found himself at home on moving water with a paddle in his hands. His passion for whitewater led him across the Rocky Mountains, country, and eventually the world, exploring rivers with a childlike zeal. Born in Colorado and never leaving except for stints abroad, he found himself with a comprehensive knowledge of his home region's whitewater rivers and in 2006 he co-wrote the guidebook Whitewater of the Southern Rockies, while at the same time earning a masters of science degree from Colorado State University in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources. Not long after in 2008, Evan began to put his education to work for American Whitewater, implementing recreational in-stream flow studies across Colorado and working alongside Colorado Stewardship Director Nathan Fey to install the results as in-stream flow targets for river managers, protecting whitewater recreation across the State. In 2016, Evan took a part-time staff roll, working on building American Whitewater's outreach and communications program and in 2018, joined the staff full-time as the organization's Communications Director. Evan lives in Fort Collins with his two daughters, and can probably be found most easily paddling, climbing, splitboarding, or mountain biking in the Cache la Poudre Canyon, or as the locals like to say, “up the Poudre.”

Dave Steindorf

California Hydropower Specialist


Dave Steindorf has been an active river advocate in California since 1997. As the primary negotiator for American Whitewater's interests in hydropower licensing in California, Dave has gained a reputation as a consensus builder. He has been able to gain the respect of agencies, non-governmental organizations, and licensees while successfully achieving the goals of his constituents. He was a signatory to the Rock Creek Cresta Settlement agreement, along with past American Whitewater Board President Kevin Lewis, and American Whitewater Conservation Director John Gangemi. This agreement provided for the first whitewater releases in California. Over the next two decades, Dave successfully restored flows to dozens of other rivers across California resulting in over 100 days of new recreational opportunities on rivers across the state.

Dave has a diverse range of recreational, professional and educational experiences that make him uniquely suited for his role at American Whitewater. Dave has more than two decades of experience working on federal hydropower licensing. Dave is somewhat of an anomaly, in that he has not only worked in an advocacy role but also as a consultant for several utilities in the West. During that time he has had a role in over a dozen recreational flow studies to quantify instream flow needs for whitewater recreation, as well as studies on angling and flat-water boating. Dave is also able to draw on his vast experience in a variety of recreational pursuits including his professional experience in paddlesports, angling, cycling, and outdoor retail. In addition to this breadth of experience Dave also has a degree in Economics and a Masters in Education.

Dave was introduced to rivers at age 7, when his father put a fly rod in his hands. Learning to kayak later on was a natural progression from his childhood love of rivers. Dave's passion for river conservation issues inspired him to make a video, “More than Plumbing”, which won an award for best amateur video at the 2000 National Paddling film festival.

Dave strongly believes that flowing rivers are an undervalued resource not only in this country, but also around the world. He feels that education is the key to river conservation. “Most of our progress on the North Fork Feather has been due to our ability to educate the other non-governmental organizations, agencies, and utilities to the value of whitewater boating. However, the best way to improve people's notions about whitewater is to get them on the river. Couch Potatoes make lousy river advocates.” Ph. 530 518-2729

Jeff Venturino

California Stewardship Associate


Jeff has supported American Whitewater in various capacities since 2017, beginning as a volunteer and finally joining the team as the California Stewardship Associate in Spring of 2024. Rivers and river recreation have been important to him for his entire life. He was raised recreating in Northern California rivers such as the Salmon, Trinity, Baduwa’t and Eel and later became enamored with the watersheds of the Central Sierra where he now resides. He has been a perennial Volunteer Coordinator for Feather River Fest for many years, a whitewater kayak instructor, a member of UC Davis Rowing and Outdoor Adventures, and a Ruddering Commitee member for Gold Country Paddlers. Prior to professional river advocacy he spent seven years doing regulatory and pesticides registration work for US EPA compliance and registration, managing human safety and efficacy testing for insect repellents, and broadly navigating the regulatory space surrounding them. Transitioning industry regulatory experience to whitewater and turning it into a career is a dream realized. He lives in Nevada City above the South Fork of the Yuba River and enjoys organic farming, backcountry skiing, cooking, and most of all paddling in his spare time.

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