Amy Wyant joined OCCA as Executive Director in January, 2020. She has a background in clean energy, economic development and business with a passion for sustainability and local food. Amy is a strong advocate for community resilience and works with municipalities to prepare them for natural, economic and world change. She offers experience in community building and outreach and has a vested interest in helping the agriculture sector achieve their pollution reduction goals.
A long-standing interest in nature and animals led Jeff O’Handley to a degree in Wildlife Management from Cook College, Rutgers University. After a summer job at a local natural history museum, O’Handley discovered a love for environmental education. Over the next 15 years he taught thousands of people in such diverse environments as a state park located on Long Island’s “Gold Coast”; the heart of New York City; and the black widow-infested woods of East Hampton. O’Handley moved to Hartwick in 2003 and formed Wildlife Learning Company with his wife, Susan. They soon became a familiar sight, bringing permanently-injured birds of prey along with a small collection of turtles, snakes, frogs, and marine invertebrates to schools, libraries, and special events. The O’Handleys worked closely with the Otsego County Conservation Association to develop Burn Barrel Biology, a school program focusing on the hazards of trash burning, and on events such as Earth Festival and Lake Festival. Jeff O’Handley joined OCCA in October, 2013. He is looking to expand the EcoTeam program and to establish closer relationships with schools throughout the county.
Danny Lapin joined the Otsego County Conservation Association staff as environmental planner in June of 2014, upon completion of his masters’ in environmental policy. Lapin brings a passion for advocacy and sound environmental planning. Among many other skills, Lapin brings a strong background in water resource management, economics, environmental law and planning to the table. He grew up in Sunnyvale, California and graduated from the University of California-Riverside with a bachelor’s in environmental science while working for the Santa Ana
Regional Water Quality Control Board as a water quality specialist from 2009-2011. After completing his undergraduate studies, Lapin attended Bard College in the Hudson Valley focusing his graduate research on connecting local land-use practices with regional water management efforts. Lapin has held two planning positions in the Sierra Nevada Region of Eastern California, as a land-use planning fellow with the League to Save Lake Tahoe and as a Regional Climate Change Fellow with the Sierra Nevada Alliance from 2013-2014. Lapin focused on directly working with planners and regional water managers to ensure that the natural resources of the Sierra were protected. At Bard, Lapin was involved in a multitude of volunteer activities and was heavily engaged in the local community. As a result, he was recognized with the Aldo Leopold Award which is given to students who exemplify strong leadership and a dedication to community service. A resident of Springfield Center, Lapin seeks to bring his passion for community service to OCCA. In his spare time, he enjoys dancing, playing basketball, reading and swimming.
Deirdre Crouse joined OCCA in July 2021 as the Project Coordinator. With experience in management and organization, she will help the team track current and ongoing projects, as well as market OCCA to Otsego and surrounding counties, and beyond. Deirdre is invested in her community and has a passion for volunteering to help support those in need. After just finishing her term as President of the Cooperstown Lions Club, she is excited to continue on their Board of Directors to make meaningful change. She believes wholeheartedly in the mission of OCCA and believes we can all be stewards of the environment. Deirdre’s goal as Project Coordinator is to make OCCA a household name and promote everything we do involving planning, programming, and education.
Deirdre lives in Richfield Springs with her husband Josh, and their dog (Daisy), two cats (Winnie and Sierra), and 11 chickens (they have names too!). She enjoys running, gardening, and trying all local foods and beverages our slice of the world has to offer.
CAMPAIGN OUTREACH AND MARKETING COORDINATOR, HeatSmart Mohawk Valley
Anna Rutenbeck is the Campaign Outreach and Marketing Coordinator for HeatSmart Mohawk Valley, OCCA’s clean energy campaign. Anna hails from Denver, Colorado and Williston, Vermont, but now calls Cooperstown home. She fell in love with the Mohawk Valley during her graduate program in science museum studies at the Cooperstown Graduate Program, from which she graduated in May of 2021. Her love for the natural beauty of the region is what led her to OCCA, and her passions for environmental justice and climate resilience are what drew her to the HeatSmart campaign. In her free time, she loves hiking with her pets (Mabel the cat and Lantern the dog), photography, and watching horror movies.