Our Board

The Asheville Sister Cities board of directors is comprised of community leaders who are passionate about fostering relationships between the people, businesses, non-profits and government of Asheville and those in our Sister Cities worldwide. We also depend on volunteers who share our enthusiasm for promoting peace through global friendship. If you’re interested in volunteering with Asheville Sister Cities, please contact any one of our board members. You are welcome to attend our Board meetings. They are generally held the 3rd Thursday of each month, but please contact Secretary ahead of time to confirm.

Asheville Sister Cities Board of Directors Officers

PRESIDENT

Jessica Coffield

Jessica Coffield joined ASCI in 2015 after seeking out the organization because of influences in her youth, including Model UN. She then served as the Saumur, France Chair from 2017–2021, helping to organize the 2017 delegation trip. She feels strongly about the impact that Sister Cities can have in building citizens of the world as well as the local impact on multicultural coalition building. She also volunteers with the Junior League of Asheville, where she served as President, and Young Professionals of Asheville as a former board member. When not volunteering she works full-time as the Vice President of a marketing agency, enjoys time with her husband, Ryan, and two fur-babies Zoey and Lily. Jessica hopes to foster growth within ASCI as well as raise its public profile with the Asheville community. She is honored to be asked to lead the organization and looks forward to building many new relationships. , 

Vice President & Past President

Ken Nelson

Ken Nelson and his wife, Julie Hettiger, moved to Asheville in 2015 and were introduced to ASCI thru several committee fundraisers held at Metro Wines. After visiting Saumur, France, as part of the 2017 trip delegation, they became active members. Having previously lived in the multi-cultural cities of Houston and San Diego, studied in Madrid, traveled through the Spanish speaking regions of the world, he was ready to take on a new role in the Asheville Community. Ken is the founder and co-owner of Blue Delta Energy, a firm focused on renewable energy finance that works with clients on funding their various sustainability projects. Ken is excited to  continue our organization’s many successful programs as well as build towards an even brighter future.

Secretary

Alice Keller

Alice Keller has served as ASCI Board Secretary since May 2009.  She and her husband George have lived in Asheville for 21 years.  They became interested in ASCI through involvement with the Karpenisi City Committee because of their commitment to sharing a personal relationship with the citizens of that Greek city and the friendships shared within the local community.  Before her retirement, Alice enjoyed varied careers in the field of Education.

Treasurer

Chris Thompson

Chris moved to Asheville in early 2020 after many years in tax and accounting in and around Atlanta, including almost thirteen years at The Coca-Cola Company. As a CPA she is excited to put her talents to good use at ASCI’s Treasurer. 

City Committees

Karpenisi, Greece

Andrew Craig

Andrew Craig is a Past President of ASCI and is serving as the interim Chair of the Karpenisi Committee till a replacement can be found. If you are interested in taking on this role please reach out to ashevillesistercities@gmail.com

DUNKELD-BIRNAM, SCOTLAND

Rick Lutovsky

Rick Lutovsky has been the co-chair of the Dunkeld & Birnam Committee for the past 3 years and has been involved in the sister city movement since the early 80’s. He is the past President/CEO of the Asheville Chamber and currently serves on the board of the YMCA of Western North Carolina and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

San Crisobal de Lass Casas, Mexico

Gwen Hughes

Gwen G. Hughes is a Founding member of ASCI. Gwen has served in many capacities with ASCI including; Fund Development, International Congress (2005) coordinator, San Cristobal Committee Chair and Special Projects Coordinator which included 3 international students art shows, Maya performance groups bringing two amazing shows to Asheville and 2 wheelchair distributions to our sister cities in Mexico. Gwen and husband Carroll, have helped develop sister city relationships and firmly believe in the Mission Statement of the organization.

Vladikavkaz, Russia

Constance Richards

Constance Richards is chair of the Vladikavkaz Committee of Asheville Sister Cities. She spent almost seven years in Russia as a foreign correspondent, but met her late husband, international sculptor and painter Vadim Bora — originally from Vladikavaz — in Asheville. She currently works as a fine art curator and author and serves on the Asheville Public Art and Culture Commission.

Saumur, France

Allison Weems

Allison Weems has a love of the French language and francophone cultures. As  a professor of French at UNCA, she actively seeks connections with the University through exchanges and delegation support. Originally from Greeneville, TN, she splits time between there and Asheville with her husband, cats and dog, Coco.  “What I love about ASCI are all of the opportunities to make and facilitate meaningful connections among students, local citizens, and our friends around the globe. I am constantly reminded of the necessity to explore and celebrate our common humanity.”, she says.

Valladolid, Mexico

Rebecca Robertson

Rebecca Robertson is a veteran bee-tender and long standing member in the College of the Melissae. She is on the Leadership Committee of BEECITY USA/ Asheville. She has traveled extensively visiting ancient sites and Bee Temples. She conceptualized the “Valladolid Melipona Bee Project” after she was invited in February 2020 to represent Bee City Asheville on an ASCI trip to Valladolid in Yucatan Mexico. Her connection to the native Stingless Melipona bees and their women keepers was immediate, as was her decision to find the ways and means to help her beekeeping sisters to grow and thrive.

OSOGBO, NIGERIA

Terry Bellamy

Terry Bellamy is the former mayor of Asheville, North Carolina. She was first elected to the Asheville City Council in 1999 and won re-election in 2003. She was elected mayor in November 2005. During her time as mayor she supported many ASCI endeavors, including traveling on behalf of ASCI to Osogbo for the dedication of a healthcare center and traveling to Valladolid after signing the official proclamation to becomes sister cities. 

Committees at Large

Membership

Marjorie Mcguirk

Marjorie McGuirk is an enthusiastic member of ASCI who strongly believes in building community through shared experiences. Marjorie particularly enjoys the fact that ASCI finds common ground in diversity of language, culture, and political orientation. She looks forward to serving as Membership Coordinator and invites the population of the greater Asheville area to enjoy the many benefits of ASCI membership. Marjorie has aided in the Global Glitz annual fundraiser, and participated in many activities with the Greece and France committees. She is an inaugural member of the Giving Circle.

Giving Society/Special Projects

Gwen Hughes

Gwen G. Hughes is a Founding member of ASCI. Gwen has served in many capacities with ASCI including; Fund Development, International Congress (2005) coordinator, San Cristobal Committee Chair and Special Projects Coordinator which included 3 international students art shows, Maya performance groups bringing two amazing shows to Asheville and 2 wheelchair distributions to our sister cities in Mexico. Gwen and husband Carroll, have helped develop sister city relationships and firmly believe in the Mission Statement of the organization. 

Giving Society

George Keller

George Keller joined the ASCI Board in 1995 as Advocate of the Giving Society.  One of his passions is supporting nose-to-nose, toes-to-toes communication between Asheville Sister Cities members, especially young ones, and their counterparts in any one of our seven sister cities.  George spent his work years as an experimental, hands-on physicist and then as a teacher of physics at UNC Asheville.

Publicity

Lisa Soledad Almaraz

Lisa is a veteran multimedia producer and marketing communications expert with 40 years of experience creating successful shows, PR campaigns, commercials, documentaries, radio programs, video productions and now digital media. She is a passionate earth steward and founder of Eartheart Network, a non-profit social and media network dedicated to bringing together people in a global community of earth stewards, connecting from the heart and magnifying L.O.V.E. – Living Our Values Everyday to create a more sustainable and balanced culture that honors the earth and all life. Connecting people from different cultures is something very important to Lisa. She first started exploring this interest by getting involved in the Sister Cities International chapter in her hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas when she was just 18 years old.

Social Events

Cassie Pressley

Cassie has 8 years’ experience within hospitality. She has worked in a variety of settings including food and beverage, guest services and event management. Since moving to Asheville in 2013 after receiving her degree from WCU in Hospitality and Tourism Management, she has gone on to win multiple awards through her work with Hilton including The Golden Noodle Award for her work with MANNA FoodBank and The Above and Beyond Award from Asheville Hotel Group that is presented annually to a member of management that goes above and beyond in their job. Cassie has always enjoyed working on projects that bring people together and feels that Asheville Sister Cities does that on a global scale by building community between different cultures.

Special Projects

Ken Richards

Ken Richards career has been in human and global relations. He and his wife, Irene Dillingham Richards, were administrators in the United States Department of Defense Overseas Schools. They coordinated global conferences throughout Europe and were  co-editors of the international journal, “Education World“.They were part of the team  founding “Friendship Force WC” and Sister Cities. In 2005 Ken was awarded the Richard Oakland Fellowship by SCI as State Coordinator of the year. “Sister Cities is an important vehicle for uniting all individuals and families as a global family sharing love and understanding in caring for each other and caring for this beautiful planet upon which we all live.”

Youth Coordinator

Jay Harris

Jay Harris has developed and implemented cutting-edge resources and programs for universities, a university consortium, state and federal agencies, private foundations, schools, and community groups. His experience involves study abroad, international students and scholars, K-12 and community outreach, development assistance, and creative campus internationalization in general. Most recently, he launched Carpe Global, a web initiative spotlighting international resources and opportunities for people with global interests. He has a Master’s in international affairs from the George Washington University Elliott School. His pastimes include coaching young runners and providing assistance to wilderness canoe/kayak paddlers. 

Fundraising