In one of Jason Rainey's earliest recollections of life, he is standing in the Yuba River.
Rainey will soon be standing in the river again, literally and for its ecologic and economic aspects, as the new executive director for The South Yuba River Citizens League.
The 1990 Nevada Union High School graduate was announced as the new director Saturday night at SYRCL's annual Laura Wilcox Scholarship Fundraiser Quiz Night. Rainey replaces Janet Cohen, who received a standing ovation from the crowd.
Rainey will begin his dream job March 28 after years of experience studying ecological and economic matters in Africa, South America and Russia, where he served in the U.S. Peace Corps. For the last five years, he has been doing ecological work and teaching for the nonprofit Marin (County) Conservation Corps.
"I've felt long compelled to return to my home," Rainey said. "I'm excited to work with the community at large to discover ways we can collaborate to improve the ecologic health of the area while retaining its economic vibrancy."
With the pending birth of their first child, Rainey and wife Tania Carlone felt Nevada County would be a good place to raise the baby. He also has other relatives still living in the area.
"He's got a lot of local knowledge and passion for the river, and in his recent past he's done relevant work," Cohen said.
Cohen said she is stepping down because she wants to see more of her aging parents in England. She is also going to start a new environmental nonprofit with another former SYRCL executive director, Kerri Timmer. The new organization will work with other environmental nonprofits to bring SYRCL-like successes, Cohen said.
Rainey has a masters degree in culture, ecology and sustainable communities from the New College of California and did graduate work in public and environmental affairs at Indiana University. His undergraduate degree is from Claremont McKenna College in history and government.
During college, Rainey "became interested in environmental work through the social lens" while studying poverty, economics and agriculture in Zimbabwe.
He traveled throughout Central America in 1995 for pleasure but also learned Spanish while preparing to join the Peace Corps. He served from 1995 to 1997 in the Russian Far East, teaching English for environmental purposes to high school students and field courses in riparian and wetland areas.
He continued teaching habitat restoration and ecological monitoring with the Marin Conservation Corps.
Rainey said he wants to nurture and build SYRCL's volunteer force and focus on SYRCL's future plans for habitat restoration.