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.

Tim Chandler

Executive Director and CEO

Tim joined the organization in 2018. Tim enjoys camping and exploring the Great Smoky Mountains with his wife of 25 years, Katie, and their two children Nathan and Katherine.

James M. Hart


Jim has been with the organization for over 20 years. Jim is currently involved with the Knoxville community through Home Federal Bank, Friends of Young Williams Animal Shelter, and East Tennessee Historical Society. He has been married to his wife Jan for 50 years and has three children and three grandchildren.

Nan Jones

Chief Financial Officer

Nan has worked with Friends of the Smokies for 21 years. She attended Carson-Newman University and Walter State Community College.

Lauren Gass

Senior Special Projects Director

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

Sarah Herron

Marketing & Communications Director

Sarah joined Friends in 2019. She has a degree in Journalism from ETSU. Sarah was a community reporter and has been a leader in digital communications & marketing for 18 years. She is also an elected member of Maryville City Council. She and her husband of 21 years have 2 sons. Both are student athletes and Boy Scouts. Her oldest recently achieved his Eagle Scout rank.

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.

Marielle DeJong

Development Director

Marielle is the Director of Development and 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.

Krista Heilmeier

Development Coordinator

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 Coordinator

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 her animals.

Haley Stevenson

Outreach and Marketing Coordinator

Haley joined FOTS officially, in 2021 but has been volunteering and involved with the organization since 2015. Find her spending time outdoors with her chocolate lab Hooch, or at any local coffee shop with the best dirty chai. She attended Georgia State University in Atlanta.

Debbie Speelman

Database & Accounting Associate

Debbie joined Friends in 2018. 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.