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

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.

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 as 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, with Doug Orr, 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.

DUNKELD & BIRNAM, SCOTLAND

Doug Orr

Doug co-chairs with Rick Lutovsky the Dunkeld & Birnam Committee and they founded the Sister City partnership in 2018 after several years of Scotland visits and planning. He served as president of Warren Wilson College for 15 years during which time he initiated the College’s international academic field course program. He co-authored with Scotland’s Fiona Ritchie, host
of NPR’s The Thistle & Shamrock music program, the New York Times best – selling book Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia. He and his wife Darcy are folk musicians and perform in a band performing Appalachian and Celtic music, and they have traveled frequently throughout Scotland. As such he founded the Swannanoa
Gathering Summer Music workshops at Warren Wilson and the annual Swannanoa Solstice concerts at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, which he emcees and hosts.

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
Melipona HoneyBee Project

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.

Valladolid, Mexico

Dr. Cathy Peerless

Cathy is chair of the Valladolid committee. She grew up in Asheville during the 1960’s attending Lee Edwards High School (1968). She graduated from the University of North Carolina (1972) and moved to Connecticut where she taught Ceramics at the University of Harford (MAED and Ed.D). Cathy also taught art, world history, and international studies at Suffield High School for 36 years. She retired and returned to Asheville in 2010 to take care of her mother and continue caring for her father who was a beekeeper for almost 30 years. She began her beekeeping with some coaching from him. As a NCSBA Journeyman Beekeeper, she currently has an apiary with 5 hives in North Asheville and another
apiary with 11 hives in Alexander. Cathy also serve as Secretary of Buncombe County
Beekeepers Club.

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.

Osogbo, Nigeria

Joe Johnson

Joe has been In Asheville for almost three years.  He has enjoyed hosting exchange students from Peru, Denmark, Spain, and Ecuador, and teachers from Mexico and Spain, and loves these life-long connections.  He has lived in West Africa and Costa RIca, but has spent most of his time in the mountains of Colorado.  Joe is looking forward to working with the Osogbo, Nigeria committee to do meaningful work, to raise awareness of our commonalities, to build interpersonal connections, and to celebrate together!

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

Unfilled

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.

Fundraising

Julie Adams

Julie is a native of the Gulf Coast in Alabama and a graduate of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, AL in Music and German. She has been in German automotive project management work for the past 15 years where her German language skills come in handy! Despite this technical background in automotive supply chain, Julie enjoys supporting non-profits in the area, especially the LEAF festival and LEAF international. She has worked also with Asheville Mardi Gras association. She has a strong passion for supporting non-profits that support international exchange, language learning and community building.

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.”

Social Events

Unfilled