Introducing PEC’s New Board Chair and Leadership Team

Jean Perin and George Ohrstrom led The Piedmont Environmental Council, as board co-chairs, with great humility, care and passion for 10 years. In January, they turned the reins over to David Aldrich and a new board leadership team of Leslie Cockburn, Chris McLean and Margrete Stevens.

“With courage to back our efforts as a staff in the face of reluctance, skepticism, and often Goliath-sized challenges, Jeannie and George have shaped PEC’s vision and provided the support we’ve needed to bring good ideas to fruition. “Collectively, our new board officers exemplify the depth of the board as a whole. Each brings a range of experiences as landowners, community leaders and professionals in their fields, all of which will capably advance PEC’s mission and vision,” said PEC President Chris Miller.

David Aldrich is PEC’s new board chair. He, his wife Jennifer, and their two children have called Rappahannock County home for 19 years. The Virginia countryside first drew them away from the hustle and bustle of New York City back in the mid-1990s, where David left behind a career in investment banking and accounting to join a government contracting firm. They landed in The Plains and stayed for almost a decade. When The Plains got “too crowded,” David laughs, they headed south. “We just love the rural nature of Rappahannock County,” he said.

Chris Aldrich

Almost as soon as they arrived in the Virginia Piedmont, the Aldrich’s heard about PEC. “We immediately connected to its mission and were keen to support its efforts. Having moved to Virginia from a once-rural and bucolic area that had been overwhelmed and suburbanized by development, we realized how critical PEC’s work was and still is today,” David said.

The Aldrich’s have permanently protected 450 acres in Rappannock County, lands David describes “as an interesting mix of open spaces, woodlands, water and wildlife. Our interest has been not just extinguishing development rights, but also supporting, improving and protecting habitat.” To that end, they’ve invested in native plantings to support bird and wildlife habitat, installation of trees and shrubs along waterways to improve water quality, and the “laborious and almost impossible task of invasive plant species removal.”

In 2010, Jean invited David to join the board representing Rappahannock County. Four years later, he became board treasurer, a role he says “allowed me a more complete understanding of the organization, its goals and challenges.” He served as board treasurer for the next nine years, under board leadership of Jean and George.

Stepping into the board chair role this year is stepping into very big shoes. “Jean and George, along with secretary Alton Keel and vice chair Mark Ohrstrom, provided significant contributions of time, talent, and treasure during their leadership tenure. And I know the new board leadership team — Leslie, Margrete, Chris and I — will continue to rely on their extensive experience, knowledge and guidance as we move forward together leading PEC.”

Chris McLean. Photo credit Ashley Shilling.

“PEC has been extremely successful over the past 50 years. Begun with a focus on protecting and preserving land in the Piedmont, PEC has evolved into an organization capable of, and willing to, take on major regional, national, and even international environmental issues such as data center development. More than any other time, the need for PEC is high, and this organization is uniquely suited to address challenges that will not go away any time soon, and may in fact increase in magnitude and complexity,” David said.

“My understanding and appreciation of the importance of PEC’s work, its impressive capabilities, and the qualities of the people at PEC are what keep me involved. I hope I continue to facilitate the growth of PEC, with a particular focus on development of its staff of expert performers, for as long as the organization is interested in my participation,” he said.

Chris McLean follows David Aldrich’s tenure as board treasurer for a three-year term. Outside of his career in finance as a wealth management advisor, Chris has a passion for the preservation of Virginia’s natural landscapes. In addition to serving PEC’s board of directors since 2015, he is also a board member of The Piedmont Foundation since 2020, the Samuel Miller Agricultural Trust, and Wildrock Nature Play and Discovery Center, and former chair of the James River Association. A native of Charlottesville, Chris graduated from University of Virginia and University of Richmond Law School, and is deeply engaged with the PEC programs in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

Leslie Cockburn. Photo credit Scott Willis

PEC’s new vice-chair is Leslie Cockburn, multi-award-winning journalist, author, and filmmaker. She is world-renowned for her many documentaries, films and other works on the effects of international conflict and foreign policy in the U.S. and abroad. The avid sailor, skier, swimmer and hiker served on PEC’s board from 2007-2017 and rejoined in 2021. She raises Red Devon cattle and produces organic hay with husband Andrew on their farm in Castleton, and has also created an ornamental garden dedicated to butterflies and bees. In 2022, Cockburn was appointed by the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates to the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation Board of Trustees and currently serves on the board of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti.

Margrete Stevens. Credit Hugh Kenny/PEC

Margrete Stevens, a PEC supporter for more than 30 years, joined the board in 2023 and steps into the role of board secretary for a three-year term. She also serves on PEC’s Julian Scheer Fauquier Land Conservation Fund Advisory Committee. Margrete and her husband Mike have hosted PEC’s beloved annual Bluebell Walk on Cedar Run at their Catlett property for 21 years, and permanently conserved Bonny Brook Farm in 2010. Recently she’s begun land management practices there to reintroduce native grasses and restore the wetlands to better protect Cedar Run — work that’s become a community demonstration component of the annual bluebell walk. Stevens is also a member of the Fauquier County Architectural Review Board and the board of The Clifton Institute, and has served as president of The Warrenton Hunt and The Warrenton Garden Club. Her distinguished career as an international law attorney involved disputes with various environmental implications all over the world.

This article appeared in the 2024 spring edition of The Piedmont Environmental Council’s member newsletter, The Piedmont View. If you’d like to become a PEC member or renew your membership, please visit