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Personnel File - August 2008: Energy / Environment

Chuck McGrady
Henderson County Commissioner

Chuck McGrady is used to getting weird looks when people find out he’s an environmentalist and a Republican. But the Henderson County commissioner says Democrats have emerged as champions of the environment because many Republican leaders from the West are tied to mining and energy interests. “Even though protecting water and air quality is a very conservative issue, it has really become one the more liberal party has taken a lead on.”

Nevertheless, his stance on conservation and conservatism may have cost him. McGrady, 55, lost a seat as a Sierra Club director when a rival played up his GOP membership, and he believes he was defeated in his first commissioner race in 2000 because voters didn’t think a Republican could be an environmentalist.

McGrady grew up near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but credits summers at Camp Sequoia, near Weaverville, for his love of nature. After getting a bachelor’s from Rhodes College in Memphis and a law degree at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., he taught at Wayne State University in Detroit before going into private practice in Atlanta, where he joined the Sierra Club. In 1989, he bought Falling Creek Camp in Tuxedo, where he had worked as a teenager. He eventually became chair of the state Sierra Club chapter and joined the national board in 1997.

By the time he was voted off the board, he had already begun his four-year term as county commissioner. Two years ago, he and his wife sold the camp, though he still works there. Exposing children to the outdoors is part of his environmental advocacy, as is keeping an eye on development. “Kids know about the ecology of a stream from their computers. But have they ever played in one?”