Michael Cowan. (Dunwoody Nature Center)

The Dunwoody Nature Center has a new executive director. Michael Cowan, who worked for AT&T for 10 years and has chaired the city’s Sustainability Committee for two years, took over the helm on Jan. 7.

Alan Mothner, who has served as executive director for seven years, is staying on until March to help with the transition.

“I love nature … and this is my life’s mission,” Cowan said of why he wanted to lead the Nature Center. “This is the perfect job for me.”

Mothner said it was time for him to step down and make way for new leadership after years of work with the board and staff.

“We’ve accomplished a lot together and I feel the Nature Center is in a great place,” Mothner said. “It was time to bring in new leadership and for the Nature Center to continue to grow.”

The Nature Center is undertaking a multimillion-dollar capital campaign with plans to construct a new 7,000-square-foot building in a portion of the center’s parking lot that will include exhibit space, classrooms and community meeting space. The current building in Dunwoody Park at 5343 Roberts Drive would be renovated into office space.

The new Austin Elementary School adjacent to the Nature Center is slated to open next year and the Nature Center is also planning after-school programming for students.

Mothner said he let the board know in September he would be stepping down and said he would stay until March 1 so they could work together to find the best candidate. He said he does not have another job lined up yet, but is looking at some opportunities.

“I don’t know where I’m going … but it was time to move on,” he said. “Michael is an excellent candidate and he’s going to be great.”

More than 250 people applied for the job and a dozen candidates were interviewed by the board before the board voted unanimously to hire Cowan.

Cowan joined the Nature Center board in December and then decided to apply for the job. He said is service on the city’s Sustainability Committee for four years, including the past two years as its chair, had helped him develop relationships with the City Council and city staff.

A 20-year resident of Dunwoody, Cowan worked for 10 years as the AT&T Accessories Team business director.

During that time, he was recognized as the company’s official “Environmental Champion” for his efforts to improve sustainability of retail packaging by reducing waste, requiring use of 100 percent recyclable paperboard and the introduction of plant-based plastic. He also led the development and introduction of the world’s first sustainable zero-draw wall charger that reduced energy consumption used to charge cell phones, according to a press release.

Cowan is also a leader with Boy Scout Troop 434.

“Michael brings an unparalleled level of professionalism and management experience to our team. We are excited to have him lead us in our next stage of growth and service to the community,” said Nature Center Board President Catherine Lautenbacher in the release.

The Nature Center continues to offer its other camps and events, such as the Monarchs and Margaritas fundraiser.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.