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Members in Action: John Wigginton, Southeastern Region Director of Westervelt Ecological Services

Tuesday, September 10, 2019  
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John Wigginton is the director for the Southeastern Region of Westervelt Ecological Services (WES), located in Auburn, Ala. WES is a nationally recognized company delivering ecological restoration projects for mitigation stream, wetland and endangered species impacts and also has offices in Sacramento,  Cal., and Denver, Col. WES currently has projects in 7 states and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Westervelt Company, a 135-year-old company based in  Tuscaloosa, Ala. WES is focused on ecological and financial sustainability as stewards of the land.

John and his team in WES’ Southeastern Region are currently implementing or planning several stream and wetland restoration projects in Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina totaling about 4,000 acres. In John’s mind, the two most rewarding things about working for WES are contributing to the remarkable legacy of an organization with a 135-year history of innovation and leadership in natural resource management, and the privilege of leading an incredibly talented and dedicated team of restoration practitioners. There have been many wonderful moments in John’s career, but achieving the final performance standards for the Southeastern Region’s first project, Yellowleaf Mitigation Bank, was especially satisfying because he was a part of it from concept to completion (about 15 years).

While John has had a successful career as a conservation planner, it was not always his goal. Inspired by NASA’s first Apollo moon landings, his childhood aspiration was to be an “assernaut” (astronaut). He still marvels at the idea of space travel and the endlessness of space. John’s first actual job was at the local supermarket -  bagging groceries, stocking shelves, mopping floors and doing whatever needed to be done. He found the lessons of hard work, serving others, customer service and teamwork to be invaluable. And he still remembers earning his first tip – a whopping 25 cents! He didn’t know this then, but those brown paper bags he flipped open by the thousands were the foundation of The Westervelt Company, whose founder, Herbert Westervelt, patented the flip-open, stand-up paper bag.

John encourages others to get involved in this field because restoring and conserving land for future generations provides a lot of job satisfaction. The fact that the team at WES is able to do good conservation through private markets makes it even more special to him. Additionally, John believes that ecological restoration is an expanding field and that the job opportunities with continue to increase, especially in the private sector, as the markets for ecosystem services mature.

John has been a member of SER since 2011 and has served on the Southeast Chapter board for the last six years. His best experiences have been the friendships developed with other board members and the opportunity to interact with one of the founders and legends of SER, Andy Clewell, who is still active in his chapter.