The Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Board of Directors has named Claire Wildermuth Sadler the organization’s new Executive Director upon the retirement of Elissa Garofalo, who served the D&L for 20 years.
Since September, under Claire’s leadership, the staff of the D&L has demonstrated remarkable resilience as Elissa stepped back to take a medical leave of absence. Elissa’s leave allowed her to obtain the necessary treatment and support to ease her recovery. She made the decision earlier this year to retire as executive director.
Claire has been with the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor since 2014, when she started as the organization’s Conservation Coordinator. Claire previously held the roles of Director of Trails & Conservation, Deputy Director and most recently, Interim Executive Director. In these roles, she has overseen trail development, served as the internal lead for Lehigh Valley Greenways, one of Pennsylvania’s eight conservation landscapes, and went on to provide leadership for both the Trails & Conservation department and organization as a whole.
Claire holds a degree in Environmental Studies from Dartmouth College. Prior to her work with the D&LNHC, she was a Special Programs Coordinator for Delaware Highlands Conservancy, Hawley, PA and Director of Education at Fernbrook Farms Education Center, Bordentown, NJ.
In her ascent to leadership, Claire led the brand development and launch of one of the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor’s partnership programs, THE LINK Trail Network, and stewards the range of partners that make possible the work of the D&LNHC. Her role as Deputy Director, and later Interim Executive Director, prove her deep understanding of the mission of the organization, while already providing executive leadership in hiring, onboarding, strategic planning and grant seeking.
Priorities for Claire, as she formally steps into the role of Executive Director, include restoring stability to an organization that had to exercise so much resilience in the past year. Sadler plans to focus on filling vacancies and building the leadership team to prepare for a new D&L Strategic Action Plan. Sadler looks forward to building on the D&LNHC’s strength of making connections and closing gaps, especially focusing on the Lehigh Valley Gap and the D&L Trail’s northern terminus in Luzerne County.
I care deeply for the organization’s mission and team; understanding the struggles we’ve been through, I look forward to furthering team camaraderie and new ideas through this significant transition. I am grateful to the board for trusting my abilities and for Elissa’s example of unwavering dedication to the mission.– Claire Sadler
Thanking Elissa Garofalo
Just last year marked Elissa Garofalo’s 20th anniversary with the D&L. In her nine years as the Executive Director, Elissa led the organization through a merger with the National Canal Museum and the completion of the Mansion House Bridge across the Lehigh River in Jim Thorpe, among other D&L Trail and program connections.
Elissa has been the face and the force behind so many of the D&L’s accomplishments over the past two decades. She has a true and unbridled passion for the outdoors, regional industrial history and landmark connectivity. We know that she will continue to be a passionate voice for progress along the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.
We are deeply grateful for her service as Executive Director. We hope you join us in thanking her and wishing her good health and many adventures throughout the Corridor.