Board of Directors/Leadership

Jon Barrett

Jon is president of Barrett Law P.C., where he specializes in sports law, and president of SPMA Co., a sports media consulting company. Before starting these two firms in 2013, he practiced business law for 35 years at two major Charlotte, N.C., law firms. In 2014, Jon relocated to Linville, where he now resides. He has extensive board experience and brings a passion for Grandfather Mountain.

Bob Biggerstaff

Bob is a successful businessman from Greensboro, N.C., who first visited Grandfather Mountain more than sixty years ago. Since 2015, he has served as a volunteer business consultant for the management team at the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. He has served on numerous civic boards and is the founder and chairman of A Simple Gesture-Greensboro, a food collection not-for-profit that supports food pantries in Guilford County. He is a graduate of UNC-Chapel with a degree in business administration.

Michael Leonard 

Mike is chairman of The Conservation Fund and one of the South’s leading conservation lawyers. He has participated in negotiating conservation agreements protecting more than a quarter million acres, including the Cheaha Wilderness, Horsepasture National Wild and Scenic River, Panthertown Valley and Grandfather Mountain. Mike is a partner at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, PLLC in Winston Salem, N.C.

Catherine Morton 

Catherine is the youngest daughter of Grandfather Mountain developer Hugh Morton and a founding member of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation’s Board of Directors. After 25 years working in public relations, advertising and marketing for Grandfather Mountain Inc., Catherine now focuses on her role as Secretary of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation Board of Directors.

Judy Morton 

Judy is the eldest daughter of Grandfather Mountain developer Hugh Morton and a founding member of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation’s Board of Directors.

A resident of Greensboro, N.C., she has extensive experience working in the non-profit sector having recently retired from the innovative community development organization, Action Greensboro.

Gordon Warburton

Gordon is ecoregion supervisor at N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for Western North Carolina. Formerly the Commission’s Black Bear Project Leader, he led the statewide black bear conservation efforts and research program. Equally invested in the cultural heritage of the Southern Appalachians, Gordon is Pipe Major of the Grandfather Mountain Highlanders Bagpipe Band and is based in Marion, N.C.

 Key Personnel

Jesse Pope, President & Executive Director 

Jesse came to Grandfather in 2002 as a wildlife keeper and backcountry ranger. In 2004, his extraordinary knowledge and friendly demeanor led management to ask him to develop a naturalist program for Grandfather Mountain. He quickly took the program from the seed of an idea to the experience that visitors tell us adds the most value to a visit. In 2015, Pope was named executive director of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.

With unmatched knowledge of Grandfather Mountain’s ecosystem and unbridled passion for the organization’s mission, Pope oversees foundation staff, programs and the execution of its strategic plan.

Lesley Platek, Vice President

Lesley works directly under the president and executive director to assist in implementing strategic plans. In addition to that, she oversees the Development/Fundraising Team, Special Events, Marketing & Communications Team and the Volunteer Program.

In her spare time, Lesley enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, cooking and horseback riding. She served on the board of directors for the Avery YMCA and presently serves on the Avery County Chamber of Commerce board of directors. She was also a member of the 2019 Avery Leadership class.

Tommy Oakley, Operations Manager

Tommy is operations manager for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. He and wife Ginny moved to the WNC mountains from Clinton, S.C., to retire. Instead, he began working as gate manager at Grandfather Mountain.

In 2018, he was promoted to operations manager, managing nine departments with planning, training, budgeting, communication, infrastructure, supply chains, equipment, vehicles and safety, while also helping to motivate and solve problems with strong judgment and organizational skills. Tommy has a passion for Grandfather Mountain and believes in company values and policy, which he demonstrates firsthand to coworkers and management.