BOARD OF DIRECTORS - BIOGRAPHIES.

Board Members

Tamara Hedges, President

Tamara Hedges is longtime animal advocate and activist, volunteering her time for animal causes since she was a teen growing up in Colorado. She joined Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter (FPSAS) in 2008, working to help raise funds for the new city animal shelter, built in October, 2011. Prior to joining the organization, Tamara volunteered with the San Francisco SPCA for eleven years, serving in a wide variety of roles. Her experience with the SF SPCA helped her create the FPSAS volunteer program at the old animal shelter in 2009, launching it with just six dedicated volunteers. Along with then board member Tanya Petrovna, Tamara developed the TNR program in 2011. As part of the executive board, Tamara helped craft the proposal to the City of Palm Springs to operate the shelter and was part of the management team when Friends began running the shelter in November 2012. She established the Fix a Friend free and low cost spay/neuter program in 2014, securing grant funding to launch the program. Tamara has served as secretary, vice president, and now president of the board of directors.

Tamara has been an administrator for the University of California for nearly three decades, beginning at UC San Francisco in 1992, before transferring to the UC Riverside Palm Desert Center in 2005, where she was part of the University’s launch team. There she served as the financial and administrative officer, then became the Chief Operating Officer, before being promoted to her current position of Executive Director in 2013. Tamara has created and supported countless academic and community engagement programs at UCR Palm Desert, covering a wide range of subjects including climate change, conservation, food insecurity, social justice, health care, nonprofit management, fine arts, film, literature, Native American studies and mindfulness, to name a few.

Tamara and her husband Tony Thelemaque live in Palm Springs, where their rescue cats and dogs graciously allow the couple to share their home.

Carl Johnson, Vice President

Carl Johnson worked in New York City and lived in Chappaqua, NY before retiring to Palm Springs.  He was employed by Citigroup Inc., Smith Barney brokerage division for 20 years, serving as the Executive VP-Technology of the Legal and Compliance Division. He worked closely with senior management to ensure adherence to state, federal, and industry regulatory bodies. He created real-time on-line systems and reporting structures enabling effective monitoring of their policies, procedures, and transactions and transmission of information directly to the regulatory agencies.

Previously a cat-only pet owner, Carl’s life was immediately enhanced by also welcoming dogs into his family after his retirement in 2006. Carl began volunteering with the Big Brother organization in 2008 mentoring children one on one and then also in an after-school program tutoring students. He began volunteering at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter in 2011. Looking for an opportunity to put his business acumen and leadership to work, he joined the Friends of the Palm Springs Animal board of directors in 2012 where he quickly found this to be his life passion. He was active in employing policies and procedures in the new No Kill shelter and worked with others to install a new animal database enabling real-time information gathering and effective presentation for management review and reporting. Currently, he serves as Vice President on the board.

Most recently, Carl has put his personal passion of enriching and enhancing the lives of the shelters dogs in preparation for adoption into action.  He worked to enhance the Canine Enrichment Program by developing and strengthening the shelter’s infrastructure with program enhancement and effective training of staff and volunteers. Carl has always shared his life with multiple animals and feels honored to have been the recipient of love, hope, and companionship from them.  It is with this honorable exchange that he helps shelter animals to prepare for their next adventure, safely, securely, and without fear.

Keith Zabel, Vice President

Keith Zabel started volunteering with the Palm Springs Animal Shelter in 2012 by participating in the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program for community cats. After sterilizing more than seventy free roaming cats in his neighborhood of Sunmor Estates, and the adjacent city yard, Keith and his husband Randy Shemaitis officially joined the PSAS volunteer team helping with TNR trapping, TNR surgical recovery, and TNR colony management.  In 2014, Keith combined his passion for midcentury modern and the animal shelter to launch the first of four Meiselman Homes Tours, which collectively have raised over $100,000 for FPSAS. 

When the shelter reaches full feline capacity, Keith and his husband have been known to drive upwards of 65 cats and kittens non-stop to Seattle or Portland for adoption. In 2018, Keith helped launch the shelter’s Working Cats Program, offering free-roaming unadoptable cats a fresh start at a good life.  Keith is Vice President of Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, and he co-chairs both the Development Committee and the TNR Steering Committee.  Keith is currently employed by the Expedia Group and resides full time in Palm Springs.

Lauren LeBaron, Treasurer

Lauren LeBaron is a finance professional who worked extensively as a controller in various hospitals throughout Los Angeles over a span of 20 years. Lauren also worked with The Walt Disney Company on the Eurodisney project as a financial analyst, as well as with Universal Studios Hollywood as an accounting manager. Lauren has had his own tax preparation practice for over 30 years and continues to serve clients in Los Angeles, Palm Springs and some states outside of California.

Lauren is an avid supporter of organizations that seek to promote the greater welfare of animals.  Lauren is a supporter of various organizations, including Palm Springs Animal Shelter, Best Friends Animal Society, ASPCA, SPCLA, SPCA International, World Wildlife Fund and Cheetah Rescue.  Lauren volunteered at Los Angeles City Animal Shelter for approximately ten years as a dog walker at the North Central facility and has been a volunteer at Palm Springs Animal Shelter as a big dog walker for the past several years. Lauren has been on photo safari in both Kenya and South Africa, as well as travelling to Churchill Canada to view polar bears. Lauren also spent one week in China’s Chengdu Panda Center where he fed and cleaned up after panda bears.

Lauren was also an early contributor to the building of the beautiful Palm Springs Animal Shelter and has a donor plaque on the wall.

Lauren is very enthusiastic about dogs and will talk to anyone about them. He can often be seen talking to and sharing favorite photos of any of his past rescue dogs with complete strangers.  Lauren & his partner adopted their latest rescue, Shelby, from the Palm Springs Animal Shelter in June of 2019.

Tim Watts, Secretary

Tim Watts is the president and CEO of Victorville Motors Inc., a Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram FIAT dealership in Victorville, CA. He has served on several nonprofit boards, including The Salvation Army (as a past advisory board chairman), the Today’s Woman Foundation, the Dreamers, Visionaries, and Leaders Project empowering communities of color, as well as numerous professional and industry advocacy organizations. Along with his team, he created It’s a Gas to Go to Class, a school attendance incentive program that has given away over 25 vehicles to eligible students, teachers, and support staff for perfect attendance and has raised an estimated $15 million in incremental ADA funds for local schools. He and his team also created Pathways to Success, a program that matches local high school students with local businesses, government, and military that allows young adults to explore a variety of vocational careers. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Boy Scouts of America for his work with community youth.

Tim proudly serves as the treasurer for the Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter and is a life-long animal lover. There has never been a time in his life where he didn’t have a pet. A graduate of the California State University, Fullerton (B.A., 1987) and the University of La Verne (MBA, 2005), he is a southern California native. He and his husband live in Palm Springs.

Ginny Foat

Ginny Foat has spent most of her life fighting as an activist for human and animal rights. Her career includes leadership positions as Executive Director of diverse organizations including Caring for Babies with AIDS, Mizell Senior Center, National Director of Field Services for the YWCA of the USA and numerous nonprofit and political consulting contracts from women’s rights to animal welfare issues. Ginny was first elected to the Palm Springs City Council in 2003 and went on to serve 14 years as Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem until she retired in 2017.

During her term on the City Council she held many positions on various local and regional government committees and took a leadership role on battling homelessness, paving the way for legal medical cannabis facilities and transportation infrastructure in the Riverside County. By far her most rewarding position was joining the Board of Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter in 2006. She has been a consistent member of the Board holding positions as Board Member, Treasurer and City Liaison. She is currently serves on several committees including the Finance Committee, Development Committee and, committees related to governance and contracts.

She was instrumental in spearheading the fundraising, creation and building of the new Palm Springs Animal Shelter which opened in 2011 and today stands as a beacon of hope for unhoused animals and a model for other jurisdictions on progressive no-kill philosophy sheltering practices. Since moving full time to Palm Springs in 1999 Ginny has had the privilege to co-mother rescues with her life partner of 32 years, Pam Genevrino , including three senior Shar Pei’s, a senior Wheaton Terrier, a fish named Frank and the two beloved current furry family members, Madison (a Palm Springs Shelter Alumni) and Chloe.

Jana Hayes

Jana Hayes’s love and respect of animals started at an early age. The youngest of four children, she was born and raised in a small South Texas ranching and farming community, Kingsville, best known as the headquarters of the world famous King Ranch.

Jana earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in both English and Theatre from Texas A&M- Kingsville.  She continued on to receive a teaching certificate in Education and earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Cal State-Fullerton. While in graduate school, Jana joined the US Marine Corps training, graduating as a Second Lieutenant.  She went on to serve twenty-two years as an active duty and reserve officer. She retired as a medaled Lieutenant Colonel receiving the Navy Commendation Medal for outstanding performance of duty while stationed in Hawaii. Jana has worked in a variety of subject matter expert, sales, and supervisory positions as well as the sole proprietor of a small business.

Jana volunteers as the TNR program manager for FPSAS. In this position, she developed and implemented a protocol aligned with nationwide best practices that ensures excellent care and safety for each cat, from initial intake, pre- surgery care, surgery, post – surgery care, return to field. Jana believes that her service on the board takes her volunteerism to a higher level, helping further the compassionate and progressive committed care of the animals entrusted to the organization.

Dr. Douglas Kunz

Dr. Douglas Kunz has passionately dedicated his career and life to his profession and to the health and support of pets and the people that care for themDr. Kunz developed a love of animals and a desire to make sick and injured ones feel better as a young child growing up in rural southeastern Idaho. From these passions, he has built his professional career.

Dr. Kunz graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree and obtained a Master’s of Science degree in animal nutrition from Brigham Young University. His veterinary education was obtained from Colorado State University where he graduated in May of 1977.

Dr. Kunz has practiced small animal medicine and surgery in Palm Springs for the past 42 years. He currently practices at VCA Desert Animal Hospital in Palm Springs where he also serves as medical director.  Dr. Kunz has served on the California Veterinary State Board Exam Review Committee and the Medical Advisory Board for PetDrX, Inc. He is a contributing author of the Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine. He was a founder of Animal Emergency Clinic of the Desert and served as president of the board of directors for over 20 years until its sale to XLNT Veterinary Care, Inc. in January of 2007.

As a founding President of the Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter from 1996 to 2015, Dr. Kunz maintains his dedication to the shelter by continuing to serve on the board of directors of Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter today and acts as a trusted advisor to the shelter’s medical team.

Dr. Kunz and his wife of 50 years, Colleen Ross live in Palm Springs. They are the parents of five children and have 19 grandchildren.

Bill Ruttan

William “Bill” Ruttan was born and raised in Westchester County, NY, in a household that usually included a dog and an occasional cat. He began flying as a teenager, and, after serving as an Army Aviator in Vietnam, graduated from Empire State College. Fascination with flying continued, concluding, after a 34 year career, as a captain at United Airlines. Additionally, following the September 11 attacks, he was sworn in as an armed Federal Flight Deck Officer. Bill discovered Palm Springs while flying a private jet for Bob Hope. As a result, he and his wife Bonnie purchased their Palm Springs home in 1995.

Bill is active in the Palm Springs Community Emergency Response Team and the Riverside County Emergency Management Department Communications Group. Hobbies include exploring backroads in his beloved Land Rover Defender, maintaining a vintage Studebaker Avanti, and hiking on local desert trails. For seven years he and his dog “Porter” regularly visited local institutions as a Therapy Dog Team. His home always includes a few rescued shelter dogs.

Retirement has given Bill the wonderful opportunity to help pets, both as a volunteer and member of the Board of Directors of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter.  He particularly enjoys facilitating small dog playgroups several times a week.

Kat Smith

Katherine “Kat” Smith has over 20 years of experience in digital advertising and social media marketing and brand development. Her love of animals led her to serve as Social Media and Commerce Director for $4B retailer Petco, where she grew their social media to well over 3 million followersA career highlight was tweeting from the largest float in the Rose Parade with surfing dogs. Prior to Petco, Kat worked in Seattle for Microsoft Bing, leading digital advertising, social media and integrated marketing cause campaigns. Kat grew up in Missouri and Colorado, working on her Dad’s horse ranch in the summer and comes from a family of animal rescuers and advocates. A proud MIZZOU Tiger, she went to the University of Missouri, Columbia for Journalism then came to CA to explore working for creative digital agencies. Today she manages her own agency, Best Kept Social helping clients engage with their customers. She works from home in Palm Springs with her Mom and four rescued furry children: two dogs, Sookie and Maddie, and two cats Dolly Purrton and Shania Twain, her first neonatal bottle fed kitten fosters from FPSAS.

 

 

Louis Smith

Louis Smith grew up in Baltimore, graduating from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. While pursuing a liberal arts degree there, he became involved in the local Head Start program, where he volunteered for four years. Upon his return to Baltimore, this interest in preschool childhood development led Louis to pursue a Masters degree in Urban Education Louis taught for several years in the Baltimore city school system. After several years in the classroom, Louis became a specialist supervisor in the Federal Title One program.

Louis then went on to explore his family’s business, the wholesale distribution of fine wines and spirits. This radical change of direction led Louis to a 25 year career, culminating in the position of CEO of the company. During this period, Louis resided in nearby Washington, DC, and there, became involved in the creation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, both as a benefactor and as a volunteer working with survivor testimonies and outreach. His work there continues today.

Pursuing another lifelong interest, Louis became involved with the Washington Animal Rescue League. His experiences with the organization were formative in furthering his passion for animal advocacy, and ignited his interest in promoting the no-kill philosophy.

Louis and his husband Kyle retired to Palm Springs in 2007. Louis began volunteering with FPSAS as dog handler, and then an adoption counselor, before joining the board of directors in 2016.

Roger Tansey

Roger Tansey was born and raised in the Midwest with five siblings, innumerable cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, a snake, and a horse.  He graduated from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland with a B.A. in English and graduated from Boston College School of Law.  After graduation, Roger moved to Los Angeles where he passed the Bar and clerked for a federal judge magistrate, then worked as an associate in civil litigation at Tuttle & Taylor.  Home Savings of America hired him away as Vice President and Counsel where Roger worked in corporate real estate.

After 5 years, Roger left the private sector for good and founded the first legal aid program for people disabled by HIV and AIDS in southern California.  For the next 12 years, Roger worked as an Executive Director for several nonprofits, focusing on low income people with AIDS, women and children with HIV, and the environment.  Roger left California to attend the Harvard Kennedy School, graduating with a Master’s in Public Administration.  After graduation, Roger clerked at the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, where he was assigned to assist the judges overseeing the war crimes trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

Moving to the desert to join family, Roger continued working in service to those without a voice, and became a Public Defender.  He is currently a felony trial attorney, handling cases ranging from simple car theft to murder.

In 2017, Roger’s beloved German shepherd, Anton, died.  It was too soon for him to get another, so a friend suggested he volunteer at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter.  Roger signed up and became a dog handler, eventually segueing up to level 3, and then to the Board.  One summer, Roger began working with “Wally” a stray puppy brought into the shelter.  It eventually became easier to walk Wally at home, so Roger adopted him.  Wally joined Roger and his partner, Ken, and their first rescue, Cash in Palm Springs.  All are now inseparable.

City Liaison

Grace Garner, City Councilwoman and City Liaison

Biography forthcoming