This month, SMC’s Leader in Stormwater was the recipient of the Stoneroller Award and also behind the development of a nationally accredited green jobs training program while at the Center for Watershed Protection – Neely Law, Planner with Fairfax County’s Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination.

Neely’s academic experience in urban and watershed planning provided a lens to approaching stormwater management through connections between human and natural systems. She was introduced to stormwater management while working on the Baltimore Ecosystem Study in graduate school and was drawn to the industry.

Neely’s career with Fairfax County Government began in 2020 in the DPWES Stormwater Management Division with the intention of shifting gears and working in local government for more “boots on the ground” work. Her current position with the County focuses on climate adaptation and mitigation. Here she works with colleagues and other partners to understand the needs and issues, then visualizes and develops and implements the solutions which sparks a lot of exciting creativity in her. The move from watershed and stormwater management has amplified her passion and creativity while broadening her skills and knowledge to the issue of sustainability and climate change.

Previously, Neely worked with the Center for Watershed Protection (CWP) for 20 years and says that she is indebted to the CWP for the experience she gained there while working on translational research and programs to advance the practice of watershed and stormwater management. The personal and professional relationships during her tenure there have had a long-lasting impact that she values today. She names Bill Stack as someone who has inspired her throughout her career. She describes Bill as someone who is always there to listen as well as share his own experiences and insight. She says his guidance and influence has been subtle but impactful.

Today, Neely remains passionate about stormwater – specifically natural systems and its constant evolution – and enjoys being around people that are thinking about what we can do better. Neely says that the industry’s attention should be focused on prioritizing the integration of stormwater management and natural systems restoration as solutions to other urban issues such as equity, food security, public health and impacts from extreme weather (heat, flooding, drought, etc.)

Neely grew up in Ontario, Canada. She tells readers, “A toboggan is a wooden sled and not a hat”, and figures most of us will head to Google to find out what that means. Neely likes to travel, hike, read, binge watch an occasional series, and get together with family and friends at a local winery or brewery, or simply in the comforts of home.