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Interview with Virginia Gunn, March 23, 2015

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:01:13 - Sea Turtle Protection

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Partial Transcript: When did you first come to St. Simons and the coastal area here.

Segment Synopsis: Gunn describes moving to St. Simons after marrying writer William Diehl. She discusses driving across beaches to monitor sea turtles. She talks about how turtle excluder nets have reduced the number of turtle deaths over the years. She explains how she lost access to the beaches after she became involved in politics which prevented her from counting the turtles on Sea Island.

Keywords: Brunswick, Georgia; Department of Natural Resources (DNR); animal rescue; environmental conservation; fishermen; ordinances; photography; politics; wildlife

00:09:52 - Protesting beach renourishment

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Segment Synopsis: Gunn describes her opposition to the island commissioner's plan for beach renourishment which caused her to become involved in local politics. She talks about starting an organization called Save the Beach to increase public opposition to the proposal. She explains how beach renourishment--adding sand or sediments to beaches--would increase pollution and endanger animals.

Keywords: Superfund sites; United States Army Corps of Engineers; advertisements; dredge materials; hotels; media; money; tourism; toxins; voting

00:21:41 - Involvement in Save the Beach and campaign for county commissioner

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Partial Transcript: So, going back to that time...

Segment Synopsis: Gunn discusses recording county meetings and exposing illegal meeting of officials as part of Save the Beach. She explains how she was able to gain allies on the commission after a two-year fight. Gunn discusses successfully running for county commissioner in order to prevent beach renourishment, mentioning high voter turnout in the primary.

Keywords: Republican Party; elected officials; female politicians; local government; local politics; politics; primary election

00:29:22 - Service as county commissioner

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Partial Transcript: So you won, and so then what was your role once you got on the council?

Segment Synopsis: Gunn describes her time in office, stating that she never raised taxes on citizens and prevented beach renourishment. She discusses working to protect the right whales and designating them as a critically endangered species. She talks about raising money to build statues of right whales in the park, planting wildflowers, and organizing tree ordinance on Arbor Day.

Keywords: Department of Transportation; Keith Jennings; Tree City USA; children; donors; hotel tax; local government; ports; public education; wildlife conservation; women politicians

00:42:44 - Negative treatment while in office and unsuccessful reelection campaign

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Partial Transcript: And so, you ran again.

Segment Synopsis: Gunn describes facing constant bad press and opposition from the Republican party while in office. She explains how people encouraged her to run again despite her protests which prompted her to run as a Democrat and lose the election. Gunn also talks about involvement in current issues including saving the spit at Sea Island, protecting right whales, and picketing Flash Foods.

Keywords: St Simmons; activism; election; environmental conservation; independent; media; secretary; voting; women politicians

00:51:24 - LCP Chemicals Georgia Superfund Site

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Partial Transcript: We are rerecording again on March 23rd, 2015 with Virginia Gunn discussion about the LCP chemical site.

Segment Synopsis: Gunn describes how her secretary helped expose the high levels of toxins released from the LCP Chemical Site in Brunswick. She describes how the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and the EPA did not close the site until journalists reported on the issue. She discusses the continued pollution in the area that affects both the people and the wildlife.

Keywords: Atlanta Journal Constitution; Florida Times Union; Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB); Superfund sites; dolphins; fish; health; public hearings; whistleblower