Our Staff

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Meet our hard working staff and learn more about their history with the park and Friends of the Smokies.

Dana Soehn

President & CEO

Dana joined Friends in 2023 after serving as an NPS employee for more than 30 years. She began her career at GSMNP and held several roles at the park. For the last decade, she served on the park’s leadership team as Park Spokesperson. Dana obtained her BS degree from University of Tennessee and her MS from West Virginia University. She resides in Gatlinburg where she and her husband raised their two sons.

Nan Jones

Director of Finance & CFO

Nan has worked with Friends of the Smokies for 22 years. She attended Carson-Newman University and Walter State Community College.

Marielle DeJong

Chief Operating Officer

Marielle joined Friends of the Smokies in 2016. She earned her B.A. in American Studies from University of North Carolina. Marielle enjoys trail running, fly fishing, and hiking, and has completed the Smokies 900 Challenge to hike every trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Lauren Gass

Director of Philanthropy

Lauren has worked at Friends of the Smokies for over 20 years. Lauren graduated from Samford University. Lauren enjoys spending time with her husband Jim and sons Anderson and Link.

Kathryn Hemphill

Special Projects Director

Kathryn rejoined the FOTS staff in 2019 after spending five years in New York. She received a BS in Public Relations from the University of Tennessee and an MS in Childhood Education from Hofstra University. Kathryn and her husband love exploring the Smokies with their two children.

Krista Heilmeier

Development Manager

Krista joined FOTS in 2018. She earned her BA in Piano Performance from Carson Newman University. She and her husband Frankie were recently married. She enjoys spending time with their dog Rudy and trail running.

Lindsay Howell

Special Projects Manager

Lindsay joined Friends in February 2022 with a professional background in events directing, hospitality, and sales management. She moved from Indiana to East Tennessee in 2005 for her love of the mountains. Lindsay and her husband have two daughters. She enjoys watching sports, gardening and spending time with her family.

Debbie Speelman

Database & Accounting Associate

Debbie joined Friends in 2019. She is originally from Pennsylvania. After vacationing in the Smoky Mountains for years, she and her family made the move to Tennessee. Debbie enjoys camping, hiking and spending time with her husband of 33 years and their two children.

Olivia Wright

Outreach Coordinator

Olivia joined the friends in June 2023. She grew up in Asheville, NC and has visited the park throughout her life. She graduated from Appalachian State University with a bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Development and is currently working on her master’s in Public Affairs at Western Carolina University. Olivia has worked at several other environmental nonprofits. She enjoys mountain biking, kayaking, rafting and spending time with her husband and two dogs.

David Aranda

Accounting Manager

David Joined the Friends of the Smokies in early 2024. He attended both Walter’s State Community College and Carson-Newman University where he earned his MBA and Bachelor of Accounting. David has a strong background in corporate accounting as well as robust experience in home construction that his father passed on to him. David enjoys searching and exploring deserted places and imagining the grandeur they once held prior to abandonment.