One of Us: Ellen Leroy-Reed


As executive director of the Friends of the GTM Reserve, Ellen Leroy-Reed works with the board of directors to drive the mission of the organization, working with Friends members, volunteers and the GTM Research Reserve staff.

What are your primary duties and responsibilities as executive director of the Friends of the GTM Reserve?

My primary duties are to build our revenue streams, take care of our Friends members, liaise with the GTM Research Reserve staff members on their research and programs, and oversee the administration of the organization. I have the pleasure of working with an incredibly dedicated board of directors who provide the strategic visioning for the Friends of the GTM Reserve.

How did you come to live on the First Coast?

As with many families on the First Coast, I have the Navy to thank for making North Florida my home. I was the wife of a submariner stationed at NSB Kings Bay in Georgia so Jacksonville was our big city. About 10 years ago, we made the decision to leave Saint Mary’s and relocate to Jax. Since that time, I became involved with the sustainability movement in the region and got deeply involved with environmental issues facing our region.

How did you become involved with the Friends of the GTM Reserve?

My passion is for the sustainability of our community – economically and environmentally – so I knew my place was with an organization whose mission aligned with my passion. After working in various other sectors such as development, health care and veterans’ issues, I knew my true home was in a place like the Reserve so when a colleague mentioned the Friends were looking for their first executive director, I threw everything I had into showing the board I was the right person for the job. I am so grateful they agreed.

You have an extensive background in nonprofit leadership. What are some of the charities for which you’ve worked and how has that experience prepared you for your new role?

I am honored and humbled to have worked with some of the best nonprofit organizations in the country, including Wounded Warrior Project, the American Heart Association, the Navy League and the U.S. Green Building Council. Each organization taught me valuable lessons that I have brought to the Friends of the GTM Reserve. My time with the U.S. Green Building Council taught me the people of North Florida care deeply about our precious natural resources and are willing to give their time and treasure to protect it. Having worked with both large and small nonprofits, I have learned to think globally while acting locally, and that the most successful nonprofits operate with both sound business principles and a singular commitment to the mission.

What are the primary goals of the Friends organization?

Our primary goal is constant – support the research and programs of the GTM Research Reserve so our community can make science-based decisions about stewardship and preservation. We do this by providing needed funding, rallying passionate volunteers and championing the cause in the community.

Development is a big concern for many local residents. Is the Friends group involved in efforts to preserve local land against future development?

As the manager of over 74,000 acres between Ponte Vedra Beach and Palm Coast, the GTM Research Reserve is dedicated to land conservation and the study of its precious natural and cultural resources. Many Ponte Vedra residents relocate to North Florida because they treasure the beauty and recreation our community offers so it is important that these resources are forever protected. With that, the Friends are always looking for ways we can support land conservation and help those interested in contributing land in lieu of development. At the same time, we recognize that development will happen, so the Research Reserve provides training for developers, planners, contractors and other stakeholders in developing land responsibly. As a matter of fact, we are holding a Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development workshop on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. We would love those stakeholders to join us.

What do you enjoy most about living on the First Coast?

The people. There isn’t a city I’ve visited or lived in that can beat the kindness and generosity of our neighbors here on the First Coast. I’m proud to have raised my children here because they have absorbed that culture of service and have taken that into their adult lives. I look forward to seeing the First Coast’s next generation take up where we have left off and build a better, more sustainable community.