Coming off of a hike in the Tahoe Meadows with two Tahoe Fund board members, a donor and four dogs, Amy Berry radiates the Lake Tahoe summer lifestyle in shorts, a Lake Tahoe T-shirt and baseball cap.
“It’s nice to go out and enjoy Tahoe because we’re all working so hard to preserve it,” Berry says.
Amy and her daughter Gracie riding on the Flume Trail. | Courtesy Amy Berry
So how did Tahoe Fund chief executive officer Amy Berry get introduced to this amazing place where she’s managed to make such an impact?
“Thirteen years ago I was living in New York City with my ex-husband and his family had a home here,” Berry says. “I thought this place was incredible. We did the junior corporate executive thing in our 20s and just worked all the time.”
In March 2003, they decided to get out of the fast-paced New York City environment and move to the Reno-Tahoe area.
“No one ends up in Lake Tahoe by accident; you have to choose to be here.
There are interesting people here with a lot of generosity.”
Berry soon started working for an ad agency in Reno that kept a tight budget.
“There was not a lot of money to spend, so we had to be resourceful. At that time, if there was 50 cents left over, they wanted it back,” she says.
While living in South Reno, a job opportunity popped up at Windspire Energy (formerly called Mariah Power), a company that produced vertical wind turbines. With a new, renewable energy source in the market, Berry used her communication skills to gain attention about the vertical wind turbines and managed to establish herself as an influencer in green innovations.
Amy and a group of people at the Sand Harbor bike path project groundbreaking in August 2016. | Courtesy Amy Berry
She was soon recruited to a bigger company based in Chicago to work on large-scale wind and solar projects and was constantly traveling back and forth between Tahoe and the Midwest.
“I was always in Chicago on powder days,” she says.
Longing for her Tahoe winters back and powder days, she caught word that the Tahoe Fund was being formed because public agencies were tapped out on monies and needed the private entity to help preserve the lake.
It raised more than $500,000 within its first year from private funds.
“Giving to the Tahoe Fund is a way to cement your connection with Lake Tahoe and is a great way to leave a legacy,” says Berry.
Although she dabbled here and there in nonprofits, she put in her resume and found herself in a room being interviewed by a 10-person panel. In 2012, she secured the position as the Tahoe Fund’s CEO.
“Their mission always made sense to me,” Berry says. She added that founding members Cory Ritchie, Patrick Wright, Cindy Gustafson and Art Chapman started the organization to inspire the community to become engaged in the preservation of the lake.
“It’s incredible to work with a board of directors of that caliber,” Berry says. “You wonder when you get a bunch of rock stars in a room together how that’s going to turn out, but it’s amazing how they work together. I will give them a lot of credit for organizing a collaboration at that level.”
As CEO of the Tahoe Fund, Berry enjoys the challenge of getting people to understand complex projects that serve the greater good. She says that the Tahoe Fund chooses to support projects that avoid conflict and controversy as they quietly raise funds.
“I’m an eternal optimist, probably to my own demise,” Berry says. “I get a vision in my mind and see it so clearly.” She says that her attitude of doggedly continuing and never giving up sometimes causes the board to have to reel her in.
“They say, ‘Don’t get scope creep’ and it may be a great project but Tahoe Fund can’t do everything,” she says.
When asked about her favorite thing about Lake Tahoe, she takes a long pause: “Being outside. I know that sounds generic, but I love climbing a steep mountain, getting that ability to connect.”
Berry says that she is still always in awe by the lake and continues to stop on the side of the road to take pictures of it. She also feels that it takes a special kind of person to earn a living here.
“No one ends up in Lake Tahoe by accident; you have to choose to be here. There are interesting people here with a lot of generosity. I’m lucky to be the conduit. It’s like President Obama says, we do this work because it nurtures and restores our soul, and I sincerely thank the Tahoe Fund board for taking a chance on me.”
In my opinion, the feeling is mutual: Lake Tahoe is lucky to have an Amy Berry.
For more information, visit tahoefund.org.