OUR TEAM

OUR TEAM

Francesca Santos

Francesca Santos

Program Officer

A Mojave High Desert native, Francesca’s passion for climate justice stems from her witnessing the damaging effects of extreme heat, drought, and flooding in her rural desert community. With roots in Northern Mexico, where her family owns a small ranch, Francesca understands the importance of protecting both the environment and livelihoods of rural workers, families and their communities.

Committed to decolonizing wealth, Francesca cultivates projects, partnerships and funding practices that center transparency, accountability, and community-led solutions. A fierce advocate for rural communities, she brings a rich and varied background in economic justice and community development. Prior to joining RCP, Francesca served as a Program Officer on the Rural Economic Development team at LISC, where she implemented workforce initiatives that championed quality jobs, worker voice, and accessible benefits.  

Walking in multiple worlds, she is a proud Mexican-American of Rarámuri, Otomí-Chichimeca and Mixtec heritage. Her experiences as a formerly homeless youth, living with a disability, and being the daughter of a single-parent immigrant household inform her work in building diverse, equitable, and inclusive rural economies.

Francesca is an Anthropology PhD student studying solidarity economies and a Cooperative Leaders and Scholars fellow. She is deeply passionate about community ownership models like worker coops, believing they can build sustainable economies that safeguard both people and the planet. An avid National Park enthusiast, she finds joy spending time with her partner in her favorite place – Joshua Tree National Park.

Josh Ewing

Josh Ewing

RCP Director

Born and raised in western Nebraska, Josh has lived and worked in rural America most of his life. The Ewing family runs a cattle ranch that was severely damaged in a drought-induced wildfire in the summer of 2022, so Josh knows firsthand the impacts a changing climate has on rural folks. Josh and his wife Kirsten live in the tiny town of Bluff, Utah, where he serves as a volunteer firefighter and EMT.

Prior to helping launch the Rural Climate Partnership, Josh dedicated the previous decade to working with Indigenous Tribes to protect Bears Ears National Monument, a culturally rich landscape at threat from oil drilling and uranium mining. In addition to conservation leadership, Josh has a background in public-interest communications and has developed a reputation as a strategic coalition builder able to work across party lines and cultural divides.

A climber, landscape photographer, and archaeology geek, Josh spends most of his free time exploring the canyons and mesas of southeast Utah.

Maria Doerr

Maria Doerr

Program Officer

Maria is a sixth-generation Missourian grateful to continue her long family legacy of land stewardship as a Program Officer at RCP. Her family home is on the same hillside where her great-great-grandfather drove his dairy cattle across the frozen Missouri River many years ago. Growing up low-income, asthmatic, and downwind from a coal-fired power plant informs the equity- and health-centered approach Maria brings to rural-led climate solutions at RCP.

Previously, Maria advanced conservation, water, and energy projects with nonprofits, foundations, and government agencies as an independent consultant and with Redstone Strategy Group. Before that, she worked with Conservation International Mexico on watershed conservation and sustainable agriculture. Maria has a technical background in civil and environmental engineering from Stanford University. 

Maria also serves as a City Councilmember and is passionate about expanding civic engagement. Outside of work, Maria can be found rock climbing, salsa dancing, and pie-baking.

Scott Laeser

Scott Laeser

Senior Working Lands Advisor

Scott grew up a block from Lake Michigan in Southeast Wisconsin and spent countless hours on the beach or in the water.  With the Chiwaukee Prairie out his back door, a garden in the backyard, and hunting and fishing taking him outside throughout the year, Scott developed an appreciation of and passion for Wisconsin’s land and water resources. 

Scott and his wife run a certified organic vegetable farm in Southwest Wisconsin, putting an array of regenerative agriculture practices to work on their farm.  Canoeing across the flooded stream on his farm to harvest crops and experiencing first hand the complex disease and pest challenges farmers face have driven home the urgency of addressing climate change. 

Previously, Scott worked as Water Program Director for Clean Wisconsin, with an emphasis on agriculture, water quality and drinking water protection.  He worked closely with agricultural and environmental groups, state agency officials, and lawmakers from both parties to confront Wisconsin’s water quality challenges. Scott has worked on water, climate change, and natural resources science, policy, and advocacy for 20 years.  He spends his “free time” teaching his two young children about the birds, plants, and animals that call their farm home and occasionally playing in the rivers, lakes, and streams that make Wisconsin special.

Bret Serbin

Bret Serbin

Communications Manager

Originally from Pennsylvania, Bret moved across the country when she saw an opportunity to work at a newspaper near Glacier National Park in Northwest Montana. Following that move, Bret worked as a local journalist across Western Montana’s small, rural communities for five years.

Her coverage included topics such as environmental disasters impacting migration into Montana and equity issues around housing and Montana’s Indigenous communities, among a range of other issues. Throughout that time, Bret deepened her appreciation for rural people and their environments, honing the skills to communicate with a diverse swath of local individuals through transparency, authenticity and a listening approach.

Bret joined RCP as a Communications Manager in 2024, driven by a desire to become more involved in advocacy around the subjects she was covering in the local newspaper. She’s passionate about contributing to better environmental outcomes for rural residents of Western Montana and beyond.

Bret attended Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, where she studied English, Spanish, and Peace & Conflict Studies. These days, Bret and her rescue mutt, Luna, can be found hiking to hot springs deep in the West’s numerous National Forests and skiing up to fire tower lookouts atop Montana’s many peaks.

 

MORE ABOUT THE RURAL CLIMATE PARTNERSHIP

 

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