We are so pleased to announce Brent Laurenz as our new executive director. He will succeed Kate Dixon, who is retiring in early 2022. Kate and Brent will overlap for a short length of time during the transition.

Brent has more than 15 years of nonprofit leadership in North Carolina and nationally. Since 2015 he has been deputy director of Common Cause in North Carolina. Prior to that, he served as executive director of the NC Center for Voter Education. At the American Battlefield Trust, based in Washington, DC, 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,” Brent said. “North Carolinians, including my family, have rediscovered in these challenging times how important trails and parks can be to our well-being.”

Brent and his family call Raleigh home and love spending time outdoors camping in the woods, paddling on the water and especially hiking on trails. Every time he hikes a section of the MST with his two kids, they’re eager to follow the trail all the way to the coast or to the mountains. Other than hiking, they love exploring North Carolina’s small towns, state parks and historic sites, even making it a mission to visit all 100 county courthouses in North Carolina, with only 28 left to go. Brent 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,” says Marcia Bromberg, Friends’ incoming president and chair of the search committee. “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!”

Brent enters the organization just as the NC General Assembly and the Governor passed a new state budget that includes $29.25 million of new trail funding, most of it targeted toward completing North Carolina’s 12 official State Trails, including the MST. The new state funding will be used to acquire land, build new trail, and improve trail heads and signs all along the MST and other state trails. It is the first significant investment of funds ever targeted specifically at the State Trails. This funding can be transformational, particularly if the State continues this kind of investment for a number of years.

We invite you to attend our annual Gathering of Friends April 7-10 at Lake Junaluska to welcome Brent to the MST Community. (Don’t worry, we’ll also include honors for Kate Dixon, the only executive director in Friends’ history as she hikes off to enjoy her retirement.)

Brent is humbled and excited to bring his long-time experience in nonprofit leadership to work for our MST Community. He looks forward to meeting you all! If you’d like to reach out, you can email Brent at brent.mst@gmail.com.

To new beginnings…