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HeartLands Conservancy announces new president/CEO and COO


From Illinois Business Journal news services

HeartLands Conservancy, a nonprofit that invests in the nature of Southwestern Illinois, today announced the selection of Judith V. Nelson as its next president and chief executive officer.

nelson judyNelson (left) will become the second president of the 27-year-old organization. Nelson brings to the position extensive background in management, partnership building and financial management in Southwestern Illinois.

“I am extremely happy that Judy will be leading HeartLands Conservancy as we continue our important work in land conservation and community greening,” said Robert J. Hilgenbrink, board chairman for HeartLands Conservancy. “She is an outstanding choice, and I am tremendously pleased to know that the organization’s leadership will be in her capable hands.”

Prior to joining HeartLands Conservancy, Nelson owned and operated Management Services, Inc., where she focused on personnel and policy development, civil rights compliance, organizational analysis, and marketing campaigns since 1988. Previously she served as chief deputy and interim circuit clerk of the 3rd Judicial Circuit Court, Madison County. Nelson also serves as the executive director of the Southwestern Illinois Council of Mayors.

Nelson holds a bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in government, from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, and is a certified Master Gardener. She serves as the board secretary on several nonprofit boards, including the Henry White Experimental Farm Foundation Board.

New Chief Operating Officer Mary Vandevord brings extensive experience in managing community and environmental programs. Vandevord will oversee the advancement of the organization’s three program areas: Building Greener Communities, Conservation of Open Space, and Engaging People with Nature.

Vandevord moved from her position as community and environmental planner, which she held since 2014. As a planner, she had the responsibility of overseeing urban and environmental planning projects, grants, and contracts. Prior to joining HeartLands Conservancy, Vandevord worked as a senior planner for the city of Scottsdale, Ariz., where she managed long-range community planning efforts, including the city’s comprehensive plan. She previously worked for other cities, consulting firms, and nonprofits throughout the Midwest.

Vandevord holds a master’s degree in regional and city planning from the University of Oklahoma, is a certified planner by the American Institute of Certified Planners, and is a LEED Accredited Professional for Neighborhood Development by the US Green Building Council. She is also an alumnus of Edwardsville High School.

About Heartlands Conservancy

Established in 1989, HeartLands Conservancy is the oldest and largest nonprofit environmental organization serving southwestern Illinois. The organization works in partnership with landowners and communities to achieve its mission of providing leadership and solutions to sustain and enrich the diverse environmental resources of Southwestern Illinois.

For more information about HeartLands Conservancy visit or email

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