Board Members

Tim Watts, Board Chair

Tim Watts is the retired 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 Board Chair 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, Vice Chair

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, and now sits as our Vice Chair. 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.

Keith Zabel, Secretary

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 community cats in his neighborhood of Sunmor Estates, and the adjacent city yard, Keith officially joined the PSAS volunteer team helping with TNR trapping, TNR surgical recovery, and community cat colony management.

In 2014, Keith combined his passion for midcentury modern and the animal shelter to launch the first of four Meiselman Homes Tours in conjunction with Modernism Week, which collectively have raised over $100,000 for FPSAS.  These home tours continue today under the branding of Give Me Shelter.
When the shelter reaches full feline capacity, Keith and his husband, Randy Shemaitis, have driven upwards of 65 cats and kittens non-stop to Seattle or Portland for adoption at no-kill shelter partners.

In 2018, Keith helped launch the FPSAS’ WorkingCATS program, for community cats from TNR or hoarding when they are not able to be safely returned to their original location.  This program leverages the shelter’s outside CATIO as a temporary respite, until a safe yard, barn, farm, stable, or facility are found for them to be placed permanently.

Keith is Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, and he co-chairs both the Development Committee and the TNR Steering Committee. He has also served as the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter.  Keith is currently employed by Dialpad and resides full time in Palm Springs with his husband and their cats.

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.

Tamara Hedges, Immediate Past Chair

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 chair, and chair 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

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 and served as our Vice Chair. 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.

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.

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.

Scott Nevins

Scott Nevins is an award-winning TV Host and personality, entertainment/political news contributor, writer, producer, and LGBTQ+, civil rights and healthcare advocate. He lives in beautiful Palm Springs, California with his husband, Philip, and their rescue dog, Wifi. Scott is a Board Member at DAP Health (where he co-chaired “The Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards”), as well as the Palm Springs Sister Cities committee, and is the new producer of the long-running “Cabaret 88” series at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Scott has proudly utilized his talents for numerous organizations like HRC; PFLAG; Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS; God’s Love We Deliver; The Matthew Shepard Foundation; The Entertainment Community Fund and Glenn Close’s organization Bring Change To Mind, to name a few.

Scott was honored on OUT Magazine’s prestigious OUT100 list, and is the recipient of the Out There Award and the Silver ADDY Award for his work as a LGBTQ+ and HIV awareness advocate.

Paul Ortega

Paul Ortega is a California native with a penchant for travel and learning, Paul received his Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Stanford University and his Master of Arts in International Relations and Economics from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.  Both programs allowed for him to continue his academic pursuits while studying in Italy.

Before moving to the desert, Paul worked as a member of the executive team for a major US retailer, as a business manager for a global telecommunications company, and as the CFO of an international business-to-business Internet firm.

Since 2002, he has lived and worked as a landscape designer in Palm Springs, embracing the desert environment with a deep commitment to water conservation.  In 2005 he co-founded the Desert Horticultural Society and served as its board president for 8 years. Additionally, Paul served as a member and chair of the City of Palm Springs Architectural Advisory Committee, and as a member of the Living Desert University Board as well as Modernism Week’s Events Committee.  He began volunteering at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter in 2017.  In December 2020 he was appointed to the board of directors of Desert Water Agency (DWA), and currently serves as that board’s president. Paul also represents DWA on the Association of California Water Agencies – Region 9 Board, which guides regional water issues.

Paul has lived with both cats and dogs in the home. He is currently the proud dad to Miss Jazz, otherwise known as a foster failure (but don’t tell her that). 

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.

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.

Alyson Yarberry

Alyson Yarberry is the President of Modera, an award-winning marketing firm and WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprise she founded in 2010. Her experience includes developing strategic marketing campaigns for local and national health and wellness brands and providing services to many non-profits. Modera’s mission is to make it easier for health and wellness companies to connect with their audience by developing and sharing their value through innovative strategies, authentic storytelling, and focusing on opportunities to drive positive impact.

She previously served on the board of directors for Orange County-based non-profit organizations, Providence Speech and Hearing (2016-2020) and The Priority Center (2021 -2023). Alyson began supporting the TNR program at PSAS in 2019 as a donor and quickly became involved in additional shelter programs and events. She is also dedicated to increasing the number of women leaders, by supporting programs and communities that provide women with a platform for growth and advancement.

After many years as a part-time resident, Alyson moved to Palm Springs in 2021 with her husband, Jamie Reidy, and former rough-and-tumble stray cats Tigger and Diego (former PSAS resident), who have adjusted well to indoor life.

City Liaison

Jeffrey Bernstein, City Councilperson and City Liaison

Jeffrey Bernstein is the founder and managing partner of Destination PSP, a successful retail business in downtown Palm Springs, established in 2012. Prior to that Bernstein owned and operated a restaurant and nightclub, had an e-commerce business and a media consulting business. Most of Bernstein’s career was spent in domestic and international pay television business development, marketing, and programming. During that period Bernstein also launched Cable Positive, a national AIDS awareness non-profit organization. He was a Board member for 20 years and was volunteer Executive Director for the first few years.

Bernstein’s career began at Warner Bros. Pay Television, Network Features and Animation where he started as Manager, then Director and Vice President (1984-1992. From 1992 to 1996, he was Senior Vice President of Programming and Marketing for Request Television. From 1996 through 1999 he was Director, Pay-Per-View British Sky Broadcasting. From 1999 through 2010, Bernstein owned Bernstein Media Consulting focusing on emerging media business development, marketing and programming, working with companies throughout the US, Europe and Asia. Bernstein also owned and operated Bridges Restaurant from 1999 through 2002. In 2005 he launched Chelsea Marketeers, an e-commerce retailer, which, through various iterations, still exists.

Bernstein served as the elected retail member of the Board of Directors of Visit Greater Palm Springs, the Coachella Valley’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, an elected member of the Board of Directors of the Palm Springs Hospitality Association, a former member of the Board of Directors of Main Street Palm Springs, and as member of the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism Strategic Advisory Committee.

Bernstein served as Chairperson of the City of Palm Springs Measure J Commission, Chairperson of the Oasis del Sol Neighborhood Organization and the founding member and Chairperson of the Palm Springs Sister City Committee.

Personally, and through his business, Bernstein has worked extensively on partnerships with local non-profit organizations including AIDS Assistance Program and Food Samaritans, Boys and Girls Club of Palm Springs, DAP Health, Desert Arc, Greater Palm Springs Pride, Human Rights Campaign, LGBT Community Center of the Desert, Modernism Week, Palm Springs Preservation Foundation, PS Modcom, The Palm Springs Animal Shelter, The Palm Springs Cultural Center, The Palm Springs International Film Society, The Palm Springs Library, and others.

Bernstein lives with his husband, Dr. Oscar Chamudes, a retired pediatrician from Chile. The couple moved from New York City to Palm Springs in 2009