Michael joined KWA as Executive Director in December 2022. Over the course of his two decade career in nonprofit and academic management, Michael has focused on everything from cultural policy to food insecurity. Michael most recently worked as Director of Programs at Humanities New York (HNY). During his time at HNY, he moved the organization away from a focus on static celebrations of history into being an organization that uses the humanities as tools with which to activate community engagement and facilitate dialogue on such issues as climate change, post-incarceration societal re-entry, democracy and trust, and other challenges. He has written about books and culture for Louisville Public Media, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other publications. In 2019 Bloomsbury Academic published Southern Accents, his contribution to the long-running, critically acclaimed music series, 33⅓.
Michael was born and raised in Kentucky, and he was educated at the University of Chicago and the University of Louisville, his hometown school. When not working with the KWA team or spending time with family and friends, you can find him running (slowly!) on the trails that thread through the Red River Gorge, Jefferson Memorial Forest, and the other natural gems of the Commonwealth. Michael lives in Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood with his wife and son.
Former Executive Director and Consultant
Ward Wilson became Executive Director of Kentucky Waterways Alliance in 2017 after his good friend and longtime director Judy Petersen retired. He is a Kentucky native and has always enjoyed water, starting with an early fascination with the critters in Kentucky creeks. Ward enjoys wading, swimming, fishing, paddling, photography, hiking, biking, and sitting on the banks of Kentucky waterways. He studied biology at the University of Kentucky, worked as an environmental scientist at Maxey Flats Radioactive Waste Site in Fleming County, earned an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Virginia Tech, and went on to have a 30-year career as a Professional Engineer and Board Certified Environmental Engineer. Ward joined KWA in its early years and has been an active member of KWA ever since, including seven years as Vice President of the KWA board before joining the staff. Ward believes all Kentuckians deserve clean and healthy waterways.
Executive Director Emerita
Judith Petersen served as executive director for Kentucky Waterways Alliance from 1997 to 2017 and is still an invaluable resource for the organization as a consultant. Judy is a national leader in clean water policy and respected voice for Kentucky waterways. She holds a B.S in aerospace engineering from Pennsylvania State University.
Watershed Program Director
Laura Gregory joined the KWA team as the Red River Watershed Coordinator in May 2017 and became the Watershed Program Director in November 2022. She will be taking her experience in the Red River statewide to work with watershed groups all across Kentucky. As Director, Laura will be developing the Kentucky Watershed Network, a collaborative effort to support our allies in the world of Kentucky water, and will be leading our Ohio River work.
Born and raised in Denton, TX, Laura attended The University of Texas at Austin, receiving a B.A. in Geography. Since then she has rock climbed, backpacked, biked, worked migrant farm jobs, and played music across the country. She moved to Kentucky in 2009 after falling in love with the people, the place, the music, and the perfect climate for gardening.
Susan Griffin Ward
Community Engagement Director
Susan joined the KWA team as Community Engagement Director in October of 2021. She is a native of Louisville and graduate of the University of Dayton where she studied social work and English literature. Her professional career has been dedicated to nonprofit service at social service and environmental organizations in Louisville. Susan is also a photographer and author of the book, Looking for the Sun at Merton’s Corner, a Collection of Portraits. Over the years, Susan has spent as much of her free time as possible canoeing, kayaking, and boating on Kentucky’s beautiful rivers and creeks. Susan is looking forward to furthering KWA's mission by increasing our engagement with current and future volunteers, donors, partners, and communities. If you or your organization would like to partner with KWA to protect, restore, and celebrate your favorite Kentucky waterway give Susan a call or send her an email. She will be happy to talk with you about how we can work together!