Andy Kane – Senior Director
Before joining the Thread Trail team, Andy served for four years with the Catawba Lands Conservancy as a Land Stewardship Associate. Formerly, he was the Executive Director/VP for YMCA Camp Thunderbird with the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. In his role with the YMCA, he provided leadership in starting YMCA Camp Harrison in the North Carolina mountains and the Environmental Education Center at Camp Thunderbird. Prior to moving to Charlotte, Andy was employed by the Auburn University Cooperative Extension Service specializing in horticulture and forestry. He currently is the board chairman for the Anne Springs Close Greenway and also serves on the board of Camp Blue Skies. Andy and his wife Florence have two sons.
Tom Okel – Executive Director
Tom joins the Conservancy as Executive Director after a successful twenty year career with Bank of America, where he most recently served as the Global Head of Bank of America’s Syndicated Capital Markets division. Tom has served in many leadership positions in the community, having chaired the board of Kindermourn, served as Assistant Treasurer of Myers Park Presbyterian Church, and as Co-Chair of Critical Home Repair with Cross-roads Corporation for Affordable Housing. A graduate of Davidson College with a BA in economics, Tom serves on the Davidson Board of Trustees and Board of Visitors. He also holds a master’s degree in management from J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.
Bret Baronak – Community Coordinator
Bret comes on board the Carolina Thread Trail with a background in public sector land use and transportation planning. Throughout his career, he has specialized in bicycle and pedestrian planning. From 2006 to 2014, Bret served as the Bicycle, Greenways, and Pedestrian Coordinator in Palm Beach County, Fl, where he was responsible for planning, funding and elevating awareness for non-motorized transportation. In late 2014, he moved to the Charlotte region and held the position of Senior Transportation Planner with the Gaston-Cleveland-Lincoln MPO. Bret is a native of western Pennsylvania and a graduate of Penn State University. He is an avid road and mountain cyclist, and also enjoys hiking, travel and NASCAR racing.
Matt Brantley – Davidson Impact Fellow
During his one-year fellowship, Matt will assist with Thread Trail community outreach and land stewardship. Matt graduated from Davidson College in 2016 with a BS in Environmental Studies. In school, his research included the effects of organic pest control methods in small scale agro-ecology as well as effects of impervious surfaces on first order streams in Mecklenburg County. He also volunteered with the Davidson College Farm and helped develop an app for students promoting sustainable food choices.
Margaret McGee Brantley – Development Director
With 12 years of experience in marketing and development, Margaret brings an excellent understanding of fundraising techniques and growing organizations in high growth and rapid-paced environments. Five years ago she created her own company M. Brantley and Associates where she successfully helped clients create and implement fundraising and marketing strategies for their organizations. Margaret has a bachelor’s degree from NC State University and a master’s in public administration from UNC Charlotte.
Alesia DiCosola – Marketing Director
Alesia brings to the position more than eight years of marketing and public relations experience in the nonprofit and museum sectors. Her background includes media relations, online marketing, strategic communications, branding and social media. She previously worked at the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Conn., and the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, N.C., where she managed marketing and public relations for the grand openings of two landmark expansion projects. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism, Alesia enjoys traveling, cooking and exploring new trails.
Vanessa Gorr – Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator
Vanessa joined the Carolina Thread Trail staff in October 2012 as the Outreach Coordinator. She spearheads community outreach efforts to support the development of local trail segments, oversees the Thread Trail’s volunteer program, encourages trail use and manages the grassroots membership program, Trailheads. Vanessa graduated from Bradley University with a degree in advertising, marketing and spanish. Before joining the Thread Trail, she was the Outreach Specialist for REI’s Charlotte market. Vanessa enjoys hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, yoga, strawberries and cheese…sometimes in that order.
Mary Ann Harrison – Program Coordinator
Mary Ann is our first program coordinator, a new full-time position funded through a grant from the Women’s Impact Fund. Mary Ann brings tremendous experience in outdoor education from her background with the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and most recently, the U.S. National Whitewater Center.
Raised in the Southern Appalachians, Mary Ann first fell in love with the outdoors as a child digging through the mud to catch “crawdads” in local creeks. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Asheville in ecology/evolutionary biology and environmental studies and for six years, she has enthusiastically shared the natural world with others as a park ranger, park guide and environmental educator.