Thursday, May 28, 2009

Jim Stephenson: A good man in a tough business

This has been a hard week for North Carolinians who love the coastal region -- and those who work hard at preserving what is best there. Earlier this week David Stick, noted author, historian and coastal conservationist, died at age 89. He had a rich and full life and a world of friends.

But this morning came terrible news that 57-year-old Jim Stephenson, policy analyst for the N.C. Coastal Federation and a tireless advocate for protecting our coastal resources, had died in Raleigh. Stephenson lived in Morehead City but rented an apartment during legislative sessions, where he spent a lot of time tracking coastal legislation specifically and promoting what he saw as good environmental policy in general. The Coastal Federation announced on its Web site this afternoon that he had died early Thursday of a heart attack or stroke.

Bearded and bespectacled, Jim was the perfect advocate and thinker about the environment, which involves some highly technical issues. He was a patient man who spent a lot of time explaining the science as well as the mechanics and the politics of environmental issues. Before he joined the Coastal Federation he was executive director of the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, and prior to that he was an adviser to officials in his home state of Pennsylvania.

In this legislative session he worked hard on a number of issues, including plans to allow construction of terminal groins at various N.C. inlets as well as construction of the state's first concrete plant on the Northeast Cape Fear River in Wilmington.

I think Jim had a lot of adversaries in his work, but I don't know of a single enemy. That's all the more remarkable because coastal controversies boil at high speed and tempers often flare. He was well regarded as a quiet man, level-headed, thoughtful, civil and determined. I'll miss his advice and counsel -- and those who revere our coastal areas will miss his efforts to preserve our shorelines and keep our coastal waters clean.

20 comments:

Harry Kaplan said...

Jack: Thank you for your comments about Jim. I was shocked and saddened at the news of his sudden passing.

I got the chance to work with Jim on environmental mitigation issues and I found him to be just as you described. He was quiet and thoughtful, but also determined and a strong advocate for the environment in general and the coast in particular.

He also was a good guy and was well-respected around the NC General Assembly. He will be missed.

Bill Holman said...

Jim lobbied to maintain the public's access to its beaches and waters. He fought for policies to protect and restore water quality. He was patient, principaled, and persistent. I'm very sad about his untimely death.

Andy Coburn said...

I've known and worked with Jim for a long time, and there's nothing I can say about his dedication and commitment to the NC coast that anyone who's ever met him doesn't already know.

But I've also had the pleasure of spending many quality "outside of work" hours with Jim. I used quotes because, whether it was shooting pool in Beaufort, eating pizza in Cullowhee or relaxing over a few cold ones at the Fat Pelican in Carolina Beach after sitting through another day of NCBIWA propaganda, there never really was any "outside of work" with Jim.

Sure, we talked and joked about all kinds of things over the years. But no matter where Jim was, what he was doing or talking about, his passion for protecting and preserving the NC coast was always front and center. ALWAYS!

The state has lost a tireless and effective coastal advocate. I lost a good friend. RIP Jim!

Lynnette Batt said...

From a student's perspective, Jim was an unforgettable mentor. I worked as an intern with Jim during the summer of 2007, while completing a Master of Environmental Management degree at Duke. His dedication to responsible policies for the NC coast and ability to patiently show and explain the legislative process were key factors that shaped my graduate education, and now, current career path. I know many other students had the chance to learn from and become inspired by Jim, and we will miss his leadership dearly. Hopefully we can continue to instill the socially and environmentally responsible ethics in policy-making that Jim so adeptly promoted.

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