Governing Board

Executive Director

Avram Friedman
Avram is one of the founders and has been the Executive Director since the inception of The Canary Coalition in 2000. He has a long history of successful social and environmental activism dating to the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and the anti-nuclear movement of the 70s and 80s. He holds a degree in solar energy technology and studied political science at Hunter College in the Bronx, NY.
Under his leadership, in 2004, The Canary Coalition won a Clean Air Excellence Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency. In 2008, he was personally awarded the NC Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award for Air Quality activism. He lives in Dillsboro, NC, in a house he built himself.


Larry Nestler
Larry is the current Chairman of the Board of The Canary Coalition. He has been with the organization since its inception in 2000. He is a lead attorney with Legal Aid Services of North Carolina and lives in Asheville with his wife Beth.



Thomas Rain Crowe
Thomas is an internationally acclaimed poet and author as well as a regional and community activist. He is one of the founders of The Canary Coalition and has been active in AMUSE (Artists and Musicians United for a Safe Environment), Project to Protect Native American Sacred Sites in the Southern Appalachians, the Western North Carolina Alliance, United Neighbors of Tuckasegee, and has been on the board of the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project and the Environmental Leadership Council of WNC. He is a founding member of the Southern Nature Writers Group based in Athens, Georgia. He lives in the Tuckasegee community in Jackson County with his lifelong companion, Nann Watkins.

Betsy Swift
Betsy Swift is a local nurse-midwife and health care provider. She and her partner Barbara Manke relocated to Western North Carolina and have made Sylva their home since 1998. Betsy has participated in progressive movements and citizen groups since high school. Now semi-retired, she is happy to have more time to give to issues she feels strongly about


Garrett Lagan
Garrett was born in DC and raised in Takoma Park Maryland.
After graduating from St. Mary’s College of Maryland he spent five years working on organic farms in Maryland, Vermont, Alaska, and North Carolina, which overlapped with ten years of experience in the field of mental health.
He obtained a Master of Social Work degree from UNC Chapel Hill. His professional credentials include Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist, and Co-Chair of the Far West Program Unit of the the NC-National Association of Social Workers.

John Moore

John is a 20 year-old resident of Hendersonville, NC. He is a member of the Henderson County Branch of the NAACP and serves as the chair of the Young Adults Committee. He is a full time student at Blue Ridge Community College studying economics and accounting and an employee at Continental-Teves in Fletcher, NC, a division of Continental Automotive.

Vickie Davis

Vickie is a semi-retired nurse of 37 years at Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva. She was a Surgical Services PACU coordinator; Cardiopulmonary Rehab program licensure, grant writer, program coordinator; ICU staff nurse; Nursing Supervisor hospital wide; and Unit Director.
She also taught nursing at Western Carolina University.

Angela Leonard

Angela is a retired social worker and has lived in North Buncombe County for 12 years. She is a volunteer with the Asheville Humane Society and the American Chestnut Foundation.


Lauren Baxley

Lauren is co-owner of Baxley’s Chocolates in downtown Sylva, NC. Her family moved to Jackson County in 1980 and fell in love with the community. She feels this unique area is worth protecting and revering. She is a founding member of Indivisible/Common Ground WNC


Olga Lampkin

Olga lives in Franklin, NC. She has been a paralegal since 1990 and, over the years, has handled real estate matters, estate planning, and a wide variety of civil disputes.  Olga feels strongly that each of us can make a difference – with the environment, with our neighbors, and with the world.