Board Members

Del Truitt – Vice President of the Board

Born in Jellico and raised in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, Friends of the Cumberland Trail Vice President Del Truitt is a lifelong Tennessean. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Management from UT-Knoxville in 1967, and later, in 1990, the MBA from Belmont University. As part of the work toward his Master’s degree, Truitt embarked on a special study that considered the potential for privatization of America’s public parks.

In 1970, Truitt joined the the National Life & Accident Insurance Company, at the time the corporate parent of WSM radio and TV in Nashville. There he worked with WSM and National Life on the initial planning and eventual opening of the massive Opryland Theme Park in suburban Nashville. Later in the decade he was named Personnel Director for Opryland Park, the Grand Ole Opry, and the yet-to-open Opryland Hotel.

In addition to his work with WSM and National Life, Truitt was also instrumental in developing the Natural Resource Management curriculum at UT-Martin. Launched in the mid-70s, the program helped educate many of Tennessee’s current park rangers and park managers. In the 1980s, he worked as a Business and Inn Manager and later, in the 1990s, for the UT Institute for Public Service.

Truitt eventually worked for two and half years as Director for State Parks and Assistant Commissioner. In this position, he helped promote the development of the Cumberland Trail, as well as other influential programming and educational projects. Most recently, Truitt has worked with the Tennessee Department of Transportation to develop rural planning organization across the state.

Deb Shaver – Secretary of the Board

Deb has lived in Dayton for over 25 years. She is a 3rd generation member of the Dayton Garden Club and past president of Master Gardener’s in Rhea County. She worked as an artist in her father’s company before developing a business in desk top publishing. Deb is interested in historic preservation and environmental protection within the Cumberland Trail corridor. Her current project with her husband, traces his great grandfather’s steps through the Civil War.

Sally Wencel – Treasurer

Sally is a “recovering lawyer” who moved to the Chattanooga area 15 years ago to take the reins of a nascent healthcare credentials verification company. Needing an additional challenge, she sought and received her MBA from the University of Chattanooga in 2007 and joined the College of Business faculty as an adjunct professor in 2008 where she taught management in the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship. She became a Master Gardener in 2009 in part to hone her plant skills but also as an opportunity to provide community service.  In 2010, she and two master gardener colleagues launched the Chattanooga Native Plant and Wildflower Group (now Tennessee Valley Wild Ones) through which she met CT Park Manager Bobby Fulcher, Ranger Andy Wright and Seasonal Interpretive Ranger Terri Ballinger at a Kew Millennium – Seeds of Success training program. So entranced with the idea of helping to restore newly acquired property on the Cumberland Trail, she obtained Master Gardeners of Hamilton County approval to start a volunteer project to help the CTSST with the Seeding the Cumberlands Project in 2010. Since commencing that project in fall 2010, Sally has spent many hours on the Cumberland Trail collecting seeds and developing a deep appreciation of the biological diversity of this area and the need to preserve and protect this valuable natural asset.

Sally received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University (Evanston, IL), her law degree from the University of Wisconsin and MBA from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Jeanie Hilten – Board Member

From the shores of Lake Michigan, to the cactus country of Arizona, and now in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Jeanie Hilten has devoted her work and play to the celebration of nature and its power to enrich human lives.   She credits her love of the outdoors and its beauties to artist parents who throughout her life encouraged appreciation of the wonder and complexity of both nature and people.

She studied Anthropology and Geology for her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and after work as a naturalist in Tennessee State Parks, returned for a Masters of Science in Forest Ecology. 

Jeanie and her husband moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1983, and they were both were enthralled by the spectacular scenery and fascinating cultures of the southwest.  Jeanie worked in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum as an interpreter.

Returning to Tennessee in 1986, Jeanie continued her environmental education and conservation efforts with positions at Wesley Woods Camp, Blount County Soil Conservation District, and Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.

In 2000, Jeanie became Administrative Officer of Discover Life in America, Inc., a private non-profit organization coordinating the ambitious endeavor called the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  She directed a strong science education effort with the project, combining the research of world-renowned experts in natural history with the participation of “citizen scientist” volunteers, teachers, and students, and the inventory and monitoring work of National Park staff.

In 2007, with her position as Special Events Coordinator with the Smoky Mountain Visitors Bureau, Jeanie brought people together for celebrations of the natural and cultural history of the Smokies. She retired in 2012, but not from her efforts in conservation and environmental education.

Jeanie and husband Richard live in East Millers Cove on 22 acres of woods, fields, streams, and gardens.  Jeanie gardens, knits, crochets, weaves, and plays old time banjo. Together they enjoy spending time with family and friends, motorcycle travel, hiking, and music.

Bren Martin – Board Member

Born and raised in Middle Tennessee, Brenden is avid outdoorsman, musician, and historian.  While working on his Ph.D. in History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, he coordinated a local history project in partnership with the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum in Townsend, Tennessee.  After spending a summer as a Seasonal Interpretive Ranger at Norris Dam State Park, he accepted a job as the Historian at the Museum of the New South in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he oversaw the research and planning of the museum’s exhibitions as well as the development and management of collections.  In 1999, Brenden moved to Natchitoches, Louisiana, where he taught Public History and Southern History at Northwestern State University and authored the Master Interpretive Plan for the Cane River National Heritage Area.  He is currently a Professor of Public History at Middle Tennessee State University, where he teaches Museum Studies and works with public history graduate students to develop exhibits, programs, and other interpretive materials.  He has published numerous articles and two books, including Tourism in the Mountain South: A Double Edged Sword (University of Tennessee Press, 2007) and The Jekyll Island Club Hotel (Donning Press, 2012).  He lives in Murfreesboro with his wife, Leah, and his three sons.

Jaime Woodcock McGinnis

Jaime Woodcock McGinnis fell in love with the Cumberland Trail while working as a Seasonal Interpretive Ranger, collecting oral histories and building hiking trails, in the southern end of the park in 2002 and 2003. Her work interviewing folks who had lived around the Cumberland Trail for generations inspired her to learn more, eventually directing her toward her M.A. thesis, “Our Contemporary Ancestors:  Appalachia and the Tennessee Valley Authority, 1933-1941,” and extensive research and preservation efforts at McNabb Mines in Marion County, Tennessee.  In 2009, the Tennessee Historical Commission honored Jaime with its Certificate of Merit in recognition of her contribution to the state’s history, particularly her documentation of nineteenth-century coal mining resources. From 2007 to 2011, Jaime served as the historian and architectural historian for a Chattanooga-based cultural resources management firm, authoring or co-authoring more than 25 professional reports.

In 2011, Jaime made an enormous career change, joining her family’s business, Sweetwater Valley Oil Company, where she continues to work. She also moved back to her hometown of Athens, where she lives with her husband, Bob McGinnis, who tends thousands of perennial plants and dozens of Buckeye chickens at their Hiwassee Nursery.  While the Cumberland Trail region’s fascinating history is what originally attracted Jaime, the wide variety of irreplaceable cultural, natural, and recreational resources found within this amazing park, along with the wonderful park staff and volunteers, have inspired her for more than a decade, and she is thrilled to join the FCT Board for a second time.

Chad Wykle – Board Member

Chad Wykle has been involved in protecting the outdoors for public for much of his professional life. He has worked within the Outdoor Industry for eight years, the last five have been as a representative for Chaco.  During that time he worked closely with Chaco and regional outdoor retailers to allocate monies to support several non-profit organizations that are dedicated to gaining, maintaining and preserving responsible access to natural resources throughout the southeast.  He has directed significant dollars toward the Carolina Climbers’ Coalition, the Southeastern Climber’s Coalition, the Access Fund, Lula Lake Land Trust, the Cumberland Trail Conference, the New River Alliance of Climbers’, and most recently to the Friends of the Cumberland Trail.

Chad is also the co-founder and co-organizer of the Triple Crown Bouldering Series-a collection of three outdoor bouldering competitions that occur each year to raise money for rock climbing access.  This climbing series has raised over $75,000 during its seven year history.  The event also raises funds each year for local rescue squads.  This event has also donated over $6,000 dollars for Habitat for Humanity.  Additionally, the series donated $1,500 to the Friends of the Cumberland Trail, and encouraged more than 60 new members to join this non-profit organization in 2008.

Chad has been instrumental in raising both money and awareness for the acquisition of Laurel Knob for the Carolina Climbers’ Coalition.  This beautiful granite dome in Western NC was once slated for development, but is now owned by the Carolina Climbers’ Coalition. In addition, the Triple Crown also pays a yearly lease on a wonderful greenspace and boulderfield in eastern NC called Asheboro Boulders….a resource the entire NC climbing community. Through the Triple Crown, Chad also spearheaded the final push to acquire a granite boulderfield and greenspace in Atlanta Ga known as Boat Rock-paying the final $11k to close the note on that property for the Southeastern Climbers’ Coalition (SCC).  This area is not only a fantastic resource for climbers and hikers, but it is also frequently used by local school systems for geology and biology seminars.
In 2008, the Triple Crown was once again key, in raising large funds and awareness for the land acquisition by the SCC for an area near Huntsville, AL known as Yellow Bluff.  This area is now secure and open to rock climbing and hiking.  The Steele Crag is the latest land acquisition project.  This beautiful area is located just outside the city of Steele Al., and access to this cliff has been a long-time goal of the southeastern climbing community.  Through Chaco and Rock/Creek, Chad recently donated $5,000 earmarked for this effort to the SCC. Though still working in the Outdoor Industry, Chad recently changed his career path-he began working for Rock/Creek Outfitters in May of this year.  One of his roles with this company will be to continue developing the strong philanthropic position of Rock/Creek.  Each year, Rock/Creek gives generously to many regional non-profit organizations that are dedicated to developing sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities.

Jenni Frankenberg Veal – Board Member

Jenni Frankenberg Veal is a freelance writer and naturalist based in Chattanooga, Tenn. She writes regularly about the natural world and outdoor adventures within the southeastern United States, one of the most biologically and recreationally rich regions on Earth.

Jenni contributes weekly to Nooga.com, an online news source in Chattanooga, with features that focus on conservation and the outdoors. She also maintains a blog to inspire families to spend time outdoors at www.YourOutdoorFamily.com.

A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, her publication credits include:

  • National Geographic’s East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism MapGuide
  • Sierra magazine
  • Southern Living magazine
  • Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper
  • Tennessee Conservationist magazine
  • Appalachian Voices
  • Babble.com
  • Various publications in Chattanooga, including CityScope and HealthScope magazines, and The Signal Mountain Mirror

Jenni has a B.S. in journalism from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and is currently working on an M.A. in English at the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. In addition to writing, her background and experience includes nonprofit management, development, marketing and event planning.