Friends of Virgin Islands National Park Hires New President

Honeymoon and Hawksnest beaches at Virgin Islands National Park, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. (National Park Service photo)
Honeymoon and Hawksnest beaches at Virgin Islands National Park, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. (National Park Service photo)

The Friends of Virgin Islands National Park on St. John announced it has selected Todd Sampsell to be its new president. Sampsell will be coming on board in early January 2019 and the current president, Joe Kessler, will retire shortly thereafter following a thorough turnover. Kessler has successfully led the Friends organization for 17 years.

The Friends chose Sampsell based on his solid work experience in the field of non-profit conservation and government environmental projects. He currently lives in the mountains of Missouri, where he has done extensive conservation work on watersheds and fresh water conservation, both as state director of The Nature Conservancy for Missouri and deputy director of conservation in the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

His experience in fundraising, strategic planning, conservation and establishing partnerships between the private sector and government made him the best choice. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Science in Biology from California University of Pennsylvania. This year will mark the Friends 30th anniversary as an organization, a fitting time to put new leadership in place to enter a new era of conservation and protection of Virgin Islands National Park. After two destructive Category 5 hurricanes, the territory’s land-based natural resources are stressed, its reefs are damaged, its cultural artifact museum was destroyed and the community is struggling. However, the spirit, resilience and determination are stronger than ever. The Friends has a talented staff, a strong foundation and a commitment to assist the park in any way it can to preserve, protect and promote the National Park for both visitors and local residents.

Joe Kessler’s leadership and vision are evident because of The Friends many successful projects, programs and fundraising campaigns. He has built the organization into one of the most accomplished Friends organizations in the United States and Territories, as recognized by the national Friends Alliance. He has grown the organization from a small group of supportive devotees into a membership of thousands, drawing upon all who have visited the park over his 17 years at the helm.

For questions or comments, contact Tonia Lovejoy, development director, at or 779-4949.