Dale Ann Viger joined The Friends of GTM Reserve as its executive director in September. She has been praised for her work in the nonprofit sector, particularly in the areas of conservation and land management.
As the new executive director for the Friends of the GTM Reserve, what are some of your responsibilities?
My responsibilities include fundraising, grant writing, organization of programs and resources to support the mission of the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Estuarine Research Reserve.
Tell me about your interest in environmental conservation.
I’m originally from Upstate New York. Everyone there is just kind of born with a love of the outdoors and the woods. Then, when I moved to Florida, I just brought it with me.
I started writing grants and doing some board recruitment and organization for the Allen Broussard Conservancy. The more I got into it, the more I just loved it and decided that that was my path.
Tell me about your background.
I started my career in the Air Force as a contract buyer. From there, I worked in academia at Rensselaer Polytechnic institute.
I didn’t go to college after high school. I went into the Air Force, so I got my degrees as an adult. I have a bachelor’s degree in economics and management from SUNY Empire State, and I got my MBA from Rensselaer while I was employed there.
Even as I worked at the Allen Broussard Conservancy, I had my own consulting business where I helped smaller nonprofits to market and brand themselves and taught people how to write grants and how to set up their boards and to recruit board members.
When did you start that?
I actually set that up in 2010 or ‘11. It was right after I moved to Florida. I was in Brevard County. I worked with a number of different nonprofits in Brevard.
Are you still running your consulting business?
I closed it out in 2020.
How did you find your way to Northeast Florida?
As a northerner, we always went to Daytona every year for spring break as a family. And then, my older sister moved to Cocoa Beach in 1980.
So, I was a frequent visitor to Brevard. Then, after the downturn in 2008 and ‘09 and probably some pretty severe ice storms, I was like, “I’m done with New York.” So, I moved to Brevard. After the pandemic, I came to Jacksonville. I have a son who lives here in Jacksonville and a daughter who lives in Melbourne.
How did you get the GTM Friends job?
I found the GTM through an Indeed ad, and when I saw it, there was just so much overlap from what I had done (at the conservancy), I knew they were going to call me. Sure enough, I got the call, and it’s really amazing here.
Do you get to go out into the reserve and explore?
Yes, I can go out and hike and get involved, and it helps so that I understand the programs that we’re supporting.
I know they have pretty regular hikes and other programs.
Every weekend. There’s either seining or a trail hike or a beach hike or a beach cleanup. Every weekend. And those are free for the public.
What do you like best about living here?
The winter! And of course, the beach and the water and my family. It’s not the traffic; that has definitely picked up. But I’m perfectly content in Jacksonville. I’m super happy.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I love to spend my free time exercising, riding my bike, hiking with my Labradoodle, with my family. I spend quite a bit of time with my family. Nothing exciting. Just the regular stuff.