Headwaters Inc. is a non-profit community watershed organization in Letcher County, Kentucky. In response to water-quality concerns, community members formed Headwaters in 2005 to promote local water resource management and encourage stewardship of Letcher County waterways. After incorporation, Headwaters gained 501(c)3 nonprofit status in 2008. Since the founding of the organization, Headwaters has been led by an operating board of professionals from various parts of the county.
As a grassroots organization, our mission is to improve the watersheds in Letcher County through community education, access to timely and accurate water-quality information, and stewardship of local waterways.
We value a sustainable community who’s members are respectful, are knowledgeable and support:
– A healthy environment and economy through community determination and commitment to a strong work ethic.
– Empowerment through public access to accurate information.
– Honesty, integrity, and engagement among community members and our representatives for the betterment of our county.
We envision a community where members are committed to and take responsibility for clean water and a desirable environment necessary for a thriving and diverse economy based in responsible business and local investment.
– Developing and implementing a Watershed Based Plan. Through funding from the USA EPA and Kentucky Division of Water under section 319(h) of the Clean Water Plan, Headwaters is working to prepare a comprehensive plan to reduce nonpoint source pollution in the Whitesburg watershed. Addressing water quality in the Crafts Colly, Sandlick, and Dry Fork waterways, three tributaries of the Kentucky River, our work will directly impact water quality in the North Fork of the Kentucky River, effecting both Letcher County communities and our neighbors downstream. Headwaters is engaged in gathering data to identify current and potential problems in the watershed, researching and proposing best management practices to improve water quality, working with area residents to select the solutions that work best within our community, and collaborating with local government and partner organizations to implement those solutions.
– Community driven tap water testing. Partnering with the University of Kentucky’s Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences, Headwaters offers free tap water testing to home owners and renters. We test for a variety of common contaminants, including bacteria, lead, and disinfection byproducts.
– Stream water sampling and stream clean ups. Partnering with Kentucky River Watershed Watch, we work with local volunteers to monitor water quality in the North Fork of the Kentucky River through water sampling events held throughout the water. We also sponsor multiple stream clean ups a year throughout Letcher County.
– Community education. We hold Headwaters on the Creek each summer, providing a week of hands on, in-depth education on ecology, water stewardship, and environmental science to local youth. Over the school year, we work with Letcher County 4-H and Letcher County public schools to facilitate water education inside and outside the classroom
– Facilitating partnerships among volunteers of the Kentucky River Watershed Watch, Big Sandy Watershed Watch, Upper Cumberland Watershed Watch, students of the local high school, community members and leaders, and governmental officials of Letcher County.
Who We Are
Evan Smith, Co-President
Evan helped form Headwaters while serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Letcher County: Head of Three Rivers project. Evan previously worked as an attorney at Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center in Whitesburg, KY where he represented coal miners and their families in black lung and mine safety cases. He also advocated for policy in the Coalfields as well as broader issues of economic transition in Central Appalachia. He currently works for Appalachian Research and Defense Fund as the Director of Advocacy.
Mimi Pickering is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and Director of the Appalshop Community Media Initiative. As CMI Director, Pickering leads Making Connections News, a multi-media collaboration with WMMT-FM exploring sustainable and just economic options for renewing Appalachia, and is a team leader for All Access EKY, a youth media initiative to increase access to the full range of reproductive health services in Eastern Kentucky.
Roy is a 67 year old retired forensic engineer who has served on the boards of Headwaters, the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust, the Pine Mountain Settlement School, and the Pine Mountain Trail Conference. His hobbies include music and travel.
Tom Sexton is a former Headwaters AmeriCorps VISTA who now works as the Eastern Kentucky Organizing Representative for the Cumberland Chapter of Sierra Club.
Ron Brunty is a college counselor/instructor with 33 years’ experience in academic leadership, counseling and classroom teaching. During this period, Ron has been a leader/member of the Letcher County Conservation District. Within the last thirty years, his accomplishments are numerous. Ron is the chair of the district and serves on the KACD Forestry committee. He has overseen multiple federal grants including a $400,000 EPA Brownfield Grant. He served on the Kentucky Environmental Quality Commission. He is serving in his second term on the Kentucky Agriculture Water Quality Authority. He has held advisory appointments or project membership on the local, regional and state level with such groups are UK Extension Service, Headwaters, Inc., KFB, KACD district 9 director, EKU Lilly Cornett Woods, KACD federal legislative team and the Leather Central High School Career Pathways Development team.
Ron is no stranger to community service. He was just elected President-Elect for the local chapter of Rotary. He has assisted in multiple groups in such events as youth fishing & hunting days, environmental camps, Upward Bound program, local literacy and drop-out re-entry programs, Operation Unite, and multiple youth-based sports/academic organizations.
Ron is a resident of Letcher, Kentucky. He holds degrees from Alice Lloyd College and Morehead State University. Ron is blessed to be married to Helen Brunty. Together they have one son, Cameron, who now serves this great state as a civil engineer in Frankfort, KY.
Hilary is the Development Director at Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, which is a nonprofit law firm based in Whitesburg, KY. Previously, she spent spent several years working in Tennessee and Mississippi to increase food access at farmers markets. In Kentucky, Hilary co-managed the Letcher County Farmers Market and developed Mountain Garden Initiative, a school garden program in Southeast Kentucky. Hilary received a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Oberlin College, where she became a Dalai Lama Fellow and a Creativity and Leadership Fellow. She joined the Headwaters Board in 2019.
Jennifer Honeycutt, Co-President
Herb E. Smith