Our robust Board of Directors come with many skills and talents to support and advance our mission in the most effective and organized manner. We are proud of their service and appreciate their time and dedication!
Without a paid staff, they are currently meeting once a month and spinoff committees meet frequently. This is testimony to their dedication and commitment to the mission of the Alabama Environmental Council.
Enjoy the gallery of photos or scroll down for more detailed information about each of the board members.
Pat Byington, President
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
Kate Cosnahan, Vice President
With a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Southern Mississippi, Kate attended Samford University in 2015 as a master’s student in Environmental Science and Energy Management. Kate has an extensive background as a researcher in many biological fields, as well as teaching labs and lectures. Kate has continued to pursue her passions to continue learning and teaching others in biology and environmental sciences. Kate is currently employed as an environmental scientist in the consulting field, and has experience involving hydropower, development, and wetland delineation projects in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. In addition, she has worked as a science education director of local youth science camps, and an environmental educator for Turkey Creek Nature Preserve. Kate is currently a board member for AEC and Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.
Fernando Valentin, Treasurer
Fernando Valentin, is the President and CEO of The Trinity Design Group, LLC, an environmental services company, specializing in the engineering and manufacturing of circular, returnable packaging. In 2018, he cofounded Neowaste, a chemical recycling company that converts waste into fuel. Fernando volunteers his time serving as Treasurer for the Alabama Environmental Council, Paymaster and previous Commandant for the Krulak Detachment of the Marine Corps League, and Assistant Treasurer for the FBICAAA. He is a member of the Downtown Kiwanis Club of Birmingham and the Birmingham Business Alliance Advisory board. Previously, Fernando served on the boards for Jimmie Hale Mission and the Hispanic Business Council.
Scott Helton, Secretary
Scott Helton, PhD is a Research Scientist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the Dept. of Medicine, Div. of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care with projects studying the pathogenesis of pulmonary hypertension, cystic fibrosis, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Outside of the laboratory, he enjoys hiking and fishing in the great outdoors. Scott has volunteered and supported the AEC for over 15 years and has served on the Board of Directors since 2018. Amongst his goals at AEC, he seeks to unite the private and business communities to solve environmental and conservation issues facing the great state of Alabama.
Kristina Habchi, CLC is the Executive Director of Mothers’ Milk Bank of Alabama (MMBAL). Since accepting the position in 2017, Kristina has helped to shepherd MMBAL's more than 200% growth in staff and operations. Kristina studied nutrition and hunger studies at Auburn University, and was her background in food justice and food banking that led her to milk banking. As a first-generation American born and raised in the Black Belt, Kristina has a deep- rooted passion for equity work in the Southeast. Kristina is a board member at Alabama Environmental Council and Breastfeeding Education Support Team where she uses her unique background to add perspective and push for the equitable distribution of resources and programming. Kristina is a certified lactation consultant and currently pursuing a Nonprofit Management Certification from Harvard Extension School.
Lauren joined the Board of the Alabama Environmental Council to initiate a program whereby the AEC promotes restaurants that adopt sustainable practices such as eliminating the use of Styrofoam containers. She is dedicated to supporting local businesses and raising consumer awareness regarding the health hazards associated with the use of single use plastics. Although Lauren’s background is in banking and finance, over the past decade she has sold commercial janitorial services for Trust Building Services and has many friends and associates that will attest to her passion for a “clean” environment. She is very Spiritual and attends Unity of Birmingham where she leads a weekly meditation group. Although Lauren loves being active in her community, her greatest pleasure is hiking and exploring the wildernesses of Alabama.
Melva Tate is often called the “HR Fixer”, Melva has successfully navigated the complicated world of human resource management for 25+ years. In 2008, she launched the consulting firm, Tate & Associates, LLC. The firm provides human resource consulting, career coaching, and customized training to organizations across the United States. Putting in work like this leads to an impressive list of credentials, including a B.S. degree in Human Resource Management, an Executive MBA, Certified Life Coach, Professional in Human Resources(PHR), and DiSC Team Training Facilitator certifications. Melva is also a Navy veteran and received the Navy Achievement Medal for her commendable and exceptional active duty service. Melva’s commitment to her profession and the community has earned her recognition as a 2019 “Top 50 Over 50” in Alabama honoree, Birmingham’s 2006 “Top 40 Under 40” Professionals, the BSHRM Leadership Excellence Award, Best Minority Business Honoree by the Birmingham Business Journal, Cox Media’s Best in Minority Business Winner and the 2020 Hoover Area Chamber Small Business of the Year. As an activist, executive advisor, and often board member, Melva has volunteered her time and energy with The Women’s Network- Birmingham (Past President), United Ability (Past Board President), Jefferson County Workforce Development Board, and Alabama Women In Business. She is also a past two-term president and current senior advisor for the Birmingham Society for Human Resource Management (BSHRM).
A supporter of the AEC since its beginning I am a determined reuser, recycler, and try hard to reduce. In my second term on the AEC board I’ve been a community volunteer most of my adult life, am married to an attorney and we are the parents of 3 grown, married sons and grandparents of 9. I enjoy exercising, reading, knitting, needlepoint and being a grandmother, not necessarily in that order. I drive a Prius with a bumper sticker which reads “Make America Green Again”.
Tina Upshaw is the Director of Operations for Momentum Leaders and is responsible for the oversight of the organization’s administrative processes including financial, human resources, contracts, IT and strategic planning. A native of North Carolina, Tina received a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Communications from Wake Forest University. Currently, she is serving on the Alabama Environmental Council board and shares her passion for living sustainably with minimal impact on the environment. Tina and her family enjoy all things outdoors from the mountains to the sea logging many trail hours exploring our country’s natural beauty.
Joe Lockett is the Founder/ CEO of Lockett iN Media, The Joe Lockett Show radio and TV, as well as the visionary behind JL Mentoring Camp and Joe’s Lock & Learn program. The JL Show: TV - Alabama Cable network and radio WYDE 92.5 FM are news, entertainment and real talk about topics that matter to his audience. It’s a radio and TV show for and about the people and the voices of the community no matter where that community lies. Community First: The Joe Lockett philosophy would be nothing without giving back to the community. Joe’s Lock & Learn program has given away over 4000 book bags over the last three years. In 2016 Joe created the JL Mentoring Camp for girls and boys, which served 30 families as a result of the free camp. Joe Lockett has received numerous awards: the Who’s Who in Birmingham, Men of Influence award, Mayor William A. Bell Sr. Small Business award, and William Robertson 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Joe Lockett has two beautiful children.
Anne’s Cans owner and CEO, Ronda McMichael, has been in the waste business for over 40 years and has grown her businesses to encompass almost everything imaginable related to waste and waste disposal. McMichael puchased Anne’s Cans in 2010 and founded Wise Environmental Services, Inc. at the same time. Wise Environmental has purchased several smaller companies, including Mac’s Vacs and Yellow Hammer Roll Offs, to expand the ability of the company to handle portable sanitation on a larger scale. McMichael is a lifelong resident of the Anniston/Oxford area. Anne’s Cans’ crew are local to the Birmingham area and her staff and crew at Wise Environmental are local to the Anniston/Oxford area, as she is a firm believer that making her community better starts at home. McMichael is adamant about training, safety and diversity, and strives to help her staff be the best possible employees, as well as give them a great working environment.
Kim Waites currently serves as the Wilderness Stewardship Coordinator for Wild Alabama facilitating stewardship efforts across all three federally designated Wilderness areas in the National Forests of Alabama, Sipsey, Cheaha and Dugger Mountain. She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in History and English with a concentration in Asian and Religious history. She cultivated a passion for all things outdoors in her adult life which led her into the nonprofit conservation world. She has found her niche in conserving and preserving natural history and its precious resources. Whether she is pulling a crosscut saw in a wilderness area or pouring over inventories of non native plants, recreation sites or social trails, her actions always point in the direction of conserving our wild places. She is a Leave No Trace Master Educator, Leopold Land Ethic Educator and a Wilderness First Responder. She also holds a certificate in Wilderness Stewardship through a course offered in partnership through Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands and the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center. Ask her one question and your life will be forever changed, “Why can’t you use a chainsaw in a wilderness area?” Kim is currently working on Wilderness Character Monitoring and Baseline projects for all three federally designated Wilderness areas in National Forests in Alabama. She just recently acquired a "C" level Traditional Tools certification which will allow her to conduct trainings for traditional tools. In addition, she is now the Alabama State Advocate for Leave No Trace. Needless to say, she will be a busy bee for quite sometime and is passively stepping away from volunteer management and trail work to work on WCM, traditional tools trainings and advancing Leave No Trace initiatives in the state of Alabama.
Bob McKenna loves the people of Birmingham and the Southeastern culture and climate. He was raised in Massachusetts, and has lived in Colorado, Florida, and California, before finding just the right place, right here in 2002. He renovated a historic home in Highland Park, Southside, to be a center of love and consciousness. It is open to everyone, to express their unique gifts and to benefit our world. He servers of the boards of The Alabama Environmental Council and The Lakeshore Foundation; and facilitates events at the Clubhouse on Highland. He has a Masters in Clinical Psychology, and counsels people who are adjusting to new circumstances do to physical changes in their lives. He believes adversity is a gift, and when it is embraced becomes a friend and teacher. Bob studied at seven universities in America, France, and England. He is most proud of being a ‘big brother’ with the ‘Big Brothers / Big Sisters of Boston’. His passion is ‘mind/body/spirit wholeness’, Environmental stewardship, affordable housing, and choosing Love in every moment.
William joined AEC’s Board of Directors in 2018. As an Alabama native, his passion for conservation and waterways began as a result of time spent in the Boy Scouts, where he obtained the rank of Eagle Scout, and volunteering throughout his youth. It was in his youth where he discovered his love for the outdoors After receiving his Bachelors in Science from University of North Alabama in 2011, he pursued a legal career with the intent to focus on being a steward of the environment. In 2016, William earned a Master of Laws (LL. M.) in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School. He was admitted to the Alabama State Bar in 2017. William is currently an Assistant Attorney General for the Alabama. In his free time, William enjoys birding, volunteering with Alabama Audubon, and being outdoors.