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SCCF Hires Powerful Team for Water Quality Policy Work

August 5, 2020

SCCF announced today that two well-known leaders in Southwest Florida water quality issues will deepen and expand the non-profit’s work to restore and protect the region’s waterways.

Starting Sept. 8, James Evans, (pictured at right) Director of Natural Resource with the City of Sanibel, and Chad Gillis, Environmental Reporter with the Naples Daily News and News-Press, will lead policy and advocacy work at the Sanibel-based non-profit.

“James and Chad each bring 20 years of expertise in SWFL’s environment to SCCF. Individually these professionals would be extraordinary additions to our team, but when combined, SCCF benefits from a supercharged policy team,” said SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera.

Evans will take on a new title at SCCF as Environmental Policy Director. He will direct water quality policy as it impacts the islands and region at the local, regional, state, and federal levels, as well as growth management and other topics affecting Sanibel and Captiva. He will take over the portfolio of SCCF’s first Natural Resource Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel, who retired in May after serving 14 years, and will carry forth her legacy by continuing to expand upon SCCF’s rich tradition of environmental policy. 

“I am elated to join the talented team at SCCF and be a part of the Foundation’s rich history of conservation and advocacy rooted in science.” said Evans. “I look forward to continuing the strong regional partnerships that we have built over the years to protect and restore our natural systems from the Everglades to the coasts.”

Having focused his award-winning journalism on the Caloosahatchee River, Lake Okeechobee, and Everglades restoration, Gillis will take on a newly-created position at SCCF as Policy Advocate. He will be primarily focused on water quality and will promote SCCF policy positions through various media as he continues to write. 

“I’ve written about environmental issues in this region for two decades and am both excited and proud to advocate solutions for our precious resources.,” said Gillis (pictured at left). “I look forward to becoming part of the Sanibel-Captiva community and working on behalf of residents, visitors, and our treasured environment.”

As a team, Evans will work with the City as part of SCCF’s long-standing partnership, as well as regional, state and national partners to create meaningful policy positions for SCCF, while Gillis will be instrumental in all policy communication efforts.

“Together they will allow us to advocate for our islands and watershed with a megaphone. I want to thank our policy donors and our Board of Trustees for their strategic investment in our water quality,” said Orgera. “This could not be better news for Florida’s waters. I feel very lucky to welcome these two powerhouses to SCCF.”

Appointed as director of the Natural Resources department in 2012, Evans joined the City of Sanibel in 2000 as a Conservation Officer. In 2003, he was promoted to Environmental Planner and, in 2006, was appointed as Environmental Health and Water Quality Specialist. Evans earned both his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and a master’s in Environmental Science from Florida Gulf Coast University. 

Gillis, who moved to Southwest Florida in 1999 and holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Middle Tennessee State University, will also provide overall communications support at SCCF in collaboration with Communications Director Barbara Linstrom. 

Evans and Gillis will be joined on the policy team by SCCF Marine Lab’s Research Associate Leah Reidenbach, who has a strong background in water quality science and science communication and SCCF’s Policy Assistant Holly Schwartz, who worked with Lee County for 11 years and specializes in growth management issues.

A proud military veteran, Evans enjoys traveling, hiking, running, cycling, swimming, surfing, fishing, and boating. He lives in Fort Myers with his wife Amber, son Benjamin, and their two dogs Darwin and Simon.  An avid paddler, fisherman and sailor, Gillis, who is married to Marcie Gillis, lives in the Estero area and has long admired Sanibel Island for its natural beauty and conservation legacy. 

SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation) is dedicated to the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed. Learn more at



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