John P. DeGrazio – President
Destiny has led John P. DeGrazio to Yosemite National Park. The allure of California’s outdoor culture led the DeGrazios out West, and they decided it would be for more than a visit. They moved their family to Tuolumne County in 2005, and YExplore Yosemite Adventures was established soon after. 2006 marked the beginning of John’s career in Yosemite as an educator, wilderness guide, and steward. His passion for stewardship has led to his involvement with the Yosemite Gateway Partners where he has been a member of the board of directors since 2012. He is currently serving his second term as president.
In his spare time, John enjoys hiking, rock climbing and backpacking the Sierra with family and friends. He also dedicates time volunteering at several different schools and local organizations in and around Yosemite. John is also currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Tuolumne County Arts Alliance.
Candy O’Donel-Browne – 1st Vice President
When Candy O’Donel-Browne was six years old, she saw her first real live deer in Yosemite. She was entranced. That magic childhood memory was the magnet that attracted her back to the area.
She moved from the East Coast when her family had the opportunity to purchase the KOA Campground in Midpines, California. She operated it for over a decade. After she sold it, she spent a year as the Executive Director of the Mariposa Economic Development Corporation (EDC) before retiring.
Candy helped organize the first gateway partner meetings at Mammoth Mountain in 2003, and has actively supported the organization ever since. She recalls operating a business that was dependent on the Park when there was very little effort made at communication between Yosemite and the surrounding gateways. She is delighted with the opportunity to promote the flow of useful information throughout the area.
She has used her retirement to become immersed in a broad spectrum of community affairs. She currently serves on several boards and committees including the YARTS Advisory Council, the Mariposa County EDC, the John C. Fremont Healthcare District, the Mariposa County Arts Council, the Midpines Community Planning Committee, and was a founding director of the Alliance for Community Transformations, which is the umbrella that operates six social service agencies in Mariposa and Merced Counties.
In the past, she has been involved with the Mariposa County Chamber of Commerce, serving briefly as its director, and the Mariposa Firesafe Council, the Sierra Business Council, the Mother Lode Workforce Investment Board, the Yosemite/Sequoia RC&D, and several other boards on the East Coast.
Les Marsden – 2nd Vice President
Les Marsden was a precocious musical prodigy (i.e.: brat) trained as a conductor, composer and on numerous instruments from age four. Recognizing theatre as a far more absurd profession, he created his one-man show A Night at Harpo’s in college at age 22 with the full support of Harpo Marx’s widow Susan. Booked directly from CSUFresno to international venues ranging from Las Vegas to Scotland, his show initiated his successful career as a New York/London-based actor, playwright, director and producer. He was honored to know Groucho and performed as that brother to acclaim. In 1985 Groucho’s son Arthur Marx wrote the unique dual role of Harpo AND Chico Marx in Groucho: A Life in Revue specifically for Marsden, who portrayed both brothers and stunned audiences by also performing lengthy virtuosic piano and harp solos in each brother’s distinctive style. That show’s successful New York run transferred to London’s West End where Marsden was nominated for the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award. He received the London Critics Award and many others in a career consisting of over 3,000 performances of dramas, comedies and musicals from Shakespeare to Neil Simon, Chekhov to Cole Porter, with countless appearances on film, TV and commercials. He worked with Robert Redford, Charles Nelson Reilly, Albert Finney, Vanessa Redgrave, Burt Reynolds and Jeremy Irons to name a few.
Marsden was disabled in an onstage accident in Washington DC in 1999. He retired at age 42; with wife Diane and young son Maxfield moved back home near their beloved Yosemite. In 2002 as a director of the Mariposa County Arts Council Inc (MCACI,) he created the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra and serves as its Music Director and Conductor. The 60+ member Yosemite-region-wide MSO draws musicians from five counties and an international audience. The MSO performs in Mariposa’s Fiester Auditorium and has enjoyed a decade of concerts in the Great Lounge of Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel, the only symphony orchestra ever afforded that honor. The MSO belongs to the League of American Symphony Orchestras, BMI and ASCAP and distinguishes Mariposa as the smallest town in all America with its own symphony orchestra.
A composer for 50 years, Les Marsden’s large-scale symphonic cycle “Our Nation’s Nature” was written to commemorate the four 2014-2016 outdoor anniversary celebrations relevant to Yosemite. The MSO was awarded a generous California Arts Council grant which allowed the orchestra to present a seven-concert, five-county tour in April-August 2016 of that cycle in commemoration of the National Park Service Centennial. The MSO’s Yosemite Gateways performances were presented in Mariposa, the (former) Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley, Oakhurst, Merced, Sonora, Mammoth Lakes and concluded with a special unprecedented performance at Glacier Point on August 21 to an invitation-only audience of dignitaries. For the MCACI, Marsden created other programs including his “Young Master Composers Celebration,” “Welcome to Classical Music!” and “Acting in Mariposa (AIM)” programs; as a Master Acting Teacher, his (rare) acting classes in Mariposa fill beyond capacity. He has also taught at UCMerced.
A Yosemite Gateway Partners participant since 2004, he’s served on the MCACI Board of Directors for 15 years – currently in his fourth term as President. A long-time board director and past multiple-term President of the Mariposa County Economic Development Corporation, he’s also honored to be a National Park Service Centennial Ambassador. Les Marsden is a member of AEA, AFTRA-SAG, the Conductors Guild and the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP.)
Karen Foreman – Treasurer
Lisa Cesaro – Secretary
Brittany Dyer has been an active community member and natural resources enthusiast since childhood. Growing up sailing on the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay, Brittany began organized river clean-ups and fundraisers for such causes. After beginning her career as a Senate Intern in Washington D.C., Brittany moved to Florida where she worked nearly full-time for the Jacksonville Jaguars while obtaining her B.S. in Communications with a focus on Public Relations. Brittany has traveled and studied around the globe and was last living in Costa Rica before landing in a Yosemite Gateway community nearly five years ago.
Brittany came to North Fork, CA off the Highway 41 corridor, through an AmeriCorps program where she spent one year volunteering for a regional non-profit organization committed to economic development and natural resource conservation. When her term expired Brittany continued to create her own jobs within the foothill and rural communities of Madera, Mariposa, Fresno and Tulare counties.
In her five years of non-profit management Brittany developed, wrote and executed multiple grant-related projects totaling nearly a million dollars. She has worked with disadvantaged communities in developing transparent processes around controversial issues, conducted high-level negotiations with funders, and served as the facilitator for the Sustainable Forest and Communities Collaborative.
Brittany has been involved with the Integrated Regional Water Management Planning efforts, foothill community planning for the CA Water Plan Update 2013, and launched a “think local first” campaign. She has been on several planning committees for the Whiskey Ridge Ecological Restoration Project, North Fork Economic Development Forum, Agriculture and Nature Tourism Workshops, Southern Sierra Geotourism Selection Committee, Volunteer Symposium, and fundraising activities. Her project and program work includes watershed restoration efforts, community outreach, meadow restoration, tribal outreach, fire safety and fuel reduction efforts, and conflict resolution.
Recently Brittany accepted a job that allows her to continue her work in the public sector – Legislative Assistant to Madera County 5th District Supervisor, Tom Wheeler. When she is not working, Brittany works on her Master’s Degree through Oregon State University or enjoys backpacking, snowshoeing, snowboarding or hiking in the high country.
Craig has served 20 proud years in chamber management. He is currently the Director of the Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce. Previously, he was with the Hood River County Chamber, Healdsburg Chamber, and Morro Bay Chamber. Craig is a graduate of The Institute of Organizational Management, Economic Development Institute and Business Retention and Expansion International. His rich experience has focused on economic, workforce and tourism development. He also loves to fly fish in his spare time.
Liz Grans was born and raised in northern Illinois and studied Recreation, Sport and Tourism Management at the University of Illinois. She has an extensive background in event management and marketing, having worked for a 10,000 seat arena and working, volunteering for, or running various types of events, including private and non-profit. Liz moved to Mammoth Lakes for what was going to be a temporary position helping organize Bluesapalooza (a large beer and blues music festival) with Mammoth Brewing Company. After falling in love with the Eastern Sierra, she is happy to be here now five years later working with Mono County in the Economic Development Department, which oversees tourism promotion and marketing of the County, as well as filming, fisheries, and economic development initiatives.
Mr. Harter has had an extensive background in the glazing construction and building code fields since 1951. In 1957 he started his own contract glazing firm that became a 24 hr. glazing replacement service that is now the oldest continually operating emergency glazing firm in the U.S. Because of his knowledge of the building codes, door hardware, and glazed openings, the Los Angeles County Sheriff and the State Attorney General selected him to help plan and execute the massive statewide burglary reduction campaign called, “Operation 459” in 1972. His expertise is used by; the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO)and now the International Codes Council (ICC), the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Access Compliance Division of the State Architects Office, the California Building Standards Commission, State Fire Marshall’s office, and the California Energy Commission in developing and interpreting codes and industry standards for uniform adoption.
In 1980, Mr. Harter formed the California Glass Association and became its first President and Director of Technical Services. His interpretations, writing, and seminars on the Uniform Building code and the International Building Code have become a standard for building officials, architects and glazing contractors. In 2000, the model code groups formed into one organization, the International Codes Council.
As a Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP), Glen Roberts continually implements his experience and knowledge to assist U.S. firms in global trade.
His professional experience began with 3M while attending college and initiated his passion for international trade. Since this time he has always worked in the international department of a firm. His experience with an international freight forwarder and logistics firm provided an exceptional perspective for international trade. Letter of credits, State Department licenses and hazardous materials were part of his normal routine.
He’s employed by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce | International Trade Administration, as the Director of the Fresno & Bakersfield U.S. Export Assistance Centers, providing export business consulting for the Central California region. His current activities include all aspects of exporting, economic development through export training and assistance, and his expertise has provided great success for his clients in the renewable energy and alternative fuels industry sector. In fact, he’s been recognized by industry and peers as a top leader by the International Green Industrial Hall of Fame.
His recruitment efforts include a high level executive led renewable energy trade mission to Turkey for the U.S. Dept. of Commerce. Highlight of the trip can be found at the following: http://export.gov/california/fresno/tradeevents/turkeytrademission/index.asp
Along with Turkey was a Central Europe Bio-energy Trade Mission which included high level executives from the Dept. of Commerce and Dept. of Energy.