Board of Directors

In addition to its volunteer corps, APA!’s leadership includes accomplished professionals in the fields of nonprofit management, marketing, government, law, fundraising, animal behavior and veterinary medicine. We have been implementing small-scale projects to help Austin’s pets, pet owners, and shelters since 1997.

Dr. Ellen Jefferson, Executive Director

Rusty Tally, President and Capital Campaign Chair

Rana Smith, Vice President

Gerri Kappler, Secretary and Program Chair

Bill Symon, Development Chair

Gretchen Meyer, Marketing Co-Chair

Meredith Young, Marketing Co-Chair

Jim Guthrie, Treasurer and Budget & Finance Chair

Laura Villagran Johnson, Events Chair

Mike Rovner, Board Member

Alexander Devine, Board Member

Monica Dermott, Board Member

Kirsten Tollefson, Board Member

 

Ellen Jefferson, DVM, Executive Director

Dr. Jefferson joined Austin Pets Alive! in 2008 as director. Within the first year of her leadership, Austin Pets Alive! reduced the killing of homeless cats and dogs in Austin by more than 20%. Since 2011, Austin Pets Alive! has not only played a central role in keeping Austin the largest No Kill City in the United States, defined as saving at least 90% of shelter animals, but also has been key in the city’s outstanding 94.7% save rate for shelter dogs and cats by 2016. Ellen’s experience with Emancipet, which she founded in 1999 and directed for nine years, had already made her a leader nationally as well as in Austin’s animal welfare community. Ellen graduated from Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in 1997. She is a featured speaker at conferences for Maddie’s Fund, Best Friends and the No Kill Advocacy Center; and is the author of “Using Data to Make Austin a No-Kill City,” published by Maddie’s Fund. Ellen served on the National Spay/Neuter Task Force from 2007-2009 and has had work published in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine. Among her many awards, she was named the Non-Profit Executive of the Year in 2013 by Greenlights (now Mission Capital), Austin’s leading nonprofit resource center. In 2016, she won the prestigious Maddie Hero Award, which “recognizes and honors the ‘top dogs’ in communities that are not only advancing the welfare of companion animals in the United States, but are leading the way with their innovative ideas, progressive thinking and lifesaving actions.” In November 2016, she was unanimously chosen to receive the first Alvanzino Leadership Award, named for the father of No Kill, and given for outstanding leadership in the No Kill movement.

Rusty Tally, President and Capital Campaign Chair

Rusty, Senior Partner of The Tally Group at UBS Financial Services, can draw upon 40 years of experience advising affluent, ultra-affluent, and institutional clients and since 2006 has been consistently ranked as a top financial advisor in such financial industry publications as Research Magazine and Registered Rep. Rusty, who joined UBS Financial Services in 2008, holds the professional designation of Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA®) from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He attended the Air Force Academy and received his BS degree from the University of Colorado. Rusty and his wife Mary were named 2011 Out & About All-Stars for their extensive community involvement. They have served on and supported numerous other non-profit boards, including those of the Long Center for the Performing Arts, with Rusty as chair, the Austin Symphony Orchestra, Helping Hand Home for Children, the American Lung Association, Zachary Scott Theatre, the Center for Child Protection, Emancipet, and Citizen Generation.

Rana Smith, Vice President

Rana is the Director of Development and Marketing at the Petco Foundation. Previously, she was Senior Vice President, Major Gifts, at the Southwest Affiliate of the American Heart Association, where she used her more than 20 years’ experience in development, marketing and volunteer engagement within the nonprofit sector to build an affiliate-wide stewardship strategy. Prior to joining AHA, Rana served as the Chief Development Officer of Best Friends Animal Society, based in Utah. She served nearly 20 years with United Way, including eight years as the Chief Development Officer for United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. Rana also served as Vice President of Resource Development for United Way of Greater Austin. Rana received her BBA from the University of Arizona and is a Certified Fund Raising Executive. She resides just outside Austin with her family and two rescue dogs, Daisy and Bean.

Gerri Kappler, Secretary and Program Chair

Gerri has been volunteering with Austin Pets Alive! since 2009. She also served as Volunteer Director from 2011-2015. Gerri received a BBA and a master’s degree in Accounting from the University of Texas at Austin. She worked in various finance management roles for 15 years prior to focusing on raising a family. Gerri, her husband Peter, and their two children, Jordan and Joshua, share their home with two dogs and one cat, and have fostered countless animals through Austin Pets Alive!. In the years she’s been volunteering for Austin Pets Alive!, Gerri has seen amazing growth and progress in its no-kill mission and is thrilled to be part of such an amazing organization.

Gretchen Meyer, Marketing Co-Chair

Gretchen joined Austin Pets Alive! as the volunteer Marketing/PR Director in 2008 when Ellen Jefferson became the executive director with the intent of making Austin a no-kill city. She continued in this role until 2013, when she moved on to help lead Austin Pets Alive!’s marketing efforts by joining the board and leading an executive marketing committee. Gretchen is a regular speaker at the American Pets Alive! conference and has presented on marketing at the 2012 Best Friends No More Homeless Pets national conference. Gretchen received her BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Today, she designs and builds websites and software applications for a financial services company and is married to Amos Lowe, president, brewer, and owner of the ABGB.

Meredith Young, Marketing Co-Chair

Meredith is the Director of Marketing and Communications at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.  She works closely with the US program teams, providing strategic support for their initiatives and helping to advance the overall work of the foundation.  She brings a vast amount of public relations knowledge to her role at the foundation, having spent many years at Weber Shandwick, a global public relations agency.  There she worked closely with several nonprofit and Fortune 50 clients, creating and executing strategic plans to help them achieve their business goals.  She is a graduate of Boston University and holds a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Northwestern University. Meredith and her family currently have two rescue dogs but are always open to more.

Bill Symon, Development Chair

Since 2013 Bill has chaired Amplify Austin, I Live Here I Give Here’s annual community-wide day of online giving, which raises millions of dollars for Austin’s nonprofits. He joined the Austin Pets Alive! development committee in 2013 and the board in early 2015.  Bill graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a business degree. He spent several years learning the technical side of web marketing and e-commerce while establishing his skills in sales and business development. He has worked for several startups in Austin as well as Green Mountain Energy and for Apple. He is currently a Field Sales Manager for the software company, The Gordian Group. Bill has given his time to local non-profits such as Keep Austin Beautiful, the Town Lake Trail Foundation and Austin for Animal Aid India. Bill lives in central Austin with his husband, Jason, and two awesome rescue dogs, Jack and Charlie.

Jim Guthrie, Treasurer and Budget & Finance Chair

Jim, along with his wife Chris, has been closely involved with Austin Pets Alive! for the last four years as a volunteer, financial supporter and, recently, as a consultant to APA!. Jim has over 25 years’ experience in senior financial management, serving in CFO and strategic management roles at IXC Communications (Broadwing) in Austin, the Times Mirror Company, and W.R. Grace & Company Restaurant Group in Southern California. Jim graduated with a BA in Liberal Arts from the University of Redlands and earned an MBA from the University of Southern California with emphasis in Finance/Marketing. He started his career in consulting at Arthur Andersen where he earned his CPA. Since retiring from corporate life, Jim has been engaged in numerous consulting assignments, primarily with start-up and turnaround companies, and has served on several boards. Jim and Chris have eight rescue dogs of their own (four adopted from APA!) and often foster others.

Laura Villagran Johnson

Since 2009, Laura has worked at KLRU, Austin’s PBS station, where she is the Director of Events. Prior to that, she planned events at Livestrong and at the Long Center. She also is Co-Founder and Creative Director of Austin Social Planner, an online events calendar and blog that covers the varied philanthropic and social events in the city. Laura holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from Texas State University in San Marcos. She enjoys volunteering with local nonprofits and trying out every new restaurant in town. Laura and her husband, Chris, live and love spending time in central Austin with their rescue dog Finch.

Mike Rovner, Board Member

An experienced leader in financial services, Mike founded Ovation Partners in Austin. He serves on the company’s Investment Committee and is responsible for new asset selection, portfolio management, and investment allocation strategy. Previously, Mike was a Partner at Austin Ventures, a private equity firm with $3.9B of capital under management. During his more than 11 years at the firm, Mike led its Financial Services Practice and was a stage-agnostic investor with a broad range of experience in startup formation, corporate spinouts, and growth equity. Make has also led business development and mergers and acquisitions for Mission Critical Software, has served as a management consultant to FedEx Global Logistics and Electronic Commerce, and has held executive management positions with Stanford Technology Group and Empart Technology, where he was a founder. He received his BA from the University of California at Los Angeles. Mike lives in Austin with his wife, Michelle.

Alexander Devine, Board Member

Alex is currently the Director of Engineering for Mobile at HomeAway.com, Inc. He has lived in Austin since 2000, and previously worked in software development positions at Trilogy, Inc. and Troux Technologies. He graduated from University of Virginia with a BA in Cognitive Science in 2000, and prior to that danced professionally with the Boston Ballet. Alex has been a proud supporter of Austin Pets Alive! since 2009. He lives in the Northwest Hills neighborhood of Austin with his fiancé John. In his spare time he tries to tire out his parents’ rescue dog Klondike with endless games of fetch, but has yet to succeed.

Monica Dermott, Board Member

Monica leads the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation’s global human resources function, where she focuses on leadership development, talent acquisition, performance management, and total rewards. Prior to joining the foundation, she was an HR director at the Seton Healthcare Family and at Navitaire, a software technology company previously owned by Accenture. Monica also has experience in strategy consulting, in technology, and in international business. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. She is an active volunteer in the Austin community, and loves to explore Austin with her two rescue beagles, Willie and Clyde.

Kirsten Tollefson, Board Member

Kirsten is Chief Executive Officer and founder of Tollefson & Company Investment Management, LLC. Her over thirty years of experience includes serving as Senior Vice President at Resolute Capital Management, where she was a member of the Investment Committee. At Resolute Capital Management, she developed corporate retirement plans and socially conscious portfolio strategies. Following her ten-year tenure at Nye, Parnell & Emerson Capital Management, Inc. as Senior Vice President and Senior Portfolio Manager, Kirsten was President of New Century Capital Management, LLC. There, she managed individual, corporate and retirement portfolios and was involved in research, marketing, corporate management and administration. Kirsten joined Shearson Lehman Brothers in 1987 and began her career at Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith in Washington D.C. in 1986. Kirsten has been involved in various charitable organizations as a board member and in a volunteer capacity.