Staff and Board of Directors

Our agency consists of a board of directors, a small professional staff, and a corps of trained, volunteer mediators recruited from the community.

Board of Directors

Anita Giovanna Gherardi – President
Janet Marrack – Vice President
The Honorable Elizabeth A. Strance – Secretary
William “Kumu” Belcher
Dawn Henry, Esq.
Linda Jeffrey
Ruth Smith
Katherine Werner
Michael Zola, Esq.


Margarita Scheffel – Treasurer

Professional Staff

Zaheva Stevens Knowles, Esq. – Executive Director

As Executive Director of the West Hawai’i Mediation Center, Zaheva is responsible for supervising all staff and ensuring the Center’s overall success in partnership with the Board of Directors. Prior to joining West Hawai’i Mediation Center, Zaheva worked as a litigation associate in Cades Schutte, LLP’s Kailua-Kona office with senior partner Roy (“Randy”) A. Vitousek III. Before returning to Hawai’i Island—where she was raised—in 2010, Zaheva served as Communications Director at the Time for Change Foundation, a small non-profit serving homeless women and children in Southern California. She previously worked as a staff attorney at the Disability Rights Legal Center at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles for two years, worked for several years as a litigation associate with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP, in New York City, and was a law clerk for the Honorable Julian Abele Cook, Jr. in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Zaheva is a member of the Hawai’i State Bar Association and the American Bar Association, and is admitted to practice before all Hawai’i courts and the United States District Court for the District of Hawai’i, the United States District Court for the Central District of California, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Zaheva also serves as a member of the Kahilu Theatre Board of Directors. She lives with her family in Waimea.

Chelsea LaFrance – Case Manager

After living on Maui for many years, Chelsea returned to her home town of Waimea to provide case management for all general mediation cases for West Hawai’i Mediation Center. With established roots in the community, an outgoing personality and an ease for conversation, daily communication with mediators and clients comes naturally for Chelsea. As Case Manager, Chelsea is responsible for conducting intakes for all parties requesting mediation, coordinating mediation dates, assigning mediators and coordinating mediation locations, assisting the Executive Director with preparing reports, and coordinating multiple trainings within the year. With a background in Early Childhood Education, Chelsea has also taken on the role of assisting the Peer Mediation Program with training elementary students in mediation.

Gina Tumasone – Foreclosure Program Specialist

Being a young member of the Waimea community, Gina quickly found a home at the West Hawai’i Mediation Center (WHMC) in 2014. With a background in the judicial system, the Foreclosure Program seemed like the right fit. As FPS for the Center, Gina’s responsibilities include case management of approximately 20 currently open foreclosure cases, mediating all foreclosure cases, daily communication with attorneys, homeowners and the courts.  Gina also provides assistance to the Executive Director, performing tasks such as grant reports, Special Projects, marketing and outreach, website design, social media campaigns, trainings and other gatherings.

Robyn Skudlarek – Youth Programs Coordinator

Robyn has lived on Hawai’i Island for almost 20 years. She is a certified teacher with the State Department of Education and holds a Master’s degree in Human Development. Robyn has served as a K-8 classroom teacher both in the United States and abroad. She taught in Hawai’i Community College’s Early Childhood Education department and helped to bring college credit courses into under-served communities on the Big Island. Robyn also has a passion for non-profit work, having worked for Recycle Hawai’i and North Kohala Community Resource Center, and – since 2012 – West Hawai’i Mediation Center. Robyn coordinates youth programming for the Center and developed the pilot, middle and high school peer mediation program that is currently in thirteen schools in West Hawai’i. Robyn has a passion for education and believes that learning cannot take place when youth are affected by unresolved conflict.