Leadership Team

Board Members:

Quintin Cross , Chairman of the Board , is a young Af rican American community leader in New York. His natural capacity for leadership and community engagement proved itself again in 2001, when at 18, Quintin became the youngest member ever elected to the Hudson NY, City Council. Two year later, he rose to the position of Majority Leader.

During his six years on the Council, Quintin chaired several prominent committees as both a public and community servant. He chaired the Legal, Police, Youth & Aging Committees, as well as the Hudson Industrial Development Agency. Further, Quintin served on the Hudson Development Corporation Board, The Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency and the Columbia County Empire Zone. In 2003, Quintin made waves across the state when prominent New York Assemblywoman Annette Robinson (AD56) appointed him to serve as the Mid-Hudson Regional Director of the NYS Council of Black Elected Democrats of which she serves as President.

Since his youth, Quintin was taught the importance of promoting race equity. For this reason, the community has relied on his leadership to combat against the institutional evils of discrimination and racism. For instance, Quintin founded the Hudson African American Leadership Alliance (HAALA), an organization made up of elected and appointed officials in the City of Hudson and Columbia County, to advocate for increased minority participation in government. Very quickly, HAALA also the mechanism for filing civil rights complaints against government agencies. Subsequently, Quintin was asked to take over a failing chapter of the NAACP in Columbia and Green Counties NY. Within the first 90 days, he not only secured a sizable donation to support 100 two-year memberships, he designed the scholarships in a manner that encouraged recipients to serve as community volunteers and become more active in civic engagement.

Quintin has recently been hired as a Residence Director and Diversity Coordinator for Bard at Simon’s Rock where he oversees the diversity programming for Student Life. In July Quintin took his oath of office from Civil Rights Icon Dr. Bernard Lafayette as a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Next Generation Leadership Conference. Quintin is one of 30 young activist under the age of 40 from around the nation to be founding members of this organization which will be mentored in the non-violent practices of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a co-founder of the SCLC.

Quintin hold a B.S. in Public Affairs with a concentration in Community Affairs from State University of New York (SUNY) Empire State College. He is also the recipient of the SUNY Graduate Diversity Fellowship and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Work and Policy Studies.

Quintin currently resides in Hudson, NY and is the proud father of eight year old twin daughters Tamaya and Tamyra, who have already demonstrated their commitment to fight for social justice.

Alexis B. Keith , Vice Chairman of the Board , is a lifelong resident of Hudson, NY. She began serving her community in church and student government as a young adult. Alexis brings a wealth of experience working in government and caring for others. She became a CNA at a local nursing home helping our elders with activities of daily living as a student in high school. She continued her employment while attending SUNY Oswego for Business Administration. On campus her desire to help her campus community continued and she became Business Manager for two student programming boards; bringing large scale programming to her campus.Alexis also served as a Resident Assistant helping to create an atmosphere of student appreciation and involvement in a diverse student body and community. Alexis is currently employed as a Family Support Specialist with the Mental Health Association of Columbia and Greene Counties. In November of 2013 Alexis was elected to the City of Hudson Common Council were she still serves.

Brooke Lehman, Secretary, is a holistic educator and practitioner. She is a faculty member at Institute for Social Ecology and holds certifications in massage, yoga, and herbal medicine. Prior to Watershed, Brooke spent many years helping to run Bluestockings Bookstore and Activist Center in NYC.

A long time organizer, Brooke was deeply involved in the Global Justice Movement and the Occupy Movement, where she focused on helping activists build healthy democratic organizational structures, connect to their own sense of purpose, and become more effective leaders. She offers workshop and retreats on meditation, yoga, leadership, facilitation, communication, democratic decision-making, and organizational transformation.

Karen Jackson-Gray, Treasurer, is a graduate of The State University of New York at Old Westbury. She has a B.A. in Communicative & Creative Arts. Karen brings over 25 years of experience in counseling, management, mediation, behavioral therapy, personal health, disciplinary guidance, administration in non-profit, government, corporate and private industries, providing a variety of services in mentoring, counseling, administrating, managing and educating through practiced leadership. Prior to joining the Board, Karen worked in many different positions where she saw firsthand the issues affecting black males. Some of the previous positions Karen held were: Youth Care Counselor at Berkshire Farms Center & Service for Youth, Senior Correctional Officer at Walnut Grove Correctional Facility, and Recreation Supervisor for the City of Mount Vernon. Karen is committed to using her skills to create programs for people re-entering society from incarceration and providing resources to the participants at the Center about the effects of incarceration on the families.

Alan Skerrett retired from the Office of Mental Health after 31 years of service in a variety of direct care and administrative positions. Upon retirement, he assumed the role of Executive Director of the Philmont Hearth, a 14-bed community residence rehabilitation program for severe and profound mental illness clients. He is a local photographer who has provided local photographic services to a variety of entities in the area. His photos have been exhibited in group-exhibitions in Hunter Mountain, Catskill, Albany, Cohoes, Hudson, and more. He currently does portrait photography. As a trade specialist, Alan participated in a variety of audio-visual projects and productions, conducted by the Office of Mental Health and the Capital District Psychiatric Center. He was a co-founder and Rehearsal Director of the Capital District Psychiatric Center Mental Health Players, a volunteer education project using role play to educate the community addressing, among other issues, mental health stigma. He has lived in Columbia County for 25 years. Alan Skerrett is the force behind self-empowerment and systems change. Alan has a keen interest in teaching participants about self-identifying and is currently in the process of developing a needs assessment for participants.

Vernon Cross is a graduate of Hudson High School. He attended a Historically Black College (Morris Brown College) in Atlanta, GA for a year. He is a proud father of 4 children: 3 boys and 1 girl. Vernon has lived in Pittsfield MA, as well as Pelham, Alabama. He decided to return to Hudson NY to help his daughter who was expecting her 1st child. He’s now currently employed at Ginsberg’s Foods in Hudson. He works as an Inbound Freight Coordinator. His duties include scheduling all inbound trucks for delivery, accessing each truck and charging the appropriate price for each truck to be unloaded, which he has done successfully for 5 plus years. Vernon is the Chairperson of the Radio Committee, and is also a member of the Events & Community Service Committees. Vern produces the Barbership Talks, a monthly local affairs radio program that broadcasts on WGXC: 90.7-FM; he is also a freelance DJ in his spare time.

Juwan Morrison is a life-long resident of the City of Hudson, Juwan graduated from Hudson High School. He attended a 1 year Culinary Arts Program at Questar III BOCES. After some time in the field, Juwan went back to school and attended Columbia Greene Beauty School. He received the designation of Master Barber and Cosmetologist. After getting his state license, Juwan opened M&J Unisex Hair Studio. He is a business owner for the past 7 years. Juwan has already had a number of young men come in as Apprentices. He has provided employment opportunities upon being licensed. Juwan wants to create as many opportunities as possible for our youth within the community.

Ellis Richardson is a graduate of Poughkeepsie High School, and served as the first African American appointed Chief of Police in the City of Hudson. Richardson brings over 25 years of law enforcement experience. He knows all too well the issue that effect men of color.

Chief Richardson has served in many positions in law enforcement. They include: Jailer at Columbia County Jail, Dispatcher for NYS Park Police, Patrolman for NYS Park Police, and Deputy for the Dutchess County Sherriff’s Department. Chief Richardson rose through the ranks of the Hudson Police Department having served as a Patrolman, Juvenile Aid Officer, D.A.R.E Officer, Lieutenant and ultimately Chief.

As Chief of Police, Richardson was responsible for a budget of over $2 million with over 30 employees who reported to him. Richardson brings to the board a wealth of knowledge in budgeting, finance and leadership and management, and supervisorial and administrative experience. He is focused on providing training to the participants on topics such as “Know Your Rights”.

Brandon Santos is a lifelong resident of Columbia County, was raised in the City of Hudson. He graduated from Questar III BOCES. Upon graduation Brandon attended the Masonry Institute of Maryland. He received certification in masonry, basic carpentry and painting. Brandon is a General Contractor by trade and has a keen interest in providing opportunities through trade programs for black men and boys to work in the field as he has known for a long time. Brandon’s training also extends to drawing and stone carving which has been useful in developing his craft. Brandon wants to make the community a safe and positive place for families, friends and visitors alike. Brandon is committed to working with the members and participants at the Center to provide mini-programs around building trades. Brandon believes that the participants would benefit from the hands on experience that could potentially lead to gainful employment.

Karen S. Smith is a former acting justice for the New York County Supreme Court, Civil Term in the 1st Judicial District of New York. Smith received her B.A. degree from Reed College in 1970 and her J.D. degree from the Catholic University Law School in 1975. Smith began her career in 1976 as Associate General Counsel to District Council 37 AFSCME. In 1984, she joined the Real Estate Bureau-Enforcement of the New York State Attorney General’s office. She was elected to the New York City Civil Court in 1996 and was appointed an Acting Supreme Court Justice in 2004. She also served on the New York City Civil Court prior to her retirement in 2010.

Claire Cousin is a passionate advocate and organizer for youth in Hudson. She works to give young people growing up here support and mentorship to reinforce their purpose and passions. Claire is Chair of the Youth & Young Adult Committee for SBK and runs programming on behalf of SBK in Hudson. Claire also works as an Americorps volunteer, and serves on the Columbia County Youth Advisory Board, working to affect change. Claire is also a singer, poet, and a mom.

Valerie Fanarjian became involved with SBK through her work as the activities coordinator at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. Having met Quintin Cross on a film she was producing, she began attending SBK barbershop talks, volunteering in Hudson, and connecting students at Simon’s Rock with the SBK organization through community service projects and various civic and social events, including several events held at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. So far, Valerie has been instrumental in introducing six students to the organization, who went on to become interns for the organization.

Valerie used to be an accountant in New York City, where she was an assistant to the controller at Crescent Diversified limited, a subsidiary of the Olayan Group. In 1988, she took over her family business and ran a fully automatic sawmill in the Catskill Mountains. While working at the sawmill, she received a Bachelors of Science in Art Education at SUNY New Paltz in 1997, and was granted a teaching certificate by the State of New York.  After 1999, she began working in film doing production. Valerie is also an artist; she has organized art shows, founded an art school, and taught varied workshops to learners of all ages and levels.

Rebecca Burgos-Thillet is a graduate of SUNY Cobleskill. She has her AAS degree in Business Administration. Rebecca also received a New York State Family Development Credential from Cornell University. She has specialized training and experience in trauma informed care, developing community support groups, and developing as well as facilitating a variety of training curriculums. Rebecca has worked at the Schoharie County Community Action Program from 1994 to 2012, most recently as a Training and Development Coordinator. She has done work, using the strength based family development model, to assist families around resource management, identifying their own resources, and connecting them to available community resources. Rebecca’s also has experience working with families considered to be in crisis and is skilled in mediation and conflict resolution.

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