Get to Know Your Current Board Members
Tahoe Donner’s board of directors is the governing body of the association and is ultimately responsible for the oversight of the affairs of the organization. Made up of five unpaid volunteers, the directors are elected by the membership and serve three-year terms.
As representatives for the property owners, the directors oversee a $20 million business with real estate values of $3.2 billion. Board members are familiar with and abide by the bylaws, rules and regulations of the governing documents of the association. They participate in annual education and training and are up to date on the laws, including the Davis-Stirling Act, which went into effect in January 2014. Current board members come from a wide variety of backgrounds and represent an impressive range of professional expertise.
But who exactly are the board members? Our board is made up of people just like you. They live in Tahoe Donner either full- or part-time, they visit and enjoy our amenities, and they want only the best for our community as whole.
Don Koenes, President
Don Koenes was elected to the board in summer 2018 after more than a dozen years as a Tahoe Donner homeowner. Koenes and his wife, Denise, spend much of their time in Roseville, but stay in Tahoe Donner for about four months each year.
“Tahoe Donner has something for everyone, no matter what the season of the year or the season of your life,” Koenes says. “For me, it is a place for my family to gather, to enjoy the outdoors, to be happy together, and it is a place to make new friends.”
Koenes isn’t new to the association’s governance. He has volunteered on the General Plan Committee Task Force and sat through countless board meetings. Congestion at Tahoe Donner amenities during peak seasons convinced him to get more involved in the association, but helping maintain the community’s quality of life, safety, value proposition and family focus is where Koenes wants to make a difference.
“One person’s suggestion is another person’s criticism,” Koenes says, noting that running a $24 million business with nearly 6,500 homes isn’t a simple proposition. “Regardless, everyone has the same motivation: making Tahoe Donner better, from whatever their perspective. Perspectives range from personal enjoyment to financial concerns, from member rights to providing good guest experiences, too.
“Our amenities must be well maintained to serve our members and guests of members well, including capacity for enjoyment. And we must do all of this in a fiscally responsible manner, with broad member input. I was not a single-issue candidate, nor will I be a single-issue board member.”
Jeff Connors, TreasurerJeff Connors grew up on Long Island in a close family that consisted of six boys and two girls. As the third child, he fondly remembers living in what he calls “organized chaos” with his seven siblings, and having to negotiate through a variety of issues given the 23-year age spread of the clan. He left the roost to attend college in Minnesota, completing his degree in three years, after which he went back home to earn an MBA and a Master of Science degree at Long Island University, where he also taught in the MBA program.
While working toward his doctorate he was introduced to JP Morgan Chase, and began a 26-year journey that would lead him to live in many U.S. cities and countries worldwide.“You learn from both living in a large family and culturally different cities and societies that the world is comprised of many gray areas and differing perspectives,” Connors said. “I realized that it’s necessary to creatively develop solutions in which all parties—large and small—feel a sense of accomplishment and progress.”
Connors and his wife Tracie have three grown children and one grandchild and moved from Boston, Massachusetts to Livermore, California in 2006. The couple met while skiing in Chamonix, France, and the avid skiers and mountain lovers soon found their way to Truckee and Tahoe Donner, where they’ve had a second home for the past nine years. Early on, their focus was almost exclusively on enjoying the mountains with family and friends during weekends and holidays; like many second homeowners, their time was very limited given family demands and business commitments. Slowly, however, Connors found himself getting further involved with Tahoe Donner and saw areas in which the membership could be better served.
Summarily, it is Connors’ strong belief that the board works for the members. “It relies on a competent and knowledgeable Tahoe Donner staff that tactically executes on the board’s key goals and objectives, which should lead to an end result that exceeds member expectations,” Connors explains. In parallel with this approach, he says he holds a macro belief that Tahoe Donner—unlike the smaller, significantly more expensive gated communities—has scale with its 6,500 homes, and if properly leveraged, can always be an affordable HOA with a cast of desirable family-oriented amenities.
As stated in his candidate statement, his goals include ensuring that Tahoe Donner is focused on 1) the needs of its members, 2) managing its financial and environmental resources in an effective and efficient quality manner so that Tahoe Donner remains affordable, and 3) being a transparent association to the diverse social and economic constituencies that it serves.“I am looking forward to being part of a dynamic and involved board that ensures Tahoe Donner will continue to flourish in the years ahead.”
Michael Fajans, SecretaryMichael Fajans was recently appointed to serve the remaining seven-month term of a vacant position on the board. Fajans and his wife, Merle, have had a home in Tahoe Donner for 23 years. They have two daughters – one who also lives in Truckee and the other living in Syracuse, New York. Both daughters spent a winter working at North Lake Tahoe ski resorts and love spending time in Truckee.
Born in the UK, Fajans moved to Southern California at age 4, and has lived in Berkeley for more than 40 years. He is a retired transportation planning consultant, and loves the mix of time in the Bay Area and Tahoe Donner. Active members of the Tahoe Donner hiking and tennis clubs, he and Merle love the variety of amenities and activities available in the community. In summer, kayaking, paddleboarding and biking fill in the time when they are not hiking or playing tennis, and they play bocce ball in the Tuesday night league in TD. In winter, they enjoy both cross country and downhill skiing, and particularly love Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center (TDXC). They support the Tahoe Donner Land Trust and the Tahoe Donner Giving Fund.
Fajans says they spend most of the summer in Tahoe Donner, and come and go during other seasons. For them, joining clubs and committees is a great way to meet other members and establish a community. Prior to his appointment to the board, Fajans was an active member of the General Plan Committee (GPC) for 12 years, and was highly involved in the planning of Alder Creek Adventure Center. He designed member surveys and in recent years has been focusing on issues at the beach and working on employee housing problems.
“The combination of more members as additional houses are completed, more visitors and renters in the community, and new laws and legislative requirements puts increasing pressure on our facilities,” Fajans says. He has worked on these issues as a member of the GPC, and says the challenge is using our financial resources wisely to improve our amenities as best we can.
“Member interests have changed over time,” he says. “Cross country skiing and paddleboarding were not popular activities 50 years ago when Tahoe Donner was planned. We are fortunate that facilities and rental programs were developed to support these sports. We need to continually review the utilization of our amenities and figure out how to meet changing demand.”
Jennifer Jennings, Director
Jennifer Jennings has been a Tahoe Donner homeowner for six years, and has lived here full-time for four years. Jennings and her husband, Michael Bledsoe, bought their Tahoe Donner house after the last big winter in 2011, a house that was on the market most likely because of its challenging driveway in the winter. They survived two winters ago – barely.
Jennings is a second generation Northern Californian who was raised in Orangevale, a small community near Folsom. She graduated from the University of California, Davis with a degree in political science. She put her degree to immediate use by becoming one of the leaders of Friends of the River, at the time a new environmental organization dedicated to the preservation of California’s rivers. Testifying before Congress and lobbying the California Legislature was a baptism by fire.
As a young activist in the relatively new environmental movement, Jennings went to U.C. Berkeley law school when she grew tired of being told that the law did not protect our environment. That began a 25-year career working for environmental organizations and public agencies, plus a five-year stint in criminal law. Upon their retirement, Jennings and Bledsoe decided to leave Sacramento and make Tahoe Donner their home. They are happy that their children (20-somethings) also live in the area. You may come across their daughter, Claire, who works as a scribe in Tahoe Forest Hospital’s emergency room, and their son, Charlie, who is a ski patroller at Mt. Rose as well as a river guide.
Jennings and her husband take advantage of most everything Tahoe Donner has to offer. "We especially enjoy hiking the Tahoe Donner trails and skiing into the Euer Valley," Jennings said. "We are frequent users of the gym at Trout Creek. We feel fortunate to live here."
Ever the activist, Jennings’ love of Tahoe Donner and her community spirit drove her to run for the board. “I respect what has been achieved here and I want to be part of making it better. We need to focus on the members’ priorities for Tahoe Donner,” Jennings explains. “There is much talent, knowledge and experience in the membership; the association needs to tap that resource more. Tahoe Donner needs to be more effective and timely in communicating with the membership – soliciting input during every step of the decision-making process.”
Jennings also wants Tahoe Donner to become more engaged with the broader Truckee community. Until her election to the board, Jennings served on the the Tahoe Donner Giving Fund, the committee focused on that mission. The Giving Fund provides scholarships to needy students and grants to community organizations.
“I helped review the students’ scholarship applications; it was at once heartbreaking and inspiring. There is so much need and so much potential in our local young people,” Jennings said, urging fellow members to consider donating and supporting the Giving Fund’s annual events.
Suzy Knisley, Director
Suzan (Suzy) Knisley was appointed to the board in December 2018 to fill a temporary vacancy, bringing valuable experience and enthusiasm to the position. Knisley has been a Tahoe Donner homeowner and member for more than 36 years. She previously served on The General Plan Committee (GPC) and was elected to the Tahoe Donner Board of Directors for two consecutive terms, serving as President of the Board twice.
“I helped identify the need to purchase the Euer Valley at a critical point when the owner was looking to sell the land,” Knisley says. “I led the campaign to purchase the land, without which Tahoe Donner would have lost a significant portion of our cross country ski, equestrian, hiking and biking trails. I was proud to sign the land purchase agreement for the Euer Valley as president of the Tahoe Donner Board of Directors.”
During her tenure on the board, Knisley also supported the purchase of the McGlashan Acreage, the upgrading of all association signage, significant operational changes at The Lodge and a training program for board members to ensure their familiarity with the Davis Sterling Act, which regulates HOAs. In her new position, she intends maintain Tahoe Donner’s amenities and open space, and to expand the associations fire prevention and reforestation efforts.
“I think it’s important that I carry the knowledge of some of the Tahoe Donner history that is relevant today as we move forward in the future,” Knisley says. “I look forward to helping members continue their peaceful enjoyment of our community in a fire-safe environment.”Suzy graduated with a BA from the University of California, San Diego and also majored in Journalism at the University of Oregon. She retired from Georgia Pacific Corp as the Sales Promotion Manager, Western States.