About the Secretary of Natural Resources
Matthew J. Strickler
Matthew J. Strickler is the Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Prior to joining the Administration, he served as Senior Policy Advisor to Democratic members of the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources. Originally from Lexington, Virginia, Matthew graduated from Washington and Lee University and holds master’s degrees in public policy and marine science from the College of William and Mary and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. He was a Knauss Marine Policy Fellow in NOAA’s Office of International Affairs in 2007, and worked on U.S. Senator Mark Warner’s successful 2008 campaign. Immediately prior to his time on Capitol Hill, Matthew worked in the Virginia General Assembly as a legislative assistant to then-state Senator Ralph Northam.
Joshua Saks, Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources
Joshua Saks is the Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In this role, Joshua works on natural catastrophe planning and resilience, land conservation, historic preservation, wildlife and outdoor recreation. Prior to his appointment, Joshua spent eight years as the Legislative Director for the National Wildlife Federation, where he worked on an array of issues including climate and clean air policy, agriculture policy, flood and hurricane preparedness and toxic chemical reform. Prior to working at National Wildlife Federation Joshua worked as the Federal Affairs office the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Joshua has degrees from Ithaca College and St. John’s College.
Ann Jennings, Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources for the Chesapeake Bay
Ann Jennings is the Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources for the Chesapeake Bay under Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler in the office of Governor Ralph Northam. Prior to her current position, she was the Virginia Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative commission created to advise the General Assemblies of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia on matters of Bay-wide concern.
Prior to the Commission, Ann served as the Virginia Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Ann’s career also includes work as a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Originally from Virginia Beach, Ann received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Texas A&M University. Ann is a graduate of the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute and the Sorensen Institute’s Political Leaders Program.
Ann Phillips, Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection
Ann C. Phillips is the Special Assistant to the Governor for Coastal Adaptation and Protection for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Prior to joining the Northam Administration, she worked to address sea level rise and climate change impact on national security at the regional, national and international level, and chaired the Infrastructure Working Group for the Old Dominion University-convened Hampton Roads Sea Level Rise Preparedness and Resilience Intergovernmental Pilot Planning Project.
Prior to her work on climate change impact and sea level rise, Ann served nearly 31 years on active duty. She had the honor to commission and command USS MUSTIN (DDG 89) and to command Destroyer Squadron 28. Her final Flag command was as Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group TWO, including all the Amphibious Expeditionary Forces on the East Coast of the United States.
Ann earned a Master’s in Business Administration from The College of William and Mary - Mason School of Business in 2016. She is a 1983 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition, she is a certified Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional, Level 2.
Meryem Karad, Policy and Communications Advisor to the Secretary of Natural Resources
Meryem Karad is the Policy and Communications Advisor to the Secretary of Natural Resources. Prior to her appointment, Meryem served as Assistant to the Secretary of Natural Resources under Governor Ralph Northam and Governor Terry McAuliffe. Previously, Meryem worked for ExxonMobil and the American Thyroid Association. A native of Rabat, Morocco, Meryem grew up in Springfield, Virginia and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Philosophy, Policy and Law from the University of Virginia.
Katie Sallee, Confidential Assistant to the Secretary of Natural Resources
Katie Sallee is the Confidential Assistant to the Secretary of Natural Resources. Prior to her appointment, Katie was a Field Organizer for the League of Conservation Voters and previously served as a legislative intern in the office of Delegate Betsy Carr. Katie grew up in Oklahoma, relocating to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University and earned a Master of Social Work. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Oklahoma State University.
Ben Nettleton, Coastal Adaptation and Protection Fellow
Ben is a Virginia Sea Grant Coastal Adaptation and Protection Fellow, tasked with assisting the Special Assistant to the Governor, Ann Phillips, with the Commonwealth’s Coastal Resilience Master Plan. Prior to joining this office, Ben was a Virginia Sea Grant Fellow with The Nature Conservancy on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, where he developed public engagement and outreach centered on climate change and adaptation to sea level rise. Originally from Iowa, Ben graduated from the University of Northern Iowa, and then relocated to Virginia to attend Virginia Commonwealth University and earned a Master’s in Biology in 2018.