Our Team

FOCA operates under a governance board structure, and directs strategic priorities through a number of Committees that report to the Board of Directors. Scroll down for information about our Staff, and volunteer Board.

We're Hiring!

November 2023 – New CEO Search Underway: Bring your passion and leadership experience to the largest waterfront landowner group in Canada, as the Chief Executive Officer of the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations. We’re looking for a leader with a commitment to organizational excellence in support of our goals of environmental and financial sustainability in our communities. Find out more at: indeed.ca and apply by December 8, 2023.

FOCA Office Staff:

Terry Rees

Executive Director

Keilani Carroll

Director of Operations

Michelle Lewin

Manager of Communications & Development

Deanna Forgie

Deanna Forgie

Programs Coordinator

ON LEAVE (2023)

Adam Edwards

Membership Coordinator

Gavin Vance

Assistant Lake Stewardship Coordinator 

An Update: November 2023 – After 20 years at the helm of FOCA, Terry has announced he will be stepping down at the end of March 2024 to pursue other interests. We are hiring for his successor!

Terry has been a leader and innovator within the private and not-for-profit sectors for over 30 years, and is an active representative on numerous province-wide and bi-national committees related to water, the environment, and other community and sustainability issues. He brings a unique perspective and background from progressive roles within the mining, minerals and petrochemical industries garnered across North America with several sector-leading organizations.
After many years as a FOCA volunteer, Terry took on the role of Executive Director of FOCA in 2004. As leader of one of the largest membership associations in the Province, Terry is committed to building a strong community, and to working collaboratively with a broad range of partners to address the many complex challenges facing Ontario’s rural communities and our freshwater environments.

In 2016, Terry was featured as one of 100 “Voices for Science Communication” in the Science Borealis campaign. He was also recognized in 2016 by the Ontario Onsite Wastewater Association as a Corporate Steward. In 2012, Terry received an honour from Water Canada as a “Water’s Next” person representing Canadian water excellence. Read a 2015 article about Terry, “A Cottager looking after Cottagers” by MyKawartha.com.

Terry cottages on Lake Kasshabog.

Follow Terry on Twitter

Keilani was hired in October 2022 to facilitate administrative operations in the FOCA office, in support of FOCA’s advocacy, communications, and member support services. She is also focused on governance, supporting the FOCA Board of Directors and its Committees.

Keilani completed both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Education at McGill University. After spending the first part of her career as an international educator, she made the transition into the charitable not-for-profit sector where she has over 10 years’ experience working in the field of administration and finance. As a member of the Waterloo-Wellington Fund-Raising Executives, Keilani also brings fundraising and development expertise to the table, as well as personal volunteer experience in governance and on committees.

Keilani grew up spending weekends and summers at her family cottage in Upstate New York, and presently cottages with her husband and two boys in the Northern Kawarthas.

Michelle joined the staff in 2010 to beat the drum about the good work being done by FOCA. Her background is in communications and culture.

Michelle oversees FOCA’s printed and electronic messaging, and works with our association members to distribute information to our 50,000 members across the Province. Michelle manages FOCA’s website and Elerts, as well as our annual Year in Review and Lake Stewards Newsletter productions.

Michelle also liaises with FOCA’s Corporate Sponsors. Contact Michelle if your organization is interested in partnering with FOCA to support our mandate of protecting Ontario’s waterfront experience.

Image: picnic point, Lake Solitaire 1970sMichelle’s formative years were spent at a family cottage on Lake Solitaire in the Huntsville area, at the old Limberlost Lodge property.

Deanna is the FOCA Programs Coordinator. She is a graduate of Trent University with a degree in Environmental Science and Geography, and in 2015 she completed the Environmental Technician program with Fleming College.

Deanna worked with FOCA as a summer student in 2014 before taking on the role of Membership and Programs Coordinator; she is now our full-time Programs lead.

Deanna cottages on Catchacoma Lake.

Adam joined FOCA in April of 2023 as the Membership Coordinator. You can contact Adam for any inquiries regarding membership, at the main FOCA email: info@foca.on.ca.

Adam is a graduate of Trent University with a degree in Sociology/Philosophy and a graduate of Fleming College in Business Administration. Adam has over 8 years of administrative experience in various industries including non-profit sectors, landscaping, and long term care. Adam is passionate about fitness and outdoor activities.

Adam grew up enjoying regular visits to his grandparents’ cottage on Esson Lake in Haliburton County.

Gavin joined FOCA in early 2023 as the Assistant Lake Stewardship Coordinator. You can contact him with questions or inquiries regarding the Lake Partner Program.

Gavin is a graduate of Trent University and Fleming College where he completed the Ecological Restoration bridge program and received a college diploma and University Degree (Hons) in Ecological Restoration.

During his first year after graduation Gavin worked as a lab technician where he gained experience and knowledge in the inner workings of a fast paced lab setting.

Gavin has resided in Algonquin Park for the last two summers where he hiked, biked, and kayaked whenever possible. Gavin has a passion for the environment and community and looks forward to his role with the Lake Partner Program.

2023 FOCA Board Executive: 

President: Ian Crawford

Vice President: Deborah Martin-Downs

Treasurer: Rick Blickstead

Secretary: Donna Commerford

FOCA Board of Directors:

The current Board directors are presented here in alphabetical order by surname.  See more “about” each Director below, including their local Lake Association affiliation, background, time on the FOCA Board and committee work.

Rick Blickstead

Donna Commerford

Ian Crawford

Basshaunt Lake Homeowners’ & Cottages’ Association. Joined the FOCA Board in 2022.

FOCA Board Treasurer

COMMITTEES: Finance, Revenue Generation (Chair)

Rick is a fluently bilingual, senior general management executive with experience in both the Canadian and American public, non-profit, and private sectors. He has a diverse background in public policy, governance and risk management, branding, retail, and consulting, having led several US and CDN firms as CEO/President. Rick attended Carleton University, UofT’s Rotman School of Management, and Harvard University’s Business and Kennedy schools.

Rick has been an active executive and past President of the Basshaunt Lake Homeowners and Cottagers Association for 15 years (a no-motor Lake in the Haliburton Highlands). He is active in working with municipalities and associations on critical issues of shoreline protection, clean water advocacy, and environmental protection of our lakes and rivers. He has been a member of FOCA since arriving in cottage country in 2003.


Here’s my cottage story: 

This year (2023) will mark our 20th anniversary on Basshaunt Lake, a no-motor oasis in the Haliburton Highlands. My family had a cottage on the Ottawa River system, and when we sold my career time commitment could not justify a four season cottage, so we rented each summer.

Finally, we decided to purchase a lovely cottage on Basshaunt. We love the sounds of hummingbird wings beating, the chirping of the many species of birds including our favourite goldfinches at the birdfeeders, the jays which snatch peanuts in a swooping dive, and of course the eerie calls of the loons.

Whether it be catch and release fishing, canoeing and kayaking or simply enjoying reading time on the dock, Basshaunt is the perfect getaway all year round. There is something so special about every season as it unfolds and builds and nurtures fond memories with family, friends, and neighbours.

I became involved with the Basshaunt Lake Homeowners and Cottages’ Association after our first year. I felt that having a voice about the lake, its culture and its future was important. Lake associations do so much in terms of protecting the waterfront and ensuring the lake quality remains fresh.

BLHCA is also a member of FOCA and we had a Board member as the FOCA liaison to keep us informed of programs and education which proved to be invaluable. We used the FOCA Lake Plan guide to create a long-term strategy which made us face and decide upon a number of critical issues.

Now, I have joined the FOCA Board!

FOCA is an incredible organization and the value proposition of being a member is huge; make sure you are a member!

Big Gull Lake East End Cottage Association. Joined the FOCA Board in 2022. 

FOCA Board Secretary

COMMITTEES: Governance & Nominations, Membership Services & Benefits

Donna Commerford has worked for more than 30 years in the education field. She enjoyed a successful career working as an elementary and secondary school teacher, Board consultant and Principal.

Donna joined IBM K-12 Education in January of 2004, where she has taken on the role of Senior Educational Consultant. She currently works with Districts and teachers assisting them in effectively integrating technology into their learning and teaching practices to align with their District achievement goals. The desired outcome is to ultimately impact positive student achievement and enhance teacher practice. She has delivered professional learning and implementation strategies for classroom teachers, Special Education Resource teachers and School Board Administrators.

Big Gull Lake has a very special place in Donna’s life. Her husband’s family has had a cottage on the lake since the late 1950’s. Donna and her husband purchased their cottage in 2004. She has been active with the Big Gull Lake Cottage Association since 2007. She has chaired the Family Triathlon as well as holding the positions of Secretary and Vice-President. She is currently President of the Board.

Her volunteer work includes being a member of the Board of Directors of Carpenter Hospice in Burlington Ontario, Past Chair of the Northumberland YMCA, as well as numerous leadership roles on Rotary committees. She resides in Burlington, Ontario with her husband, Jim and remains active in her local community.

Captain Estates Road Cottagers Association. Joined the FOCA Board in 2019.

FOCA Board President

COMMITTEES: Finance; Governance & Nominations (Interim Chair); HR (Chair); Member Services & Benefits; Revenue Generation; Roads Working Group

Ian is a passionate lifelong cottager, who joined the FOCA Board to help protect the cottaging experience for future generations.

In the course of his career, Ian has been involved in the design, development and delivery of natural resource management programs in the public sector, and is a subject-matter expert in species-at-risk, water management planning, and Land Claim negotiations. Ian holds certification and extensive experience in leadership, mediation, negotiation, and alternative dispute resolution and has provided leadership training and design to over 20 organizations, corporations and governments around the world.

John Hickey

Mo Jansons

Harry Kim

Indian Point Property Owners Association. Joined the FOCA Board in 2018.

COMMITTEES: Finance; Member Services & Benefits (Chair); Roads Working Group

John spent his early summers on the sandy shores of Nottawasaga Bay in Tiny township overlooking Blue Mountain. While a student at Lakehead University where he met the love of his life, Linda, John joined the Canadian Ski Patrol and became involved in the Student Union and found time to graduate.

He has been involved in the Kawartha Lakes community since in the late 1960’s. John joined the family business in Coboconk in the early 70’s, moved to Fenelon Falls and on to Lindsay where he became involved in the Association of Kinsmen Clubs and achieved 10 years’ perfect attendance. John was involved in family ownership of 2 cottages until he built his Panabode on Balsam Lake in 1993.

Throughout his lengthy career in the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Industry, John has also been a committed volunteer in trade associations and is a Past President of the Indian Point Property Owners’ Association. John also volunteered as a civilian volunteer in the OPP’s ERASE Program.

Recently retired, John has had a life-long commitment to cottage life with a dedicated involvement and commitment to organization and committee work including the issues that face us at the waterfront. He hopes to find time for tennis, boating, sailing, bridge and the grand kids.
Linda and John now have 7 grandchildren. Their eldest daughter Allison has recently purchased her own cottage next door to the property John grew up at on Nottawasaga Bay.

Halls and Hawk Lakes Property Owners Association. Joined the FOCA Board in 2023.


Here’s my story: 

I have worked in many roles bringing various disparate organizations or companies together for our mutual benefit. Along the way, various government departments or oversight entities were also involved. In my 39 years with the Royal Bank of Canada, I had many progressively senior roles including administration, audit, credit, risk management, credit cards and concluding with 12 years as RBC’s Head of Industry Affairs & Interbank Operations.

I have been involved on the Board of the Halls and Hawk Lakes Property Owners Association for 10 years, having served 8 years as Vice President and 2 years as Treasurer.

During this time I was involved in most of the associations activities including: the AGM, refresh of website, introduction of a membership database, Annual Calendar preparation, liaising with advertisers, collection of dues and all other revenue, review of insurance program, introduction of hazard buoys, a variety of social events, dealing with a rogue bear, 75th anniversary and Book publication, Love your Lakes program, community fire pumps, abandoned dock removal, organizing all candidates meetings, and lobbying our local municipal government for such issues as dump closure, organizing group buy of sceptic pump out for water access cottages, investigating increased municipal parking.

My family rented Kawartha area cottages during my childhood eventually building on Whitestone Lake near Parry Sound.

My wife’s family has cottaged on Little Hawk Lake since 1946 where we built our own family cottage in 1995. Our grandkids are now the 5th generation on the lake.

Loon Lake Property Owners Association. Joined the FOCA Board in 2023.

COMMITTEES: Revenue Generation

My Cottage Story – coming soon!

Deborah Martin-Downs

Mary Ann Peden

Richard Peters

Muskoka Lakes Association. Joined the FOCA Board in 2020.

FOCA Vice President

COMMITTEES: HR; Member Services & Benefits; Governance & Nominations

Deborah is an environmental professional trained in Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo (1979) and has a Masters of Zoology/Environmental Studies from the University of Toronto (1984) with a specialty in aquatic ecology. Over her 30-year career she has held progressively senior positions in the public and private sector. She joined Credit Valley Conservation in 2013 as the Chief Administrative Officer, until her recent retirement.

Deborah has been cottaging on Breezy Point, Lake Muskoka for over 60 years.

Here’s My Cottage Story:

I am forever thankful to my dad, Ron Martin, for the foresight to spend $1000 on a lot on Lake Muskoka back in 1955 where we could spend weekends, vacations and eventually summers.  Even that amount was a significant purchase for dad and his growing family.  The cottage at first was a home-built box with no inside bathroom or running water.  Hard to raise wee ones under those conditions but my mum managed.  Over the years additions have been made, including the much-needed bathroom with running hot and cold water.  The 4th generation is now enjoying walks in the woods, swimming in the lake, paddling on the water and boat rides.  It is the place I learned to love nature and water, which no doubt led me to an environmental career and to volunteer for my lake association and on their behalf sit on the FOCA board.  There is no greater gift than a cottage on a lake and no greater calling than to make sure it stays swimmable, fishable and drinkable for this and future generations.


Deb is married to Jim Downs and has two grown sons.

Lake of Bays Association. Joined the FOCA Board in 2021.

COMMITTEES: Governance & Nominations; HR

WORKING GROUPS: Short-term Rentals

Mary Ann’s story:

Mary Ann Peden is a Past President of  the Lake of Bays Association. She is a retired teacher who for 25 years worked with special needs children at the secondary level in Mississauga. She has been involved with the Lake of Bays (youth) Sailing Club 1995 to 2008, was on their Fundraising Committee, a Junior Program Director, Commodore, and Past Commodore. With the Lake of Bays Association from 2006-present she has been an Area Steward, on the Membership Committee, Communications Committee Chair, Environmental Committee – Invasive Species Team, and President from 2018 – 2021.

Mary Ann’s Cottage Story in her own words:

My story begins about 80 years ago when my grandparents, Gardiner and Violet, began visiting the Lake of Bays area (northeast Muskoka) in the 1940’s. They fell in love with the area and after renting a cottage from friends on Pancake Island for a few summers, they purchased a small rustic cottage near Glenmount.

My first visit was as a baby in the 50’s that was soon followed by my three brothers. Every summer was spent at the cottage and included so many activities including swimming, sailing, waterskiing, paddling a canoe, driving a “tinny” and motorboat, fishing, exploring and hiking the forest and family activities on the dock, the front porch and around a campfire.

We came to the cottage as much as possible, including the winters when we had no running water, had to chop a hole in the ice and froze our little bottoms off running to the outhouse. It was always an adventure and learning experience like no other; especially about the natural world and the environment.

I have lifelong friends from the time I was a teenager. I met and married my husband at LOB (44 years and counting) and our children have carried on the tradition of working their summers at the lake and making their own lifelong friendships. Our daughter also married a LOB boy.

We now have grandchildren who love this place too and can’t wait to get to the cottage. Once we retired, we decided to live at the cottage from April to November, part of a growing group of cottagers who, in some cases, have made the cottage their permanent home.

This cottage (now 100 years old) is really our home, the centre and heart of our family life with four generations, and the place we all can’t wait to get to.

Preserving this beautiful place and its environment for future generations became my motivation for becoming involved with our lake association (Lake of Bays Assoc.) and FOCA. As we say at LOBA, it’s “all about the lake”. Sustaining a healthy environment, supporting our community and promoting a safe and peaceful lake are goals we all need to advocate for in order to preserve it for the future.

Sunny Lake Cottage Association. Joined the FOCA Board in 2023.

COMMITTEES: Revenue Generation

Here’s my cottage story:

I have seen the immense value that FOCA provides to associations and cottagers across Ontario.  I am a proud Muskoka cottager, and passionate about the cottage lifestyle.

I am a CPA, CA, with an MBA (Strategy and Marketing) and spent my career working for corporations in the technology and financial services sector and also have previous experience on Boards. Over my career, I set strategy and grew businesses on a provincial, national, and global level while always focusing on customer solutions and service.

I have been on the Board of the Sunny Lake Cottagers Association for 13 years – for many years as an executive, and currently (2023) as President.  Sunny Lake is a beautiful lake in Muskoka that is spring fed and very clean.  The Association has always been very involved in doing what it can to keep our lake as healthy and clean as possible.

Cottaging has been an important and cherished part of our family experience. Early morning paddleboards with our Aussiedoodle, swimming, boating, canoeing, campfires and more have all been part of our summers in Muskoka.  This lifestyle has also provided the opportunity for our children to become skilled water skiers which has enabled them to spend summers growing up and working in Muskoka. We have all created lasting memories with family and friends.

What impresses me about FOCA is its vision and mandate to maintain healthy lakes so this lifestyle will be there for all future generations.  I look forward to the opportunity to help FOCA continue with the great work that they do.

Eric Stuart

Michael Peterson

Eric Stuart

Big Rideau Lake Association. Joined the FOCA Board in 2023.

COMMITTEES: Revenue Generation

Here’s my cottage story:

I grew up in Montreal and my initial cottage experience was in the Eastern Townships, Lake Memphremagog. Many Easter weekends were spent at the cottage of my best friend watching the break-up of the ice on the lake from a giant pine tree large enough for both of us to perch comfortably for hours.

My introduction to Big Rideau Lake came through my wife’s family who have had a cottage since the 1950s.  The baby boomer kids acquired or built their own as adults. Summers for young children at the cottage are magical – with outdoor wiener roasts and loons and clear starry nights and the odd perch at the end of your line. Jumping into the lake from the roof of the boathouse is still fun! The attraction is life-long and we see the young men and women from the lake, some of whom now live in Oslo and Geneva and London, returning to the cottage in Ontario to share the summer magic with their young children.

I have been a lawyer for over 35 years and am winding down my practice specializing in environmental  law.  

My wife and I have been family members of the Big Rideau Lake Association (BRLA) for years, and our children now have their own family memberships. I have been involved in lake matters at Big Rideau Lake in the Township of Rideau Lakes for some time. I’m president of a small not-for-profit entity the Rideau Lakes Environmental Foundation (RLEF) which has been active in addressing safe boating and more recently water quality and we are closely associated with the Big Rideau Lake Association.

Both organizations  had to become  engaged in serious water quality issues in 2014 when there was a large (and intentional) discharge of raw sewage from the failing sewage treatment system of the Town of Westport. It went into Upper Rideau Lake, at the top level of the Rideau Canal system, and moved in both directions from there to Big Rideau and Newboro Lakes.

Since the 2014 incident (which ended with Ministry of Environment prosecutions), I have spent significant time on lake planning and environmental issues. The recent Bill 23 legislation by the Ontario government has had major implications for rural municipalities and their development regulations. Current water quality and planning issues are generic for most rural municipalities in Ontario.

Both at BRLA and now at FOCA, we are following developments closely. Some of the more problematic measures in the new legislation have been reversed or modified but there are still important challenges. With my environmental law background and experience, I hope to be able to make a contribution to the enjoyment of our waterfronts and cottages by future generations of Ontario cottagers.

Lake Wahnapitae Home and Campers Association. Joined the FOCA Board in 2021.

COMMITTEES: Roads Working Group

Eric Stuart has been a thoughtful and involved volunteer in his association, Lake Wahnapitae Home and Campers Association (LWH&CA) in the Sudbury area, for 30 years – the last nine as President.  The Sudbury area in which he lives boasts over 320 lakes.

He’s been an established resident of Lake Wahnapitae for 50 years. He has much knowledge of the lake and its great contribution to the Sudbury area. Eric was and still is much involved in the LWH&CA invasive species projects, in shoal marking, Ontario Power Generation monitoring lake levels & flows, Canada Day Celebrations on Lake Wahnapitae, and road development. Eric is a retired electrician from Inco, with a keen interest for connecting lake associations to FOCA and to sharing his ideas about local engagement with others through FOCA.

For more about FOCA’s organizational structure, by-laws & strategic priorities, see:

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