Who We Are

The Nantahala Health Foundation (NHF) is committed to collaborating with organizations in the six-county region and the Qualla Boundary to build capacity and address areas that significantly affect the health and well-being of all people in the community we serve.

The Nantahala Health Foundation, a public 501(c)3 charity, is a successor foundation charged with improving the health, wellness and overall quality of life for those living in the westernmost region of North Carolina, including Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties, as well as the Qualla Boundary.  

Having evolved from the sale of Mission Health System to HCA, the Nantahala Health Foundation is overseen by a Board of Directors that reflects the diversity of the six counties. This diversity is demonstrated in several ways:  where the members live, their expertise regarding the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH), as well as by race and gender. 

Our Leadership

Lori Bailey, Executive Director

Lori Bailey has had more than 25 years of experience working to protect, equip, and empower our most vulnerable citizens.  A native of Western North Carolina, Lori holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of North Carolina, Asheville.  After receiving her BA degree, Lori worked for 12 years in various public and not-for-profit roles covering the Asheville and broader Western North Carolina Region in positions working to support individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and mental illness, the aging and caregivers for those individuals.  This work included mobilization and empowerment of recipients of public mental health services to have a voice in state level system reform efforts. 

Lori then relocated to the Upstate of South Carolina where she earned a Master’s in Public Administration and a Graduate Certificate in International Family and Community Studies from Clemson University. While completing her degree, she worked for Clemson University on the Strong Communities for Children initiative, a comprehensive effort to prevent child maltreatment by building systems of support for families of young children through grass-roots neighborhood and community mobilization. Since completing her degree, she has more than seven years of proven leadership and management success in executive and senior leadership positions in not-for-profit organizations serving children, youth and families in crisis, including those experiencing housing instability and homelessness, those experiencing food insecurity and other economic disadvantage and those involved with the child welfare system. 

Lori, her husband Doug and their two sons are excited to be back in WNC with the Nantahala Health Foundation.  She believes the foundation is well-poised to mobilize our mountain communities to address the root issues impacting the health and well-being of the region she still considers home.

Our Board of Directors

Jane Kimsey, Chair

Jane Kimsey spent her career as the Director of Macon County Department of Social Services. After 33 years of service, 26 years as the Director, she retired in 2015. During her tenure she served on numerous local, regional and state professional boards related to health and well being. After retirement, Jane continued to serve in leadership roles on the local hospital board and two low-income housing boards, resigning from these boards to serve on the NHF Board. Jane received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from Governor Pat McCrory in 2015 and received both the Outstanding DSS Director in 2011 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018 from the NC Association of County Directors of Social Services.

Jane is a ninth-generation resident of the area that became Macon County in 1828. Her love of her mountain home community, her commitment to service and her desire to help people, help themselves are the reasons she agreed to serve as Chair of the NHF Board.

Jane is a proud mother of a daughter and a son, and a very proud grandmother of 2 grandsons and a granddaughter.

David Garrett, Vice Chair

Born and raised in Georgia David Garrett relocated to Jackson County in 2002 after falling in love with this region on an Appalachian Trail thru-hike.  David started working with the Employment Security Commission (now NCWorks) in 2009 working as an employment counselor before becoming the Business Service Representative for the Southwestern Commission in 2014. In July, 2018 David became the Southwestern Workforce Development Board Director, supporting workforce initiatives and projects throughout our region. David is an avid cyclist and loves traveling and exploring Western North Carolina.

David believes that the Nantahala Health Foundation can help Western NC maximize the health potential of our community and help reduce health disparities to quality healthcare and resources. “A healthy community translates to a healthy workforce, which, in turn, allows us to grow and prosper.”

Sonya Wachacha, Secretary

Sonya is a native of the Qualla Boundary.  She grew up in and resides currently in Cherokee, NC with her husband of 19 years and their 5 children.  Sonya’s oldest son is in the US Army, and her youngest is attending the New Kituwah Academy, a Cherokee Language Immersion School.   

Sonya is a graduate of Montreat College in Black Mountain and obtained her Master of Health Sciences from Western Carolina University. Currently, Sonya is the Executive Director of the Nursing Division at the Cherokee Indian Hospital where she is going on her 17th year of tenure.  Through Sonya’s extensive background as a Registered Nurse with a strong background in healthcare leadership and management, she has experienced the positive impact programs can have on young lives.  Professionally, she has seen results of targeted programs improving the health of populations.

Sonya believes that through serving on the Nantahala Health Foundation’s Board of Directors she can facilitate the assistance to programs that can positively impact and change the future for all people in our region.  “We all have family, friends, and community relationships that can benefit from strategic initiatives that improve living conditions, educational attainment, and overall health.  I’ve been able to overcome many challenging social determinants in my own life, and I want to see programs flourish as they help other families.”

Roger Plemens, Treasurer

After graduating from Western Carolina University, Roger started with Macon Savings and Loan Association (now Entegra Bank) in March of 1978 as a mortgage loan officer.  The bank was $27 million in assets with one office when he started.  Roger was promoted to the Manager of Mortgage Lending in 1981. He became the Chief Lending Officer and Vice President in 1984 and Senior Vice-President in 1994.  Roger was promoted to President and CEO in April of 2004. Entegra Bank now has $1.6 billion in assets with 18 branches and two loan production offices.

Roger has been active in his community, previously serving on the board of Angel Medical Center, President of the Chamber of Commerce, President of his Franklin Daybreak Rotary, board member of Western Carolina University Foundation, board member of the North Carolina Bankers Association and currently serves on Macon County’s Economic Development Commission.

Kelly Brown

Following college, Kelly Brown came to the mountains from the Eastern part of North Carolina. He was born and raised in Fayetteville, NC and attended college at Chowan in Murfreesboro, NC. For a year and a half, Kelly served as an intern for Cooperative Baptist Fellowship at WCU. He began serving at First Baptist Church of Sylva in the spring of 2013 as the After-School Director and Associate Pastor Intern. Since then, the ministry has grown to provide an array of care options for school-age children. Some of their greatest successes have been providing extended options such as Teacher Workday Care, Parents Night Out Care, Snow Day Care, Spring Break Care and a full-day summer camp for school-age children. Kelly loves serving the region’s children and providing families with a safe place for children to learn and grow with one another.  In his spare time, Kelly enjoys reading, writing, cooking, volunteering in the community and experiencing the beautiful mountains.

Alison Cochran

Alison Cochran was raised in Bryson City, North Carolina.  She is a graduate of UNC Asheville with a B.S. in Earth Science and received her Master of Health Science at Western Carolina University. Alison began her career with Swain County Health Department in 2005 as an Environmental Health Program Specialist.  By January 2013, Alison was appointed as the Interim Health Director at Swain County Health Department, and in 2015, she became the Health Director of Swain County Health Department. 

As a representative of Swain County and Health Directors of Western North Carolina, Alison feels she has a better understanding of the challenges our communities face with social determinants and how we can invest in our counties’ future.     

Alison has been married for 17 years to her husband Cabbott, and they have a 10-year-old son named Landon.  She and her family enjoy camping, going to the lake and of course playing baseball! 

Jason Johnson

Jason Johnson is a native of Cherokee County, NC.  He was born and raised in Murphy, NC and now teaches Special Education at Andrews Elementary School.  Jason is married to his wife Crystal John and has two children.  Jason is a dedicated role model in his community.  He loves teaching and coaching.  Currently, Jason is the Assistant Head Football Coach at Andrews High School and the Head Track Coach at Andrews Middle School.

Jason believes that the Nantahala Health Foundation is truly dedicated to building up the community in which he lives and works.  He sincerely looks forward to being a part of a positive movement in his community.

Angie Knight

Angie is a native of North Carolina.  She grew up in Lenoir, NC and moved to Robbinsville, NC in 1983.  Angie is a graduate of Robbinsville High School and obtained her BSED, MAED – Special Education and EdS – in Educational Leadership from Western Carolina University.  Currently, Angie is the Superintendent of Graham County Schools and is beginning her 30th year in education.

Angie is married to Jeff Knight – School Resource Officer at Graham County Schools –  and has two children.  Angie stated, “Having spent my entire career in education, I have learned that all community issues are interconnected, including community health and wellness. I look forward to actively participating with the other board members to make decisions that benefit all of our communities.”

Lisa Leatherman

Lisa is a native of Franklin, NC and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Elon College.

Lisa has been an employee of Duke Energy for 32 years having worked in other various customer facing roles including lake services, hydro relicensing, hydro operations, engineering and vegetation management.

She is a member of the Rotary Club of Sylva. She serves on boards for the Southwestern Community College Foundation, Mainspring Conservation Trust, Macon County Department of Social Services, Macon County Community Foundation, Macon County Recreation Commission, Smoky Mountain Host and Western Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology Dean’s Advisory Board.

She has also served on the board for Macon County Habitat for Humanity, Macon County CareNet, Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce and WCU’s Academic Community Engagement Board.

“It is an honor to serve as a founding member of the Nantahala Health Foundation.  The opportunity to partner with non-profits, agencies, local governments and community leaders in the six westernmost counties in Western North Carolina to influence the health and well-being of fellow citizens is humbling and motivating.”

Debbie Mauney

Debbie Mauney began her career at the Clay County Department of Social Services in 1990, serving as Director since 1997. Debbie was appointed by the Clay County Commissioners as the Clay County Health and Human Services Director in 2018 when the county consolidated Health and Human Services. This position includes the supervision of Health, Social Services, and Senior Services.  Over the years, she has served on many local and regional non-profit boards including being active in the startup of many of these organizations. 

Debbie’s passion over the years has been to develop resources in house (DSS) or work with the community in developing resources that did not exist when needed.  Debbie says that she is excited about this opportunity to serve on the Nantahala Health Foundation and believes that her experience in working with families will help in developing a plan for meeting social determinants of health in this region.  Her career in social services has afforded her the opportunity to see that each of us can make a difference in a person’s life if we are persistent with a vision to make our community a better place to live.  Debbie is married to Alan Mauney, and they reside in Brasstown, NC.  They are proud parents of a daughter named Allie.