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New executive director has big plans for Save Our Seabirds' future

Brian Walton is using his previous nonprofit expertise to update systems at the City Island nonprofit and involve it in more community events.

Brian Walton during his first week of new executive director of Save Our Seabirds
Brian Walton during his first week of new executive director of Save Our Seabirds
Photo by Petra Rivera
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New executive director Brian Walton wants to move Save Our Seabirds forward with his nonprofit expertise and desire to make SOS more a part of the community. 

“Nonprofit work is all I have done,” said Walton. “I've been a part of a lot of different causes. I've worked with adults with disabilities and done leadership training in former communist Yugoslavia. I've worked for some counseling and mental health organizations.”

Walton started his first nonprofit organization when he was 16. What started as a service project to spend more time with his friends turned into a passion for helping others and led him down a long path of nonprofit work. Originally from Indiana, he graduated from Johnson University in Tennessee in 1995.

Most recently, Walton worked as the executive director for North Brevard Charities in Titusville, Florida, for four years. Their mission is to help provide affordable housing for underprivileged people in their area.

After feeling ready to close the social service chapter of his life, he started to look for a new job and SOS fell into his lap. Walton said the meaningful cause of SOS and how different it was to what he had done in the past felt like a breath of fresh air. Even though he didn’t have much avian knowledge, the SOS board thought his experience in growing healthy nonprofits was right for SOS' future. 

Walton’s first day as executive director at SOS was Oct. 16. His first months have been focused on relationship building with the team at SOS and updating behind-the-scenes systems and processes. Walton has also made many efforts to be a part of the local community by attending different events such as Light Up Longboat, Longboat Key Kiwanis Club meetings and the Sarasota Farmers Market.

“Sometimes as nonprofits, we can be perceived that we always have our hand out, that we're always asking people for things, but there's also another side to that,” said Walton. “We can add value to community life. So we want to make sure that we're looking for ways to be present and engaged. We want to participate in the community in meaningful ways and add value to other people's events.”

As the new year starts, Walton and the board are starting to create a master plan to reinvent the SOS campus while maintaining its nature-rich environment. Walton shared that SOS plans to install six new bird aviaries and a new state-of-the-art bird hospital. SOS hopes to make these improvements more weather-resistant for the long term since the campus is already weathered from over the years.

Walton said that working at SOS has been different than he expected it to be. He has built a strong bond with the team and the long-term avian residents of SOS. He said the highlight of his first months was getting to shadow Dr. Maria Passarelli in the hospital and seeing the mission in action. 

“My favorite part of SOS is the undeniable 100% authentic passion of our people for our mission,” said Walton. “It is such a remarkable and refreshing thing to see people who believe so deeply in what they're doing, and they do it with a passion. If somebody was here and didn't have that passion, they wouldn't last here very long because everyone expects it out of each other.”



Petra Rivera

Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.

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