top of page

Team Members

Dr. James Lombella

Dr. James Lombella

President/CEO

Growing up on a small family dairy farm in western MA, Jim’s love for animals was instilled early in life and his compassion for creatures large and small endures. Through high school he was a dog groomer and later opened a pet supply store and dog grooming facility, partnering with local shelters and rescue organizations for adoption days and providing education on animal nutrition, grooming, and training. After a 14-year career as president of multiple CT State Colleges, public service and giving back to the community has become part of who Jim is. As the president of CFA and volunteer for CVA, he is able to continue giving back by working to improve the lives of animals through legislation, advocacy, and community education. Jim’s family reflects his long-time work with rescues; it includes three rescue cats and a rescue puppy, Khali, who stole his heart as a foster and found her forever home.

Nancy Waterman

Nancy Waterman

Treasurer

Animal rights and welfare, social justice and reform, and conservation top the list of causes nearest and dearest to Nancy Waterman, served on the Connecticut Votes for Animals board before joining CFA. A resident of Middletown, Nancy has held various leadership roles at CT nonprofits specializing in finance and accounting. She also brings to CVA a wealth of experience in nonprofit technology, human resources, government grant management, grant budgets, and audits, as well as overall business operations. Earlier in her career, Nancy founded a technology support firm, serving small businesses across Connecticut.

Besides giving back to the community, Nancy enjoys traveling with her husband, spending time with her granddaughters, and anything to do with animals. With more personal time in the last year, she has discovered a passion for crocheting, accompanied by a love affair with yarn.

Ilene Lefland

Ilene Lefland

Board Member

Ilene always knew that when life allowed, she would channel her energies to pursuits that improve the lives of animals; she just didn’t know it would be as a member of the CVA Board and now the CFA Board! Starting out as a volunteer in 2019, Ilene jumped right in, becoming actively involved in the organization and then joining the board.

With a unique blend of strategic communications experience and political savvy, Ilene brings a distinctive perspective to the CFA Board. In addition to serving as press secretary for political campaigns and the CT General Assembly, she developed public education and awareness campaigns across multiple industries during her tenure as a marketing communications agency executive. She was also instrumental in advocacy efforts leading to passage of CT’s law – the first in the nation – protecting women’s reproductive rights. Early in her career, Ilene covered the State Capitol as a journalist. She is still a news junkie at heart and enjoys a good public policy debate.

A life-long animal lover, Ilene lives in North Haven with her husband and two cats.

Cynthia Newby

Cynthia Newby

Board Member

Cynthia Newby, college textbook author for McGraw-Hill, is the president of Medical Insurance Text, LLC, a textbook development company. Cynthia is a graduate and trustee emerita of Hood College, Frederick, Maryland. Locally she has served as treasurer and chairwoman of the Roxbury CT Public Library board and as a trustee of Hollister House Garden.

As a Master Gardener (CT), Cynthia’s goal at her home in Western Connecticut is to maintain biodiversity as well as beauty in the garden. Her mixture of trees, shrubs, and plants supports all animals (that includes insects!) while providing a territory that also belongs to the resident hounds for exploration and their own animal pursuits.

Cynthia is a Director of the nonkill animal rescue and adoption shelter Animal Welfare Society (New Milford CT). She is a long-time supporter of Connecticut Votes for Animals and, most recently, of Fast Friends, a sight-hound rescue organization located in West Swanzey, New Hampshire.

Linda Pleva

Linda Pleva

Community Engagement and Communications Coordinator

Linda Pleva, who is also vice president of Desmond’s Army, is CVA & CFA's community engagement and communications coordinator, helping to expand their base with programs including legislative webinars and workshops throughout the state. She also works with the Communications Team developing messaging on our digital platforms.

Andrea Dobras

Andrea Dobras

Secretary

Andrea has been active in animal welfare since 2006, when she joined Our Companions Animal Rescue as a helpline volunteer during the early stages of the organization’s development. She also served as Secretary on the Board of Directors for close to a decade. In 2007, she received the ING Volunteer Excellence Award.

In 2017, Andrea established a grassroots effort to end the waterfowl hunting on the Quinnipiac River in New Haven. She worked tirelessly with the local residents and politicians to build momentum on this long-term problem, resulting in the official ban of waterfowl hunting in the area. This campaign sparked her interest in politics, allowing her to combine this new-found passion with her love of animals. Andrea served on the Connecticut Votes for Animals Board in varying capacities from 2018-2024, before joining CFA.

She currently lives in East Haven with her partner and their two adopted cats, Chester Bruiser Pants and Bucatini.

Virginia Maxwell

Virginia Maxwell

Board Member

A lifelong animal lover, Virginia brings 28 years of forensic science experience to combatting the maltreatment of animals. Formerly a forensic scientist at the State of Connecticut Forensic Science Laboratory, she is now a Professor in the Forensic Science Department at the University of New Haven. Her research focus involves different ways of using Forensic Science in animal cruelty investigation with current projects including environmental degradation of physical evidence, analyzing crime data to predict animal fighting locations, dog fighting, and cruelty in animal “sports”. In conjunction with Attorney Jessica Rubin, she has established a formal collaboration between the University of Connecticut School of Law and the University of New Haven for the investigation of animal cruelty. This collaboration is to provide support to animal control officers, first responders and attorneys, and others involved in investigations, as well as humane education and additional research initiatives. Having grown up around farms in the United Kingdom, she is interested in the lives of farmed animals. With the cooperation of a local dairy farm, she has been able to help three cows retire to sanctuaries: Pippi and the Princess to Farm Sanctuary, and Allie to JP Farm Animal Sanctuary. The photo shows Princess as her yellow ear tags were removed shortly before leaving for Farm Sanctuary. She lives in Hebron with her family, a rescue dog, and two cats.

Susan Linker

Susan Linker

Board Chair

Susan Biella-Linker founded Our Companions Animal Rescue, a nonprofit organization in 2002. Susan also serves as Connecticut’s representative on the Humane Society of the United States’ Companion Animal Advisory Council and is a Trustee of the John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation.

Susan is the past President and Vice President of Connecticut Votes for Animals and the former President of the Animal Welfare Federation of Connecticut, a partnership of no-kill animal welfare organizations. Prior to establishing Our Companions, she worked in various capacities in the field of animal welfare including an eight year career with the Connecticut Humane Society and its subsidiary, Fox Memorial Clinic. ​Susan also spent some time outside the animal welfare field where she pursued financial development experience with the American Red Cross fundraising team.

Susan lives with her husband Mitchell who serves as Our Companions’ Development Committee Chair, her rescued dog Darla and too many cats to mention and not sound crazy.


Andrea Kerin

Andrea Kerin

Board Member

Fiercely dedicated to protecting wildlife and the environment, Andrea Kerin brings decades of non-profit philanthropy experience to the CVA board before joining CFA. Her admirable professional background includes director of leadership giving from the CT Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound and development positions at the CT Audubon Society and Save the Children.

Andrea’s recent retirement from her job is allowing her more time to devote to the many issues she cares about. This past year she has been involved in developing a local ordinance for Fairfield regarding shelter requirements for outside dogs. The proposal offers a stricter approach than the recently passed state law in providing adequate shelter for any dogs left outside.

Andrea and her husband Chris Kerin, already a friend of CVA, are generous donors to a number of animal and environmental causes. They are the proud “parents” of two rescue mini-Australian shepherds.

Kathleen Sullivan

Kathleen Sullivan

Board Member

Animal welfare has always been very important to me. During my 35 year career in Commercial Banking I volunteered for New England English Springer Spaniel Rescue doing adoption, fostering, evaluations and transports. I am still a member of the organization which is run out of Massachusetts. I continue to help out in CT and western MA when needed. I also held Board positions with The Shelter for Women and served for over 20 years on the Board of Klingberg Family Centers including a term as Board Chairperson.

Once retired, I was invited to join the Board of Our Companions Animal Rescue and served as a member of the Finance Committee. Once my consecutive terms expired and I was required to rotate off the Board I became a member of the Advisory Board, a position that I still hold.

I joined the Board of CT Votes for Animals in 2010 and am currently an Advisory Board Member.

Although I am at our dog Timber’s beckon call 24/7, I do manage to get in quite a bit of cycling in the nicer weather. I am looking forward to being involved with the new and exciting C-3. It is wonderful to have witnessed how much progress for animals the organization has made over the years. The future is brighter than ever. Thank you for including me on the Board as we move ahead.

bottom of page