Staff Bios

KITTY CONNOLLY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Kitty fell in love with California native plants when she moved to Los Angeles. She started her first native garden while still in graduate school. Work at the Smithsonian Institution and teaching in South Carolina kept her away from California, but she returned to our State and its flora as an employee of the Huntington Botanical Gardens. A major focus of her work there was creating award-winning exhibitions and professional development programs. Kitty joined TPF in 2014 and is active in the American Public Gardens Association and American Alliance of Museums.

TIM BECKER, DIRECTOR OF HORTICULTURE
Tim, an L.A. native, holds a BA in environmental studies/agroecology and a certificate in ecological horticulture from UC Santa Cruz.  Although his passion for horticulture was founded in agriculture, Tim quickly recognized the importance and beauty of California native plants and their role in a sustainable future for Los Angeles and the region at large. Tim has focused much of his energies at the Foundation on improving efficiencies and providing the best plants possible to our customers. He now looks forward to expanding opportunities in the world of native horticulture and helping train the next generation of gardeners and horticulture professionals in our community.

GENEVIEVE ARNOLD, SEED PROGRAM MANAGER
Genevieve earned a BA in English from Whitman College and has worked with California native plants and seeds for more than a decade. Previous to her position as Seed Program Manager at TPF, she served as Seed Conservation Program Technician at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.  Her experience with seeds has given her an appreciation for the unique form and beauty of the native garden in all its phases. She also likes to hike in our local wilderness areas to observe wildflowers and plants in their natural habitat.

KELSEY THUROW, SEED PROGRAM ASSISTANT
Kelsey earned a BS in Ecology from the University of Minnesota. Prior to starting at TPF, she worked restoring native woodlands in Minnesota, where she cultivated a strong interest in reclaiming and preserving urban wild spaces. Kelsey hopes to continue to work towards the conservation of natural areas by helping people create relationships with native plants and the environments that surround them.

JORDAN ISKEN, PRODUCTION MANAGER
Jordan received a combined BA in Environmental Studies & Biology and a certificate in Natural History from UC Santa Cruz. Prior to joining the Theodore Payne Foundation as Production Manager, he split his time between Orange and Santa Cruz counties, working on various coastal restoration projects as a botanist and steward. He has traveled extensively across the state as a backpacker and surfer, fascinated by the mosaic of unique plant communities at our fingertips. He is eager to share his passion for restoration by providing beautiful California native plants for the urban environment, an endeavor that he calls “distributed restoration.”

FRANCISCO ROSALES, PRODUCTION FOREMAN
Francisco has been with the Foundation for nearly three decades and, as our longest-standing employee, has acquired vast knowledge of California native plants. An invaluable asset to TPF, he is highly skilled in the fields of horticulture, irrigation and propagation. Francisco holds a degree in philosophy from Universidad Pedagogica de El Salvador and enjoys movies, music and dance.

ELMER LUNA, NURSERY PRODUCTION
Elmer Luna has been a TPF staff member for more than a decade. Having been raised on a ranch in El Salvador, he understands how to grow plants and get the job done, with a passion for horticulture and for propagating top-quality plants for our customers. His contributions to nursery production are outstanding and TPF couldn’t manage without him. Among other talents, he is a master at the BBQ and plays midfield and defense in several local soccer leagues.

ARMANDO RIVAS, NURSERY PRODUCTION
Armando emigrated to the U.S. in 2013 from El Salvador, where he was studied marketing at the Central American University José Simeón Cañas.  He grew up working on his parents’ rural dairy farm and brings his experience of hard-working ranch life to TPF. Armando has previously worked in the restaurant business and, most recently, with California native landscaping in the Los Angeles area. .   

FLORA ITO, NURSERY SALES MANAGER
Since coming on board in December 2012, Flora has contributed her experience with education and non-profits, and continues her deep interest in planting California natives. A self-taught gardener, she grew up on a family farm in Ventura. With an MFA from UCLA and an MS in museum education from Bank Street, Flora has served as an administrator, artist and educator at the Museum of Ventura County, Japanese American National Museum and J. Paul Getty Museum and other local institutions.

KATHERINE PAKRADOUNI, NURSERY SALES ASSOCIATE
Katherine has lived within walking distance of Griffith Park for 24 years and developed a passion for California native plants seven years ago when she began converting her yard into a drought-tolerant, wildlife-friendly garden.  When she isn’t working at TPF or for her own California native garden design business, she travels to festivals and Renaissance Faires with her family’s woodworking business, creates pyrographic art and enjoys hiking with her dogs.  Katherine spent six years at CSULA taking every class that interested her, and ultimately earned her BA in English with a minor in Anthropology.

ASHER GUZIK, NURSERY SALES ASSOCIATE
Asher received a BA in Art History from UCLA. His interest in native plants began in high school when he planted his family home with natives to prevent erosion. Prior to coming to Theodore Payne in 2015, he volunteered at the Huntington and planted gardens for friends and family. Or particular interest to him are California native plant communities and associations.

STEVE SINGER, HORTICULTURIST
Though born in Hollywood and reared in the San Fernando Valley, Steve came to California native plants in a roundabout way. During a long career with UPS, he admired a plant in a customer’s yard and discovered that it was a native grass, Elymus ‘Canyon Prince.” He calls it his “gateway” plant. After several years as a very active TPF volunteer, Steve retired from UPS to pursue his passion and become a landscape professional. In 2016, he began his dream job at TPF, maintaining the plants and gardens on Foundation grounds.

LILI SINGER, DIRECTOR OF SPECIAL PROJECTS AND ADULT EDUCATION
Lili is an award-winning horticulturist, educator, editor and garden writer with a background in wholesale and retail nurseries. A Los Angeles native, she joined our team in October 2007. She published and edited two periodicals, The Southern California Gardener and The Gardener’s Companion, and for more than a decade hosted “The Garden Show,” a live call-in radio program on KCRW-fm. In 1997, Lili was named Horticulturist of the Year by the Southern California Horticultural Society, an honor bestowed upon Theodore Payne in 1952.

LISA NOVICK, DIRECTOR OF OUTREACH
Lisa earned a BA in philosophy from UCLA and a Professional Clear Multiple-Subject Teaching Credential from CSULA. She joined TPF in September 2007. Lisa designed, implemented and expanded our Volunteer Rewards Program and innovative K-12 curriculum. She is a published writer and blogs for the Huffington Post. She enjoys backpacking and remote camping and particularly loves the aroma of California bay laurel.

ANDREW CHAVES, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS AND VOLUNTEER ENGAGEMENT
Andrew received his BA in history of art and religion from UC Santa Cruz. Before joining the Foundation in August 2012, he worked for SEA Lab, a program of the LA Conservation Corps, and supervised Corps member development and training, education programs and native plant restoration projects. Andrew enjoys riding his motorcycle, as well as operating his 1/8th scale coal-fired steam locomotive at the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum in Griffith Park.

DIANA SHERWOOD, K-12 EDUCATOR AND FRONT OFFICE ASSISTANT
Diana comes from an arts and educational background that includes work for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Park Service, and for innovative teacher professional development programs administrated by the University of California Office of the President at UCLA.  Diana has two master’s degrees and has worked as an associate and adjunct professor for the last 12 years.  She comes to Theodore Payne with a great commitment to be part of education, support, and preservation of the local environment.

JANEEN APODOCA, BOOKSTORE AND FRONT OFFICE COORDINATOR
Bio coming soon.