About Our Chapter

Our History

We were founded in December 1998, and have been making friends and building community ever since. Although our Chapter is small in size, it is large in leadership and enthusiasm. Our members have served as officers and committee chairs for the Florida Native Plant Society almost continuously since the Chapter's inception. Currently, member Gene Kelly serves as Government Policy Chair for the Society. Our President Janet Grabowski is collaborating in development of regional educational publications.

About our Board

The Hernando Chapter Officers are elected each year in November, for a maximum of four consecutive terms. The Committee Chairs are selected by the President and serve at the pleasure of the President. All committees welcome volunteers of all interest areas and talents. To read more about it, see Hernando Chapter Bylaws!  

In the coming year we will continue our public meetings and programs, and invite you to come along for the field trips and planting projects we enjoy so much. We hope you decide to join up, and join in! 

Officers for 2024 

Janet Grabowski, President 

TBA, Vice-President 

Bruce Vanderveen, Treasurer

Jason LaRoche, Secretary

Heather Sharkey, Chapter Representative 

Current Committee Chairs 

Janet Grabowski, Liaison, Nature Coast Botanical Garden

James Clayton, Public Events 

Eugene Kelly, Conservation

Mikel Renner, Membership 

Cindy Liberton, Public Relations & Media

Janet Grabowski – President

Recently retired, Janet Grabowski had been the Manager at the USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Brooksville Plant Materials Center (PMC) in Brooksville, Florida since May of 2005. She began her career with the agency in 1991, where she worked as a Biologist and Research Agronomist at the Jamie L. Whitten PMC in Coffeeville, Mississippi. During her tenure with NRCS, she gained extensive experience in native seed production and plant restoration methods. Janet has BS and MS degrees in Horticulture from the University of Illinois.

Kelly Ostrenga – Past Vice President, new appointment pending

Kelly has been a faithful volunteer at the Florida Native Plant Demonstration Garden at the Nature Coast Botanical Garden. Unfortunately, she's moved to Montana! Thanks so much for all you've done for us Kelly!

Vince Morris – Past President

I am proud to be a founding member of the Hernando Chapter which got rolling the year of my daughter's birth, 1999. Here in Hernando County we've got it all – sandhills, coastal marshes, and all the other landscapes of the Brooksville Ridge. For several years I served on the Hernando County Sensitive Lands Advisory Committee on behalf of Forestry; I was an Ecologist with the Florida Forest Service for many years before recently becoming a Supervisor. You may have heard about our success in managing the Croom tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest for red-cockaded woodpeckers, and our success in establishing them in our forest. I'm also engaged in controlling all of the invasive exotic plant invaders that have made their way into our public lands.  

Jason LaRoche – Secretary

I have now been a member of the Hernando Chapter for many years, and have now returned to my role as board secretary for our Chapter. I live in Shady Hills area of Spring Hill with numerous misfit animals. I am a Florida native (like my plants) who grew up in Hudson with my folks and three brothers. My mother is mostly to credit for instilling my love and appreciation for gardening and nature from an early age. Growing up, I spent countless hours out in the Florida woods with my family and friends but only later realized how fragile and precious natural Florida was. I ultimately decided to steer my life and career towards natural sciences to try and protect our natural resources and environment. Being a member of FNPS, and especially this chapter, has proven to be a perfect vehicle for my ambitions as a steward of natural Florida as well as my long-time love of plants.

Don Brown – Treasurer

Long-time member Don Brown is a man with skills. As a residential building contractor, his knowledge has come in very handy, especially with hands-on projects such as tree removal. He now brings his expertise in business management to our Treasurer position. Don grew up in Florida, and has a deep appreciation of all of its assets and challenges.  

Bruce Vanderveen 

Bruce will be taking over for Don in January and brings accounting skills to the task at hand in addition to a wide range of botanical knowledge. In fact, he earned a Masters Degree in Plant Biology (1973) from the University of South Dakota, Bruce is also known for his love of nature, macro photography and alternative fuel vehicles. 

Heather Sharkey - Chapter Representative

Out in nature is where Heather wants to be. An artist and rock climber, a period costume designer and friend to all, she brings a get-it-done attitude to the Hernando Chapter. In addition to serving as Chapter Representative to the Society, Heather volunteers at the Nature Coast Botanical Garden and on all field trips. Heather Sharkey works for the Florida Forest Service eradicating invasive exotic plant species from our forests.