Our Board & Staff

Susan Larson.JPG

Board Chair

Susan moved to Mitchell County when her husband David was recruited by the Spruce Pine Community Hospital to be the first internist and geriatrician in the area.  She was the first Executive Director of Toe River Arts Council and went on to a career in higher education fundraising.

Britt Kaufmann.JPG


Britt moved to Yancey County with her husband Dr. Chad Smoker 18 years ago.  She has used her English Education degree with many organizations, including the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival and Parkway Playhouse . 

Misty Evans.JPG


Misty hails from the Jack’s Creek area of Yancey County, where she grew up on a tobacco farm. She is currently the operations manager at Mitchell-Yancey Habitat for Humanity in Spruce Pine.

Alex Green.JPG

Board Member

Alex is a native of Spruce Pine and descendant of Mitchell County quartz miners.  He is dental director at Mountain Community Health Partnership in Bakersville and is also in his final year of a Master of Public Health program. 

Conrad Leavitt.JPG

Board Member

Conrad owns the Burnsville-based company Trillivision.  He is the technical expert on the board and previously did the videography for two major events which SEARCH co-sponsored in Asheville.  He served as treasurer for Toe River Arts and has assisted other area nonprofits as well.       

Josh Newton-removebg-preview_edited.jpg

Board Member

After ten years involved in medical research and and biomedical engineering, among other things, Josh found his passion in focusing on rural family medicine after completing a Master's Degree in PA studies from Wake Forest.  He is now a PA in Spruce Pine and Bakersville, where he helped lead the clinic through the COVID pandemic.  Josh lives with his wife and daughter in Mitchell County.


Board Member

Bryant is a paramedic with a Master of Health Sciences degree from Western Carolina University.  With more than a decade of experience, he started as the EMS Director for Mitchell Medics in 2021, with goals of helping Mitchell Medics become a model rural EMS service for North Carolina.  Bryant lives with his wife and daughter near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Mitchell County.

Lee Rule.JPG

Board Member

Lee is a Nurse Practitioner in General Surgery and Wound Care at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, where he has been employed since 2013.  Prior to that, he worked at Mission Hospital in Asheville. 


Board Member

Elvira is a translator at Mountain Community Health Partnership.  She also helps with scheduling and outreach in the community.  She attended Yancey County schools, having arrived in Western NC at the age of one.  She is married with two daughters and lives in Mitchell County.


Board Member

Edison V. Seel spent 20 years in the US Army including a year in Vietnam as a Special Forces medic.  He has a BS in Zoology, an MBA with a focus in Strategic Planning, and a BSN in nursing.  After spending 4 years on the Board of Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville, NC, he spent 10 years at Mission Hospital as a critical care Registered Nurse.  He and his wife retired to Yancey County in January 2019.

Jon Ward.JPG

Board Member

John retired as a professor in the department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.  He continues to teach at ETSU while contributing his expertise to local nonprofits.


Administrative Assistant

Allison Edge is a Burnsville resident with deep family ties in Yancey County.  A temporary job with the Yancey County Health Department running their COVID-Hotline, answering questions about vaccines and testing, led Allison to apply for the position of Adminstrative Assistant with SEARCH.  She is also an artist with an Master's Degree in Painting.