Board Member Bios

2024 Board of Directors

Cathi Annese

Cathi studied Education at CUNY.  After graduation, she studied Horticulture at SUNY Farmingdale.  She then went on to work at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens as Director of Children's & Community Horticulture for 10+ years.  While working at BBG, Cathi taught numerous Horticulture classes at BOCES and also trained volunteers to give educational tours of BBG and to work in the education department as "teacher assistants".

Cathi then retired to Greene County in 1995, joining CCE as a 4-H Leader in 1996.  She served on the Board of Directors for CCE of Greene County for two years then on the Board of Directors for CCE Columbia and Greene for six years. While on the Board, Cathi was Secretary for two years and Board President for two years. Cathi has also served on the 4-H program committee since it's inception and chaperoned many 4-H trips!

Michael Brown

undefinedMichael is a Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Bowery Capital, a venture capital firm based in New York and San Francisco. Prior to Bowery Capital, Brown was a Co-Founder and General Partner at AOL Ventures. Before AOL Ventures, Brown worked for the investment arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. He began his career at Morgan Stanley as an equity research analyst covering systems hardware and technology infrastructure. Outside of his professional life, Brown is based in Germantown NY and an avid fisherman and passionate conservationist. He serves on the Board of Directors of the National Forest Foundation and the Columbia College Alumni Association. He holds a B.A. from Columbia University.

Elizabeth Chiong

I have been calling Athens New York home for the past 28 years. Growing up in the Catskill Mountains on holidays and long weekends I’m definitely not native to Upstate New York. I started my career on the Financial District of Wall Street as a teller. Literally moving my way up, I ended on the 54th floor of The World Trade Center as an accountant for a Reinsurance company called Guy Carpenter. As I made my move from New York City to the Catskills, I found myself managing a retail store for women’s shoes called Nine West. When the time came, I took a position with Blue Cross & Blue Shield as a Customer Service Representative, I then transferred to Value Options and then to MVP Health Care as a Senior Account Coordinator, in the marketing and sales department. After being laid off I found myself selling supplemental insurance for Combine Insurance. I did a complete 180 and found myself back in banking with Key Bank as a Personal Banker. As a result of my experience in banking I found myself at the National Bank of Coxsackie as their Branch Manager of their Athens location. I have been on the Board since mid-April 2023.

Christie Ellis

Christie has founded five companies and currently operates four brands. She has served as an expert on shows like World News Tonight and The Today Show and enjoys taking complex questions and making them easy to understand for everyone. Christie is the founder of Phoenix Story Coaching, a positive psychology based life and business coaching firm. The income tax reduction firm for commercial real estate owners, CRE Cash Strategies, 362 Eichybush LLC, a private CRE investment firm, and The Swell Party, a luxury catering company in The Hudson Valley that understands it’s not about us, it’s all about you. Christie has taught how to apply positive psychology to your life at SUNY in a course called Joyful Life Design; she is a guest lecturer to Boston University’s MBA program, and at franchise conventions and educational seminars around the country. She has served as a contributing writer in publications as varied as the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, NY Real Estate Journal, and Friends Journal: Quaker Thought and Life. In her spare time, Christie enjoys failing at gardening, but getting better at it each year, beekeeping, and being surrounded by dogs, cats, and chickens on the hobby farm where she lives. Christie enjoys helping as much as she can in her small Hudson Valley community, whether through raising funds for the Backpack Program, Mentoring through Big Brothers Big Sisters, or serving on committees in her town. Christie also donates free coaching to those with cancer, or caregivers of cancer patients. Having experienced both, she is dedicated to helping others through these experiences.

Jonathan Farber

Jonathan Farber is a landscape architect and farmer living in Greene County. In his work he regularly relies on Cornell Cooperative Extension staff across New York State for guidance, and for the past several years he has participated as a volunteer in the NY Master Forest Owner Program. Jonathan received a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Design and Planning from the University at Buffalo, a Master of Public Administration degree from Columbia University, a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from Cornell, and a Certificate in Ecological Horticulture from the University of California, Santa Cruz Extension. For fun, Jonathan swims year-round in local lakes and streams.

Roberta Keller

undefinedRoberta Keller is the daughter of Gale and Judy Bury. She grew up in Columbia County and graduated from Ichabod Crane. She was a member of the Blondies 4-H club for 10 years. She attended Plattsburgh State and graduated with a Bachelor's degree of science in chemistry. After graduation, Roberta helped her mom continue the club. She married Kent Keller in 1987 and they have four children. When their son Brett was old enough, Roberta started the Udderly Impossibles 4-H club and has continued the club. Roberta received her Master's degree from Sage Colleges and teaches math at Chatham Middle school. She is active in her church and teaches Sunday school. In her spare time, she enjoys sewing, quilting, and gardening.

Melissa Layman 

I currently live in Valatie, NY with my fiance, Colin. I have two adopted sons who have participated in 4-H programs through Cornell Cooperative Extension. In my free time, I enjoy gardening, reading, and spending time with my extended family. Professionally, I have an associates degree from SUNY Cobleskill and have worked at Taconic Hills Central School District for over 20 years. Previously, I served as the District Clerk for the Taconic Hills Central School District Board of Education for approximately 12 years; as a member of the Dollars for Scholars Board, as well as a member of the Board of Directors for Columbia Opportunities when my youngest son was in preschool at Head Start.

Linda Levitt

undefinedLinda’s career started as an Insurance Broker specializing in the sale of employee benefits programs to large and small corporations.She very quickly began her own insurance agency and was the owner and President for 30 years.

Since that time, Linda has retired.She became a Master Gardener Volunteer in 2014 in Columbia and Greene Counties. In addition to her volunteering in NY, she sits on the Educational Committee and conducts tours at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, MA.

She currently resides in Copake with her husband, Bob and Wheaten terrier, Cassie.

Dr. Joshua Lipsman


Dr. Joshua Lipsman has been on the Extension board for five years. He is a medical doctor, an attorney, and a public health professional. He currently works as a medical director for Fidelis. He is a former Westchester County health commissioner. His medical specialty is public health and general preventive medicine.

Josh has lived in Athens since 2007. He is a board trustee of the Village of Athens, and a member of the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse Preservation Society board. He lives in Athens with his spouse Jessica Sorge.

Matt Maraglio

I began with the board one year ago and have enjoyed serving the community in this role. I have an educational background in forest and natural resource management, forest technology and land surveying and have enjoyed working in these fields for nearly 15 years in the public and private sector. I live in Cairo with my wife and two boys where we enjoy pursuing the outdoor activities that our area has to offer.

Amanda Pierro

Amanda Pierro is a resident of Hudson and has lived in Columbia County for almost 20 years. For the past 16 years, she’s worked for the Mental Health Association of Columbia and Greene Counties, Inc. In a variety of roles including a victim advocate and program director. Amanda and her husband have two children and a black lab. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, and camping. Amanda currently serves as Co-Chair of the Columbia County Mental Health and Alcohol/Substance Abuse Subcommittee of the CC Community Services Board and is a board member of multiple statewide and community boards.

Dr. Rebecca Pinder

undefinedRebecca Pinder grew up in rural upstate New York where she spent her time riding and showing horses with 4-H and exploring the local landscape. Her fascination with life along streams and lakes led her to pursue a degree in Biology from SUNY Cortland and later studied salamander biology at John Carroll University in Cleveland where she received her Master’s degree in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. After returning to New York, she attended the University at Albany and studied interactions between earthworms and stream-side salamanders. Earning her Doctoral degree, she looked to share her love of the natural world with others and became an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia-Greene Community College.She currently teaches anatomy and physiology courses as well as general ecology courses, including the River Ecology course held at the Hudson River Field Station. She currently spends her spare time running and hiking through the Catskill Mountains with her family.

Paul Spoleti

Paul moved to the Hudson Valley from Queens at a very young age. First moving to Germantown where he discovered his love of horses and joined 4-H. Soon after the family moved to a horse farm in Red Hook where he remained until attending college at FIT. Earning a bachelors degree, he began his career in the fashion industry. First working for a textile company in NYC and eventually moving to Los Angeles and co- founded a fast fashion teen brand called Mimi Chica. With 20 plus years of experience as owner/operator of the company he sold the brand in 2019 and moved back to the Hudson Valley with his family. Once again calling Germantown home. Upon returning to the area Paul became the GM of Liberty Farms a multifaceted farm in Ghent NY. Quite a change from the fashion industry but more in harmony with his upbringing. Liberty Farms is where his relationship with Cornell cooperative extension started to develop. Recently Paul has returned to his entrepreneurial roots and is starting two new businesses, one a grab and go food business and the other an industrial hemp business focusing on animal bedding. The hemp business in a point of pride for Paul and believes he can change the bedding industry while having a positive impact on the environment. Paul has two children, his son Denim who is 30 and a musician in Los Angeles and Mia 19, a freshman at CU Boulder. Paul loves spending time with family and friends, and is and avid outdoorsman.

Virgilia Tegiacchi


Virgilia Tegiacchi is a Tax Specialist at Farm Credit East, ACA where she specializes in tax preparation, planning, and accounting. Virgilia has been with Farm Credit for 24 years and plays a significant role in the Claverack office’s tax preparation team including preparation of complex tax returns and mentoring new staff members.

Virgilia holds a B.S. from Cornell University and has an Enrolled Agent designation with the IRS.

Virgilia has always been involved in agriculture. She grew up on a small farm in Schoharie, NY, where she currently runs a small haying operation. Virgilia resides in Athens, NY, with her fiancé Kenn.

Last updated June 24, 2024