Riverkeeper named Sound Rivers’ executive director

Published 6:33 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Heather Jacobs Deck, longtime Pamlico-Tar riverkeeper, will take the helm of Sound Rivers starting Sept. 1.

The current executive director, Harrison Marks, announced his plan to retire earlier this year. Deck is a familiar face for the grassroots environmental advocacy nonprofit — she joined the organization in 2003 as its riverkeeper and was named deputy director in December 2016.

“The thing that I really relish the most is the opportunity to build relationships and meet people and share how important Sound Rivers’ work is in their daily lives,” Deck said.

Though the search for a new executive director was nationwide, the committee tasked with finding a new director found what they were looking for at home.

“Heather’s depth and breadth of experience, passion for our mission and excellent relationships with researchers, regulators and other environmental organizations throughout the state made her the ideal choice for the position,” Steve Smith, a Raleigh-based attorney who headed the Sound Rivers Board of Directors’ search committee, stated in a press release. “She was the unanimous choice of the search committee as well as the entire board.”

Deck has a master’s degree in environment management from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University in 2000, and spent two years in El Salvador as an agroforestry and environment education volunteer in the Peace Corps before joining Sound Rivers, according to the press release.

While her role as riverkeeper kept her out in the community, she plans to switch gears and focus on Sound Rivers’ long-term vision and bringing in the resources necessary to serve the communities along the Tar, Pamlico and Neuse rivers.

“It’s really, hopefully, to grow the influence of the organization, to broaden our support in general and grow the membership and the financial resources that we need so the riverkeepers can effectively do the work,” Deck said.

Riverkeepers’ work includes research and identification of the needs of rivers and their watersheds and setting goals and strategies to address how to protect and restore them.

“Biggest change is I will now oversee the operations of the organization and be able to work more closely with our board of directors as we seek to grow Sound Rivers —building programs, membership to better fulfill the mission of protecting our vital water resources,” Deck said.

Deck said Sound Rivers will be hiring a new Pamlico-Tar riverkeeper in the coming months while the organization takes its time with the transition between Marks and Deck.

“I look forward to stepping into his shoes,” she said. “We’re hoping for as seamless a transition as possible.”