Our Mission

The purpose of Napa County Historical Society is to discover and keep history alive through exhibits, lectures, and events, as well as research, publications, and educational activities. We are a membership-based archival and educational organization dedicated to the discovery, preservation and presentation of the people and history of Napa County and its place in California history.

Board of Directors

Tom Spaulding


Freelance researcher, writer, and photographer Tom Spaulding arrived in Northern California in 1996 to pursue doctoral studies in English literature at UC Davis, and taught writing courses there for several years. Tom fell in love with his new home, and spent countless hours exploring and photographing Northern California’s natural and constructed landscapes, from hikes through the Desolation Wilderness in the Sierra Nevada mountains to visit alpine lakes, to drives down historic highway routes in run-down sections of Central Valley cities to spot vintage motel signs. These travels were usually followed by more time spent in libraries researching the subjects he discovered. Eventually this culminated in Tom writing about his discoveries and experiences in blog entries and articles, including in Tidings and other local publications in Northern California. Tom’s photos have appeared in local galleries and in local and national publications. He has called Napa his home since 2010.

Sheli Smith

Board Member

A Napa native, Sheli graduated from Justin-Siena High School and went on to study Anthropology at the University of Arizona, eventually specializing in Maritime Archaeology she received her Masters from Texas A&M University and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.  Sheli worked in maritime museums doing research and curation, returning to California to work with California State Parks in the study and preservation of the state’s maritime heritage. 

In 2000, Sheli joined the PAST Foundation, a non-profit focused on developing new and engaging educational models in response to changing workforce needs around the world. After twenty years of developing programs and professional development, Sheli has returned home to the Valley.

Sheli actively participates in a number endeavors that reflect her passion for Education, the Arts, and Anthropology including California’s State Parks Diving Advisory, Ohio’s Shadowbox Live Educational Advisory, and the international Advisory Council for Underwater Archaeology.

Sheli Smith

Margie Mohler


Margie Mohler was born on the East Coast and raised in the Midwest. She graduated from the University of Kansas with an undergraduate degree in Microbiology followed by graduate work at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Her professional career as a pharmaceutical scientist included positions at Genentech and Johnson and Johnson. Margie and her husband moved to Yountville and formed a pharmaceutical consulting company in 1999.

Margie was elected to the Yountville Town Council in 2008 and currently serving her third term on the Council. Her community involvement includes serving on various local, county, and state boards and commissions including Upper Valley Waste Management Authority, Napa Valley Transportation Authority, Napa County Local Agency Formation Commission, Napa County League of Governments League of California Cities,  California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions, and Napa County Historical Society.

Danielle Barrecca

Board Member

Danielle is a Napa Native and Vintage High graduate. After high school Danielle attended California State University, Sacramento where she received her BA in History.
Danielle has leadership experience as a Past President of the Rotary Club of North Napa and a Leadership Napa Valley Class 29 Graduate. She currently serves on the Leadership Napa Valley Board of Directors. In 2016 Danielle completed her FEMA training to become a member of Napa’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and she enjoys continuing her education and training in Emergency Preparedness. In 2018, Danielle was appointed to the City of Napa’s 2040 General Plan Advisory Committee which will work on updating the City’s vision for land use, housing, transportation, parks and recreation, historic resources, and economic development.

Danielle is a local real estate Broker working with buyers and sellers throughout Napa County. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, reading and spending time with her family.

Ricky Hurtado

Board Member

Ricky Hurtado is born and raised in Napa, comes from an immigrant family, is a first generation college graduate, earning his bachelor’s degree in Government/Political Science, from Sacramento State University. Ricky has over 38+ cumulative years in giving back to our Napa communities by working in the nonprofit field and serving on different boards, including as Vice President of Fair Housing Napa Valley, and a Committee Member of the 2040 Napa General Plan, helping shape Napa’s future. He also currently serves as the President of the Napa County Hispanic Network, as well as other community boards.

Ricky’s fascination of history first occurred when he learned that his family first came to the U.S. and Napa Valley in the late 1970’s. It was his grandfather who came to work as a farm worker through the Bracero Work Program, which allowed Mexican farmworkers into the United States. Learning that history from his grandfather has led Ricky to appreciate, learn, and understand the U.S. history and the policies behind such actions. Ricky says, “It’s important to capture history from different vantage points and perspectives. Once we know our history, we know our direction”.

Rob Orr

Board Member

Rob Orr spent his childhood in Hawaii, Germany and Alaska as a member of a military family. He graduated Napa High School and later Chico State where he earned a teaching degree, then ventured to Australia and taught high school in Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland. Eventually returning home and pursuing a career locally as a builder/developer, he specialized in custom homes, multi family residential projects and small hotel development. Currently he is involved in construction projects in Incline Village and the Carson Valley, a duck club habitat restoration project in the Sacramento Valley in cooperation with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and marine industry related real estate properties in Maine.

His interests include fishing, hunting and sailing.  In 2016 he and crew concluded a five year progressive cruise up the Eastern Seaboard originating in Mobile, Alabama and concluding in Bristol, Rhode Island.aboard his 46′ sailboat, ‘Athena.’  This cruise allowed a unique historical appreciation of early coastal towns and communities approached and experienced from the water.

His interests in local history are focused on the early pioneer settlers of Napa Valley and the development of maritime activity on the Napa River, on which he is presently doing research.

Jim Treadway

Board Member

Jim Treadway was raised in New England, attended Dartmouth College, served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University, and is a lifelong hotelier.  He worked with Westin Hotels and Resorts for 23 years, the last five of which as President of Westin North America.  In 1996 he founded his own hotel management company – MTM Luxury Lodging, with several partners. He grew that company to 10 managed hotels and 10 asset-managed hotels, including the now famous Bardessono Hotel & Spa in Yountville, Napa Valley.  Bardessono opened in 2009 in the height of the recession.  Jim moved to Napa in 2010 to jumpstart its early performance and has been here ever since.  He sold his company to Benchmark Hospitality out of Houston in 2011, but remained an investor and the general manager of Bardessono, until it sold in 2015 for a record amount of money on a per room basis.

Jim has served on boards of privately-owned, for-profit companies, as well as a number of industry associations, both state and national, and several non-profits.  He has guest-lectured at Cornell, Florida State, Florida International, San Diego State, University of Washington School of Business, and Washington State.  He currently sits on the Tug McGraw Foundation and Napa County Historical Society Boards.

Currently, Jim, with three partners, is developing a hotel in Walla Walla, Washington – the heart of that State’s wine region.  He also has a consulting company and works with both hotels and hospitals.  His passions are history, sports, the Island of Kauai, and family – four children and five grandchildren.

Scott Sedgley

Board Member

Raised in Napa, Scott Sedgley graduated from Napa High School in 1970. He completed a four year apprenticeship in carpentry, spending 13 years working as a union carpenter. His next opportunity was working for the Napa Fire Department. Starting as a Reserve Firefighter, Scott worked 32 years with the department, retiring as a Truck Captain in 2011.

Scott’s community involvement includes 25 years as a docent at Bale Grist Mill State Historical Site, four years on Napa’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission and serving nine years as a board member with the Napa Valley Unified School District. He currently serves on the boards of the Napa County Historical Society and the Foundation for Napa Recreation. Scott is a member of the Native Sons of the Golden West, Napa Elks Lodge, Land Trust of Napa County and the Sierra Club. Even after retirement, Scott continues to serve his city as an elected member of Napa’s City Council. Scott and his wife Linda were married in 1975 at Napa’s First United Methodist Church

Sandy Re Simms

Board Member

Sandy and her husband Gordon moved to Napa in 2016 from Green Valley though has been working and volunteering in Napa since 2001. Growing up in San Rafael she attended Sir Francis Drake High School, then continued her studies at Sacramento State, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in US History and English Literature. Her aspirations were to be a High School History teacher, but found herself in banking for 44 years, retiring as Vice President of Bank of Napa. Sandy is very well known for her volunteer work and has been recognized for her leadership, notably with NEWS and  Aldea.  Additionally, she’s been a member and volunteer for NCHS. Sandy’s letter of interest to join the NCHS Board stated, “Thank you so much for the opportunity to serve on the Napa County Historical Society Board of Directors.  As you know, my degree is in History and my passion is Napa, so this position is the answer to  my prayers!”

Don Winter

Board Member

Don Winter has served as a nationally recognized Hotel & Restaurant Consultant for the past 40 years, primarily specializing in Dispute Resolution. His first economic research assignment in Napa County Lodging began in 1973 and he continues to assist local hotels and restaurants to this day. A graduate of Cornell University, Don has served as President and/or Board Member of numerous charitable and professional organizations throughout the Bay Area. His dark side is sated through his secondary career as a professional humorist and M.C. for events throughout the United Sates.

He and his wife Katherine moved to Napa full-time in 2000 and are enthusiastic world travelers. They are members of the Native Plant Society and Land Trust of Napa County and spend many weekends hiking the unlimited back trails of this wondrous and blessed County.

Don Winter

Brad Wagenknecht

Board Member

Brad Wagenknecht nhas been a school teacher since 1977. During the first 10 years of his teaching career he taught emotionally disturbed adolescents. Since 1987 Brad has been teaching social studies at Redwood / Silverado Middle School in Napa. In recent years, he has taught part-time in Special Education and kindergarten. Brad graduated from a local high school in Napa and went on to graduate from the University of California-Santa Cruz with a degree in Political Science and Elementary Education. Brad has split his time teaching with public service since 1984, when he was elected to the Napa City Council. He has also served as Mayor to the City of Napa. In 1998 he was elected to the Napa County Board of Supervisors and began serving as the representative for District 1 in January 1999.

Brad grew up in the Browns Valley area of Napa and has three children: Gretchen, Fritz, and Max. Gretchen is a city planner and manages a retail clothing store in Petaluma. Fritz attends college in San Diego. Max is a full-time student at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Brad runs 300 days a year and plays basketball religiously. He spends his free time attending his kids’ sporting events and performances.


Liz Alessio

Executive Director

When Liz Alessio talks about her family’s deep connection to Napa, she can back it up with the fact they have lived in Napa Valley for over 140 years.Her great-great grandfather was County Supervisor from 1901-1904 and as a master stone mason built several of Napa’s most famous landmarks, while her father was a Napa Police Officer and mother a local banker, both involved on local boards. Alessio is a fourth-generation Napa resident and current Parks and Recreation Commissioner who is well known around the community for her charity work, public service and professional success. Looking at her long resume of accomplishments doesn’t do justice for just how involved she is in all things Napa.

Nikelle Riggs

Research Librarian

Raised in American Canyon and graduated from Vintage High School in 2007—Nikelle Riggs joined the staff as Research Librarian at the Napa County Historical Society in February 2019. After completing a Bachelor’s Degree in History from CUNY Hunter College in Manhattan, New York, Ms. Riggs is a graduate of the iSchool at Syracuse University with her MLIS. She is most excited to join the ranks of librarians and the community in preserving and maintaining access to Napa’s historical records.