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Waldon Kerns

By Charlie Stott

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 27 - April 6, 1995

Waldon Kerns, professor of resource and environmental economics in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, is a recipient of the university's first Public Service Excellence Award.

A member of Virginia Tech's faculty for almost 25 years, Kerns "has excelled in developing and delivering public-service, extension, and community-resource-development educational programs that bring sound scientific knowledge and economic analysis to local and state economic development and environmental policy issues."

He has been extremely successful in getting scientific knowledge and economic analysis into legislative agendas, the development of state and local programs based on the resulting legislation, and then the organization and facilitation of education and outreach activities to successfully implement those programs concentrating on land-use and water-resources decisions. His programs deal with issues of great significance to a broad segment of the state's citizens.

Since the mid-1970s, he has designed economic development and environmental programs that could be implemented in conjunction with user groups, such as the Chesapeake Bay Program and regional economic-development groups. These users include many citizens' organizations in agricultural and urban communities, businesses, industries, and local elected and appointed officials.

As a member of the Governor's Groundwater Protection Steering Committee, Kerns "incorporated his considerable personal interest in groundwater protection into a wide variety of educational opportunities," said Robert Burnley, chair of the steering committee. "His efforts have certainly benefited groundwater protection efforts in the commonwealth." These efforts assure adequate water for existing uses, plus needs for continued economic development throughout Virginia.

Before there was a formal Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort, Kerns was instrumental in organizing many conferences, work groups, and seminars as part of the original Citizens Program for the Bay. In 1978 he was the keynote speaker on nonpoint-sources of pollution at the first Bi-state Governors' Conference on the Bay. He served on the Secretary of Natural Resources Committee to develop the 1982 Governors' Conference on the Bay which resulted in the formal EPA Bay program.

In the early 1980s, he collaborated with other Virginia Tech colleagues to develop the original draft legislation that was later used to establish the Chesapeake Bay Commission. The legislation set up the responsibilities and communications network for the Bay cleanup effort.

He teaches a senior/graduate course in environment and sustainable-development economics that has been so popular that additional sections are being added. He also has taught an honors microeconomic course and has team-taught the department's senior seminar. Currently, he serves on the University Committee on Environmental Studies, which is charged to develop environmental education programs and to improve environmental literacy at Virginia Tech.

Colleagues say that in all his efforts his "primary mission is to improve policy and management of environmental resources as well as provide for necessary economic development. He uses his academic training and experience to help develop and implement successful programs throughout the state."

They also praise his "sensitivity to others' needs and his ability to find the compromise that is generally acceptable to all interested parties."