Vernon Hartley Sr.

Photo courtesy Vernon Hartley Sr.

Photo courtesy Vernon Hartley Sr.

Vernon Hartley Sr., an environmentalist and community activist who has served as a Jackson Municipal Airport Authority commissioner since 2014, traveled to Hong Kong on March 8 to serve as a liaison on behalf of the Airports Council International of North America's 35th annual World Environment Standing Committee.

Each year, representatives for airport authorities around the world gather as part of the committee in order to discuss aviation-related environmental issues. This year, ACINA and 17 other international organizations met and focused on topics such as air emissions, noise pollution, storm-water runoff, international wildlife trafficking and cleaner-emitting biofuels.

"There are lots of challenges with these meetings because air traffic isn't as separated by boundaries as some other forms of travel, and yet, these issues still affect us all," he says.

Hartley, a 57-year-old west Jackson resident, grew up in South Carolina and joined the United States Air Force in 1977. The Air Force initially assigned him to Biloxi and then to Wiesbaden, Germany, to serve as an environmental lab technician in 1983. Hartley left active duty in 1987 and later enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he received a bachelor's degree in community health with a minor in environmental science in 1994. After graduating, he got a job as an environmental administrator with the state Department of Environmental Quality.

"I joined the Air Force because I wanted to get out of my hometown and see the world after reading about all sorts of different places as a kid," Hartley says. "At the same time, though, I grew up on my grandfather's farm, where the environment was always right outside the front door, and the outdoors was my world. I wanted to do environmental work in the Air Force and beyond because I wanted to be able to protect both the Earth and the people in it."

Hartley also worked on environmental programs for the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation from 2005 to 2007 and as manager of the City of Jackson's solid waste division from 2007 to 2012. He also serves on the board of directors for the Jackson Association of Neighborhoods, the Mississippi Recycling Coalition and Keep Jackson Beautiful.

"I'm proud to have been part of so many environmental organizations in Jackson because I look to make the community better by cleaning it up," Hartley says. "Doing that helps give us all more pride in our heritage and in our city."

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