Organizing Committee

An Organizing Committee of 12 local journalists and community leaders (below) have
established the Miami News Trust to operate the Spotlight as an independent nonprofit news
organization, guide its growth and ensure its sustainability.

Elena V. Carpenter is a marketer, writer, and editor. Former publisher and managing editor of the Coconut Grove Times, Brickell Post, South Miami Times and Miami Monthly Magazine, a city regional focused on politics, community and environmental issues from a hyper-local to a countywide perspective. Her career has involved contributions in over 20 Board of Director positions including Bayfront Park Management Trust, Coconut Grove Playhouse, Arts Festival, Business Improvement Committee, Chamber of Commerce, Dade Heritage Trust, and most recently as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of Florida Memorial University. Currently Elena serves as a consultant in strategic corporate restructuring, brand expansion and market positioning, as well as a writer and editor.

Marlene Erven, a 35-year Coconut Grove resident, is an accomplished not-for-profit management leader and consultant with a focus on crisis management, mergers, and acquisitions. She currently serves as President of NFP Solutions and is the President of the Coconut Grove Park Homeowners Association. She is also former President the Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove.  She actively volunteers in local groups and advocates passionately for her community in civic issues and quality of life concerns.  She is also a board-certified Health Coach and possesses a Bachelor of Science in Professional Administration from Barry University.

Dr. Ruth Ewing is a veterinary pathologist and a Veterinary Medical Officer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service where she coordinates and conducts pathological and epidemiological investigations of marine mammal stranding events throughout the Southeastern U.S. Her research informs management and conservation decisions in support of the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, and other applicable laws and regulations. A past member of the Coconut Grove Village Council, Ruth is active in myriad nonprofit community support organizations including the Elizabeth Virrick Park Committee Inc, Grove Rights and Community Equity, Inc, and Armour Dance Theatre. She is a graduate of Hampton University (B.S. in Marine and Environmental Sciences) and the University of Florida, where she received a doctorate in veterinary medicine.

Patrick Farrell is a Miami native and Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who worked for 32 years at the Miami Herald, where he covered issues in South Florida and the United States, as well as Cuba, Haiti, Turkey and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. His images from a brutal hurricane season in Haiti in 2009 won the Pulitzer for Breaking News Photography; he also was part of the Herald staff that won the 1993 Pulitzer for Public Service for coverage of Hurricane Andrew and was on a team whose work on a multi-media immigration project received the 2016 Edward R. Murrow Award. He currently is a lecturer for the School of Communication at the University of Miami, his alma mater. He and his wife, Jodi Mailander Farrell, have lived since 1997 in Coconut Grove, where they raised their two daughters.

Marcelo Fernandes is a state licensed certified general contractor and a licensed real-estate broker managing the family-owned brokerage firm Grove Properties, specializing in the luxury single-family home market. A member of the Board of Trustees of Miami Waterkeeper, Marcelo is a past president of Coconut Grove Village Council and is active in myriad civic issues and causes. Marcelo is a graduate of Ransom Everglades School and Washington and Lee University where he received a BA degree in Computer Science and English. An avid sailor, he has lived in Coral Gables/Coconut Grove area since 1970.

Don Finefrock is a former journalist and nonprofit manager who has lived in Coconut Grove for 36 years. Don moved to Miami in 1987 to become a Florida business writer for United Press International covering the demise of Eastern Airlines. He later spent 10 years as a reporter at the Miami Herald covering business, government and politics, including two years as a lead reporter on the newspaper’s Hurricane Andrew team, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for public service. After leaving the Herald, Don spent three years investigating public corruption and misconduct at the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust before joining the National Park Foundation to lead its affiliate, the South Florida National Parks Trust. Don served as executive director of the Trust for 15 years before retiring in 2019. Don is a graduate of Denison University and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Don is a swimmer, a gardener, and a paddler who has twice completed the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway Trail in Everglades National Park.

W. Tucker Gibbs is an attorney specializing in zoning, environmental and land use, and local government. He is a former City attorney for the City of Coral Springs. A lifelong Coconut Grove resident, Tucker is a past president of both the Coconut Grove Civic Club and the Coconut Grove Village Council. He is a graduate of Ransom Everglades School, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Miami School of Law.

Amanda Harford Ponce, a Coconut Grove resident, brings over a decade of rich media experience, driven by her fervent dedication to storytelling and community empowerment. Currently at the helm of El Clarin, a cherished local newspaper in Babahoyo, Ecuador, founded by her grandfather, Amanda embodies a deep commitment to preserving heritage while embracing innovation. Her unwavering belief in journalism as a catalyst for unity and progress underscores her professional journey. Holding a comprehensive degree from The New School in Journalism, Design, and Theater, Amanda has navigated a dynamic career path spanning film, television, scripted, and documentary productions, amplifying her impact across various media landscapes while championing journalistic endeavors.

Mel Meinhardt is a retired executive who now applies his experience in business and strategy to serve neighbors.  Mel began his career in public service as an officer aboard submarines in the Arctic and later as a strategist and technology manager for the CIA.  He held senior strategy roles at major corporations (Westinghouse, Tyco) before leading investments for New York-based asset management firms.  Mel is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and the Wharton School of Business.  He served as a national trustee of the USNA Alumni Association and officer in several civic-building organizations. 

Hank Sanchez-Resnik, also known as Hank Resnik, started his career in journalism in New York City after graduating in English from Yale. As a free-lance writer, he wrote for The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Village Voice, and other publications. He and his wife, Lucienne, moved to San Francisco when he took a senior editor position with Saturday Review. They settled in Berkeley, where they lived for nearly four decades. While in the Bay Area, Hank contributed to The San Francisco Chronicle and edited both the Berkeley Insider magazine and the weekly Berkeley Voice newspaper. They relocated to Miami in 2005, where Hank continued working as a freelance writer and editor. A dedicated advocate of bicycling and livable cities, Hank was elected to the Coconut Grove Village Council in 2017. Under the Council’s auspices, in February 2020, Hank started the Coconut Grove Spotlight, an online newsletter focused on Coconut Grove. The Spotlight became an independent nonprofit in November 2020. Hank continues to write, edit, and publish the Spotlight, working closely with others who are committed to informing and engaging the public in the continuing evolution of Coconut Grove. 

Charles Strouse, assistant director of the Lee Caplin School of Journalism and Media at Florida International University, brings a wealth of experience in multimedia journalism and an appreciation of South Florida to the student-staffed South Florida Media Network and the classroom. He has worked at the Miami Herald, South Florida Sun Sentinel, Los Angeles Times and – for two decades – at Miami New Times and New Times Broward Palm Beach as editor-in-chief. He is fluent in Spanish and Russian, with an honors degree in Russian Studies from Brown University and a Masters in Spanish-Language Journalism from FIU. Strouse has been a Knight International Press Fellow in Albania and consulted for non-profit media groups across the former Soviet Union on founding a free press. He has reported from two dozen countries and spent eight years on the board of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN).

David Villano has been a Miami-based writer and journalist for nearly four decades, contributing, on a wide range of subjects, to more than 50 local and national publications including The Miami Herald, The Sun Sentinel, Miami New Times, Florida Trend, Newsweek, Pacific Standard, Utne Reader, and the Columbia Journalism Review. He has received awards from the Florida Press Club, Florida Press Association, Florida Magazine Association, Florida Bar Association, the Alliance of Area Business Publishers, and the Society of Professional Journalists. He is also a youth soccer coach and is co-founder of the civic engagement group Grove 2030. He is a graduate of Ransom Everglades School, the University of Miami (B.A. in Religion) and the University of Florida (M.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication). He has been a Coconut Grove resident for more than 50 years.

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