The Piedmont Environmental Council’s John McCarthy
By Paula Combs
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” This quote from Leonardo da Vinci seems fitting for John McCarthy, the new director of strategic partnerships and a senior advisor for the Piedmont Environmental Council.
Retiring last summer after 28 years as the Rappahannock County administrator, McCarthy decided to continue his service to the public and joined PEC in January.
“John has worked on a range of local issues with leaders all across the region, and he is a valuable asset to have,” says Chris Miller, The Piedmont Environmental Council president.
A long-time supporter of PEC’s mission, McCarthy says he is excited to continue his career with an organization “so committed to preserving the quality of life and natural resources” of the places he loves.
PEC works with citizens in a nine-county region on a broad range of topics, which include land conservation, preserving historic resources, creating vibrant communities, protecting air and water quality, strengthening rural economies, building smart transportation networks, promoting sustainable energy choices, restoring wildlife habitat, and improving people’s access to nature.
John has found that the issues he worked on while in public office are often not materially different than those he is now working on with the regional nonprofit.
“Land development and human settlement patterns are things that people care deeply about, and how we as a people care for our natural resources while accommodating appropriate growth is a constant friction point,” says McCarthy.
“While the policy areas are very familiar to me, the landscape is of course far bigger. PEC’s direct service area extends from Clarke and Loudoun in the north all the way down the Piedmont to Albemarle and Charlottesville in the south, but that is only part of the story. The wide array of issues we deal with necessitates PEC’s engagement in a far larger region, up to state and even national policy. The big picture and ‘long game’ issues are a joy to work on.”
McCarthy received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mary Washington, where he served as an adjunct professor for 25 years, and a master of planning degree from the University of Virginia. He has also served as a member and officer of the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission, the RSW Regional Jail, and the Virginia Municipal League Insurance Programs. He also serves or has served on numerous nonprofit organization governing boards, including as chairman of the Fauquier Hospital Board, the PATH Foundation, and the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation.
“I am a believer in the fact that a community’s problems are best addressed when government, local businesses, and nonprofits collaborate to find solutions. No one of those partners has all of the answers, but all bring great questions and differing capacities to the table when they work together,” says McCarthy. “To that end, I have tried to work with nonprofit organizations that I feel are doing good things in our community.”
With his extensive career and volunteer experience, McCarthy has developed a unique set of skills.
“Local planning issues are becoming more and more complex, and with John’s county-administrator background, he’s dealt with such matters and understands there’s a delicate balance,” Miller explains. “John has a good idea of what people want and what the market will provide—and the gap between the two.
“He’s one of those people that finds the win-win where nobody else thought it was possible. And he’s very practical and direct about things. Which will benefit communities throughout our region.”
That’s something we all can be excited about.