The Charlotte-based Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation has hired Emilee Syrewicze as its new executive director.
Syrewicze will replace longtime director Rick Gaskins, who will leave the organization in June. The foundation employs the Catawba Riverkeeper and serves as an environmental watchdog for the 225-mile Catawba.
Syrewicze is the director of a nonprofit group in Traverse City, Mich., that focuses on housing for the homeless and people with mental illnesses. She has a degree in environmental law from Vermont Law School.
Gaskins, who is also an attorney, has been involved with the foundation since shortly after its founding in 1998. He’s served as attorney, chair and Riverkeeper.
Under his direction, the foundation filed lawsuits over electric utilities’ coal ash management, did tests of fish that led to consumption advisories for PCB contamination, and won a legal challenge to the Garden Parkway in Gaston County.
The group also trains volunteers under its Muddy Water Watch program created under Gaskins and expanded its environmental education program in schools.
“The board is extremely grateful to Rick for his many years of service to (the foundation) as a volunteer, Catawba Riverkeeper and executive director,” board chair Bill White said in a statement. “We wish Rick well in his new adventures. He has earned a break.”
Gaskins will leave in June to spend a year in France with his family. He hopes to work with conservation groups there, spend time on rivers and bike the route of the Tour de France.
The public is invited to a May 16 event, 5-7 p.m. at UNC Charlotte’s Center City Campus, to welcome Syrewicze and thank Gaskins. Ticket details are on the foundation’s website.