Whidbey ‘serial volunteer’ wins stewardship award

South Whidbey resident John Lovie recently claimed the 2023 Jan Holmes award.

An avid volunteer involved in countless projects around Puget Sound recently claimed the 2023 Jan Holmes award.

South Whidbey resident John Lovie is this year’s recipient of the annual award, which is named in memory of Jan Holmes, a marine scientist, educator and champion for stewardship of the marine environment who passed away in 2011.

The Island County Marine Resources Committee, Sound Water Stewards and Washington State University Extension presented Lovie with the award a few days ahead of Sound Waters University, which is when the winner of the award is usually announced.

Lovie believes the nomination came from a handful of Island County employees, who he has worked with before in his volunteer efforts.

“Most people who win this award are people out there getting their hands literally dirty. That hasn’t been my main contribution,” he said. “I have been a serial volunteer on state and county committees and boards over close to 10 years.”

Lovie is president of the Whidbey Island Water Systems Association, and he’s also currently working with the state Department of Health on a set of forums about PFAS chemicals in drinking water.

In addition, he served as an advisor on a sea level rise project developed by Washington Sea Grant and Coastal Geologic Services. The results of that project, he said, have helped inform sea level rise planning for the town of Coupeville and Island County.

“This is a sound-wide project, but has a significant Island County involvement due to the length of our shoreline,” he said.

The ecosystem recovery project seeks to understand vulnerability in communities to sea level rise, which can include socioeconomic impacts.

Lovie has helped secure funding for this project, as well as many others. The vast majority of his work goes unpaid. With a background in the chemical industry and computer databases, he has provided a wealth of knowledge.

“I’ve brought Island County’s voice to the state level, which has been just an important thing to do,” he said.

Close to home, his favorite salmon recovery project involved the removal of hard armoring at, and restoration of, Sunlight Shores on South Whidbey. As part of the project, soft shell armoring was installed along the coast and restorative vegetation was planted. He helped get funding at both county and state levels.

“Access to the water is important to everyone’s mental, physical health,” he said.

In an announcement about the award from Island County Natural Resources Specialist Ann Prusha, Lovie was described as a leader in the world of water quality and marine resource conservation.

“He has been a powerhouse of environmental advocacy for Island County’s water and marine resources,” the statement read. “Community science advisory boards do not often get the recognition they deserve for the work they do to advance environmental causes, and members often go without recognition. The boards that John has served on have benefited greatly from the work he has done. And while that work is often behind-the-scenes, it has driven forward many positive changes for Island County’s (and the region’s) ecological resources.”