Debra Torrence spends as much time outside as possible with her husband Clay, hiking, walking their dog, biking and on bodies of water across the Southeast US. She has over 30 years of experience in non-profit administration, university research and fund development. She has successfully secured dozens of grants for a variety of community needs, research, education and non-profit organization efforts. Debra coordinates Tryon Fine Arts Center's marketing and fund development activities part time and contracts with nonprofits across NC to support their grant writing needs. She and Clay Johnson, who produces documentaries and PBS NC segments, live in downtown Tryon with their pets, Henry B. their black lab & Chazzy Cat.
Carolyn Ashburn is a retired Speech and Language Specialist that worked in the NC School system. She currently serves on the boards of the Saluda Historic Depot, the Saluda Community Land Trust, the Polk County Appearance Commission and the Historic St. Matthews Church. She served as a Saluda City Commissioner from 2013-201. She heads up the litter control team for the Saluda Business Association which is part of the county Adopt-a-Highway program.
Joe Cooper has always been interested in architecture and art. Joe graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Industrial Engineering and did graduate work in Anthropology at Tulane University. He worked in the welding industry and developed a love of welding metal into art and craft items. Moving to Polk County in 2003, he appreciates the natural beauty of this area and the rich cultural opportunities. Joe is the original organizer of the Polk County Appearance Commission over a dozen years ago and has helped gain respect and support from our county Commissioners for continued beautification projects in Polk County.
David Lee is the Natural Resources Manager for Conserving Carolina, a local land trust serving Henderson, Polk, and Transylvania counties, where he oversees the land management and restoration of Conserving Carolina’s preserves. David has been involved with managing non-native invasive plants in Western North Carolina for the past 11-years and got involved with the Polk County Appearance Commission in 2018 to assist with a new effort to control kudzu along scenic Highway 176. David now works with PCAC to administer their Kudzu Grant Program. In his free time, David enjoys getting outside, hiking, traveling, and exploring with his wife Kristen and daughter Emma.
Robert Williamson has traveled the globe for nearly four decades as an equipment reliability consultant, researcher, and author for manufacturing and mining businesses. Since easing into retirement he served as Polk County economic development director for four years, worked for Thermal Belt Habitat for Humanity, and is now completing his four-year term as Columbus Town Councilman where he is committed to making Columbus a great place to live, work, play, raise a family, and retire. Robert's interests in history drew him to the only House of Flags in America in 2003 where he continues to serve as curator, researcher, and board member. You'll often see him next door to the Museum in Veteran's Park and around the Charters of Freedom caring for the flags on display. Robert has lived in Polk County for 35 years and is a member of Midway Baptist Church. He lives in Columbus with his wife Deb, two dogs and two cats and spends his spare time in his woodworking shop.
Hi, I’m Greg Miner, a resident of Tryon since 1995. I’ve worked on invasive eradication as a volunteer for perhaps 20 years. Before I retired my co-workers, at a local community hospital, had heard of my hobby, and their invariable question following their look of perplexion was, why? Perhaps you ask the same question.
The short answer is nature is not all about us. That’s us with a small ‘u’.
All plants are not created equal. Ecologically plants have had millions of years to arrange an ecological system whereby all life could survive interdependently. It was a self-sustaining environment. The Us in this case was with a large ‘U’. The introduction of nonnative species resulted in ecological turmoil as alien plants had no natural predators that could curtail its growth. These plants, like kudzu, bittersweet, tree of heaven outcompete native plants for resources. Insects can’t digest the proteins in the leaf structure of these plants. As a result, bird populations become challenged due to diminishing supply of insect protein. You get the picture, ecologically our environment becomes less diverse, and we gravitate to monocultures where a single species dominates a landscape.
If you moved to Western North Carolina because the beauty of its forested mountains, you have a stake in maintaining its heritage of native diversity. Think of yourself as part of the Us with a capital ’U’. What could you be doing to protect the land that most of us here cherish?
Denny Crowe is a native of Richmond, Virginia. After graduating from Virginia Tech, she began her career working for a longstanding family owned Virginia tree farm and landscape nursery. Denny’s passion for design, both Landscape and Floral, led her to deepen her knowledge through courses from Harvard’s Career Discovery Program, with a focus in Landscape Architecture, and Longwood Garden’s floral workshops. Denny has spent over three decades across three states, working in the horticultural industry, to include positions in wholesale nursery sales, garden center management, landscape/garden design and installation and over a decade as the owner of a garden and floral design business. Denny has served in numerous volunteer roles including the Junior League, various church altar guilds, as well as garden clubs. She currently serves as the Membership Engagement Chair of the Tryon Garden Club. Denny loves living in beautiful Tryon and working in her yard with her husband of 47 years, Skip, and their dog Henry.
Clyde Younkin is a retired Engineer. After receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, Clyde worked as a consulting engineer. With a keen interest in improving the environment, Clyde spent his professional life working primarily on large wastewater projects. These large engineering projects were undertaken with the goal of improving water quality in our nation’s rivers, bays and harbors. An avid outdoorsman, horseman and rider, Clyde and his wife were drawn to the Tryon area of Polk County. As a member of Engineers Without Borders, Clyde has done volunteer work on international drinking water projects