League Officers and Directors
President Alice Duffee
Trained as an architectural historian and historic preservation planner, Alice specializes in evaluation, recordation and inventory of historic resources, and provides consulting services through her company, APD Preservation, to satisfy cultural resource compliance requirements at the federal, state and local levels. Architects, contractors, and home owners retain her when they have a vision for their property and can't wait months or years of trying to navigate the complex business of city planning and environmental compliance.
Vice President Martin Laney
Having been raised in Sonoma, and lived in the valley most of his life, Martin’s involvement with the League for Historic Preservation is a natural extension of his appreciation for the opportunity to live in a wonderful location with such an important historic heritage. It’s not an overstatement to say that Sonoma is the birthplace of modern California, and as such, occupies a unique position, spiritually and physically, in the history of our state. Martin’s thinking aligns closely with the League’s purpose of preserving, protecting, and promoting that history, along with educating residents and visitors about the importance and impact of what has transpired here in our valley, and where our history actually took place. Being a recent retiree from the telecommunications industry, he looks forward to being able to devote some of his new found time to helping the League further advance and expand upon that mission.
Treasurer Mary Szykowny
Mary Szykowny is a licensed Real Estate Agent working at CENTURY 21 Wine Country, focusing on residential real estate since 2009. She earned her A.A. from College of Marin and worked as a Certified Dental Assistant in the Bay Area for 4 years before moving to Sonoma in 1988 with her husband, Mike, to raise their two children. She was drawn to the rural and historic town of Sonoma and joined the League in an effort to do what she can to help others appreciate and preserve these properties. She has been the bookkeeper for her husband's construction business since 1994 and was also a bookkeeper for a local attorney from 2011-15. Szykowny worked as the Health Tech at Flowery School from 1995-96 and from 1990 until 2005, served as a volunteer at Presentation School and in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, serving on various boards and fundraising committees at both.
Secretary Beth Skrondal
Elizabeth Skrondal was employed for 10 years at the City and County of San Francisco Planning Department as the Administrative Assistant on the Historic Resources Survey Team. She assisted in proofreading and editing context statements and surveys. She was also responsible for archiving/indexing survey properties and DPR forms. She served on the San Francisco Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board for 5 years, two of those as Vice President. Her training was in art and interior design. And, for 33 years, she flew around the world as a flight attendant.
Director Gerard Bessat
Gérard Bessat retired in 2007 from a long career in information technology working for financial services companies, Credit Agricole Bank in France and Visa International in the US since 1984. Gerard held a variety of technical and senior managerial jobs covering the full range of IT functions in large IT organizations. Gerard earned an aeronautical engineering degree in Toulouse France (home of the Concorde and Airbus planes), and a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Arizona in Tucson. Gerard has been a resident of Sonoma since 2011.
Director Michael Hospelt
I remember that I always had a camera. My father, who documented World War II, taught me how to photograph when I was still a child. Winning First Prize in a youth photography competition when I was twelve steeled my resolve to become a photographer. After I finished school I had the opportunity to apprentice as the assistant to the well-known architecture photographer Hans Schafgans in Bonn Germany. This technically challenging education threw open the doors of the elite art school Folkwangschule in Essen for me, where for six years I honed my visual horizons by studying photography and design.
During the ensuing years I traveled the world as fashion and advertising photographer, my clients encompassing international magazines and ad agencies. Directing commercials and documentaries lent itself as a natural progression, which led to my work with the renowned Filmhaus production company, where our advertising clients included such international brands as Volkswagen, Beck’s Beer, Sony, Philip Morris and many others.
Anticipating the emerging internet media platform, I later founded NEWTECMEDIA with two partners. I served as its CEO in Hamburg, Germany until 2001, when I moved to the United States. After having put my camera down so many years ago, I slowly begun to enjoy my old love photography again. First photographing Landscapes, and then, in 2015 through introduction, I begun photographing architectural exteriors and interiors for professionals in the building industry, coming full circle.
Director Nina Small
The fascination with architectural design at a very early age led Nina to pursue a degree in art from West Chester University in Pennsylvania and subsequently a successful career, not as an architect but as an art director. She worked with many high profile companies and clients in the healthcare, automotive, retail, financial, tech and pharmaceutical sectors. She has also served as a Human Resources professional for Nason Construction, a design build firm on the east coast. She holds two professional certifications in Human Resources and is currently on the board of the Northern California Human Resources Association representing the North Bay Region. Formerly she served on the Arts Guild of Sonoma board and has been an active volunteer in many of the non-profit outreach programs to advance art programs in Sonoma Valley. Currently she is working in customer relations at the corporate offices of Restoration Hardware.
Director Susan Staggs
A native Californian, Susan received a BA in English and an MA in Management and Organization Development. She had a career in Human Resources Management at various high-tech companies in Silicon Valley before retiring in 2000. She and her husband, Havard, then moved to the Sierra Foothills during which time Susan became active as a community volunteer. She was a member of the Sutter-Amador Hospital Foundation Board and the Amador County Mental Health Board, President of the Friends of the Amador County Library, the Amador Branch of the American Association of University Women, and the Sutter Creek Woman’s Club.
After moving to Sonoma in 2015, she served for 3 years on the board of Sonoma Valley Newcomers Club and currently serves on the Grants Committee for Impact100 Sonoma. For the past couple of years she has also served as the Docent Coordinator for the League’s Maysonnave House.
Executive Director Robert Demler
Robert Demler has served as a Director and President of Sonoma League for Historic Preservation several years ago and prior to becoming Executive Administrator in September 2019. Previously he served as the Sonoma City Historian and is Director Emeritus and Founding Member of the Blue Wing Adobe Trust. Mr. Demler was also the Chairman of the General Vallejo Monument Committee who was responsinle for the Vallejo Statue in the Sonoma Plaza. He is also the Archivist of the Sonoma Sunrise Rotary Club and is a member of the Advisory Board of Global Partners for Development. Demler and his wife, Leslie, spent over 15 years as the owners/caretakers of the historic Demler-Jones-Vallejo Adobe, now called the Vallejo-Casteñada Adobe in Sonoma.
Immediate Past President Prema Behan
Residing in Sonoma, Prema Behan serves as Chief Operating Officer of Three Sticks Wines and Head High Wines. Behan received her MBA in 2013 from Sonoma State University, one of the first Wine Executive MBA graduates in the country. She has served as a Director at the League since 2013 and served as President for two years. Behan headed the renovation and preservation efforts at the historic Vallejo-Casteñada Adobe in Sonoma, where Three Sticks Wines operates their hospitality. In addition to her work with the League, she serves as President of the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers' Alliance. Her first name means "giver of love" in Sanskrit and her nature embodies the name, especially in the caring of her two boys, aged 21 and eight.
After years of work, our Historical Resources database is now online. The Preservation Guidelines are available on this site.
Address & Map
291 First Street East
Sonoma, CA 95476