Board of Directors

MPA is managed by a board of 15-21 directors elected by members at the annual fall meeting for staggered three-year terms. Directors may serve for two full terms. After an absence of at least one year, they may again be nominated for election. Officers are elected annually by the board.

Lorence (Larry) Larson, President (Carl Junction) taught science before being hired as a state park ranger/naturalist in 1974. Larry's park career of over thirty years took him to Washington, St. Francois, Hawn, Knob Noster, and Prairie State Park, where he was the park's first employee. After nearly twenty years at Prairie, he became Supervisor for the Missouri River District. Larry has won prairie conservation and interpretive awards, served on national interpretive and state prairie conservation boards. He enjoys being outdoors, enjoying the sights, sounds, and history that make up the natural and cultural wonders we walk through every day.

Shirley Wolverson, Vice President (St. Louis) is a biologist and air pollution specialist who has worked in air pollution control for the St. Louis Health Department and the state Division of Environmental Quality. She has volunteered her time and effort for numerous environmental organizations and has a lifelong interest in parks and historic sites.

Deb (Schultehenrich) Schnack, Secretary (New Bloomfield) began as a seasonal naturalist and by 1973 won appointment as the first female park superintendent in the state park system. A year later she became trail coordinator, planning and laying out hundreds of miles of trails. She retired from her park career in 2004 as director of the Planning and Development Program. Her interests include world travel, camping, canoeing, fishing, hunting, and of course hiking.

Dennis Wilhelmi, Treasurer (St. Louis) is a certified public accountant providing financial management consulting services to small, emerging and turnaround companies. He has served as treasurer of the Open Space Council for ten years and participated in various stream and flood clean-ups. Interested in all things outdoors, he and his wife have nearly completed the state parks passport program and have been so impressed by the quality of Missouri's parks that he wants to help bring his financial and business perspective to MPA and the state park system.

Kelley L. Brent (Poplar Bluff) is the University of Missouri Extension County Engagement Specialist for Wayne County, Missouri, and serves as faculty focusing on Nutrition and Health. Prior to joining MU Extension, Kelley served 13 years in the Planning and Development program within Missouri State Parks. As the state trail coordinator, Kelley increased the trail system by almost 330 miles and created trail standards to better map and manage the almost 1200-mile trail network for the Division of State Parks. Kelley has a Master’s degree in Education from Drury University, a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science from Southwest Baptist University and an Associate of Arts degree in General Education from Three Rivers College.

Curtis Copeland (Ozark) graduated from Missouri State University in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in Cartographic Sciences. He has been employed with the City of Branson as the Geographic Information Systems Manager for 26 years.  In 2017, he assisted in the reviving of The Society of Ozarkian Hillcrofters, and now serves as the Chair. The Society of Ozarkian Hillcrofters is an organization originally formed in 1932 for the purpose of preserving Ozarks history, folklore, culture, and conservation of its natural environment.  In 2023, he was selected to be a presenter at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, featuring the Ozarks in Washington D.C. Curtis enjoys hiking, floating, camping and visiting Missouri State Parks with his wife, Crystal, and their children.

Susan Flader, Editor (Columbia) was a founder of the association and has served three times as president. She is professor emerita of western and environmental history at the University of Missouri-Columbia and among her books and articles are works on conservationist Aldo Leopold and on the history of parks and forests in Missouri. She has been president of the American Society for Environmental History and board chair of the Aldo Leopold Foundation and is currently president of the L-A-D Foundation and secretary-treasurer of Audubon Missouri.

Kurt Gretzinger (Urich) is a retired farmer and former water resources engineer living in west central Missouri. With degrees from the University of Missouri in land and water resources engineering, he has maintained a lifelong interest in soil conservation, water resources management, and renewable energy. He is a frequent visitor to many national and state parks and historic sites.

Melissa Hope (Jefferson City) with a degree in finance, worked in various positions in marketing and sales before becoming involved with Sierra Club as a regional conservation organizer, development director, and campaign organizer, in the course of which she participated in a landmark negotiation with Kansas City Power & Light that led to significant renewable energy initiatives. She now works for the Missouri Department of Health as a planner focusing on emergency preparedness, and enjoys reading, running, hiking and backpacking.

Greg Iffrig (St. Louis) was a founding member of the Missouri Parks Association and is a past president. He worked for Missouri State Parks and the L-A-D Foundation. He founded the Natural Areas Journal in 1981, and served as its editor until 1990; he has been an active volunteer for state and national conservation organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Ozark Society, Ozark Regional Land Trust, Sierra Club, and the Natural Areas Association.

John Karel (St. Louis/Ste. Genevieve) with degrees in history and wildlife ecology, joined the Department of Natural Resources as a planner, then in 1979 was appointed director of state parks, which he led from its deepest financial crisis to the beginning of its recovery. He also led the renaissance of Tower Grove Park in St. Louis as director from 1987-2015, and for for eighteen years served as president of the L-A-D Foundation. He has received numerous national, state, and local awards for leadership in park and historic site management and wilderness preservation.

Bill McGuire (Jefferson City) with a BS in wildlife and MS in biology/ecology was a seasonal naturalist at Roaring River and Table Rock State Parks. He worked for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) for 35 years, beginning as a conservation agent in Laclede County (Bennett Spring State Park) and retiring as Private Land Services Division Chief; he then did bioenergy consulting for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the National Wildlife Federation. He received national, state, and local recognition and is most known for leadership in the integration of wildlife into Farm Bill conservation programs, the cooperative relationship between MDC and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and national work on the ecological aspects of bioenergy.

Bob Painter (Smithville) was energy efficiency programs manager for Missouri Gas Energy and a consultant in business development, marketing, and sustainability; he also serves on numerous civic and environmental boards and committees. Having helped forge partnerships for MPA's Urban Populations Outreach Project during an earlier position with DNR at the Discovery Center in Kansas City, he is now helping with fundraising and coordination of Kansas City UPOP.

Jen Vaeth (St. Louis) is a Missouri Content Creator with a fondness for Missouri State Parks. Along with her family, she has a goal of visiting and documenting each park and historic site while encouraging others to get out and explore the park system. As a frequent visitor of the parks/historic sites she is able to provide valuable input from the consumer point of view.

Terry Whaley (Springfield) retired executive director of Ozarks Greenways (1995-2017), is a tireless advocate for parks and trails. With a degree in park and recreation management, he served previously as director of parks and recreation for the city of Fenton. He was president of MPA from 2006-2009 and serves also on the boards of American Trails and Mississippi River Trail, Inc.

Honorary Directors

Eleanor Hoefle (St. Louis) was a charter member of MPA and attended the very first meeting. She was elected to the MPA board in 1988 and served as treasurer from 1994 to 2012. A 35-year employee of Boatmen's Bancshares, Inc., she retired from Bank of America in 1999. Eleanor has been a long-time camper in state parks and a cheerleader for the park system.

Executive Director

Kendra Varns Wallis, Executive Director (Kansas City) began October 1, 2018, in her new role with MPA. With an MU degree in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, she began work in facility and visitor services in the Jefferson City headquarters of Missouri State Parks, where she had an opportunity to visit nearly every park and historic site in the system. She then served as program coordinator in the new Kansas City Outreach office, where she coordinated MPA's Kansas City Urban Populations Outreach Project (UPOP), among other programs. For two years she served as senior manager for programs and outreach with the American Diabetes Association in its Kansas office, learning about the non-profit world and fundraising, before returning to state parks as Kansas City area manager. She will be managing MPA's membership solicitation and renewal, fundraising, and programs such as UPOP and Seniors to Parks, as well as working with the board and representing the association on park issues, legislative concerns, and other initiatives.


Dawn Nicklas (Jefferson City) works with MPA's legislative committee as lobbyist in the Missouri General Assembly.

Cindy Bridges (Couch) lives near the Narrows on the Eleven Point River just south of the new state park. With a degree in business administration and marketing, she works for the South Central Missouri Community Action Agency in Winona. She is a Missouri Master Naturalist with interests also in birding, kayaking, conservation, and, of course, state parks, which she wants to help protect and promote.

David Hall (Rogersville) is an attorney in private practice in Springfield. He also owns and operates a small ranch on which he is improving grazing systems, forests, streams, and ponds. He is chairman of the Greene County Soil and Water Conservation District, volunteers with a stream team and a Boy Scouts troop, and is a member of the Nature Conservancy and other conservation and bar associations. He is active on the MPA legislative committee.

Steve Mahfood (Wildwood) ran a family-owned park in the Blue Mountains of North Carolina and advised on environmental matters in North Africa and the Middle East before eventually joining the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and becoming director of the Environmental Improvement and Energy Resources Authority. He served as DNR director from 1998 to 2004, during which he was involved in the acquisition of four new state parks. Since retiring, he has been a consultant to the Nature Conservancy in Missouri and other organizations in addition to his service to MPA.