How long have you been in the industry?: Since 1990, although it was probably 10 years before I realized that I truly was “in the industry.”
How did you get involved?: My first case was representing the opponents of an LCID facility in 1990. But ever since then I have been on the side of developing solid waste sites, working on the approval of close to 40 facilities, including MSW, C&D, composting, scrap, municipal recycling, medical waste, industrial waste, coal ash and LCID. I litigate matters when permits are denied, and I enjoy attending as many waste conferences as I can.
Who/What was your biggest influence?: When I started practicing law in 1985, zoning cases were typically handled by local attorneys who only dabbled in land use. The biggest influence on my career path was probably my own bravado, which allowed me to conclude that I could do zoning and land use as my sole area of practice and take it statewide. I was on the extreme leading edge of lawyers in North Carolina to do that. Now my practice extends into Virginia and South Carolina, and at last count I have represented clients in more than 300 counties, cities, towns and villages, and of course at the state level as well.
What has been your most unique/interesting experience over the years?: Just whisper the words “proposed landfill” in any community and citizens will ring the alarm bells and hunker down for a fight. Rallying against a change in land use makes people feel good. It gives them a purpose and makes them feel alive. And nothing is as enjoyable to fight as a landfill, despite the facts and science that are calmly explained. Dealing with these citizens professionally and gracefully while navigating the political processes has given me more stories than I can count, including some that you just have to laugh about. Once, just a day or two after a hard-fought battle over a landfill, I walked out to get my newspaper and found it was lying in my driveway on top of a large bag of horse manure.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to the industry today?: In a word: politics. The primary obstacle we face is the ever-increasing need for more solid waste disposal options, combined with the rapidly diminishing number of locations where there is any political will to approve these facilities. Despite this challenge, I have enjoyed seeing many favorable local government board votes.
What do you like most about being in the industry/your job?: The people I work with every day—the engineers, the developers and the owners of solid waste companies—are some of the finest people you will ever meet.
Hobbies: I love spending time with my donkeys, fishing on my farm pond, following my older son’s band (Mipso) and taking trips with my younger son.
Last vacation: My wife and I visited the Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania. We’re still talking about it.
Words to live by: Always treat your opponents with honesty and respect, but never be fearful of litigation.