John Hutchinson Named Executive Director
The board of directors of Valley Conservation Council (VCC) announced today that Staunton native John Hutchinson will serve as its new Executive Director. Hutchinson, who brings with him over three decades of conservation and development experience, will take the helm of the organization on January 1, 2020, aiming to expand Valley Conservation Council’s membership and solidify its role as the only land trust dedicated to protecting the Shenandoah Valley and Virginia’s Western Highlands.
Valley residents may be familiar with Hutchinson from his nineteen-year tenure at the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation, where he played a key role in the founding of the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley. Prior to his work with the Battlefields Foundation, John served two terms on VCC’s board of directors, and was the organization’s Special Projects Coordinator from 1995 to 1999, where he spearheaded a study into the fiscal impacts of land use in Augusta County, developed The McDowell Battlefield Landowner’s Guide, and co-authored a study on the Middlebrook-Brownsburg Corridor. VCC board member Abbie Cutter expressed her strong support for Hutchinson’s selection, saying “John is well known throughout Valley and in the halls of government in Richmond. As a close VCC observer for many years, he’s in a prime position to take the organization to a new level of excellence.”
Asked what aspects of the opportunity were most intriguing, Hutchinson noted his passion for serving his community and the chance to build upon the organization’s momentum. Hutchinson shared that “coming home to serve Staunton, Augusta County, and the area where I was raised is exciting. VCC and its partners have spent more than twenty years sowing the seeds for land conservation and conservation easements, and now we’re reaping the rewards of that work. Many if not most landowners want to preserve their land if they can afford to do so. People would much rather preserve their land than see if developed. It’s our job to make that possible.”
Under Hutchinson’s leadership, Valley Conservation Council will focus its immediate efforts on protecting high-priority farmland, forest land, and historic sites within its eleven-county service area. Working with partner nonprofits and other stakeholders, VCC plans to identify areas for protection within the Shenandoah Valley and Western Highlands, and then focus its efforts on outreach and conservation within those regions. One of VCC’s partners, the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley, expressed enthusiasm about Hutchinson’s new position. “Congratulations to John and to the Valley Conservation Council on this terrific news!” said Kate Wofford of the Alliance. “We look forward to a long and productive partnership, working together to protect the farms and forests that define the extraordinary rural landscapes of the Shenandoah Valley. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone more qualified or better-suited for the job.”
Hutchinson also indicated a strong desire to help develop the next generation of conservationists. “One big opportunity that is presented by John Sweet’s generous donation of his farm in Highland County is the chance to create a living laboratory and outdoor classroom to educate future conservationists, young and old, about natural resources,” he said. VCC’s annual “Kites and Critters” event, held in Augusta County, along with recent herpetological studies conducted by a JMU student at the Sweet Family Farm, present two models that the organization hopes to replicate as it seeks to foster environmental stewardship.
Steve Clinton, Chairman of the organization’s board of directors, expressed strong support for Hutchinson’s future with VCC. “John combines an unpretentious, forthcoming manner with an unmistakable ability to articulate ideas clearly and effectively. His exceptional interpersonal skills – proven over 40 years of professional experience – make him an excellent choice to lead Valley Conservation Council into its fourth decade of environmental stewardship.”
Hutchinson, who is a graduate of Staunton’s Robert E. Lee High School, earned his BA at the University of the South, and his Master of Urban and Environmental Planning degree from the University of Virginia. He and his wife reside in Staunton, VA.