Nantahala Health Foundation Announces Leadership Changes

January 25, 2021


New for 2021, Nantahala Health Foundation, a recently established regional nonprofit working to enhance health and wellness in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, Swain counties and the Qualla Boundary, has announced changes in leadership at both its board and staff levels.

As of January, David Garrett, director of the Workforce Development Board at Southwestern Commission, has stepped into the chairman’s role on the organization’s 10-person board of directors, while Lisa Leatherman, a long-time Duke Energy employee, has been elevated to vice chair.

“I appreciate the board’s trust in me to take on this position,” Garrett said. “I’m very fortunate to be taking the reins from (immediate past chair) Jane Kimsey, who has worked hard to build a solid organizational foundation, which has, in turn, facilitated our first transition in the chair role.”

In her role as NHF’s founding chair, Kimsey, a former director of the Macon County Department of Social Services who also served in a leadership role on the Angel Medical Center board of directors, was responsible for establishing the organization in Western North Carolina, from helping to design the logo to recruiting board representation throughout the region, Garrett said.

“It’s definitely being noticed inside and outside this region the extent to which our organization is committed to focusing on health and wellness initiatives in all six WNC counties and on the Qualla Boundary,” he said. “That notoriety is a direct result of Jane’s efforts.”

Born and raised in Georgia, Garrett moved to Jackson County in 2002 after falling in love with this region as an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker. Garrett joined the Employment Security Commission (now NCWorks) in 2009, where he worked as an employment counselor before becoming the business service representative for the Southwestern Commission in 2014. In 2018 he was named the Southwestern Workforce Development Board director, a role from which he supports workforce initiatives and projects throughout the region. He also currently serves as secretary of the North Carolina Association of Workforce Development Board.

Garrett says he believes that Nantahala Health Foundation can help Western North Carolina maximize the health potential of our community by reducing health disparities and promoting access to quality healthcare and other wellness resources.

“A healthy community translates to a healthy workforce, which, in turn, allows us to grow and prosper,” he said.

Lisa Leatherman, Duke Energy’s Local Government Community Relationship Manager, stepped into the board’s vice chair leadership role left vacant by Garrett’s ascension to chair. A Duke employee for more than 30 years, Leatherman has held various customer-facing positions at the utility company, including lake services, hydro relicensing, hydro operations, engineering and vegetation management.

A member of the Sylva Rotary Club, 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, and now vice chair, of Nantahala Health Foundation,” she said. “The opportunity to partner with nonprofit 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.”

Additional NHF board leadership roles are held by Secretary Sonya Wachacha of Cherokee, Nursing Division executive director at the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian Hospital, and Treasurer Roger Plemens, a retired banker living in Franklin.

Rounding out Nantahala Health Foundation’s 10-member board are Angie Knight, superintendent of Graham County Schools; Kelly Brown, a team member at Jackson County’s Bear Lake Reserve; Debbie Mauney, Clay County manager and its health and human services director; Tom O’Brien, president and CEO of Industrial Opportunities Inc. in Andrews; and Alison Cochran, Swain County Health Department director.

On the organization’s staff level, Advancement Officer Lisa Duff was promoted in January to Associate Director. A resident of Whittier, Duff joined Executive Director Lori Bailey in Nantahala Health Foundation’s Franklin office a little over a year ago after serving as the marketing and membership director of a nonprofit supporting Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Prior to that work, she served as a community organizer for the American Cancer Society with responsibilities for fundraising and mission delivery throughout Western North Carolina.