Executive Board

Neda DeMayo, president and founder of Return to Freedom, has worked for over twenty years on wild horse and burro issues with a focus on solutions, and is a recognized authority on wild horse behavior. Neda works nationally to elevate the status of America’s wild horse and burros through advocacy, education, media, programs, and events.

With a vision to create a sanctuary model to explore minimally invasive wild horse management that could be viable on the range, she founded Return to Freedom in 1997. She speaks at national press conferences, educational venues, rotary clubs, public and private venues, and she has held government contracts to remove horses on horseback to sanctuary so they would not be dispersed or slaughtered…

Neda DeMayo, Founder and President
Neda DeMayo Return to Freedom
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Neda has also been a hired consultant for a feasibility study for a large preserve in the state of New Mexico. In 2004, after a trek into some of Nevada’s public land Herd Management Areas (HMAs), Neda founded the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) to protect the free-ranging lifestyle of America’s wild horses on the range for generations to come as part of our national heritage.

She recruited attorney Virginie Parant to help her create a coalition of a diverse range of public interest groups, animal welfare and environmental organizations, to share a unified voice and coalition to support America’s wild horses and burros on federal and state lands. The AWHPC was conceived, not as a new group nor a fundraising entity, but as a united platform to engage a firm grassroots base.

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Prior to devoting her life to wild horse and burro preservation, Neda was successful both in the Holistic Healing arts and later in fashion and costume for theatre, film, and print. Her clients included A-list actors and working with publicity teams developing actors from unknown or character actor to lead.

In 1998, Neda began developing Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary on a 300-acre ranch located in the rolling, coastal hills of Lompoc, California. With the help of family, friends, and volunteers, she was able to launch a model for minimally intrusive wild horse management and ecotourism to build a small support base. After a few years, Return to Freedom was able to hire staff and, with limited funding, maintain a high standard of equine care and ranch management. The facility, once run down and used for chicken breeding and cattle, has been transformed into a humble but enchanting sanctuary and educational center hosting over 1,000 guests annually and reaching tens of thousands of people every year through advocacy, programs, and events.

Robert Redford and Neda DeMayo
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Today, Return to Freedom (RTF) provides care and refuge in three locations for over 400 wild horses and 29 burros who have been captured and removed from state or federal lands. RTF has pioneered minimally-intrusive, natural management of wild horses utilizing Native PZP fertility control, a method that has allowed the sanctuary to maintain horses in their natural social bands.

Neda is currently focused on strengthening Return to Freedom’s educational programs on and off the range, and establishing a self-sustaining Wild Horse and Burro Conservancy and Wilderness Preserve with the support of the RTF Board of Directors and friend and actor Robert Redford.


Jack Carone
Vice President

Jack joins us with a broad background in animal rights and protection. He was Co-Director of Last Chance for Animals and now serves on its Board of Directors.

Jack Carone has been working for the rights of other species for over twenty-five years. As a principal in several animal advocacy organizations, he has lent his voice and his pen to oppose a wide range of injustices toward animals, while encouraging and helping others to do the same.

A 20-year veteran of the music industry as a singer, songwriter, record producer, and music director, Jack was first moved to action in the early 1980s when he received a mailing about animal experimentation. His love for his own dog companion inspired him to become involved in helping other animals.

Jack worked for eight years as Volunteer Coordinator and Park Manager for Tree People, for decades with a seminal Los Angeles animal rights organization in a leadership capacity, was on staff of the award-winning Animals Voice Magazine, co-directed a large domestic horse sanctuary, and currently sits on Return to Freedom’s Board of Directors.

Jack believes that because our versatility as humans has permitted us to acquire enormous power over the lives of other species, we have a solemn duty to use this power to the benefit of those with whom we share the planet.

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Kevin Beckmen
Board Chair

Dr. J. Kevin Beckmen serves as Chief of Staff for the Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Health System and is a prominent and active member of the local community. Kevin has four horses including two Choctaw Tribal strain horses adopted from Return to Freedom.

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Robert Redford
Board Member

Respected conservationist and actor Robert Redford joined Return to Freedom in 2014. He is dedicated to Return to Freedom’s vision for a Wild Horse and Burro Conservancy and Wilderness Preserve, as well as wild horse preservation on the range.

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Dr. Angela Kelly
Director

Dr. Kelly joins us with a strong background in social justice, animal advocacy, and volunteer commitments for equine non-profits since 1989. Dr. Kelly holds a Ph.D in Human Development, a Master of Arts in organizational and non-profit management, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts, among her other accolades.

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Tony Stromberg
Director

A celebrated published equine photographer, Tony joins RTF’s Board of Directors with not only a deep understanding of our mission and wild horses, but expertise in ranch and business management, managing a private horse ranch with a full staff and a multi-million dollar-a-year budget for eight years in New Mexico.

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Elizabeth Hines
Secretary

Liz Hines is a certified Shorthand reporter, freelance deposition reporter and court reporter. But aside from that, Liz is an avid photographer and a dedicated volunteer for Return to Freedom!

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Honorary Board Members

WITH SPECIAL THANKS
Diana DeMayo-Brown
Co-Founder Emeritus, Honorary Board Member

Diana received her B.F.A. degree in Drama from the University of the North Carolina School of the Arts.

She has faciltated various special youth programs at the Return to Freedom American Wild Horse Sanctuary since its inception.

Currently, Diana teaches acting and is head of production for the Academy of Dramatic Arts, Hollywood, California.

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MORE ABOUT BILL DEMAYO
William DeMayo
Co-Founder
In Memoriam (1921-2014)

Bill began his career as a field examiner for the IRS, retiring as partner of Ernst & Young. He then became a professor at the University of New Haven, CT, where he also served as Treasurer and a Planned Giving Officer. He was honored by numerous professional associations devoted to taxation, financial management, and estate planning.

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Advisory Board

Policy Issues and Advocacy
Development
  • Michele Cardela
  • Pat Hines
  • Signa McCormick (Events)
  • Andrea Eastman
Honorary Board Members

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  • Wendie Malick — Advocacy
  • Diana DeMayo-Brown
Education
  • Carolyn Resnick, Dances With Horses
  • Angelique Midthunder, Media
  • David Midthunder, Native American Cultural Advisor
Equine Wellness and Conservation
  • Jay Kirkpatrick, Director, Science & Conservation Center
  • John Fusco, Choctaw & Tribal Strains
  • Casey Jones, Equine Dentist, Holistic Dentistry
  • Dr. Gus Cothran, Genetics
Habitat Restoration
  • John Bechtold
  • Natasha Lohmus, Fish & Game, Santa Barbara, CA
Youth
  • Youth Ambassadors: Aly & AJ Michalka