A Wild and Working Decade: 10 Years with Sandy Sweitzer

December 4, 2023
Sandy and her dog Grace at Brumley.

Simply stated, Executive Director Sandy Sweitzer has delivered a decade of stellar service to TLC. She joined us in the summer of 2013 as Director of Development, a role she had deep background in and in which she immediately elevated our fundraising. In less than two years’ time, with the resignation of the then current Executive Director, and with the strong urging of Sandy’s co-workers on the TLC staff, the Board elevated Sandy to Executive Director in 2015. And we haven’t looked back.

Under Sandy’s leadership, TLC has progressed to become a far more significant and accomplished land conservancy, during which time she has:

By pursuing accreditation for TLC, Sandy enhanced our reputation among landowners, funders, and fellow land trusts. Accreditation is awarded to land trusts upholding the highest national standards for excellence by demonstrating fiscal accountability, strong organizational leadership, sound transactions, and lasting stewardship of protected lands.

A former Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion trainer herself, Sandy drew upon her deep background and passion to ensure that TLC was at the forefront of conservation organizations embracing racial equity as a part of our responsibility to community conservation. She found funding and resources to ensure that every staff member receives racial equity training as part of their onboarding and is ongoing in professional development. By overhauling staff and Board recruitment policies, Sandy created a Board of Directors that reflects the population diversity of our region, and the most diverse staff in TLC’s history.

TLC’s Pathways Into Natural Environments and Science (PINES) Fellowship and Good Ground Initiative came about as a result of Sandy empowering and encouraging her team to look at what’s missing in conservation programs and outreach and create solutions: PINES works to create opportunities, resources, and mentorship for students from Knightdale High School in the fields of conservation and natural resources. The PINES program helps bring new voices into the outdoors and works to support students throughout their high school experience and future careers. Good Ground strives to turn organizational resources and power into equitable land distribution by empowering partners, unlocking land sovereignty, and investing resources in education and land access for historically underserved land seekers.

Sandy, TLC staff, and members of the Good Ground Initiative Committee. Photo: TLC Staff.

Her understanding that TLC’s work is about much more than bucks and acres has made her a champion for innovation and a cheerleader for her staff stepping out of the box to maximize community benefit. PINES and Good Ground are bold and innovative programs that would have remained theoretical without Sandy’s tireless advocacy, fundraising, and courage. She has also shared this leadership style with other land trusts in her role as co-chair of the NC Land Trust Federation.

Significantly, Sandy has led the organization through the 2018 strategic planning, and has followed through on all four of its mission statement goals while doubling the pace of land conservation in the Triangle: 

  • Connecting people to nature by the opening of Brumley and Williamson Preserves to the public and constructed extensive – and well used – trail systems for both.
  • Safeguarding clean water by drawing up the Jordan Lake Watershed Conservation Strategy.
  • Protecting natural habitats, by acquiring the Brogden Bottomlands, TLC’s largest land protection project to date at over 1,100 acres.
  • Protecting farms and food, with the Johnston County Farmland Protection Initiative, which was launched in 2016.
Ribbon cutting for Williamson Preserve, which opened during the pandemic. Photo: East Coast Greenway Alliance

In every dimension of Triangle Land Conservancy’s operation, there has been profound progress under the leadership of Sandy Sweitzer. Sandy, we thank you, and we look forward to more years of exciting progress.

With deep appreciation,

John McAdams, TLC Board President Emeritus

On behalf of the entire Triangle Land Conservancy community.

Sweitzer Statistics

  • Staff grew from 9 to 30.
  • Annual budget increased from $771,000 to $2,900,000.
  • Miles of trail increased from 11.5 to 55.
  • Acres of land protected increased from 15,000 to 23,000 (and counting).
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