New for 2021, Nantahala Health Foundation, a recently established regional nonprofit working to enhance health and wellness in Jackson, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon and Swain counties and the Qualla Boundary, has announced changes in leadership at both its board and staff levels.

As of January, David Garrett, director of the Workforce Development Board at Southwestern Commission, has stepped into the chairman’s role on the organization’s 10-person board of directors, while Lisa Leatherman, a long-time Duke Energy employee, has been elevated to vice chair.

“I appreciate the board’s trust in me to take on this position,” Garrett said. “I’m very fortunate to be taking the reins from (immediate past chair) Jane Kimsey, who has worked hard to build a solid organizational foundation, which has, in turn, facilitated our first transition in the chair role.”

Born and raised in Georgia, Garrett moved to Jackson County in 2002 after falling in love with this region as an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker.

Garrett believes that Nantahala Health Foundation can help Western North Carolina maximize the health potential of our community by reducing health disparities and promoting access to quality healthcare and other wellness resources, he said. “A healthy community translates to a healthy workforce, which, in turn, allows us to grow and prosper,” he said.

Lisa Leatherman, Duke Energy’s Local Government Community Relationship manager, stepped into the board’s vice chair leadership role left vacant by Garrett’s ascension to chair. A Duke employee for more than 30 years, Leatherman has held various customer-facing positions at the utility company, including lake services, hydro relicensing, hydro operations, engineering and vegetation management.

A member of the Sylva Rotary Club, she serves on boards for the Southwestern Community College Foundation, Mainspring Conservation Trust and Western Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology Dean’s Advisory Board.

Additional NHF board leadership roles are held by Secretary Sonya Wachacha of Cherokee, Nursing Division executive director at the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian Hospital, and Treasurer Roger Plemens, a retired banker living in Franklin.

Rounding out Nantahala Health Foundation’s 10-member board are Angie Knight, superintendent of Graham County Schools; Kelly Brown, a team member at Bear Lake Reserve; Debbie Mauney, Clay County manager and its health and human services director; Tom O’Brien, president and CEO of Industrial Opportunities Inc. in Andrews; and Alison Cochran, Swain County Health Department director.

On the organization’s staff level, Advancement Officer Lisa Duff was promoted in January to Associate Director. A resident of Whittier, Duff joined Executive Director Lori Bailey in Nantahala Health Foundation’s Franklin office a little over a year ago after serving as the marketing and membership director of a nonprofit supporting Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Prior to that work, she served as a community organizer for the American Cancer Society with responsibilities for fundraising and mission delivery throughout Western North Carolina.

For more information about Nantahala Health Foundation’s mission to collaborate with nonprofit service providers and governmental agencies committed to improving social determinants of health throughout the region, visit them at or connect with them on Facebook and Instagram.