Conservation, Political, Business Communities Come Together to Honor Five SC Leaders

9th Annual Green Tie Luncheon Sends Message that Conservation Matters to All

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Over 500 members of South Carolina’s conservation, political and business communities gathered together in the Grand Hall of Historic 701 Whaley on Wednesday at the Ninth Annual Green Tie Award Luncheon to send a message to the State House that conservation leadership matters.

The luncheon, held at the Grand Hall of Historic 701 Whaley in Columbia and hosted by the Conservation Voters of South Carolina (CVSC), honored public servants and conservation leaders for their dedication to creating a safe, clean and healthy South Carolina.

The event was attended by more than 500 guests – including at least 50 legislators, state Constitutional officers, local elected officials and agency heads, business executives, and roughly 70 corporate sponsors – and raised over $90,000 to support CVSC’s mission of fighting for clean air, land, water and energy through bipartisan activism.

This year’s honorees featured a slate of prominent conservation champions, including Dr. Dave Hargett of Greenville, Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling, Senator Thomas McElveen (D-Sumter), Representative Gary Clary (R-Pickens) and the late Representative Joe Neal (D-Richland).

Attendees included legislators, state Constitutional officers and agency heads, business executives, and roughly 70 corporate sponsors.

“The leadership of today’s honorees has been critical to saving the Automatic Stay and Conservation Bank, keeping offshore drilling, coal ash and hazardous waste out of our communities, and expanding access to clean air, land, and water for all South Carolinians,” said Cody Smith, CVSC Board Chair. “We’re so proud of the work they do and so privileged to be able to honor them here today.”


Dr. Dave Hargett received the Lifetime Conservation Achievement Award for his lifelong devotion to thoughtful, science-based solutions and policies that have made an enduring impact on the rivers and lakes of South Carolina. Most recently, Hargett helped form the Lake Conestee Nature Park, where he currently serves as Executive Director.

Hargett’s conservation legacy also includes serving as an early board member and first Executive Director of Friends of the Reedy River, stepping up to serve as the the first Board Chair of Upstate Forever, and leading the creation of the Saluda Reedy Watershed Consortium.

Hargett has also served on the Board the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, as Director of the National Wildlife Federation, as a member of the Foothills Resource Conservation and Development Council, and on the South Carolina Riparian Forest Buffers Task Force.

Mayor Billy Keyserling was honored with the Harriet Keyserling Conservation Advocacy Award, named for his mother, for being an unwavering advocate for South Carolina’s coastal communities. As a former State Representative and the current Mayor of Beaufort, Keyserling’s conservation career includes passing the first municipal resolution in the state to ban offshore drilling while galvanizing similar efforts in other municipalities, leading to the Obama Administration closing the Atlantic to oil and gas exploration in 2016.

In addition, Keyserling has long advocated for protecting the special places that both tell the stories of our communities and also protect our air, land, and water. For 14 years, he was a key player in efforts to immortalize the stories from the Reconstruction period in Beaufort County. These efforts culminated earlier this year when President Obama announced the creation of the Reconstruction Era National Monument, protecting a number of historic sites throughout the county.

Senator Thomas McElveen accepted the Senate Conservation Leadership Award for leading the fight to protect important legal protections for our air, land, and water during his five sessions in the State Senate.

Since being elected to the South Carolina Senate in 2012, McElveen has maintained a perfect voting record on conservation legislation, including playing an important role in the passage of the historic Shoreline Management Bill in 2016, leading a brave and complicated filibuster against efforts to weaken the Automatic Stay in 2017, and fighting to save the Pollution Control Act.

Representative Gary Clary earned the House Conservation Leadership Award for carving out a reputation as a thoughtful, deliberate fighter for all South Carolinians. He earned a 100 percent score on CVSC’s 2016 Conservation Scorecard and worked with the Pickens County delegation to introduce and pass a bill to prohibit coal ash from being dumped in unlined landfills, protecting both public health and water quality across the state.

In 2017, Clary has also actively worked with bipartisan allies on the floor of the House to stop the advancement of the Automatic Stay Bill and was one of the first Upstate legislators to fight against the anti-home rule bill that attempted to limit the ability of local communities to find local solutions to local plastic pollution.

Representative Joe Neal was posthumously presented with the House Conservation Leadership Award for a prestigious career of public service to ensure the rights of citizens to clean air, clean water, and a protected landscape. Neal was a constant voice for clean water and environmental justice, committing an immense amount of time and energy to improving the lives and well-being of all South Carolinians.

Nearly every year since 1999, Neal included legislation to amend the State Constitution to codify the fundamental right of all South Carolinians to a clean and healthy environment. His legislative accomplishments also included serving as a champion of the Conservation Bank and helping lead a gallant effort to slow the progress of the Polluter Amnesty Bill, which would have stripped away the ability of citizens to legally defend themselves from pollution in their own backyards.

The late Representative Neal served South Carolina House District 70 in Richland and Sumter counties from 1992 until he passed away in February of this year.


“To say I am honored and humbled to receive the Conservation Voters of South Carolina Green Tie Award today is an understatement. I appreciate the Conservation Voters of South Carolina and all of their partner conservation organizations for their efforts to provide information to the General Assembly and to create a bipartisan coalition to protect our environment while allowing our economy to continue to grow.” – Representative Gary Clary

“It is a personal honor to be recognized in my own right for approaching the high standard set by Harriet. In the General Assembly I followed the path she and her allies set on nuclear waste and energy. This award honors Harriet’s moral compass and steadfast commitment and tireless efforts to ensure the earth is clean and more sustainable for the next generation. I will continue to work hard to uphold that standard.” – Mayor Billy Keyserling

“Just because this is a lifetime achievement award, don't think that I'm done. I've got more work ahead of me.” – Dr. Dave Hargett

“The principles that are important to this organization are very, very important to me. I received my first ever political endorsement from CVSC and it felt good. I thank them for taking a chance on me then and for this award today. We have a responsibility to preserve our natural resources. They don't belong to us, they belong to our children and grandchildren and future generations. I'm glad this organization exists to fight for that cause.” – Senator Thomas McElveen

“Green Tie is about celebrating partnerships that make a lasting difference for the economy and quality of life in the South Carolina we all love. By working together, the businesses and conservationists gathered here today are fighting to assure a prosperous, safe and clean South Carolina for future generations.” — John Tynan, CVSC Executive Director

About CVSC

The mission of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina is to make conservation and environmental issues a top priority among South Carolina’s elected leaders, political candidates, and voters. CVSC fights for our air, land, water, and energy through political action. We are bipartisan, pragmatic, and effective.