Our Team

Meet Our Leadership Team

Displaying 1 - 14 of 14

Tina White

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Tina White is the Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Pride Center and a co-host and writer for the Asheville View, an affiliate of Equity over Everything. Tina previously served on the Board Executive Committee for the Human Rights Campaign and Human Rights Campaign Foundation. She continues to serve on their Development Committee.

Tina spent 35 years consulting to and working for global corporations. Her specialty was large-scale business transformation: reshaping organizations to pursue new strategies and improve performance. She managed reorganizations, acquisitions, training programs, reengineering projects, channel & pricing strategies, and leadership development initiatives.

In 2013, Tina embarked on her most ambitious transformation project yet: herself. With the support of her wife, family, and colleagues, Tina finally acknowledged the gender identity she had spent fifty years trying to destroy.

Since 2015, Tina has shifted her focus to community service, writing, and speaking. She speaks and writes on issues of diversity & inclusion, organization transformation, social justice, and personal identity. Her central theme is that, when we learn to see and embrace the person inside one another, our lives, communities, and organizations are all the richer.

Tina is the author of Between Shadow and Sun: A Husband’s Journey Through Gender, A Wife’s Labor of Love. In it, she describes her 50-year struggle with gender and her wife's efforts to embrace her revealed identity. She provides editorial commentary on the Asheville View and Person Inside.

Education: Tina holds an MBA in Strategy, Marketing & Finance from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and an AB in Economics from Princeton University.

David Perry

Director, Fundraising / Development; Member, Board of Directors

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David Perry is a native of North Carolina. He retired from federal service after 36 years in a variety of political and agency leadership positions. He was most recently Deputy Director for the US Small Business Administration (SBA) in Georgia and SBA National LGBTQ Outreach Director.

Prior to joining SBA in 1998, David served 16 years on the staff of US Congressman W.G. (Bill) Hefner (NC-8). He was appointed manager of a constituent services office at age 25 and later served as a domestic policy advisor on Capitol Hill.

As Deputy Director for Georgia from 2010 - 2016 he managed the delivery of SBA small business across the state. He developed and managed formalized partnerships with elected officials, corporate leaders and organizations representing diverse communities including African American, Hispanic, women, Veteran, seniors and LGBTQ.

As National LGBTQ Outreach Director from 2013 until 2016, David developed and managed SBA’s partnerships with national LGBT organizations, including the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce and the National Black Justice Coalition.   He represented SBA as part of a team that designed and executed the LGBT Business Builder, a two-year multi city initiative to increase the number of LGBT certified small businesses and raising awareness of SBA programs within the LGBTQ community.

After retiring from SBA, David worked with the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce to establish its Stakeholder Engagement Initiative, a continuation of his work as SBA’s LGBTQ Outreach Director.

David is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. As a member of the university’s student legislature in the late 1970s, David introduced and secured passage of UNCC’s first LGBT nondiscrimination resolution and sponsored the bill chartering the school’s first Gay Student Union.

In 2019 he was recognized by Business Equality Magazine’s as one of 50 LGBTQ Legacy Leaders Over 50 in the U.S.

Amanda Wray

Director, Oral History Project; Member, Board of Directors

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I grew up in rural Kentucky, the youngest daughter of hard-working parents who knew everything about growing plants and making delicious food. I attended the University of KY, where I earned a B.A. and M.A. in English Literature (my studies focused primarily on the literature of Enslaved People). In 2007, I moved our little family to Tucson, AZ where I earned a PhD in Composition, Rhetoric and the Teaching of English from the University of Arizona (and fell in love with the desert). My dissertation drew from oral history interviews with self-proclaimed "progressive" white people to suggest various rhetorics of whiteness and assess their anti-racism potential. Colorblind rhetoric ("I don't see race"), for example, is a trope mis-associated with anti-racism outcomes, and it is invoked and defended differently based upon region and self-awareness of white privilege. In 2011, we moved to Asheville and I joined the faculty at University of North Carolina Asheville where I enjoy the privilege of teaching a wide range of courses including Professional Writing; First Year Writing; Visual Rhetoric; and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Learn more about my work here: amandabwray.com

In 2019, I partnered with Blue Ridge Pride to launch the LGBTQIA+ Archive of Western NC, an oral history study and community-based historical preservation effort. Our Lives. Our Stories. Our Way. We are a cohort of community activists, university archivists, undergraduate research interns, and project volunteers from YMCA and Blue Ridge Pride. Our oral history participants range in age from 21 to 87, a quarter of whom were born within sixty miles of Asheville, NC and sixty percent having lived in the Western NC region their entire life or more than 23 years. We are actively recruiting folks to be interviewed and to conduct interviews, and we'd love to see any physical materials related to LGBTQ+ history that you could loan or donate to the project.

Butch Thompson

President, Board of Directors; Director, Director Pro Tem, Generation Plus

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Butch Thompson joined the Blue Ridge Pride Board of Directors in January 2019. Currently Butch serves as the Board of Directors President and Director of Generation Plus. He lives in West Asheville where he settled 6 years ago. He is the founder of butchOUT, a local non-profit organization. He also served with the Asheville Gay Men's Chorus and help to start the Asheville Pride Bowling League.

Butch spent most of his career in Atlanta, Georgia working for numerous HIV/AIDS organizations including AIDS Survival Project, AIDS Alliance for Faith and Health and Emory University. Starting as a fundraiser Butch soon realized his passion for program development. He built a Peer Counseling program which became utilized in many organizations in Atlanta. He helped found beautyAID, an Atlanta fundraiser for AIDS organizations. After 26 years Butch retired to Ft. Lauderdale where he volunteered for Poverello, an HIV/AIDS food pantry and initiated the formation of the Live Well Center.

As a native of SW Virginia Butch longed for the mountains and choose Asheville as a place to build a new life in retirement. Excited and knowledgeable Butch shares his skills with Blue Ridge Pride in hopes of expanding on the great success of Blue Ridge Pride and the community served. His favorite quote is “I cannot do all the work the world needs. But the world needs all the work I can do.” -Jana Stanfield

Michael Hoeben

Director, Community Partnerships; Vice President, Board of Directors

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Miami-born Michael Hoeben is a queer trans man, husband, father, and human rights advocate committed to community welfare optimization by shifting how we engage and interact with human beings on all sides of this shared experience. After graduating from Boston University with a BS in Communications, Michael carved out a career as a freelance researcher/writer, which both informed and strengthened his understanding of systemic oppression strategies and impacts. This learning deepened his desire to be an active part of dismantling these forces. In 2019, Michael took the career-change leap and landed in community health where he focused on transgender health and HIV prevention/care services, education, outreach, and development through THE HIVe 828. In 2020, Michael and his wife, Myela, launched OUTthINK Studio, a queer-centric digital arts studio, believing in the power of seeing and celebrating the "Other" as critical in breaking down the biases and barriers that continue to divide the human family. Michael currently serves as the Director of Communications at the Tzedek Social Justice Fund, a local trust-based philanthropy leader that redistributes money, resources, and power to support systems change and community healing in Asheville, North Carolina. Michael’s passion is intersectional social justice work, knowing that a values-based lens is critical to correcting the systemic wrongs that continue to impede meaningful representation and inclusion for all people. Michael is sincerely grateful to be part of Blue Ridge Pride, as this organization plays a key role in continuing to pave the way towards greater equality and equity in Western NC.

Richard Morgan Swilling

Director, Events & Operations

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Our Director of Events and Operations holds five environmental certifications and works daily to keep us safe. A life-long resident of western North Carolina, Rick (Morgan to some) comes from a family with a record of distinguished public service. He dotes on his two children, who run successful businesses.

“I worry often about acceptance and security. The one time I never feel alone is when I am volunteering. I am thankful for my Pride family, ”

Our events director, a true giver and leader, is why organizations like ours exist.

Sol Wagner

Director of Gender Expressive Arts

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As an activist and performer, Sol has been involved in the local Asheville community since their arrival to the Blue Ridge in 2014. Sol started to perform in drag while attending school at UNCA as Natasha Noir Nightly. Their professional performance career kicked off in 2016 with the start of Party Foul of which they were an original house cast member. In 2018 Natasha went on to win Mx. Blue Ridge Pride and was the first bearded entertainer to win a pride title on the East Coast. During their reign as Mx. Blue Ridge Pride 2018 and after stepping down, Sol/Natasha have been committed to bringing drag off the stage and into other aspects of the community. Sol has made numerous appearances as Natasha on panels and podcasts including Vino and Vulvas where they discussed aspects of Sex and Sexuality and Embodied Radio Show where they were interviewed on makeup and how drag as a performance art plays with gendered aspects of cosmetics.

Sol and Natasha both are excited to further their mission of expanding the definition of drag and gender expressive arts with Blue Ridge Pride and to help foster a tight-knit community of artists in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Allison Fender

Director, Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce – Blue Ridge Region

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Allison is a native to the mountains of Western North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Athletic Training (Mars Hill College) and a Master's of Science Degree in Physical Therapy (Western Carolina University). She is pursuing a Doctorate of Health Science with a concentration in Neurology (University of Maryland).
Recently, Allison and her wife launched a new business, Unified Therapies (www.unifiedtherapies.com). Through it, they seek to offer the community services that address physical and mental health together. They are committed to improving health care for ALL and are excited to be joining the Blue Ridge Pride team.
Allsion is in the process of securing certification as an LGBTQ-owned enterprise from the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. As the Director of the Blue Ridge region for the newly formed Carolinas LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce, she hopes to bring this opportunity to other LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs in our region.
When not helping others, Allison and her family travel, mountain bike, and hike, taking pictures of all of their experiences.

Travis Rountree

Director, Welcoming WNC Community Network | BRPC Board of Directors

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Dr. Travis A. Rountree is an assistant professor in the English Department at Western Carolina University. He earned his PhD from the University of Louisville, his MA in English from Appalachian State University with a certificate in Appalachian Studies, and his BA in English from James Madison University with a minor in American Studies. He teaches first year composition courses as well as graduate courses in composition and rhetoric. His research interests include queer archival research and pedagogy, Country Music, Appalachian rhetorics, place-based pedagogy, and public memory studies. He has been published in The North Carolina Folklore Journal, Journal of Southern History, and Appalachian Journal.

Travis hales from Richmond, Virginia and enjoys running, weight lifting, and gardening. He is an avid fan of old-time, bluegrass, and country music. He lives in Sylva, NC with his two kitties.

Travis hopes to use his new role to forge a strong network of organizations, groups, and individuals who seek to build a community in Western North Carolina that is welcoming to all.

Jacqueline Rollins

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Jacqueline (“Jacqui”) Rollins grew up in Johnson City, TN. She left the region for several years, returning home in the midst of Covid-19 as a woman – much to the surprise of many acquaintances.

Today, Jacqui earns her keep as a data scientist. She breaks apart complex problems in order to develop end-to-end solutions [more specific term?]. She loves to martial Big Data in support of … social justice, education, and coalition-building.

Jacqui is an avid musician. She performs with several local acts in Asheville’s electronic and punk scene.  She particularly enjoys outdoor concerts. “They are a fantastic way to engage people and to attract individuals not yet reached. They also serve as a platform to promote visual and musical artists in the community.”

Jacqui also enjoys creating generative art using her expertise in data science. You can enjoy some of her artistic and musical compositions at GitHub, YouTube, SoundCloud, and LinkedIn.

Jacqui hopes to use her platform at Blue Ridge Pride to engage volunteers in a variety of community service projects. She is particularly eager to bring the community together to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ youth through initiatives that address needs like housing, health care, and supportive families.

Nancy Sue Ellyson

Director, Entertainment

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Nancy Sue works the Pride tent with "Pride". She is our public face, selling Pride merchandise and spreading the word with a smile and free hugs!

Nancy Sue says that, being the new kid in town, she felt blessed to have met Morgan, who got her started with Blue Ridge Pride.

Nancy Sue moved to Asheville in February 2017 from Austin, Texas, not knowing a soul and yet, knowing that Asheville is where she belongs.

In Austin, Nancy Sue worked various day jobs for online technology companies including Facebook and Homeaway.com. She had the pleasure of working her dream jobs in the live-music industry, including those of radio and television personality.

Looking to the future, Nancy Sue hopes to settle into the Asheville community, becoming more involved in non-profits and, of course, Blue Ridge Pride!

Dr. Rachel Muir

Oral History Project Lead

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I am a retired scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey and I continue to pursue my vocation and avocation in environmental science as a scientist emeritus working with local federal offices and private efforts to research and protect endangered species and teach at local schools and institutions about conservation. When I moved to North Carolina from Washington DC about 5 years ago I did not realize that human rights, and the rights and welfare of THE LGBTQ community, were also endangered in this state, and now, our nation. Just as diversity in the natural world supports and sustains a complex world in the face of change, diversity in the human world strengthens us and enriches our lives; it opens our eyes to the new and the possible. I want to be part of the effort to protect that diversity and the dignity OF all people. Blue Ridge Pride gives me the opportunity to combine my professional skills and my passion for justice to promote equality for all.

Max Taintor

Director, Marketing & Communications

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Some things about me, ask me where I'm from and I can give you many cities and addresses - but I hail from North Carolina by way of birth in New Jersey. I've worked in marketing and communications for about twenty years - I know - I can't believe I look that old, either. I'm happily partnered and live out in Weaverville. My backgrounds focus on writing, graphic design, video production, social media strategy, and pretty much everything else one does for marketing. In my free time I like playing board games with friends, watching lots of Sci Fi and Horror, nerdy things, and the occasional brewski or glass of wine. I also like changing definitions, like the word "occasional" to mean "frequently." Please feel free to reach out for any questions about marketing or public relations associated with Blue Ridge Pride Center - I'll make sure to answer or contact the individual who can.

UNCA - Class of 2004 - Mass Communication

UNC-Chapel Hill - Class of 2017 - Master in Public Administration

James King

Pageant Director

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  1. James King has been in Asheville, North Carolina for 16 years. Cosmetologist by day and performer by night, James is a very creative and driven individual. As Euphoria Eclipse, his drag persona, he has created and assisted in several platforms for Newcomer entertainers. James is new to the Blue Ridge Pride family and is eager to share new and fresh ideas with how to better and help the community. Using his drag platform, he loves to help and assist any entertainer to find drag and express themselves through the art. After 15 years of performing, he is eager to be a part of an organization where he can assist in helping the community. As a Cosmetologist, he works in a very LGBTQ friendly and accepting workplace at The Beauty Bar in Asheville, North Carolina. Working with his salon owner, they have hosted Drag Queen Story Hour within their salon to raise awareness of the art and promoting acceptance to the youth of tomorrow. He is eager to help with the Blue Ridge Pride Pageant to continue its legacy. Coming from a pageant background in drag, he is excited to bring his knowledge to the Blue Ridge Platform.
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Mental Health Providers

Eric Davis  MS, LCPA, NCC, Counselor

Willow Wellness and Recovery, PC 9 All Souls Crescent  Suite B, Asheville, North Carolina 28803  Phone: (828) 490-4137 | Website I am a firm believer in empowerment and self-determination. In the past, I have worked well with folks experiencing a range of issues, such as anxiety, depression, substance-use, sleep disturbances, relationship issues, and issues unique to the LGBT community.

Scott Thomas,  Licensed Professional Counselor, MA, LPC, LCAS

Silver Lining Therapy 70 Woodfin Place  STE 21, Asheville, North Carolina 28801  Phone: (828) 705-3084 | Website I believe humor can be a powerful tool for healing and seek to incorporate this into our time together. Unique to my practice is an approach that truly puts you at the center of the counseling experience, and I draw from a wide variety of techniques to help you see and experience real change in your life. To see if therapy might be a good fit, I offer free phone consultations.

James Harrison, PhD Psychologist

12 Westridge Dr , Asheville, North Carolina 28803  Phone: (828) 348-6300 | Website I enjoy helping people achieve physical and emotional intimacy whether they are young or old, straight or gay, in healthy, responsible, and mutually affirming ways. I also enjoy helping people improve their earning and manage their assets. And I like working with older people. I offer free phone consultations.

Judy Maris, Counselor, LPC, LCPC, MA, MS

Maris Psychotherapy 41 Clayton St, Suite 301, Asheville, North Carolina 28801  Phone: (828) 537-4489 | Website We can explore troublesome patterns that tend to repeat themselves in your life or look at new issues that have just come up. The important thing is for us to work together to get to the bottom of your difficulties and resolve them. I will assist you in becoming more aware of what you are feeling and thinking in the present moment. The untapped wisdom within you is a powerful healing force. Let me help you gain access to your full inner resources. I offer free phone consultations.

Elizabeth Heaney, Counselor, MA, LPC 

166 E Chestnut Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28801  Phone: (520) 447-3319 | Website I work with individual adults with concerns like: family history issues, relationship concerns, life satisfaction issues (related to jobs, living situations or relationships), anxiety and depression. I’ve had a particular focus on working with couples, addressing every aspect of relationship challenges – relationship dissatisfaction/boredom, affairs, sexual/intimacy issues, etc. And I was a civilian counselor on military bases for several years, so I have a clear understanding of the unique pressures and challenges facing service members and families. I offer free phone consultations.

Siljoy Maurer

Holistic Perspectives P.O. Box 333, Enka, NC 2872  Phone: (828) 333-0103  | siljoy@me.com or  www.HolisticPerspectives.com For many years now I have been mentoring men and women from all walks of life. It continues to be my greatest joy to accompany someone from “just being ok” into thriving! As a Mentor & Healer I partner with my clients in creating authenticity, wellness and deep contentment, in whatever area of their lives they are seeking change. The combination of giving very practical, livable tools for direct “next steps” while “holding the big picture” and then manifesting that big picture often feels like this: a new client brings me their life or life situation in a jigsaw puzzle box, they lost the lid and forgot what the picture on it looked like. I am good at knowing that picture and then guiding my clients/mentees to put all the puzzle pieces together.  

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Email: Hello@BlueRidgePride.org

MailPO Box 2044, Asheville NC 28802-2044

Packages: 33 Coxe Avenue, Unit 2044, Asheville NC 28801 (note different zip code).

Phone: 828-423-0655 (via Google Voice)

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