ACA, Southwest Elects New Local Council of Leaders

December 19, 2019
Candice Olson

In November, ACA, Southwest elected new Local Council of Leaders (LCOL) chairpersons and representatives. These individuals are dedicated volunteers from throughout the Southwest who deliver quality programs and services to camp professionals and youth development programs.

“I would like to welcome our new Leaders-Elect to the ACA, Southwest LCOL. I look forward to sharing the plan to assist our Southwest membership, which includes Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico! I would like to thank each of these volunteers for taking on a role of leadership in our local organization,” said Karen “Cal” Wright, volunteer chair.

Steve Nelson has been elected the New Mexico state representative. Nelson is the director of camping services for Scouts BSA’s Philmont Scout Ranch and has worked there since 2008. Nelson, a camp professional since 1983, is an Eagle Scout and Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow, and enjoys cycling, hiking, and fly-fishing.

“I am pumped about being able to work and learn from [the members of] the LCOL. I see enthusiasm and passion, and it drives me to follow the example,” Nelson said.

Newly elected Utah State Representative Candice Olson is the Camp Cloud Rim director for the Girl Scouts of Utah. Olson began her professional camp career and ACA membership in 2006. In her spare time, Olson enjoys watching college football, singing karaoke, and traveling.

“I became a camp director so I could influence the character growth in the girls we serve,” Olson said.  “I joined the LCOL so I could influence ACA’s membership growth by sharing ACA’s benefits and resources to camp directors and program leaders.”

Lee Vaughan, volunteer engagement chair elect, is originally from Auckland, New Zealand, and has been in the US since 2017. He completed his diploma in Outdoor Leadership at Auckland University of Technology in 2006 and got his break in the camping industry with the YMCA of Auckland and hasn't looked back since.  He is now going into the 15th year of his career and currently working as YMCA of Northern Utah’s Director of Camping. Vaughan has always had an affinity with the great outdoors, and as a result, he greatly appreciates the outdoor lifestyle in Utah!

“As the Volunteer Engagement Chair, I am hoping to increase volunteers in the Southwest region and ensure that they understand the value they bring and give [to the camp industry] while also ensuring that they feel valued by ACA and the industry as a whole,” Vaughan said.  

Karyn Miller was elected the new government relations chair, a new position for the LCOL.  The local government relations chair monitors legislative issues and regulation changes for their area and prepares calls to action as necessary. Miller founded Cactus Day Camp located in Paradise Valley, Arizona, nearly 13 years ago in large part because of her own camp experiences beginning with day camp at age three. Miller spends her free time looking for new program ideas for day camp and spoiling her dog with love and presents.

Other LCOL volunteers will be continuing their roles through 2020.  Those members include: Cal Wright, volunteer chair; Josh Shenker, Arizona state representative; Jared Knight, orofessional development chair; Traci Kipnes, standards chair; and Megan Rich, membership chair.

“I am very excited to be a part of this LCOL team and for all of the plans for the year ahead,” Rich said.

The LCOL provides local structure and delivery to further the strategic priorities and vision of ACA, Inc. and acts as a conduit for communication and transfer of information to and from the local level to the ACA National Council of Leaders.

“I feel like the dynamic of this team is going to result in an LCOL that will be effective and innovative for our membership, and I feel inspired,” Kipnes said.

The LCOL works hand-in-hand with ACA's field staff to provide vision, leadership, and structure to Southwest area programs and initiatives.

The field staff who will work with the ACA, Southwest LCOL include: Michele Branconier, Western Region director; Tori Barnes, standards manager; John Beitner, professional development manager; and Jami Foster, membership manager.

“I am looking forward to working with the LCOL members. There are so many creative and exciting ideas, and I can’t wait to see them all come together to best serve ACA, Southwest. Our work together energizes me,” Branconier said.

“Michele, John, Jami, and Tori — thank you all for the support, resources, and encouragement we need to do our jobs on the LCOL,” Kipnes said.  “We couldn’t do it without you!”

Check the website and newsletters for more social hours, online chats, professional development events, trainings, and conferences as this LCOL rolls out some exciting activities and newsworthy information in the next year.

The Nevada State Representative position is currently vacant. If anyone from Nevada is interested in being a part of the LCOL, hosting social events and educating camp and youth development professionals about ACA’s benefits, please contact Lee Vaughan,