Margaret McGee Brantley, Development Director
Margaret returns to Charlotte after living and working in Columbia, SC for the past 12 years. While in Columbia she established herself as a leader in the non-profit community. Possessing 12 years of experience in marketing and development, she brings to the table 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.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from NC State University; which she then followed up with a Master’s in Public Administration from UNC Charlotte.
Carmen Bray, Communications Director
Carmen brings more than 15 years of public relations, and internal and external communications experience to the Conservancy. Her background includes media relations, community relations, partnership development, marketing, branding and social media planning. She has 10 years of nonprofit public relations experience, including as a member of the Board of Directors and Young Leadership Board for Girls Hope Pittsburgh. Carmen’s background also includes creating and executing communications plans, strategies and programs for the transportation, education and small business industries in Pittsburgh and Charlotte.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications from Point Park University, a master’s degree in professional writing from Chatham University, and a certificate in leadership development from Leadership Pittsburgh, Inc. In her spare time she enjoys mentoring youth, playing guitar, playing basketball and hiking.
Ann Hayes Browning, Project Director
As Project Director, Ann coordinates the many activities of The Thread, including community outreach and planning, trail implementation, capacity building through educational resources and oversight of The Thread grants program.
After a 23-year career at Bank of America where she was a founding partner of the bank’s private equity investment group, Ann decided to turn an interest in land conservation into a second career. She joined the Carolina Thread Trail in September 2006 to pursue her passion for preserving the character of her native state of North Carolina. Ann is a graduate of Davidson College, where she currently serves on the Board of Trustees. She received her MBA from the Kenan Flagler School of UNC-Chapel Hill.
Randi Gates, Grants and Community Coordinator
Randi joined the Carolina Thread Trail as one of two Community Coordinators responsible for the daily activities surrounding the success of the community planning and implementation processes. She is also responsible for our grants process which provides catalytic funding for trail development in local communities. Randi graduated Summa Cum Laude from Appalachian State University where she concentrated her studies in Geography and Community and Regional Planning. Upon graduation, she returned to her hometown of Gastonia to work as a Transportation Planner for the City of Gastonia and served as staff to the Gaston Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. During this time, she participated on the Steering Committee for Gaston County’s planning grant for The Thread. In her last position, Randi gained much experience in preparing grant proposals and applications to secure funding on the local, state, and federal levels for the City of Gastonia’s greenway system, and hopes to pass along that knowledge to local communities participating in The Thread vision.
Vanessa Gorr, 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’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. Her love for travel, culture and the environment was fostered at a young age from many family trips abroad and across the country. Before joining The Thread, she was the Outreach Specialist for REI’s Charlotte market. Vanessa enjoys hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, yoga, strawberries and cheese…sometimes in that order.
Travis Morehead, Community Coordinator
Travis joined the Carolina Thread Trail as one of two Community Coordinators responsible for the daily activities surrounding the success of the community planning processes. Travis is a graduate of Appalachian State University where he concentrated his studies in Town, City, and County Management. Upon graduation from Appalachian, Travis was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in United States Army, where he served as an Infantry Officer with the 82nd Airborne Division. Upon leaving active duty, he has been employed by both local governments and a private planning firm in the Triangle region, of North Carolina. In his last position, Travis served as the Assistant Director of Planning and Entitlements and was responsible for representing citizens, property owners, developers, and local governments in land use related matters across the state. Travis enjoys spending time with his wife, Jennifer and two sons Matthew and Connor, as well archery and bowhunting.
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.
Anna Brown Simpson, Development Associate
Anna joined the CLC team in January 2013 as the development associate. She works to secure foundation and government grants for both the CLC and CTT, maintain updated and accurate donor information as well as assist in the coordination of development related events. As a native of Charlotte, Anna feels very passionate about protecting the beautiful landscapes of the area that mean so much to her. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in Communication Studies and International Studies and brings a unique perspective to the grant writing process by having a Master of City and Regional Planning from Clemson University. Anna enjoys spending time with her husband, Preston, playing sports, camping, hiking, making homemade pizzas and traveling when possible.