Our Team: Paddle Florida

Bill Richards

Bill Richards is Paddle Florida's Executive Director. Richards has lived in Gainesville, Florida since 1982, attending the University of Florida and then working for the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness & Sports. Along the way he has volunteered to serve on numerous boards and committees; among them, the Alachua County Tourist Development Council, beginning in 1997. After the Governor's Council was relocated to Tallahassee in 1999, he worked as an event consultant and later as a political consultant. Richards developed the idea for Paddle Florida after paddling the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail in 2006.

View Bill's Resume

Nickie Kortus

Nickie Kortus, Board of Directors President, is a native Floridian who grew up in North Central Florida learning at an early age to appreciate its woods, critters, and waterways. Quickly understanding that water was the key to survive and thrive in the Florida climate — "creeking," as she called it growing up, when the Santa Fe River was low to exploring bigger rivers, skiing or fishing on lakes or visiting as many beaches and state parks as possible, Kortus found the best living Florida has to offer was always around water. A Gator grad from the College of Journalism at the University of Florida, she spent most of her career at newspapers in Florida and most of that time at The Gainesville Sun. Throughout her career, Kortus participated in community projects and served on boards while helping countless organizations use the newspaper as a marketing tool. Since leaving The Sun, she has applied her talents at the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce and the American Cancer Society and volunteered for several of her children's activities and other community organizations. Kortus is currently enjoying learning more about nature-based tourism and working with Paddle Florida to promote water conservation and wildlife preservation while having fun being part of its great outdoor adventures. She's still a novice paddler and loving the experience. It's her belief that being on or in Florida's water is a gift that always presents magical moments.

Mary Jane Angelo

Mary Jane Angelo, Board of Directors Vice President, is a Professor of Law and Director of the Environmental and Land Use Law Program at the University of Florida College of Law.  Previously she was an environmental attorney at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., and for the St. Johns River Water Management District.  Mary Jane originally moved to Gainesville in 1981 to attend graduate school in Entomology.  She quickly fell in love with Florida’s rivers and springs.  She is a life-long nature lover and outdoorswoman and regularly paddles on Florida’s rivers. She currently lives on a lake near Melrose.

Debra Akin

Debra Akin, Board of Directors Treasurer, was born and raised in south Florida and started kayaking in the mountains of North Carolina under the dubious tutelage of an older brother. After surviving two summers of his combat whitewater kayaking, she enrolled in the University of Florida and started exploring the calm, peaceful waters and springs of north Florida. And basically never left. With a couple of graduate degrees in Entomology, Microbiology and Epidemiology under her belt, Deb works in UF’s College of Medicine in the area of drug discovery and cancer research. During the summer months, she guides Chicago teenagers in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for the non-profits Big City Mountaineers and Chicago Voyagers. She's a Master Naturalist, Wilderness First Responder and Treasurer of the Florida Paddling Trails Association. Other interests include weaving, canoe racing, and building wood kayaks.

Jill Lingard

Jill Lingard, Communications Coordinator, is a 30-year resident of Gainesville, Florida, having followed the well worn path of "going away to college and never leaving." After earning a Bachelor's degree in English and a Master's in counselor education, she began a 23-year student services career with the University of Florida. A spill over Big Shoals on the Suwannee River in the early 90s introduced her to the sport of kayaking, and she's enthusiastically paddled dozens waterways around Florida and the U.S. since. In 2007, Jill became an active volunteer and board member with the local non-profit Current Problems, which conducts clean-ups of north central Florida's creeks, lakes, rivers, and watersheds. She has participated in Paddle Florida trips on the Suwannee, Peace, Ochlockonee, Wekiva, and St. Johns Rivers, and in the Florida Keys. In 2012, Jill left UF to focus more attention on these two water-related non-profits, and later the Ichetucknee Alliance. In 2014, she earned ACA Level I Instructor certification and is a regular participant in the Florida State Parks Volunteer Paddlesport Program. In 2015, she became President of the Florida Paddling Trails Association. Where water is concerned, Jill enjoys the intersection of recreation, discovery, and stewardship.

Lars Andersen

Lars Andersen, Board of Directors Member, is a full-time nature guide, leading paddle tours on over 60 waterways throughout northern Florida for Adventure Outpost in High Springs. He's a Florida Master Naturalist and author (Paynes Prairie: A History and Guide, Pineapple Press, Sarasota FL. 2001, 2004 & 2010; North Florida Adventure: A Journey Through History [audio tape], Grinnin' Lizard Productions, Dallas, Tx. 1988; Paddlers Guide to the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, 2009).

Robert "Hutch" Hutchinson

Robert "Hutch" Hutchinson, Board of Directors Secretary, grew up on the shores of Pithlachocco (aka Newnans Lake). He served as the first Executive Director of Alachua Conservation Trust in 1989, and twenty years later came back to ACT where he has been Executive Director from 2008-2012. Hutch has also served as Executive Director of the Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency and the Southeastern Forest Trust, and has worked with The Nature Conservancy and the Florida Museum of Natural History. He lives with his wife Meg Niederhofer in Flamingo Hammock, a community of friends that he co-founded in the early 1980s. Hutch is a musician with Weeds of Eden, and serves on numerous boards such as the Wagmore Foundation, No More Homeless Pets, and Friends of Paynes Prairie. Hutch co-founded Conservation Burial, Inc. and worked to acquire many ACT projects such as Tuscawilla Preserve, Prairie Creek Preserve, Phifer Flatwoods, Little Orange Creek Preserve, and others. Hutch served on the Alachua County Commission from 1998-2002, and was elected to the post again in 2012.