Our Team

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Executive Director


Thomas G. Dallessio AICP/PP/CPM/FRSA

Tom is a licensed professional planner, policy expert, university instructor and nonprofit executive with over three decades of experience in the public, private, nonprofit and academic sectors.  He’s been an independent consultant to nonprofit and philanthropic organizations and an instructor at two major research universities.  He is currently a part-time lecturer at the Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy at Rutgers University, where he teaches Comprehensive Planning and Planning & Land Use Administration.

Tom served as President, CEO and Publisher of Next City – a nonprofit organization that inspires social, economic and environmental change in cities through journalism and events.  Tom was Senior Policy Advisor to two Governors, founded the Center for Resilient Design and taught Land Use Planning and Infrastructure Planning at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.  He is a Certified Public Manager, Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and an Alumni Member of the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization.  Tom serves as Vice President of Policy at the American Planning Association – New Jersey Chapter and was awarded the B. Budd Chavooshian Award for Outstanding Professional Planner.

He received his Master of City and Regional Planning degree from Rutgers University, a Master of Arts from the Eagleton Institute of Politics and a Bachelor of Arts from Rutgers College.


Director, Policy and Grants


Alan Hunt

Alan R. Hunt, Ph.D. grew up along the Musconetcong River on his grandparents’ small farm and greenhouse operation.  The outdoors was like an additional parent, teaching him the ways of nature, recognizing both the changes and patterns of the natural world.  He earned a B.S. in Environmental Studies, cum laude, at Bates College, Maine and a Masters in Environmental Management, with a specialty in Resource Economics and Policy from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.  For five years, Alan worked in Washington DC on policies for sustainable agriculture and healthy food access to underserved communities, forming multi-sector alliances between organizations representing the environmental, sustainable agriculture, minority farmers, trade associations, public health advocates, and farmers market associations.  He authored and co-authored several pieces of the 2008 Farm Bill, including a rural business loan guarantee for local food systems which continues to provide more than $1 billion in financing to the private sector and the healthy urban food enterprise development center.


With the award of a Fulbright fellowship in 2010, he undertook research comparing American and British approaches to policies on local food systems, earing a PhD in Rural Development at Newcastle University and authoring a book: Civic Engagement in Food Systems (Routledge, 2015).  Alan returned to the family farm in 2013, and his family has been bringing it back to life after it skipped a generation.  Prior to joining MWA, Alan worked at Wholesome Wave as Policy Director, and opened their Washington DC office, and also operated his own consulting firm for nine years, Local Food Strategies LLC.


Alan's family has been members of the MWA from just about its start.  He served on the Board of Directors in 2016, and served as Executive Director from fall 2016 through 2019.  Alan draws on his multi-disciplinary expertise as a natural and social scientist to spur creative synergies and partnerships that bring lasting change, and is a gifted technical writer.  He is published on topics of community relationship formation at farmers markets, social determinants of health and healthy eating, non-point source pollution reduction strategies, and National Wild and Scenic River policy.

At MWA, Alan has a variety of roles, ranging from stakeholder engagement, policy development and advocacy, project management, and grant writing, and provides content expertise on scientific research methods, recreation, and cultural resource management.  He is a member of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed's Steering Committee, the co-chair of the Asbury Mill Committee, and the River Administrator of the Musconetcong River Management Council.  Alan enjoys trail running, hiking, kayaking, and gardening; restoring a riparian buffer along the Musconetcong River with native trees and plants; and running the family farm with his wife and daughter.


Communications and Development Associate


Karen Doerfer

Karen joined the team in March of 2016 and provides communication and administrative support to the MWA.  Karen manages all internal and external communications efforts of the MWA, including all social media, newsletters, and other communications on behalf of the organization. She also coordinates key fundraising and outreach events, like MWA's Annual Meeting and Run for the River events. Karen acts as the communications liaison in MWA partnership efforts, including the Delaware River Watershed Initiative. 


As a graduate of Rider University with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Public Relations, she comes to us with experience in journalism, event planning, and office management. Karen's passion for environmental stewardship is fueled by her love of hiking with her dogs, camping, and kayaking.


Water Quality Program Coordinator


Christa Reeves

Christa was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida and moved to Washington, New Jersey in 2011.  She always had an affinity for water and fell in love with the rivers in our region, so we went back to school to pursue a degree in science.  She graduated from East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania in May, 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies with a focus in Stream Ecology and a minor in Geography with a focus in GIS.

Christa has interned with MWA for the past 3 1/2 years before the position of Water Quality Field Specialist was created.  She is also the Research Field Specialist for Northern New Jersey and Pennsylvania with Stroud Research Center as part of the EnviroDIY sensor project in coordination with the Delaware River Watershed Initiative.

Outside of MWA, she is the Vice President of the newly formed Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society.

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Watershed Programs Coordinator


Annie Polkowski

Annie comes to us, most recently working as a Watershed Specialist for the Monroe County Conservation District, working with watershed organizations in the Pocono region of Pennsylvania.  Prior to that, she was employed with the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Watersheds working with the City’s Green City, Clean Waters program to maintain the City’s new green stormwater infrastructure installations.

Her educational background is in Engineering Studies and Environmental Studies, and she recently completed a Master’s Degree in Water Resources Engineering from Villanova University.  This interdisciplinary background encouraged Annie to seek a career where she could help solve complex water resources issues that often draw on many fields of expertise.  That is why she is very excited to be joining a team of like-minded individuals at the MWA.


Annie is excited to soon become a partial owner of her family’s farm where she hopes to have an opportunity to “practice what we preach” and implement better conservation practices on the farm.

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Community Engagement Coordinator


Ryan Jiorle

Ryan joined the MWA in January, 2021 and is involved with its many volunteer-driven initiatives.  Specifically, he works on recruiting and training new volunteers for the MWA River Watcher program and environmental restoration projects.  He also maintains the Education Trail along the river, assists with in-school educational presentations, and conducts outreach with public officials and other organizations.

Ryan was born and raised in Phillipsburg, NJ and caught his first trout on the Musconetcong River in Hughesville, c. 1998.  After fishing the three “Congs” of Warren County throughout his childhood, he went away to the College of William & Mary to study biology.  Ryan followed that up by completing his Master’s Degree in fisheries and aquatic sciences at the University of Florida, publishing his thesis on the ability of angler-provided data to inform recreational fisheries management decisions.  Since then, he served as an ORISE fellow at the EPA’s Region 3 office in Philadelphia, a fisheries management specialist for the Commonwealth of Virginia, an AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassador for the state’s Upper Delaware River tributaries – where he was hosted by the MWA, and a support guide at the Ridge and Valley Charter School in Blairstown, NJ.

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Policy Assistant


Jane Heeckt

Jane brings over 20 years of experience managing projects at companies across a range of industries, and as an independent consultant.


Born in Grand Island, Nebraska and raised in Lebanon Township, Jane has a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from Fordham University.  An introductory class in environmental science, taken to fulfill her college science requirement, sparked her interest in environmental protection.  Jane’s research on contamination at the Diamond Aerosol site not far from her home inspired her to join the Sierra Club, and her research paper earned her the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. as a volunteer lobbyist.


After graduating from Fordham, Jane stayed in New York and worked for several years in publishing and on Wall Street before returning to New Jersey.  Jane currently lives with her family in Franklin Township, not far from the Myers Property (CERCLIS #NJD980654198).

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Water Quality Field Specialist


Sam Johnson

Samantha joins our team as our new Water Quality Field Specialist.  Sam will be working with our water quality team, to monitor water quality in the Musconetcong River and to manage teams of River Watcher volunteers who will be collecting water samples and maintaining our sensor stations.

Sam first became passionate about the environment, especially rivers, when she participated in a stream assessment and macroinvertebrate sampling on the Musconetcong River during a high school field trip.  During college, she volunteered as an MWA River Watcher where she expanded her field skills and her knowledge of river ecosystems.

From working an internship with the Environmental Sustainability and Engineering Academy this past spring, Sam has discovered her passion for education.  As a teacher, she hopes to use her experience in the field to immerse students in the real world of science, inspiring the next generation of scientists.

Samantha Johnson was born and raised in Hackettstown, NJ and is currently a student at Centenary University where she is completing her degree in environmental science, and working toward her teaching certification in biology.  In her free time, Sam loves to hike, kayak, and teach tap dance classes.