Lauren Berutich, CEO of Local First

Lauren Berutich, CEO

Lauren has 20 years of experience in conservation, advocacy, policy, and nonprofit leadership including environmental education, grassroots organizing, volunteer and stewardship coordination, and public work for sustainable community development. Most recently, she served as the Associate Executive Director for a women’s led national nonprofit, Great Old Broads for Wilderness and prior to that, managed Northern Arizona University’s (NAU) Campus and Community Based Action Research Teams, to support democratic, civic action for justice and sustainability through education, outreach, and advocacy campaigns.

She has served as Volunteer Coordinator with the Grand Canyon Trust engaging stewards of all ages in conservation and preservation activities across the Colorado Plateau. Lauren served as the President of Friends of Camp Colton board and now sits on Durango’s Bluegrass Meltdown board of directors. She has a B.A. in Environmental Geography and a Masters in Sustainable Communities from NAU.

Doug McCarthy, Healthcare Advocate

Doug McCarthy, M.B.A., is a longtime resident of La Plata County, a local business owner, and a healthcare policy expert. As Healthcare Advocate and member of the Healthcare Steering Committee, he supports our efforts to promote affordable local healthcare solutions in partnership with the Peak Health Alliance.

Doug has more than 30 years of experience in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. He previously directed the Commonwealth Fund’s Health System Tracking team, which produces scorecards and case study research on promising practices in health care delivery. He was a public policy fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and a leadership fellow of the Denver-based Regional Institute for Health and Environmental Leadership. He serves on the board of Colorado’s Center for Improving Value in Health Care and the advisory committee for the San Juan Basin Health Department’s Community Health Needs Assessment.

Natalie Martin, Membership Coordinator

Born and raised on the east coast, Natalie made her move to the beautiful Southwest seven years ago. After graduating college at California University of Pennsylvania, Natalie moved to Durango, Colorado following her love for rivers and mountains. She has spent the past seven years working in tourism and alongside local businesses. She has a passion for helping, connecting with, and supporting the local community.

Natalie is excited to build new connections with La Plata County’s businesses and organizations, to support them through Local First’s movement of building a strong local economy that values its people, the planet, inclusivity and equality. She is looking forward to bringing her experience in sales, tourism, and marketing, alongside her personal dedication to sustainable living and environmental conservation to the Local First team.

Louise Snodgrass, Communications Manager

Born and raised in South Dakota, Louise has dedicated the last seven years of their career building vibrant, self-reliant community through their work fostering strong local food systems, advocating for small business development, and organizing both municipal and statewide political action. In 2020, Louise was recognized as the first genderqueer candidate to run for office in South Dakota. They ran a successful grassroots campaign gaining national attention and lasting momentum.

With hands-on experience in digital strategy and communication for small businesses and nonprofits alike, Louise is excited to join the Local First La Plata team in its mission of shaping a thriving, self-reliant, and resilient La Plata county.

When they’re not behind the computer screen building comprehensive communication campaigns, Louise spends their free time swimming in the area’s lakes & reservoirs, foraging for wild foods, and mentoring fellow queer community activists and candidates from around the country.


Photo taken by Scott DW Smith

Tim Wheeler, Chair

With 18 years experience in engineering and management positions in the high-technology industry, a former Director of Marketing with Apple Computer in Hong Kong, in 1994 Tim moved to Durango with his family. A serial entrepreneur Tim has owned a consulting firm, the Durango Coffee Company retail store, and the Durango Compost Company. Over his career, Tim developed a passion for shaping the positive parts of our capitalist economy towards an environmentally and economically sustainable future.

Tim brings this perspective into his involvement in many Durango area activities. He is a Leadership La Plata Graduate (1996-97), served on the Board of Durango Natural Foods, the Durango Business Improvement District, Sunrise Credit Union, and the Durango Farmers Market. He is a founding Board member of the Southwest Colorado Renewable Energy Society, 4CORE, Local First, and participates in other economic development activities in La Plata County. He has an Advanced Management Certificate from the Wharton School of Business at U-Penn and an Electronics Diploma from DeVry Institute of Technology. Tim lives here with his wife of 34 years, Ann.

Photo taken by Scott DW Smith

John Lopez, Treasurer

John is an owner and Tax Manager at FredrickZink & Associates. He handles tax preparation, audits, accounting, and consultation for the firm. John brings over twenty years of experience in public accounting, auditing nonprofit organizations and common interest realty associations, along with the preparation of business, nonprofit, and individual tax returns. John grew up and attended school in Texas. He entered the field of public accounting in the mid-90’s when he relocated to Southwest Florida, prior to his move to Durango in 2012.

John and his partner enjoy hiking, skiing, and biking with their three dogs. As a board member of Local First, John supports the growth and development of local Durango businesses. “It all adds up to people partnering with people to achieve results.”

Kip Koso

Kip grew up in Durango as a Riverview Eagle, Smiley Saint and Durango Demon before moving away for undergraduate and graduate school. He and his family had to move away at times for school or work, but always knew they would be back to live in La Plata County.

Kip has been in the health and wellness industry for over 30 years starting at a health club folding towels to his current work as a consultant. He spent 9 years as Director of the SunUte Community Center for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe where he and his team embraced a community focused perspective that he still uses to this day in his work. In 2016, Kip moved back to Durango for the final time (fingers crossed) and currently works remotely as a consultant for UPMC which is a large medical organization based mostly on the East Coast. He works consulting with large companies to help them develop programming in health and wellness as well as health plan design and overall benefits design for the improvement of their employees. Impact rather than just participation drives his benefits work and personal philosophy when it comes to people and organizations. He firmly believes organizations need to be changing lives for the better from the work they do, or we are all just using up budget and time that we cannot afford.