Suncoast Waterkeeper is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We are a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a global network of over 300 grassroots leaders in six continents protecting everyone’s right to clean water.
The mission of Suncoast Waterkeeper is to protect and restore the Florida Suncoast’s waterways through enforcement, fieldwork, advocacy and environmental education for the benefit of the communities that rely upon these precious coastal resources.
Our first priority is to ensure that appropriate laws are being followed, and to take corrective action when they are not. Our work is supported by science, the appropriate statutes and environmental ethics. We will always seek to prevent environmental damage wherever possible.
MEET OUR BOARD
JUSTIN BLOOM - Founder
Suncoast Waterkeeper’s founder Justin Bloom got his JD at Tulane Law School and has been a practicing environmental attorney specializing in prosecuting pollution cases and representing communities for over 18 years. His experience includes investigation, enforcement and litigation of Clean Water Act violations and “Toxic Tort” cases. He has successfully represented many plaintiffs affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and other oil spills in the US. Prior to returning to the Suncoast, he worked in New York City as Waterkeeper Alliance’s Eastern Regional Director. Justin’s family first came to the area in the ‘70s. He attended New College, where he graduated with a concentration in environmental studies in 1991.
JOE MCCLASH - Board Chair
Joe is the current Board Chair. He is a former commissioner for Manatee County from 1990-2012, publisher of the Bradenton Times and the owner of McClash Rentals, Inc. After serving in the United States Marine Corps from 1975–1979, at the age of twenty-four, he founded McClash Heating And Cooling, continuing that business from 1982–2002. He founded TBT in 2008 focusing on Manatee County's Government, History and a platform for opinions and community awareness. He is an active sailor, fisherman and environmentalist.
SANDRA RIPBERGER - Secretary
Sandra is a Florida Master Naturalist and has served on the executive committee of the Sarasota-Manatee Sierra Group and on the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. Her professional career included a focus on the environment as communications manager for The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, CT. She retired after serving as communications director for Spence-Chapin Services in New York.
As an active alumna of Eckerd College she serves on National Advisory Committee to the president. She enjoys water-oriented pastimes, including kayaking Florida waters and sailing. She is actively involved in the Salty Sisters, a women’s sailing organization which began in the 1950s. Sandra has a BA from Eckerd and an MA from NYU.
MERRIE LYNN PARKER - Treasurer
Merrie is a retired Manatee School District administrator. She is a board member of the Manatee Fish & Game Association and a certified Master Naturalist. She enjoys painting water colors of wildlife and its natural habitat and kayaking the local tributaries and water bodies.
ALISON ALBEE - Board Member
Alison's career has spanned more than 30 years in the environmental field working in private industry, non-profit research, and city and county governments. Her experience includes wastewater treatment and environmental laboratory management, energy and water conservation, and sustainability. She has a degree in Chemical Technology and a degree in Environmental Science and Policy from the University of South Florida.
Alison has lived in the Sarasota area for more than 30 years and she enjoys sailing, kayaking, diving and fishing. She has been an active volunteer with the Longboat Key Turtle Watch for more than 15 years and is a member of the Citizen's Advisory Committee of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.
RUSTY CHINNIS - Board Member
Rusty Chinnis is an outdoor photographer, writer, Fly Fishers International Certified Casting Instructor and US Coast Guard Licensed Captain. Rusty specializes in fly fishing, bird, landscape and coastal photography. Rusty is a fly fishing and travel writer with credits in Eastern Fly Fishing, American Angler, Edible Sarasota Magazine, Fly Fishing in Saltwaters, Florida Sportsman, Sport Fishing, Saltwater Fly Fishing, Tide, Sarasota Magazine and many others. Rusty is the Outdoors Editor of the Anna Maria Island Sun and was a Contributing Editor of Fly Fishing in Saltwaters Magazine. He served as President and Chairman of the Board of The Florida Outdoor Writers Association and is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Rusty was a founder of Sarasota Bay Watch a non-profit working to preserve and protect Sarasota Bay.
TOM WALKER- Board Member
Tom is co-founder of Watson & Walker, a computer consultancy he created with his wife Cheryl. In addition to serving on the SCWK Board, Tom chairs two nonprofits – the Florida Consumer Action Network, and WSLR, a community FM radio station, and helps run two informal groups, one devoted to current affairs and one to reading great books.
JOSE URANGA- Board Member
Jose is a retired 30 year environmental attorney with both government enforcement and corporate practice experience. He earned a JD from Georgetown University and a MA in Environmental Management from the University of Texas, San Antonio. Originally from New Mexico, he has lived in Sarasota for over 20 years since retiring and stays active playing tennis, golf, and kayaking. Jose has volunteered as an Art Docent at the three Ringling museums, served on several non-profit boards and as a Guardian Ad Litem representing abused children in state courts. Jose chairs a city- wide book club and has authored three books detailing the Hispanic experience in the United States.