Staff

Ilyssa Manspeizer, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Ilyssa Manspeizer is an anthropologist with 30 years of experience working in community-based development and natural resource conservation. Formerly the Executive Director of the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation, she has also managed programs and conducted research on conservation and community development in the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Zambia, and the United States.  Ilyssa has a wide diversity of experience, including managing and administering non-profits, raising funding for community investment, enhancing community-centric development strategies, developing urban parks, conserving and monitoring African elephants, and evaluating rural African community development programs.

Ilyssa directed the award-winning Emerald View Park initiative for the MWCDC for 7 years, working closely with the community to build Pittsburgh’s newest regional park on 260 acres of formerly mined, denuded and dumped on land on the steep slopes of Pittsburgh’s Mount Washington neighborhood.  Under her direction, the organization raised more than $3 million in investments in the Park, resulting in the creation of a 20 mile trail plan and 10 miles of trails, the creation of the Emerald Trail Corps, the restoration of Mount Washington’s priceless view corridor, the removal of over 300,000 pounds of dumped garbage, the planting of more than 5,000 trees, and the creation of a treasured Park on land once thought to have no intrinsic value.

Ilyssa has a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Binghamton University (State University of New York), an M.Sc. in Nature Conservation from University College London, and a B.S. in Environmental Science from Cook College, Rutgers University.

Ilyssa and her husband Brian have called Pittsburgh home since 2006 and are grateful to have raised their four children here. Ilyssa also serves on the Board of Jewish Family & Community Services. When she’s not at work, with her family, or volunteering, you can find Ilyssa running the woodland trails in Frick Park.

Thomas Guentner

Director of Land Stewardship

Thomas Guentner brings a decade’s worth of leadership experience with equal experience as a trail builder to the Landforce management team. Thomas received a BS from Slippery Rock University for studies focused on Public Relations and Sociology. He has worked as a court appointed advocate for Children and Youth Services and as a direct care worker specializing in independent and transitional living for teens aging out of the system before beginning a tenure with the Student Conservation Association as a crew leader and environmental educator.

Thomas was able to hone his project management and leadership skills as the manager of the Emerald Trail Corps workforce development program for the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation where he assisted in the development of Emerald View Park, Pittsburgh’s newest regional park, employing close to 50 adults with barriers to long term employment. Thomas has completed training workshops in trail building and design through the Professional Trailbuilders Association and in sustainable land care through the Phipps Conservatory. He is also certified in Soren Eriksson’s Game of Logging, the National Green Infrastructure Certification Program, and as a Pesticide/ Herbicide Applicator. Thomas has represented Landforce at numerous conferences, including: City Parks Alliance Greater and Greener Conference, PA Greenway and Trails Summit, Pennsylvania Parks and Recreation Society, American Society of Civil Engineers Sustainability Conference on Green Cities, and Institute for Sustainable Communities’ Peer Learning Workshop. His presentations range have included: workforce development in urban spaces, stormwater management through green infrastructure, trail and greenspace development, and building collaborative workforce programming. Thomas also sat on the Technical Advisory Committee for Pennsylvania’s State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan for 2020-2024.

Thomas has entrepreneurial experience as a former small business owner as well as a creative background as a writer and musician. Restless by nature, when he is not curating his record collection, playing music, playing ice hockey, or making pizza and pierogies by hand, Thomas can usually be found somewhere in the woods with his partner Kira and their loyal adventurer, Bear Bear von Bearenstien, the Duchess of Houndoggia.

Tiffany Mrotek, MSW

Workforce Development Director

Tiffany Mrotek, MSW, is the Director of Workforce Development at Landforce. She received her Master’s in Social Work degree focusing on Community, Organization, and Social Action from the University of Pittsburgh in May 2016. During her graduate program, she had the opportunity to work for the YMCA, Hill Community Development Corporation, and The Heinz Endowments.

Tiffany is originally from Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas and spent over four years working on training development in suicide prevention. She organized and facilitated large-scale webinars with key researchers and developed and revised suicide prevention curricula for various audiences. Tiffany also spent a year in a remote part of Ghana working on a dry season sustainable farming initiative, teaching at an education center, and coordinating bicycle deliveries and workshops.

At Landforce, Tiffany developed our unique and dynamic workforce development program and served as our first Workforce Development Manager in 2016. She designed the training curriculum and created key partnerships with employers and other workforce development organizations to successfully support and prepare Crew Members for the workforce. 

When Tiffany isn’t at Landforce, she is with her husband Andrew, son Porter, and pup Moxie taking long walks around the city or spending quality time at home. She also teaches and practices yoga and tries to incorporate mindfulness into everything she does.

Jasimine Cooper

Work Readiness Manager

Jasimine A.M. Cooper is a native of Pittsburgh, PA. The youngest of seven siblings, Jasimine has always felt the desire to work in the helping capacity. Experiencing the highs and lows of growing up with a single parent in the inner city, Jasimine’s passion to help people who need it most was ignited at a very young age.

Jasimine attended Edinboro University of PA, and graduated with a B.A. in Criminal Justice. At Edinboro she learned that social service is one of the most important aspects of criminal justice. Jasimine began her career in the social service field and has held positions as a Caseworker, Direct Service Worker, Lead Trainer and a Manager in the nonprofit sector. She brings nearly 15 years of front line work experience to Landforce. Staying actively involved in the care and concern of inner city youth, Jasimine also sits on the board of directors for G.O. Girls, a non-profit agency that helps youth who are aging out of the foster care system.

During Jasimine’s free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, is actively involved in the Pittsburgh Alumnae Chapter of her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., volunteering throughout the city, and being outdoors.

Shawn Taylor

Site Supervisor, Construction Specialist

Shawn Taylor was one of the Emerald Trail Corps’ original members, joining in 2011, and being promoted to Crew Leader in 2012. With nearly 10 years of trail construction, environmental stewardship, and leadership experience, Shawn has guided the hand-construction of over 20 miles of woodland trail in the southwestern Pennsylvania area, including Pittsburgh’s newest regional asset, Emerald View Park.

A graduate of South Vocational Tech High school, with knowledge in outdoor power equipment technology small engine mechanics Shawn provides technical know-how and vision to each project he has worked on. Shawn is a certified Tree Tender and has participated in several trail building and design workshops through the Professional Trailbuilders Association. Shawn completed his National Green Infrastructure Certification Program training in 2018 as well as the Sorren Eriksson Game of Logging training classes, and in 2019 Shawn successfully completed the Phipps Sustainable Land Care course. His motivation for success and leadership began with his participation in the A. Philip Randolph Institute and extended to his time as a Grounded intern working on sunflower harvesting for Biofuel use and community outreach. Shawn is a self taught small machine operator with experience on skid steers, dozers, and small excavators. 

Shawn enjoys working outdoors and providing a sense of brotherhood among his team. From work to recreation he enjoys all things outdoors. He also enjoys cooking and home DIY projects as hobbies. Shawn is a perfectionist who has an eye for detail and takes immense pride in his work.

John Jones

Site Supervisor, Horticulture Specialist

John Jones is a Site Supervisor at Landforce where he leads and inspires crews on the work site and in the classroom. He started his environmental career as a Landforce Crew Member in 2016 and provides a valuable perspective to the staff.  John specializes in trail drainage mitigation through rock work and has participated in the design and construction of several rock inlay features in Emerald View Park, Dead Man’s Hollow, and Southside Park. John is certified in National Green Infrastructure Certification Program, Sorens Eriksson’s Game of Logging, Sustainable Land Care practices, as a Tree Tender, and a Master Gardener. John is a graduate of Peabody High School and attended Slippery Rock University with a concentration in Social Work.  John tries to be an exemplary role model and leader for Landforce crews to understand the standard of what it means to be a “hard-working leader”

In his free time John enjoys writing, producing music, and playing basketball.

Tricia Dougherty

Operations & Communications Manager

Tricia joined the Landforce team in a shared role with the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association in 2018.  Prior to her work with Landforce she honed her problem solving, management, and operations skills as a legal assistant at a small law firm for five years.

She has a degree in Political Science with certificates in Women’s Studies and European Union Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. During her undergraduate program Tricia had the opportunity to work for the Women’s Law Project. 

She enjoys editing documents, organizing, and making lists. She has served on several boards including with the Garfield Land Trust, the Mayor’s LGBTQIA+ Advisory Council, and Equality Pennsylvania drafting numerous minutes, bylaws, and reports. 

In her free time she enjoys listening to podcasts, hiking, and lounging on the porch with one of our office dogs, Pandora.

Cindy Vicente, MSW

COVID-19 Engagement Coordinator

Cindy J. Vicente is a macro-minded social worker with a strong understanding of State and Federal government operations and policy. Cindy was born in Puerto Rico, but raised in Lancaster Pennsylvania.

After completing their Bachelors in Social Work at Millersville University, they attended the University of Pittsburgh for a Masters in Social Work with an emphasis on community organizations, and social action.

Cindy’s areas of expertise are HIV/AIDS education/prevention, political organizing, and community engagement while utilizing an intersectional lens in both understanding and solving social problems.

They currently live in Fairywood with their partner, dog, and cat. Cindy uses ‘they/them’ pronouns, and would love to know yours.