I’m the President of Conservation Voters. I oversee the day-to-day operation of our family of organizations in our education, advocacy, and election work to protect the air, land, and water that you and I love in South Carolina.
When folks ask where I’m from, I generally reply that I’m just a “southern mutt” — born in Alabama, but lived in and around Birmingham, Knoxville, Orangeburg, and Chattanooga all before high school. Though I don’t have the privilege of being a “born and raised” South Carolinian, I have a deep connection to the State from growing up in Orangeburg, graduating from Furman, marrying a girl with deep roots in the Upstate, and having our first child in South Carolina. This amazing State is and will forever be my home. Wherever my wife, Mary Virginia, and I have lived, both of our hearts have always been drawn back to South Carolina.
I came to conservation before I came to the voter part of “conservation voter”.
When I was 9, my dad passed away in an accidental plane crash. Needless to say, I was hurt, lost, and confused. The healing process took a long time. But through it all, the strongest memories that remained of my dad were of camping with him, my mom, and my brothers and sister – simply just enjoying the outdoors. In dealing with the loss of my father, I also sought out places to be “at peace.” Time and time again, I found those places in the outdoors – primarily on the water. Whether kayaking down whitewater or sitting on the dock by a lake, I found places where life slowed down a bit and the craziness stopped. Those places – those opportunities to just think – were vital to me becoming who I am today. And as I thought about the memories my dad left me, I wanted to make sure that I left my children the same types of special places that helped me heal. That led me to my career protecting the rivers and lakes of the Southeast.
The “voter” part is a much simpler part of the story. Before Mary Virginia and I were even dating, she challenged my commitment to conservation with a simple question – “Do you vote?” Having just turned 18 when we met, I hadn’t had the chance and hadn’t really thought about it. But after she asked, I sure started paying attention (after all, I did like her a lot). From then on – whether at grad school in NC or working on conservation issues in the Upstate – I began to see first-hand that who we elect matters. Unless we elect good leaders, educate them, and hold them accountable, I realized that my conservation work wouldn’t have the impact I wanted.
I am a Conservation Voter. Our rivers, lakes, farms and forests made me who I am. These places define us as a people and as a state. I am proud to be a South Carolinian and I’ll fight tirelessly to protect our air, land, and water. That’s the kind of Conservation Voter I am, what kind are you?