At the heart of any organization are the people who work there, giving of their time and energy to make it run. Here at the Conservators Center we are fortunate to have a strong community of dedicated and experienced individuals who have a collective passion for wildlife education.
As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the Center has a small staff—many of whom are volunteers—and operates with efficiency in mind at every turn. We are also very fortunate to have a community with a broad range of expertise and experience from which to draw on while fulfilling our mission.
Executive Director, Co-Founder
Mindy Stinner, our Executive Director, co-founded the Conservators Center in 1999 with Douglas Evans. After graduating from UNC-CH, she worked as an English teacher and began volunteering at an organization with a focus on carnivore species. She volunteered in construction and animal care, assisted with veterinary procedures and hand-reared cubs before taking a full-time job as office manager there. After several years at that location, she worked as the hands-on manager of a small zoo with a much broader variety of species.
Mindy and Douglas chose to found the Conservators Center with a mission to help the public learn about carnivore species in the most effective way, by ensuring a personal experience and connection to the animals through individualized experiences in a way that differentiates the Center from other facilities. During the Center’s early years, Mindy was the animal keeper, office manager, networker, construction worker and guiding force.
Today, other than standard executive duties, Mindy’s role includes assessing and addressing proposed legislation and changes in regulatory policy that may impact the Center, and ensuring the Center’s compliance. She facilitates the Center’s relationship with veterinarians and veterinary students, and guides the animal husbandry practices on the site. She represents the Center at zoological industry conferences and emergency management planning and training sessions, and gives presentations to other organizations on topics including husbandry best practices, managing the media, and legislative/regulatory oversight in the zoological industry.
Outside the Center, Mindy serves as the VP of the Feline Conservation Federation, and the primary instructor and revisionist for the FCF Wild Felid Husbandry Course. She received a lifetime achievement award from the FCF in 2010. She also maintains professional memberships in several trade organizations.
Douglas Evans, our CEO, co-founded the Conservators Center in 1999 with Mindy Stinner. During the 1970s and 80s Douglas served in the Army as a Green Beret, then graduated from Pima Community College and Rutgers University. He worked for NYC Fortune 500 companies in IT and security. In the mid-1980s he decided he wanted a less stressful, more rural lifestyle, so he moved to NC, where he’d once trained in the military.
Douglas began volunteering at a carnivore-focused animal facility and received training from the facility’s owner, who was a 30-year veteran of working with wild carnivores. After several years of volunteering in construction and animal care, Doug took a job as Director of Operations of the facility, bringing his extensive prior experience in construction and a plumbing license. When he and Mindy decided to found the Conservators Center, Douglas made the purchase of the property possible, and ensured the site development plan would meet the Center’s long term needs. During the Center’s early years, Douglas was in charge of all construction projects, assisted with animal care and supervised all animal movement.
Today, as a member of leadership, Douglas provides oversight for construction and site development. He is responsible for specialized emergency response staff training, and helps provide around the clock security on site. His extensive hands-on experience with numerous species is invaluable.
Julia Wagner, our Assistant Director, began volunteering at a wildlife park at ten years old. After gaining experience providing educational programming to the public, providing animal care and assisting in the office, she moved on to attend school at John Jay University in NYC, where she earned a Master’s in Criminal Justice. During a break after college in 2007, she visited the Conservators Center to see old friends, and decided to spend some time volunteering. She quickly agreed to take a paid position.
Julia performed a wide array of staff functions on-site, including animal keeper, event coordinator, donor services, public relations, communications and administration. She coordinated the campaign to prepare the park to open to the public in the Fall of 2007. Her varied and extensive experience has allowed her a holistic view of the park’s operations that few others have.
Today, as Assistant Director, Julia is often the public face of the organization during special events and in the press. She is a critical driving force for the teams focused on long-term planning, strategy development, budgeting, networking, program development and evaluation, and communications. In addition to administrative functions, Julia serves as a trained handler on the Center’s wolf team and maintains ongoing relationships with many of the Center’s residents. She also represents the Center at national conferences.
Her degrees in Criminal Justice, with an emphasis in terrorism, inform her work in the wider world. With a special interest in studying how regulatory and legislative changes impact the zoological industry, Julia interacts with a variety of industry leaders, legislators and staff, and regulatory officials, ensuring open lines of communications and informing proposed changes with factual data.
Joy Courson, our General Manager, began volunteering with the Center in 2009. Initially, Joy took over the Center’s accounting and payroll, gradually expanding her role to include more office manager and human resources tasks. Her professional background includes a Master’s Degree in Accounting, working as a paralegal, working in a CPA firm as a senior accountant, assisting clients with both financial and business recommendations, and providing the due diligence for an acquisition audit.
Her passion for providing for the animals of the Center drove her to become ever more involved, and after eight years as a volunteer, Joy decided to make a dramatic career change.
Joy joined the Conservators Center’s leadership in 2016 as the General Manager, rapidly expanding her skill set to include training in construction and maintenance, animal husbandry, and legal compliance with regulatory standards. She is the daily boots on the ground of the organization, supervising all the daily staff operations and managing the office, human resources, and accounting.