The Bellevue Botanical Garden Society Board of Directors bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our organization. Meet our board members below.

Heather Babiak-Kane


Heather Babiak-Kane was born and raised in Chicago. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in nursing, and completed post graduate work in neurophysiology at the University of Washington. Heather was a pediatric neuro nurse for many years before retiring to concentrate on volunteer work, primarily with the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society as a board member, and on events, membership, and volunteer resource committees. She is also a Master Gardener, a member of Woodinville Garden Club, and is currently teaching cake decorating classes. She and her husband, John, love working in their garden year-round, biking, hiking, and traveling. Most of all, they love their two dogs, Herbie the Westie and Roe the Corgi.

Cleo Raulerson


Cleo Raulerson has been a gardener all her life and a BBGS member since the garden was dedicated in 1992. She has over 750 varieties of flowering plants in her Woodridge/Bellevue garden where she and her husband Peter have lived for 27 years. Cleo recently retired after a 38-year high tech management career, most recently as Senior Operations Manager with Cisco Systems. Prior to that, she was an IT Applications Director with Eddie Bauer and Egghead Software, and a consultant with Deloitte. Cleo has an MBA from UW and a BS in Computer Science from OSU. Cleo’s non-profit board experience includes Mortar Board Alumni/Tolo Foundation (President and Treasurer), which manages an $800,000 scholarship endowment fund, Intiman Theatre, and Seattle Chapter of WITI (Treasurer). She is also a Master Gardener.

Amy Doughty


Amy Doughty was raised in Bellingham and later moved to Seattle, where she graduated with a B.A. from UW, majoring in economics. Amy’s career spanned more than 35 years in an industry that provided retirement plans for employers and their employees. She became the managing partner of the Seattle firm, EB Management Co., which provides administration services for large 401(k) plans sponsored by union organizations. After 20+ years with the firm, she and her partners sold the company and she retired in 2016. Since that time, Amy enjoys spending more time in her garden, and with her husband, pets, friends and family. She enjoys traveling, getting out on the NW waters, and visiting with her two young grandchildren.

Robin Root James


Robin Root James is as local as it gets. She was born at Overlake Hospital, was schooled through the Bellevue School District, and graduated cum laude from Seattle University. She has worked full-time selling real estate here successfully since 1989. She has served the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society since 1995, first volunteering as a docent and later becoming one of our Co-Presidents, serving numerous terms.  Robin also volunteers for the Village Theater where she has been an usher since 1996.  In her free time, she enjoys gardening, the arts, water and snow skiing and flying with her husband Larry.

Tracy Botsford

Tracy Botsford is a native of Seattle and attended WSU. After working for over 25 years in the tech industry, Tracy retired from Microsoft and completed the Environmental Horticulture program at Lake Washington Technical College. This spawned a second career as garden coach and landscape designer. Tracy joined the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society as a docent in 2017 and has lead the docent community the past two years. When not in the garden, you’ll find Tracy traveling with her husband, Chuck, and son, Charlie, spending time with family and friends, cooking, reading, walking, playing sports, and cheering on her favorite sports teams.

Barbara Bruell

Nature comes naturally to Barbara. Growing up, her family planted and harvested an annual vegetable garden. Here in the PNW, Barbara has a lovely backyard garden. She has an MS in Information Systems and Telecommunications from UC Boulder. After a successful career in high tech, Barbara followed her passion: environmental education. She spent eleven years guiding the Environment Science Center, and developed and taught courses on PNW salmon and beach invertebrates to youth.  Barbara has previous board experience, having served two terms on the board at Earthcorps.

Charles Freedenberg

Charles Freedenberg has a marketing degree from the University of Illinois and a J.D. degree from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. For more than six years, he was an attorney in the IRS estate tax division, and went on to an 18-year career in commercial real estate. Charles retired in 1996 and taught himself how to program interactive financial calculators for the web. In 2006, Charles was recruited by Microsoft to write the algorithms for their financial calculators. In addition to his board work, Charles serves on the finance committee. In his free time, he enjoys reading, photography, and playing jazz guitar.

Nita-Jo Rountree

Nita-Jo Rountree is a speaker, educator, author, and landscape designer. She is a lifetime Georgia Master Gardener and former owner of LeGrand Gardens, a landscape design and installation company in Atlanta, Georgia. Nita-Jo is a member of the Heronswood Garden Steering Committee and serves on the advisory board of the Northwest Horticultural Society, of which she is a former president. She is a frequent speaker at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show as well as numerous horticultural organizations. She was often a guest and substitute host on the radio show, Gardening with Ciscoe. Her book, Growing Roses in the Pacific Northwest, was published by Sasquatch Books in 2017.

Kathleen Searcy

Kathleen Searcy was raised in the Yakima Valley, where her family operated a fruit production and brokerage business. She earned a BA in Political Science, an MA in Administration, and various Washington state credentials to become both an elementary and secondary school principal in Seattle. Kathleen served as director of human resources for the Renton School District where she was responsible for employment and employee issues, collective bargaining, and grievance management. Later, she became the vice president of Renton Technical College, a position she held until retiring. As an enthusiastic world traveler, Kathleen continued an interest in antiques and collectibles, opening a Bellevue store offering inventory collected locally and abroad.

Gretchen Stengel

Gretchen Stengel was raised in New Jersey. Her mother was a landscape architect and both her parents were avid gardeners. After completing nursing school, in 1968 Gretchen moved to Seattle to work at UW and continue her education. She graduated cum laude with a Masters in Physiological Nursing. She taught a Nurse Practitioner Program at UW for a number of years, and eventually retired from nursing to raise her two daughters. Being a dedicated gardener, Gretchen joined Arboretum Unit 16 in 2002, the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society in 2006, and the Board of Directors in 2008. Gretchen and her husband, Robin, live in Medina and enjoy their garden, traveling, skiing, cycling and entertaining.

Doris Wong-Estridge

Doris is a lifelong Seattleite and graduate of the University of Washington. Doris was in the fund development field for more than 25 years. She served as Development Director for a number of organizations, including Literacy Bridge, Powerful Schools, and Cancer Lifeline. Prior to that, she served as the Assistant Development Director at Seattle Central Community College Foundation, as well as in all areas of development at KCTS TV. She has also served on a number of boards including on the Board of Directors for the Seattle/King County YWCA where she was Board Secretary and Third Vice President and Community Relations Chair. She was also a member of the national Council for the Advancement of Secondary Education VIII Committee on Opportunity and Equity. She is currently serving on the Women’s University Club’s Board of Trustees as the Personal & Professional Development Trustee as well as the Chair of the Women in Transition Scholarship Committee. She is on the Executive Committee of Jade Guild and the organization’s Recording Secretary and Educational Committee Chair.