Board & Staff


MPS_9109Ward Slacum
Executive Director

Ward is responsible for activities within ORP’s core programs in Oyster Restoration, Shell Reclamation, Oyster Aquaculture and Fisheries. Ward has a broad background in marine and estuarine science and has been supporting Bay restoration for the past 20 years through research and cooperative programs with Bay watermen. Prior to joining ORP he was the manager of Versar’s Coastal and Marine Assessment Program. He earned a Master’s degree in Fisheries Science from the University of Maryland MEES Program and a bachelor degree in Environmental Science from the UMD Eastern Shore campus. He was born on the Eastern Shore and lives in Stevensville. In his free time, Ward enjoys being outdoors gardening, boating, fishing, and making furniture in the woodshop.

David KingDavid King
Director of Field Operations
As the Director of Field Operations, Dave oversees staff and operations at ORP’s shell recycling headquarters in Cambridge, MD.  A Kent Island native, Dave grew up on the Chesapeake Bay. His love of the water led him to the Navy, where he became an awarded sailor. After the Navy he served on the State of Maryland buoy tender and ice breaker. It was during that time he discovered diving, eventually graduating from the Diver’s Academy of the Eastern Seaboard. He then went on to work in the Gulf of Mexico before serving in the Army Active Reserve (honorably discharged) as a watercraft operator. Since 2007 he has managed a successful diving business based out of Annapolis. Dave feels very fortunate to be involved in ORP’s mission to improve the health of his beloved Chesapeake Bay. His free time is spent boating, camping and traveling with his wife Brooke, and daughters Taylor, Piper and Sophie. He considers his family to be dining aficionados — enjoying cuisines with Chesapeake seafood being at the top of the list.

Paul SPaul Schurick
Director of Partnerships
Paul works with businesses, organizations and individuals to build partnerships to increase the environmental, economic and cultural importance of oysters. He has more than 30 years experience in policy, communications and partnerships. He has master’s and bachelor’s degrees in economics from the West Virginia University. He served as chief of staff for Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer and director of communications for Gov. Robert Ehrlich. In his free time, Paul enjoys kayaking and cooking. He lives in Annapolis.


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

Jim Perdue, Chairman
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.

Mike Eckhart, Vice Chairman
Representing the environmental community
Managing Director, Institutional Clients Group, Citi

Mike participated in the original Oyster Policy Roundtable and has been on the ORP Board since 1994. In 1992, he proposed the Clear Bay Project — the combination of a large-scale, hatchery-based oyster restoration program for the Chesapeake Bay, powered by a gas-fired power generation plant — that was one of the factors that led to the formation of the Roundtable and ultimately to the ORP. Mike grew up in Annapolis in the early 1960s, when the Skipjack fleet still sailed from the area, and graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 1966. He served in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service and went on to receive an Electrical Engineering degree from Purdue University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Having worked in power generation and renewable energy for more than 30 years, Mike has continued to strive to connect the dots between this cutting edge, sustainable practice and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Mike joined Citi, a leading global financial services company, after spending a decade as the founding President of the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE), where he became a world leader on issues of renewable energy and often contributes this “business environmentalism” to the ORP. Mike enjoys sailing out of Annapolis with his wife and two grown daughters, and has enjoyed membership with both the Maryland Watermen’s Association and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for several decades.

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.


tighe-merkert-300x300Tighe Merkert, Secretary
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.


Robert Driscoll
President, SCC Group, Sindicatum Carbon Capital

Bob has more than 36 years experience in successful development and management of international and domestic businesses. Specifically, he has more than 15 years experience specializing in large-scale infrastructure development, financing, construction, ownership, operation, acquisition and divestment. Prior to joining SCC, Bob worked at Mirant Corporation as a Senior Vice President and Head of Asset Management, where he managed Mirant’s U.S. operations and was responsible for government relations, business development, and coordination of the company’s commercial and operations groups. Bob was also Chief Executive Officer of Mirant Mid-Atlantic LLC, a business unit representing nearly 80 percent of Mirant’s annual revenues.

Previously Bob was a Principal at Private Power Development, an advisory firm providing consulting services to various companies, including a consortium of Japanese and British firms that purchased a multi-billion dollar Asia-Pacific business. Prior to this Bob worked at Edison Mission Energy (“EME”), serving as Chief Operating Officer of EME’s Asia Pacific business, where he grew the business from two assets in the region to one of the largest overseas U.S. investments in the independent power business, with more than $5 billion of assets and operations in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore. From 1984 to 1995, he worked at the US-ASEAN Business Council in Washington D.C. He was a Vice President at the Council of the Americas from November 1973 to July 1984, in New York City. He holds a B.A. from Carroll College, Montana and an M.A. from the University of Texas. He joined our Board of Directors in 2006.

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.



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). 

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.

Dale Wright
Agent, Chase Fitzgerald Real Estate

Dale served on the Board of Chesapeake Appreciation, Inc., in the early 1970s and was one of the few remaining members of that group when it became the ORP in 1993. Dale was Board Chairman from 2004 to 2006. As he recently observed, “It is just amazing to see how the organization has developed from a few volunteers meeting once-a-year on the weekend of skipjack races at Sandy Point, to growing and planting hundreds of millions of baby oysters every year with a professional, full-time staff.” Dale’s professional career began after his graduation from Ohio Wesleyan University. As a member of the Air Force ROTC program, he was commissioned and placed on active duty with the U.S. Air Force. Dale attended Accounting & Finance School and was sent on assignment as a Financial Services Officer on a Missouri SAC base.

After leaving active duty in 1962, he returned to his wife’s home town of Baltimore and entered the broadcasting industry, eventually rising to the position of President and General Manager of WMAR-TV. In the late 1980s, Dale made a career change and became a licensed Real Estate agent with Chase Fitzgerald & Co. in his Roland Park neighborhood of Baltimore. There, along with his wife, Stephany, they raised three girls. Now adults, their children live in other states, which gives Stephany and Dale the time and resources to indulge their love of travel. Dale is also a long time aficionado of vintage British sports cars, especially those made by the Daimler Motor Car Company and serves on the executive committee of the US/Canadian Daimler & Lanchester Owners Club of North America.

William “Bill” Rice

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.

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.

Aubrey Vincent
Sales Manager, Lindy’s Seafood

Aubrey Vincent started in the family seafood business at a young age, first working at her family’s crab processing plant at 12 years old. Born and raised in Dorchester County she knew from an early age that she had a passion for the Eastern Shore and the Seafood Industry that thrives there. In addition to her experience selling and processing seafood she has a MA in Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution from Salisbury University. She has served on Several Department of Natural Resource Committees including the Tidal Fish Advisory Commission (TFAC), Blue Crab Advisory Commission, Oyster Advisory Commission, and Blue Crab Design Team. She is currently employed as the Sales Manager at Lindy’s Seafood, Inc. in Woolford, MD.

Maxine Phillips
VP International Business Development, Phillips Seafood

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.

headshotBen Savage
Chief Marketing Officer, Flying Dog Brewery





Dr. Torrey Brown smallDr. Torrey C. Brown (1937-2014)

Dr. Torrey C. Brown was co-founder and former chairman of ORP’s Board of Directors and a longtime friend of the Chesapeake Bay. Before joining the Board of ORP, Torrey served as chairman of the Maryland House of Delegates Environmental Matters Committee and as Secretary of Natural Resources. He was also active with the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Commission. Torrey also served as Assistant Dean of the Medical School and Vice President of Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1976 to 1983.

Larry Simns smallLarry Simns (1938-2013)

Larry was the first President of the Maryland Watermen’s Association since it was founded and continued until his death. He was been a lifelong waterman, harvesting oysters, crabs, striped bass and clams, and ran a charter business on his boat, the Dawn II. Larry served on many regional and national committees, including the Governor’s task for oil spills, the Mid Atlantic Fisheries Management Council and the Oyster Roundtable.


Ken Binnix smallKen Binnix (1944-2015)
Ken spent more than 30 years pursuing the best interests of the Chesapeake Bay. A pioneer in oyster restoration, Ken helped create and direct the ORP during its formative years as Chairman of the Board of Directors from 1994 to 1997. He was Vice President of the Chesapeake Area Professional Captains Association. He has assisted the Maryland Watermen’s Association in their oyster shucking demonstrations during the Chesapeake Appreciation Days at Sandy Point State Park, served as Chairman of the Chesapeake Appreciation Days, Inc. from 1990-1991, and was a member of the famous Windjammers of the Chesapeake Club from 1990-1995.

Ken was the Executive Vice President of the Days Cove Reclamation Company in Annapolis and Vice President of William J. Gleason & Sons, Inc. in White Marsh. Ken also served as Chairman of the Maryland-Delaware Solid Waste Association.

Dan Lyons (1931 – 2016) 

A retired Vice President for Eastern Seaboard Packaging (ESP), Dan was integral as a Managing Partner in building Southland Container Corporation from a small Maryland company to a multi-state operation. Southland Container was a supplier of packaging used for time-sensitive, high-value, delicate cargo shipments and a major supplier of the specialty packaging needed for the mid-Atlantic seafood industry, given the unique requirements for transporting seafood. Dan has always been an active supporter of the industries served by his company. For more than 50 years, Dan also served his community as a paid and volunteer firefighter.

He was President of Lombard (Illinois) Volunteer Fire Company and was a member of the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Department. Dan is a graduate of the University of Maryland and served in the U.S. Air Force as a Logistics Officer. He later became a member of the Air Force Retired Reserves. A native of Washington, D.C., Dan grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he and his wife, Peggy, attended Montgomery Blair High School.