Board of Directors

The association publishes books, conducts workshops, secures grants, operates a certified guide program, raises funds through bookshop sales, and partners with other organizations to realize the highest quality interpretive support possible. HFPA is a membership organization with supporters throughout the United States. It is governed by an eleven-member board of directors elected by its membership:

  • Jim Beckman (President) is a professor at the University of Central Florida where he was the inaugural chair of the Department of Legal Studies. Previously, he served on the Staff & Faculty of the U.S. Military Academy and as a professor at the University of Tampa. Jim is the author or editor of six books and multiple published articles and book chapters—many of which deal with the rich layered history of Harpers Ferry and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. Jim is also a Certified Park Guide at HFNHP. 

  • Cynthia M. Gayton, Esq., (Vice President) manages Gayton Law in Arlington, VA. Her practice concentrates on small business formation, intellectual property, information technology, and business transactions/contracts. In addition, she has worked for the federal government, in the private sector and for non-profit organizations. Cynthia is the author of “Legal Aspects of Engineering, Design and Innovation.” For three years, she owned a steampunk art gallery in Harpers Ferry, and spends her time between Bolivar, WV, and Arlington, VA.

  • Laura Clark (Treasurer) opened The Outfitter at Harpers Ferry in 1996, and has been an active member of the community here ever since. A Certified Public Accountant, she spent 10 years working in mortgage finance, including three years in audit and analyst positions at Freddie Mac. She subsequently served as a Senior Auditor for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington, DC. She has been an active member of the Harpers Ferry Merchants Association and has served on the Harpers Ferry Planning Committee and Board of Appeals. She looks forward to helping the Association manage its finances to maximize our aid to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

  • Ed Wheeless (Secretary) is a professional software engineer currently serving on the Harpers Ferry Town Council, Harpers Ferry Budget and Finance Committee, Harpers Ferry Planning Commission and Harpers Ferry Park Association.  For ten years, he served as chair of the Harpers Ferry Historic Landmarks Commission and now serves as the chair of the Harpers Ferry-Bolivar Historic Town Foundation.

  • Doug Perks is a native of Jefferson County, where he served as an educator for 30 years.  He is currently the Historian of the Jefferson County Museum, director and Historian of the Elmwood Cemetery Association, Historian of the Jefferson County Historical Society, and a Certified Park Guide at HFNHP. A frequent lecturer, Doug is a contributing author of The Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society, writes the column "Mr. Jefferson's County" in the Jefferson County Historical Society newsletter The Guardian, and contributes the column “History Matters” to the Spirit of Jefferson

  • Mark Elrod retired from the United States Army in 1998 after close to 30 years of active and reserve time in both the Army and Marine Corps, with service as a musician in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Infantry (“The Old Guard”),  the Army’s ceremonial unit at Fort Myer, VA, and the United States Marine Band (“The President’s Own”) in Washington. He is a nationally known military historian with expertise in American long arms used by the Army and Navy in the early to mid-19th century and military music. His passion for the history of Harpers Ferry, both industrial and social, has been a driving force and passion for most of his life.  

  • Chris Craig is a certified park guide im Harpers Ferry and a long-time volunteer for the Sierra Club and the Trail and Town Alliance of Harpers Ferry and Bolivar. He operated Laurel Lodge B&B in his home for 10 years and is a semi-retired school teacher. Last year, Chris was featured as a guide to Harpers Ferry and the C&O Canal in the WGBH  production "The Great Ride."

  • Sarah Shafer is a US Navy Veteran and the owner and founder of Rations Cafe in Bolivar. She holds graduate degrees in Genetic Engineering and Environmental Education and was formerly a Professor at Lindenwood University outside of St. Louis, MO. She quickly became enamored with the history, nature, and social contributions that Harpers Ferry offered when she moved here. She has found ways for her family (husband and twins) to support the park in various avenues through volunteering and membership.

  • Michael (Micaelle) Zeleke has worked for the USAID/Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance Office of Africa as Senior Humanitarian Advisor, overseeing Knowledge  Management initiatives while supporting Humanitarian response in Africa. Throughout a 30-year career, he has worked in Africa, the Balkans, eastern Europe, Asia and the United States. In Texas, he worked as an emergency/first responder as a fireman and paramedic for the city of Dallas, and volunteered in the community clinic and ER. He is a graduate of University of Texas, and a Marine. Michael lives in Harper Ferry in the home formerly owned by Dr. Madison Briscoe, Storer graduate, biologist, and former HFPA board member.
  • Susan Journell started her journey at Harper Ferry National Historical Park in 1977 as a volunteer. Since 1979 she has worked on and off as a temporary park ranger interpretation. In her 43-year journey in the park, she conducted tours, worked the visitor center desk, conducted living history demonstrations, worked special events and even collected entrance fees. Susan’s professional career has been with Loudoun County Public Schools. She began her career as a high school history teacher and is currently an Instructional Facilitator of Technology. 
  • Michael Lynch is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration in Shepherd University’s College of Business. Mike received his B.S. in Management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, his MBA from Babson College with a concentration in Accounting, and his ALM (master’s degree) in Finance from Harvard University’s Continuing Education School. In 2016, he received his doctorate (Ed.D.) in Higher Education Administration from New England College. His dissertation was entitled “Financial Literacy Among College Undergraduates Following the 2008-2009 Recession.”