Board of Directors

Our Board of Directors meets quarterly and serves without compensation. The diverse expertise provided by members is reflected in ORP’s unique approach to oyster restoration.

Executive Committee

tighe-merkert-300x300Tighe Merkert, Chairman
President and CEO, Marriner Marketing Communications

Tighe owns and manages Marriner Marketing Communications, a successful marketing communications firm that specializes in the food and hospitality industries. He is intimately involved with and oversees strategic planning and direction of all client work. Prior to Marriner, he served a 16-year tenure as a Senior Vice President of Service America Corporation, where he managed a $350 million business unit. He built a foundation of knowledge and experience, developing strategic, long-term business solutions that worked. Throughout his 16 years at Marriner (MMC), he amplified that experience, building high-level, corporate positioning and communications programs for some of America’s most prestigious companies.

 

Karen Oertel, Vice Chairwoman
Representing seafood growers, processing and distribution interests
Owner, W.H. Harris Seafood Inc.

For more than 40 years, Karen and her family have been involved in the seafood industry. She is a member of the Harris Family Partnership. Karen has served on many boards relating to business and non-profits alike, including county and state boards and commissions. She has been on the Executive Board of the ORP for many years. She helped launch the ORP as a member of the Oyster Round Table and also served on the Tidal Fish Commission. She lives on the Eastern Shore with her husband and enjoys spending time with her three children and five grandchildren.

“I believe that we need to find a sustainable path, both ecologically and economically, to restore oysters in our Bay and have worked diligently to support a balance that would achieve this goal,” Karen said. “We deal with many challenges in this venture — one of which is disease. Having a sustainable industry until the 1970s when disease became a factor, we have supported the scientific community in developing disease-free oysters, as well as the industry in cleaning the bottom and bringing the shell to the surface. By working together as a team we have been successful in finding some common sense solutions. However, our fight is not over; we need to continue to find the balance that works.”

Joe Jackins, Treasurer
Former Executive Director, Maryland Child Support Enforcement Administration

Joe became involved with ORP after serving as the committee chairman for the Skipjack races held during Chesapeake Appreciation Days. Joe has served on ORP’s Board since its inception in 1994. Joe began his career at St. John’s College as business manager and was with Air Cargo for the 23 years as Chief Financial Officer.

 

Directors

Man wearing hat and work bibs with arms crossed Scott Budden
President and Founder, Orchard Point Oyster Co.

An Eastern Shore native, Scott founded OPOC in 2015 with the goal of improving the Bay’s health through the cultivation of a premium oyster brand. Since, the company has merged, scaled, and grown to a national brand with distribution throughout the lower 48. OPOC and its partners sustainably farm their brand (“Orchard Point Oysters”) in both the Chester River and Eastern Bay. Scott is a 2007 Bucknell University graduate and worked as a financial analyst in Washington, DC for global media and consulting firms for a decade prior to OPOC. He currently serves on the ShoreRivers Board of Directors (Treasurer), MD Tidal Fish Advisory Commission, MD Sea Grant External Advisory Board, & Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s COA’s Steering Committee, amongst others.

Bill Coney
Co-Founder – Legacy Reef Foundation, Kona, Hawaii

After retiring from the tech industry in 2015, Bill co-founded Legacy Reef Foundation in Kailua-Kona Hawaii, a coral preservation and restoration non-profit foundation. Bill’s love of the ocean and desire to improve the quality of near shore marine habitats has driven him to seek opportunities in Hawaii, South Pacific, Caribbean, and the East Coast to open restoration projects. Bill lives in Hawaii and Maryland.

Russel Dize
Vice Chairman, Maryland Watermen’s Association

Russell began his career as a Chesapeake Bay Waterman in 1959 at the age of 18. Over the past 50 years, Russell has worked in all aspects of the seafood industry. In 1972 he became a partner in the Tidewater Clam Co. and 10 years later formed his own company, R.D.S. Seafood. He is the owner and captain of the skipjack Kathryn and operates his charter boat Riley Kat out of Tilghman Island, Maryland. Russell also serves on numerous fisheries management committees, including the Oyster Advisory Committee, Rockfish Advisory Committee and the Tidal Fish Advisory Committee. Russell and his wife Joan live in Tilghman Island, Maryland.

 

William Gibbons-Fly
Executive Director of the American Tunaboat Association (ATA)

William (Bill) Gibbons-Fly is Executive Director of the American Tunaboat Association (ATA), representing the owners and operators of the U.S. Pacific tuna purse seine fleet, the last true distant-water fishing fleet operating under U.S. flag.

Previously, Mr. Gibbons-Fly spent 30 years with the U.S. Department of State where, prior to his retirement in July 2019, he served for 20 months as the Deputy Assistant Secretary (acting) for Oceans and Fisheries. From 2004 through 2017 Mr. Gibbons-Fly served as Director of the State Department’s Office of Marine Conservation where he led the development and implementation of U.S. policy for the international conservation and management of living marine resources, including as lead U.S. negotiator on a wide range of international treaties, agreements, and arrangements. Throughout his career, he has been widely recognized for his success in bringing together governments, industry, the environmental community, and other stakeholders to ensure that achieving critical conservation objectives and maintaining a healthy and productive U.S. fishing industry are not mutually exclusive goals.

Harold GraulHarold Graul
President, Graul’s Markets

Harold Graul has worked in his family’s business, Graul’s Markets, for over 60 years. He has experience in all phases of running supermarkets. Seafood has always been a part of these stores, and they try to buy as much local product as possible. Graul’s Markets have six stores in Maryland and are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year, 2020.

 

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The Honorable James J. King 

CEO/Owner, Mid-States Management Group and Partner, Bluewater Strategies 

James King is the CEO of an Anne Arundel County-based restaurant holding company that owns and manages ten restaurants in the Virginia/Maryland/Delaware region.  The restaurants include high-end formal restaurants (eg: Blackwall Hitch) and a number of fast-casual restaurants (eg: Green Turtle).  James is a native of the Washington-DC area and has spent most of his professional career in the food services industry.  He spent one term as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates (2007-2011). 

Thomas Kountz
Research and Development Chemist, McCormick & Company Inc.

A Baltimore native, Thomas has combined a passion for flavor in the culinary world with the science of chemistry, getting his start in Maryland based seafood restaurants. Thomas developed a strong passion for the culinarily rich waters of the Chesapeake Bay while developing an understanding of sustainable restaurant practices. Driven by his curiosity for flavor, sustainability and the sciences, Thomas obtained his BS in Chemistry from Towson University. Thomas joined McCormick and Company in 2015, developing a career as a Research and Development Chemist with a focus on clean and sustainable industrial flavor solutions. Thomas is a member of McCormick’s R&D Sustainability Committee, Corporate Multi-Management Board, and an active member in the scientific community.

Jim Perdue
Chairman, Perdue Farms Inc.

As Chairman and CEO of Perdue Farms, Jim heads the company’s executive team and is responsible for developing the company’s vision and growth strategies. Jim grew up in the family poultry business, but left after high school to attend college to pursue his interests in biology. He received his undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and his master’s degree in marine biology from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, doing growth rate research on the Malaysian prawn. In 1983, Jim earned a doctorate in fisheries from the University of Washington in Seattle, where he studied survival of the Japanese oyster to summer mortality through genetic selection. He then returned to the family business and in 1989. Jim earned his MBA from Salisbury State University and became Chairman and CEO at Perdue Farms, Inc. in 1991.

Maxine Phillips
VP International Business Development, Phillips Seafood

William “Bill” Rice
Waterman and Farmer

A lifelong waterman and farmer, Bill started working on the water when he was just 12 years old. Billy, from Charles County, works the Potomac River and the Maryland Tributaries of the Potomac. He is a 3rd generation watermen, crab potting, eeling, and gill netting for Striped Bass. Billy is also very active in the management side of the industry as well. He has served on the Potomac River Fisheries Commission for the past 20 years and has been affiliated with the Maryland Watermen’s Association for over thirty. Bill has served on numerous advisory committees to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources including chairman of the Tidal Fish Advisory Commission and was a member of the Maryland Oyster Roundtable.

Ed Rich
Senior Consulting Engineer, Northrop Grumman Corporation
As a judge in the Baltimore Science Fair for more than 15 years, Ed has encouraged the talented youth of our area to pursue science as a career. When Ed first joined the ORP Board, he represented the Windjammers, the founders of Chesapeake Appreciation Inc., which became the Oyster Recovery Partnership. Over the years, Ed has played an active role in supporting outreach events to teach children about the role that oysters play in restoring our Bay. He lives in the Annapolis area with his wife and daughter, and is an active member of the sailing community.

Jason Ruth
Owner/Operator, Harris Seafood Company, LLC 

Jason comes from a family of Chesapeake Bay waterman and is the Owner and Operator of Harris Seafood Company.  His firm’s knowledge of the Bay’s seafood industry and aquaculture dates back to 1947.  His seafood products are caught and processed locally and then distributed to over 30 states across the nation.

headshotBen Savage
Chief Marketing Officer, Flying Dog Brewery

 

 

 

Bill Sieling
Executive Director, Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association

Bill began his career in the Army, serving from 1965 to 1967. He then joined the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as a Fisheries Extension Agent, spanning 20 years, working with watermen and processors to better the industry. Bill later switched to the Department of Agriculture as Chief of Seafood Marketing for 12 years. Now in retirement, Bill works as Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Seafood Industries Association. He is a graduate of Washington College. Bill is an original ORP Board member. Bill and his wife, Anne, make their home in Bay Ridge, Maryland.

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Russell F. Smith III

Russell F. Smith III has worked on international environmental issues for more than 20 years. He served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In that position he led U.S. international engagement in support of the sustainable management of fisheries, including promoting science-based decision-making and improving efforts to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. In addition, he represented the United States as the U.S. Commissioner in several regional fisheries management organizations.

Russell has also worked for the Office of the United States Trade Representative on efforts to ensure that U.S trade policy and its implementation are supportive of U.S. environmental policy, including through the promotion of the sustainable management of natural resources and ensuring that opportunities for trade and investment liberalization resulting in access to the U.S. market are used as incentives for the enhancement, and not degradation, of environmental protection.

IMG_2555Russell B. Stevenson, Jr.

Russell B. Stevenson, Jr. has practiced law in Washington, D.C., taught law as a Professor of Law at The George Washington University, and served as Deputy General Counsel of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was General Counsel and Secretary of Ciena Corporation from 2001 to 2008, when he retired. He is currently Professor from Practice at Georgetown University Law School.He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University and received his J.D. from Harvard Law School, cum laude. He is a member of the bars of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and the United States Supreme Court and is current Chairman of the Chesapeake Legal Alliance.