SSJ ExCom Elections

Suwannee St. Johns Sierra Club Candidate Bios for 2020-2021 Term

 Doug Bernal

Since leaving the Army and coming back to Gainesville, public service has been at the forefront of my life. Working for groups such as the Sierra Club, Veterans for Peace, the local Democratic Party and others have given me the chance not just to serve the area I grew up in, but to better know and appreciate the people that make the Suwannee-St. John’s area home. As I run for re-election this year, I hope that you continue allowing me to work for you, our home and the environment. Thank you for your support.

Amy Crain

I moved to Florida from Colorado two years ago in part to experience a new, beautiful environment. I grew up in the shadow of Rocky Mountain National Park. My father was a noted conservationist and protected over 40,000 acres of land.  A passion for the environment and open spaces is in my blood. I have a degree in Natural Resources Management and have spent many years volunteering in my community. I have held leadership roles for eleven years and am task focused. I will work hard and look forward to bringing new ideas to the board.

 Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson

Owner/operator of Rum 138 in Fort White. Previously employed by Sierra Club as Wild Florida Campaign Organizer. On SSJ ExCom for past two years, currently Vice Chair. Co-founder and past president of Our Santa Fe River; past president of Save Our Suwannee; serves on innumerable committees, boards, advisory groups.  Gives lectures, radio/TV interviews, appears on panels and round tables.  Attends many governing meetings, including water management boards, county/city commissioners, State Legislative Sessions.  Dedicates her life to freely giving of her time, energy and many skills. Current passion – giving Bill of Rights to the Santa Fe River in Alachua County.

 Whitey Markle

I joined SSJ EXCOM around 2003, served as Membership committee chair for several years, became Conservation Chair in 2010, served as Acting Chair in 2016, and was elected Chair in 2017. Having served 3 years as Chair and having been elected to the Florida Chapter Executive Committee in 2018, having been assigned to lead the Chapter’s Water Quality Working Group, I am ready to resume responsibilities on the SSJ Executive Committee, but no longer as Chair.  I believe my relationship with the Florida Chapter will be valuable to the SSJ Executive Committee.

Sherry Steiner

Retired special education teacher. Worked on campaign against the Newberry cement plant; on Charter One Amendment to allow Alachua County to have stricter environmental regulations than the state; to elect environmental candidates to Alachua County Commission, including Byerly, Hutch, Cornell, and Wheeler; on campaigns to prevent major industrial development; to support the Coalition for Responsible Growth in their fight to prevent the Spring Hills development. Working to prevent Plum Creek/Weyerhaeuser’s development plans for Alachua County’s wetlands. Served on EXCOM for 18 years: Political, Newsletter Folding and Nominating Committees and newsletter editing. For the past 16 years, serving as Events Coordinator.

Jim Tatum
Retired USF professor living on Santa Fe River near High Springs.  Currently finishing my first term of service on the Suwannee St. Johns Executive Committee, during which time I was lucky enough to receive the Chapter Cypress Award.  I also serve on the Chapter Phosphate Committee.  I have fought the HPS mine in Union and Bradford counties since its inception.   I am an active member of Our Santa Fe River, Inc., and write the newsletter for that organization.  Many of my activities there coincide with the mission of Sierra Club.  Also, I am an active member of Floridians Against Fracking.

Sarah Younger

Member since 1994; Ontario College of Art – Photo Electric Arts Graduate; Grandmother and artist activist, my recent contributions to Sierra Club have spanned the spectrum of advocacy work: Co-organizing the SUN Plugged Solar Tours, Green New Deal Town Hall and DNC Debate Watch Parties; Presenting on Regenerative Agriculture and Soil Advocacy in public forums, Sierra Club meeting and with Rep. Ted Yoho; Mother Nature representing SAFEBOR petition campaign at Climate Strike; Co-developed Campaign. Strengthening our response to the Climate Crisis is my priority by creatively advocating for Climate Justice and Climate Action.



The following members have agreed to run for the 2020-2021 term: Doug Bernal; Amy Crain; Whitey Markle; Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson; Sherry Steiner; Jim Tatum; Sarah Younger.

If you are interested in running, you have until September 26th submit a petition by emailing your name, address, email address and phone number to Put “Petition to be added to SSJ Candidate List” in the subject line.

Election ballots with more info on the candidates will be going out to all members around the end of October.


Each year about half the Suwannee St. Johns Sierra Club Group Executive Committee (ExCom) reaches the end of their terms. Some decide not to run again, others do. The Group uses democracy to hold itself accountable to its membership, so we need good candidates to best represent our members’ interests.

Our Nominations Committee (NomCom) is seeking candidates to run, so we’re looking to you to suggest nominees! This committee will be looking for at least six members who are interested in joining the current group of dedicated, smart, and hard-working members in their efforts to “Explore, Enjoy, Protect” the environment.

Please contact us at if you would like to be a candidate or if you would like to nominate another willing member. Please send nomination ideas no later than September 6.

After receiving nominations, we — the Nominations Committee — will consider and recommend candidates for the ballot, which is published in the November issue of the SSJ Newsletter. Candidates may also get on the ballot by petition. Candidates get space on the ballot to advocate for their election.

Any interested person who seeks nomination but is NOT nominated by the committee will have the opportunity to run by petition.

The newly elected members will serve a two-year term, beginning in December. The main requirements (other than being a current Sierra Club member) are a willingness to work on various tasks providing leadership and direction for the Group and attending the ExCom meetings each month. Excom members also will be expected to attend a transition meeting between the old and the new ExCom that occurs sometime in December, after the election results are announced.

Elected for 2019-2020 – DO NOT need to run
1) Scott Camil
2) Harriett Jones
3) Maryvonne Devensky
4) Mark Hodges
5) Greg Mullaley

2019 ELECTION CALENDAR – Italics are notes on bylaw requirements.
June 13 – ExCom sets Election Calendar. Adopted June 13, 2019
June 13 – ExCom decides whether to allow for electronic voting (must be decided prior to appointment of the Nominating Committee, at least 4 months prior to Election Closing Date) Approved June 13, 2019.
Prior to August 5 – ExCom appoints Nominating and Election Committees (at least four months prior to Election Closing Date). NomCom appointed June 13th: Scott Camil, Harriett Jones, Roberta Gastmeyer. We will work on getting ElComm members, to be appointed by email vote prior to August 5.
Year Round – Link in e-newsletter to website page that includes notice of the election, election schedule, rules for petition candidates, a call for candidates, and Nominating Committee contact info. Website to be updated as soon as possible with new pertinent information. (provide sufficient opportunity for members to submit names for consideration)
Sept 6 – Deadline to Submit Names to Nominating Committee for Consideration (provide sufficient opportunity for members to submit names for consideration)
Sept 12 (ExCom Mtg) – NomCom slate presented to ExCom (must be at least 5 weeks prior to Ballot Mailing Date)
Sept 26 – Petition Candidate deadline (must be at least 2 weeks after NomCom Report to ExCom)
Oct 3 (Gen Mtg) – Bios due to NomCom
Oct 10 (ExCom Mtg) – Ballot prepared for Excom Approval
Oct 23 – Obtain ballot mailing list (must be no earlier than one week prior to the date ballots are mailed); send to printer.
Oct 30 – Ballots mailed (must be at least 4 weeks prior to Closing Date).
Dec 5 (Gen Mtg) – Election Closing Date (must be in fourth quarter, Oct.-Dec.)
Dec 5 (Gen Mtg) – Ballots counted (as soon as practical after Closing Date); report emailed to ExCom and all candidates
Dec 6 – Distribute job descriptions and preferences for ExCom offices to all ExCom members
Dec 12 (ExCom Mtg) – Excom reorganization, Election Committee hears any complaints from candidates or others, and then formally reports election results to the ExCom. The Executive Committee hears any appeals of complaints regarding election results; when all appeals have been completed (including appeals of ExCom decisions), it directs destruction of nomination petitions and ballots (at next ExCom meeting).