RLEP’s Board of Directors

Rick Kohler, President       ~       Phil Irwin, Vice President and Founder

Nina McKee, Treasurer       ~      Jeff Christie, Secretary

Aleta Gadino  ~  Marshall Jones  ~  Jim Manwaring   ~   Claire Cassel

Torney Van Acker   ~  Mike Wenger  ~  Larry Wohlers


Rappahannock Sunrise


  • Rick Kohler (President) has lived in Rappahannock since 1989, has served on the RLEP Board for 16 years and was elected president ten years ago.  He is interested in biodiversity, preserving open spaces, dark skies, clean water and creating strong links with other conservation organizations and the entire Rappahannock community. Rick is on the County Planning Commission and is also a real estate broker in Washington, VA.  He and his wife Kaye, a huge force in RLEP herself, started the Dark Skies project which has been aptly taken over and is now guided by board member Torney Van Acker.
  • Phil Irwin (Vice President) has lived in Rappahannock since 1960 and was the catalyst for the establishment of RLEP in 1970 to oppose a high intensity electric transmission line, which they defeated!  He set up the inaugural meeting 15 December 1970 and served as president for 17 years. After 40 years, Phil is an Emeritus member of the board.  SEE THE VIDEO with Phil on our website.  You will learn a lot of history about the county, it’s zoning, and efforts to preserve it over the years.
  • Nina McKee (Treasurer)  Nina is a CPA in Washington, VA and is versed in Conservation Easement tax benefits.  She is our point person to assist citizens on Easements.
  • Jeff Christie (Secretary) has been visiting Rappahannock regularly for over 30 years to enjoy hiking and the outdoors, and has owned a house in the County with his wife, Paula, since 2002.  He is interested in preserving Rappahannock’s natural beauty, open spaces and vistas. Jeff was a transactional attorney specializing in energy and infrastructure projects with a major international law firm until his recent retirement.  He is our point person on Eminent Domain issues with power and pipeline companies.
  • Aleta Gadino became interested in environmental issues while living in CA in the 1970’s and early 80’s.  She has been a supporting member of WWF, The Nature Conservancy, the National Park Foundation, Arbor Day Foundation, and many other organizations relating to natural resources and wildlife.  Her love of nature began with camping trips in western national parks with her family.  Her love of gardening, and, later in life, earning an Associates degree in Horticultural Technology continued that connection as she relocated to Northern VA, and finally to Rappahannock County.  She is a member of the Rappahannock County Garden Club and a Master Gardener volunteer.  If the name Gadino sounds familiar, it may be due to the vineyard she and her husband have nurtured since 1990 and the wines they produce at Gadino Cellars. Aleta is our point person with Rappahannock Schools.
  • Marshall Jones first lived in Rappahannock in 1990 and commuted to his job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in DC for many years. This is his tenth year on the RLEP board. Marshall is with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal and has a strong personal and professional interest in biodiversity and conservation, locally and internationally.  Marshall is an integral member of our Education Committee.
  • Jim Manwaring with his wife Carolyn, lives on and operates a family beef cattle farm that has been in the family since 1948. He worked 30 years as a manufacturing engineer at the Teves plant in Culpeper. Jim feels that keeping family farms viable in the county is key to keeping the open spaces that we all love.  He is our expert on farming issues in the county and also serves on the Education Committee.
  • Torney Van Acker (Dark Skies Committee Facilitator) is a retired electrical engineer and capital projects development manager who has owned farm property in the county since 2002 and became a full-time resident in 2016. Torney grew up on a dairy farm in northwest NJ, an area that closely resembles Rappahannock County. His passion is organic farming and gardening, sustainable land use and dark skies preservation.
  • Claire Cassel   Claire began her career with the Environmental Protection Agency and retired in 2014 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with 30+ years of experience in natural resources communication, education and public/private partnerships. She and her husband moved to Rappahannock County in 2016 and built their home near Red Oak Mountain. Claire is a master gardener and enthusiastic advocate for connecting children to nature, native plants and dark skies. She loves participating in the vibrant community life of beautiful Rappahannock County.
  • Mike Wenger   After a career that took him all over the world with stops in the Air Force, academe, industry, and a consulting practice, Mike Wenger came to live in the forest in Bean Hollow. There he, and his wife Joyce, pursue their passion for forest ecology, native plants, and wildlife habitat preservation. Mike is an active volunteer with the Old Rag Master Naturalists, a long-standing member of the Virginia Native Plant Society, an avid hiker, and an out-spoken evangelist for controlling non-native invasive plants in Rappahannock County. As a long-time educator, Mike sees education, particularly of young people, as central to protecting the natural environment of Virginia.
  • Larry Wohlers  Larry recently retired as Ambassador to the Central African Republic.  He was the driving force in the the creation of the Rappahannock County Solar Cooperative and is responsible for its success.  Larry moved to Rappahannock with his wife Ann and together they created a huge wildflower meadow, added native plant species to protect their pond and installed solar for their home as well as to aerate their wonderful swimming pond.