Board of Directors
Julie Sirek (Board Chair)
Julie is currently an executive at a software consulting company overseeing all internal operations. She has almost 20 years of experience in the areas of Human Resources, Recruiting and Operations spanning multiple industries including technology, advertising and medical device. Julie brings her expertise in HR and Recruiting to TWS to further support the mission and vision of the Sanctuary.
Julie holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Melissa Cross (Treasurer)
Melissa is employed in the financial services industry as in-house counsel and has served on multiple committees in that capacity, including regulatory compliance, human resources, and enterprise risk management.
Melissa earned a B.A. in political science and psychology from Minnesota State University-Moorhead, a J.D. from the University of South Carolina, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas.
Christine is a licensed attorney and has significant experience representing clients in trial and appellate courts, administrative boards, and mediation venues. She currently works as in-house counsel in the healthcare industry, providing strategic advice on risk management and dispute resolution.
Christine earned a B.A. in political science from St. Olaf College and her J.D. from William Mitchell College of Law.
Christine Coughlin (Board Secretary)
Christine has been active in the field of animal protection for nearly two decades and is the Minnesota State Director for The Humane Society of the United States. She brings extensive experience in policy, organizing, and coalitions and has worked with allies to pass many pieces of state and local animal protection legislation. Christine has served on animal welfare policy task forces for the City of Minneapolis, initiated the biannual publication of MN’s Humane Scorecard, and founded Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection, serving as executive director until 2014.
She is the recipient of the 2017 Kenny Feldman Animal Advocate Award and is currently serving on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Wolf Plan Advisory Committee. Christine has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the State University of New York at Purchase.
Barb is a small business consultant with over 30 years’ experience in nonprofits, small business, higher education and working with entrepreneurs. Her personal business startups include retail, founder and Executive Director of a nonprofit supporting sustainable gardening and landscaping education, commercial property management, and business consulting. A highlight of Barb’s cat passions was her feral cat rescues, most pregnant. She worked to ensure their health was optimized, integrated socialization skills, and placed in their forever homes. Barb brings her focus in leadership and operations; and passion for protection of cats, domestic and wild, to support The Wildcat Sanctuary.
Barb earned her Executive MBA and MBA in Nonprofit Management from the University of St. Thomas.
Reese has been the County Attorney for Pine County, Minnesota, since 2015. Reese has over 15 years of experience as an attorney. He is passionate about animal welfare law. Reese is the co-author of the Animal Cruelty chapter for the Minnesota Judges Criminal Benchbook, and has taught prosecutors, law enforcement, humane agents and veterinarians around the nation how to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty cases.
Reese earned a B.S. in mathematics and computer science from the University of Minnesota Duluth, a M.B.A. from the University of New Mexico, and a J.D. from Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
Kathy has more than two decades of experience in both corporate and nonprofit leadership positions and brings a unique mix of business, legal, public affairs, nonprofit and senior management experience to her role at TWS.
Kathy previously served as the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Public and Health Affairs for Blue Cross Blue Shield of MN and as the Chief Government Affairs and Community Engagement Officer at the Animal Humane Society. She currently works as a senior consultant in the animal welfare and healthcare fields.
Kathy has a BA from the College of St. Benedict’s and a JD from William Mitchell College of Law.
Interested in a board position with us? Learn more HERE.
Tammy Thies (TWS Executive Director, non-voting Board member)
As the Executive Director and Founder of The Wildcat Sanctuary, Tammy Thies created TWS as a non-profit, big cat rescue with the goal of providing a natural sanctuary to wildcats that cannot live in the wild. Combining natural and spacious habitats with excellent care and a comfortable life free of exhibition, TWS allows all residents to live wild at heart.
With a marketing and journalism degree from the University of St. Thomas, Tammy was a full-time advertising professional who became aware of the need for such a facility through her exposure to big cats during photo shoots and advertising campaigns. Tammy learned that throughout the United States, tens of thousands of big cats are privately owned as pets, and used as performers or for-profit breeding.
A leading spokesperson and expert witness for the big cat crisis and protection nationally, Tammy and other TWS staff work with governmental agencies and private organizations to strengthen regulations protecting the welfare of big cats in captivity.