82.1 F
Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, December 3, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesOn Island Profile: Randy Brown

On Island Profile: Randy Brown

March 15, 2009 — Randy Brown lives a double life: Most of the time he's busy running Clean Islands International from its base in Pasadena, Md., but he spends more than a quarter of the year on St. John, overseeing operations at the V.I. Environmental Resource Station for Clean Islands.
"It's a good balance," Brown says.
After graduating from the University of Maryland with a bachelor's degree in arts management, Brown held such eclectic jobs as managing a rock band and staging art shows and theater productions.
He moved into county government with management jobs in energy and water conservation, as well as recycling. Along the way, he earned his master's degree in administration science/organizational management from Johns Hopkins University.
When the job began to change to "mostly contract renewal," Brown began to look for new opportunities. Having a view to the outside world wasn't enough.
"Even though I had a window, I felt I was suffocating," he says.
On a vacation to the Bahamas to figure out a new life plan with his wife, Tricia Hopkins, Brown connected with numerous local officials. This led to a job organizing Earth Day for Great Guana Cay in the Abacos.
One thing led to another, and soon Brown formed the non-profit Clean Islands. He envisioned the organization as a weekend thing, so at the same time he formed Maryland Renewables to provide schools with recycled paper.
Maryland Renewables quickly fell apart, but Clean Islands took off. Brown was introduced to the Virgin Islands when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hired him to run workshops on oil recycling and waste reduction.
While running the workshops, Brown first visited VIERS.
"I just liked going there," he says.
Meanwhile, the University of the Virgin Islands, which holds ownership to VIERS on V.I. National Park land, was pondering what to do about the VIERS facility.
While UVI had a field station near the site since 1966, the VIERS compound was put up by U.S. Navy Seabees for use by the two Tektite underwater habitat projects. After those projects ended in 1970, UVI used the facility as a scientific field station.
Located down a horrible dirt road — the worst of it is now paved — UVI had problems managing the facility. In 1996, it put out a request for proposal. Clean Islands answered the call with a plan to use VIERS as a community resource in addition to its scientific purposes. In November 1997, Clean Islands began managing the property.
Brown continues to face challenges, most due to the facility's still-remote location. Initially, finding managers to live in the boondocks was an issue, but Brown says that problem has been solved. And Brown says having a Maryland base helps with such issues as banking and correspondence.
Today VIERS may be best known for the summer eco-camps it runs for students, but it continues to serve as a base for visiting scientists. However, the nation's flagging economy is having an impact on that business. Colleges are cutting back, but high schools are using VIERS for class trips in coastal ecology because it's more affordable and accessible than other locations, Brown says.
Brown is also finding that an increasing number of people want to volunteer for the VIERS four-hour work program. The volunteers work four hours a day for room and board. However, with fewer scientists and schools, he has to limit the number because there isn't enough work for them to do.
His family comes to help out. His wife makes three trips a year with Brown. His children — Liberty, 21, Aviva, 18, and Serena, 13 — spend summers at VIERS.
When he's not tending to VIERS management, Brown organizes events such as ReCaribe, the annual solid-waste conference for Caribbean countries. It was held on St. John two years ago. And he just completed the Tektite splashdown celebration at VIERS.
"I really got a big kick out of that," he says.
Back in Maryland, he spends time on his four-acre property, tending his horse and doing chores for his mother, who lives next door.
As for his spare time?
"With three kids, we've been quite busy for the past 20 years," he says, laughing.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.