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CoastLine: Randy Sturgill's long and winding road from Harnett County law enforcement to environmental advocate

randy-sturgill oceana.jpg
Oceana
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Randy Sturgill is a retired law enforcement officer, born and raised in Harnett County, who came to environmental advocacy later in life.

You might recognize the name Randy Sturgill from local news stories about offshore drilling and seismic testing. He is often credited with mobilizing the grassroots movement against such activities – causing hundreds of municipalities along the Eastern seaboard to sign resolutions opposing oil and gas exploration offshore. But Randy Sturgill didn't come from a family that engaged in environmental advocacy. Rather, he grew up in the living quarters of the Harnett County jail, and not because he broke any laws. His father was the Chief Deputy Sheriff and the Sturgill family lived on the grounds of the jailhouse. It was the prisoners that taught Randy how to play cards and lectured him about the importance of living a better life than the ones they had chosen.

Randy Sturgill grew up in the living quarters of the Harnett County jail, but not because he broke any laws. His father was the Chief Deputy Sheriff and the Sturgill family lived on the grounds of the jailhouse. It was the prisoners that taught Randy how to play cards and who lectured him about the importance of living a better life than the ones they had chosen.

It’s worth noting that Harnett County is mostly land and very little water, but the Cape Fear River runs through it, and Randy Sturgill remembers playing near its banks as a child. He also remembers the family’s regular trips to North Carolina’s coast where he played at the beach. Those were the touchstones of his childhood, although they didn’t come into play in his professional life until more than half a century later.

He followed his father into law enforcement – starting as a Cadet at the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., then moving back to North Carolina to serve in communications for Highway Patrol. A couple of years later, he became a Lillington Police Officer – back in Harnett County. Eventually, he joined the Harnett County Sheriff’s Office where he worked as a Uniformed Deputy and Narcotics Investigator.

But you might recognize the name Randy Sturgill for a different reason:  local news. He is often credited with mobilizing the grassroots movement against offshore drilling and seismic testing – causing hundreds of municipalities along the Eastern seaboard to sign resolutions opposing oil and gas exploration offshore.

Today, he works as a Senior Field Representative for Oceana, a national nonprofit conservation organization that works to influence policy for the preservation and restoration of the world’s oceans.

His path to environmental advocacy, as a group of four wise men once said, has been a long and winding road. Join us for a trip on that road on this edition of CoastLine.

Guest:

Randy Sturgill, Senior Field Representative, Oceana; retired law enforcement officer

Resources & Issues:

Protecting North Atlantic Right Whales

North Atlantic Right Whale
Nick Hawkins / Oceana

Stopping the shark fin trade

Plastic ocean crisis

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Rachel hosts and produces WHQR's local public affairs and variety show, CoastLine, which she helped to create. Before joining WHQR, Rachel wrote and produced local TV newscasts for the Wilmington ABC-TV affiliate. She also wrote and produced a 30-minute TV special program for the Cape Fear Museum showcasing its renovation and new exhibits, and she independently wrote and produced a documentary on the lingering effects of the 1898 coup d'etat in Wilmington. rachellh@whqr.org