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Personnel File - August 2008: Energy / Environment

Mary Price Harrison

State Representative

Career: Bachelor’s in history in 1980 from Duke; law degree in ’85 from UNC Chapel Hill. She worked at Haley, Bader & Potts law firm in Washington, D.C., helping with MCI’s antitrust case that eventually led to the breakup of AT&T.

She’s only been a member of the legislature since 2005, but Democrat Pricey Harrison has signed her name to more bills than colleagues with four times her tenure. In the last year and a half, she’s sponsored or co-sponsored 828, including a bill to stop Tar Heel energy companies from using coal taken via mountaintop mining techniques, one that requires big-box retailers to recycle plastic bags and another that would ban incandescent light bulbs. Harrison, 50, says she feels a sense of urgency when it comes to the environment. “There’s a lot that needs to happen in the policy world, and the amount of time we have to accomplish it is sort of unknown.”

She believes it was inevitable she would end up in public service. Her great-grandfather, Julian Price, was a key builder of Jefferson-Pilot and served on the Greensboro City Council. For years, the family had one of the state’s largest charitable foundations, the Kathleen Price Bryan Foundation. Family tradition also had alot to do with her original career choice, communications law. Her grandfather, Joseph Bryan, helped Jefferson-Pilot buy its first TV license. Harrison soon discovered she wasn’t crazy about the for-profit world.

After she and her husband moved to Beaufort in 1993 for his job, Harrison went to work for the family foundation and became involved with the Coastal Resources Commission, an advisory group on coastal-management policy. But she became frustrated when the legislature overruled several proposals. “I decided perhaps I would be more effective if I weren’t just an advocate but actually a member of the chamber.”

She was elected in 2004, unseating an eight-term incumbent. Though she’s known for her environmental work, another area she involves herself in is social justice. She says it can be frustrating at times trying to remind people of the links between the environment, the quality of life and the economy. Citing Beltsville, Md.-based SunEdison’s announcement that it will build a solar farm in Davidson County, she says, “What’s good for the environment is good for the economy.”