Meet Our Leadership Team
Displaying 1 - 14 of 14
Nancy Sue Ellyson
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!
Director, Community Projects and Partnerships; Vice President, Board of Directors
Miami-born Michael Hoeben is a transman with a passion for minority rights and public policy advocacy. He is also a husband and a father, which has and continues to bring him a profound sense joy and purpose. As a Boston University graduate, he carved out a career as a freelance writer and researcher, working closely with an international community of scholars and leaders across a wide array of disciplines, cultures, and contexts. However, his current aim is to focus his efforts on fueling progress for LGBTQ equality and equity at home by serving his local community. Most recently, Michael had the privilege to join Western North Carolina Community Health Services (WNCCHS) as the Trans/HIV Bridge & Retention Coordinator, where he helps in providing individualized patient-centered care, as well as conducting trans- and HIV-centered outreach, training, and collaborations in the community. He is committed to social justice, believing that a human rights-focus is critical to correcting the systemic wrongs that continue to impede meaningful representation and inclusion for all people. Michael is sincerely grateful for the opportunity to join the Blue Ridge Pride Center (BRPC) team, as this organization plays a key role in continuing to pave the way forward.
Director of Volunteers
Jenn Lutz (She/her/hers) is the up-and-coming Director of Festival Volunteers for Blue Ridge Pride. Moving from Atlanta just prior to the pandemic, she’s excited to dive into the LGBTQ+ community in Asheville and create inclusive volunteer experiences for everyone at Blue Ridge Pride.
Jenn formerly worked for Out Georgia, the LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce. Developing events, networking, education, and advocacy for LGBTQ+ business owners and entrepreneurs. Now she’s Director of Agency Relations at MANNA FoodBank striving to build food security for everyone in WNC.
Jenn and her native-to-Asheville partner, Maggie, along with their rescue dog, Honey, love to hike our beautiful mountains and spend weekends enjoying the local breweries.
Perry Martino is working on getting the Welcoming WNC Procession organized and streamlined to assure a smooth, fun start to the festivities ahead of the festival .
Perry assisted last year registering participants and organizing at the starting point. He enjoyed meeting all the different folks excited to partake in the procession and followed behind them to ensure all participants stayed the course!
Perry and his husband Russ along with their furry child Teddie moved to Asheville in November 2014 from Miami Beach, Florida. He opened the same concept store, Perfect Gifts which he had in Miami Beach on Biltmore Avenue. The business was sold two years ago and now he and Russ work on their own Real Estate investments here in Asheville. Prior to Perry's ten years owning retail stores, he worked in NYC at various banks in the mortgage industry.
Perry states shortly after meeting Tina Madison White, he and Russ instigated having a pride parade, which developed into the procession. They are thankful to Tina being able to make it happen!
Perry is excited to now be part of Blue Ridge Pride and is looking forward to meeting all the others at Blue Ridge Pride he has not yet met!
Dr. Rachel Muir
Oral History Project Lead
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.
Director, Fundraising / Development; Member, Board of Directors
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.
Community Engagement Lead
Born and raised in this area. A native from Hendersonville lived in Asheville for over 20 years. I have seen the many changes that Asheville has went through in the years past. The one thing that that has never changed is the love for Community. This has became a life goal for me, to help my fellow neighbors. I am a firm believer that working together for a common goal gets so much more done. If you would like to have a Partnership on Promotion or even Planing a event . Have a club that would like to get involved, get in touch with me. Together we can accomplish anything, with many of us we can move mountains.
Richard Morgan Swilling
Director, Events & Operations
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.
Director, Marketing & Communications
I currently work as the Communications and Outreach Coordinator for Buncombe County Government. That essentially means I assess marketing and public relations needs for departments and partner organizations to create communications plans, marketing materials, and assessing reach and social media analytics – and I’m excited to do the same for Blue Ridge Pride. I graduated from UNC’s School of Government with a Master’s in Public Administration with an undergrad from UNC-A in Mass Communication. In my spare time I like taking advantage of Asheville’s local breweries, playing rec league sports with the City, County, and Stonewall Sports League, and playing lots of board games with friends…somewhat competitively. My partner Jamie and I live in Weaverville where he cooks and I bake. Please reach out to me to discuss Blue Ridge Pride communications and marketing.
President, Board of Directors; Director, Community Funding Programs; Director Pro Tem, Generation Plus
Butch Thompson joined the Blue Ridge Pride Board of Directors in January 2019. Butch lives in West Asheville where he settled 4 years ago. He currently serves as Executive Director for Asheville Gay Men’s Chorus. He is the founder of butchOUT, a local non-profit organization.
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
Member, Board of Directors, Board Secretary, Queer Arts Project Lead
Govinda (They/Them) is a nonbinary artist who moved to Asheville in 2018 from Tampa, Florida after several previous visits enjoying the strong LGBTQIA+ presence and the beautiful mountains. As a military brat who has moved countless times and lived all over the world, they have found the feeling of community cultivated here in Asheville to be very meaningful. Govinda graduated from Florida State University in 2016 with an MA in Art History, specializing in LGBTQIA+ Art. Today, they are working with Dr. Amanda Wray & UNCA's LGBTQIA+ Oral History Archive to record the history of LGBTQIA+ people in the Blue Ridge Mountains. They are also working with the Pride Arts Council to organize and promote local LGBTQIA+ artists. They are proud to be helping the community by serving on the Blue Ridge Pride board.
Tina White is the Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Pride Center, a member of the board of directors for the Human Rights Campaign, and a Democratic precinct chair.
Tina entered the workforce as a white, Ivy League-educated male. She spent most of the next 30 years helping corporate executives to transform their sprawling organizations. 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 she had worked so hard to hide.
Today, Tina’s transformation continues. She is learning how to be a community activist and a public servant. She speaks and writes on issues of social justice and personal identity. In 2015, she published Between Shadow & Sun: A Husband‘s Journey Through Gender - A Wife’s Labor of Love.
Tina holds an MBA in Strategy & Finance from the Booth School of Business and a BA in Economics from Princeton University. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina with Mary, her wife of nineteen years. From there, they watch their five children and five grandchildren take on the world.
Director, Oral History Project; Member, Board of Directors
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.