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Home / Commentary / Why Braunstein flew away 
from the raptor center

Why Braunstein flew away 
from the raptor center

Chances are you don’t know much about what happened to the former head of the Carolina Raptor Center.

Earlier this year, Joy Braunstein swooped out of Charlotte like an owl in the night, making little noise and without many people taking notice.

In fact, based on my Googling, the Charlotte media have never reported on her departure, save for a Meck Times online story in June announcing the appointment of COO Jim Warren to the post.

To this day, only Braunstein’s family and close friends, the folks with the raptor center and, perhaps, some Charlotte movers and shakers know about it and what happened.

Now you’ll know, too. Well, you’ll at least hear Braunstein’s version of events, as the raptor center’s board chairman, Forrest Frazier, declined my request for an interview.

Braunstein has gone from taking care of birds to taking care of real estate. She can be found in Springdale, Pa., where she runs the Rachel Carson Homestead Association, a nonprofit that manages the childhood home of the author of “Silent Spring.”

The book, published in 1962, is credited with leading to the ban on DDT. At the time, it was an eye-opening look at the pesticide’s harmful effects on the environment and, in particular, birds.

I got interested in what happened to Braunstein June 17, when the raptor center named Warren CEO. That day, Michele Houck, spokeswoman for the raptor center, would not tell me what had happened to Braunstein. It was a human resources thing, Houck said.

Of course, all that did was make me want to know what happened even more.

Next to Mountain Island Lake, the raptor center is a nonprofit that rehabilitates injured birds of prey. According to the center’s website, Savannah and Derek, two bald eagles, have been happily propagating over the past five years, and some of their progeny have been released into the wild.

Braunstein began working for the raptor center in 2008. She said that when she was hired, Rich Carter, board chairman at the time, wanted public education to be the priority of the center. Then, the economic downturn splattered all over the raptor center like bird poop on a windshield.

Braunstein said the board told her late last year to develop a strategic plan that took into account the grim financial realities.

Financially speaking, things were not going well for the raptor center at that time. In December, donations were lower than expected, and bad weather affected attendance, Braunstein said.

Uncertainty reigned: How much funding would be coming from the state? Around the beginning of this year, the center’s reserve fund was tapped to the tune of $30,000.

Braunstein, who earned $84,000 a year, said she and Frazier, who was chair-elect when she was hired, never really hit it off and he seemed to be pessimistic about her financial plan. At one point, he told her “that my position was one that was not critical to the organization,” she claims.

On Feb. 22, Braunstein walked into a board of directors meeting. She thought she was going to give them the latest on the financial operating plan. Instead, she was told her position was being eliminated.

According to Braunstein, Frazier convinced the rest of the board to get rid of her. She asked the board if she could resign instead to avoid hurting her reputation and that of the center.

There was a severance package, the details of which Braunstein is not at liberty to disclose.

Although Frazier wouldn’t agree to answer my questions, he did send a short email response, which said “as a result of Joy’s resignation and other cost-cutting measures, the organization is stable financially and we believe well-positioned to deliver vital, mission-critical services into the future.”

Well, it sounds like everyone’s happy: Braunstein, 36, who had moved to Charlotte from Pittsburgh to take the raptor center job, appears to be digging her new nest.

And her current job, she said, is a “grander calling.”

Editor Deon Roberts can be reached at deon.roberts@mecktimes.com.

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