Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail are welcoming Brent Laurenz as the nonprofit organization’s new executive director.
Laurenz succeeds Kate Dixon, who announced plans to retire in early 2022. The two plan to work together briefly during the transition.
The Mountains-to-Sea Trail stretches 1,175 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks, stopping at many state and national parks, refuges and historic sites.
Laurenz has more than 15 years of nonprofit leadership in North Carolina and nationally, most recently as deputy director of Common Cause in North Carolina. Prior to that, he served as executive director of the North Carolina Center for Voter Education. At the American Battlefield Trust, based in Washington, D.C., he was a government relations associate focused primarily on Virginia and Tennessee.
“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of thousands of volunteers, along with local and state leaders, North Carolina is at the forefront of trails and parks programs in this country. I look forward to working with such committed partners and others to build on those successes,” Laurenz said in a statement. “North Carolinians, including my family, have rediscovered in these challenging times how important trails and parks can be to our well-being.”
Laurenz and his family reside in Raleigh and enjoy the outdoors, camping in the woods, paddling on the water and hiking trails. Other than hiking, they explore North Carolina’s small towns, state parks and historic sites, and have made it a mission to visit all 100 county courthouses in North Carolina, with only 28 left to go. Laurenz received a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in political management from George Washington University.
“The board is thrilled to welcome Brent as the Friends’ new Executive Director,” said Marcia Bromberg, Friends’ incoming president and chair of the search committee, in a statement. “He brings considerable nonprofit experience, a successful track record of working with volunteers and, most importantly, a love of the MST. We are looking forward to a long partnership with the newest member of our trail family!”
Laurenz joins the organization as North Carolina’s 12 official state trails are set to receive $29.25 million in new trail funding in the recently approved state budget.
The new state funding is to be used to acquire land, build new trails and improve trailheads and signs all along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and other state trails. The group said the funding is the first significant investment targeted specifically at the state trails. The funding can be transformational, particularly if the state continues this level of investment for a number of years, officials said.
The group is hosting its annual Gathering of Friends April 7-10 at Lake Junaluska to welcome Laurenz and recognize Kate Dixon, the only executive director in Friends’ history as she hikes off to enjoy her retirement.
Laurenz can be reached at email@example.com.