Bridge Builder Celebration

Bridge Builder Celebration

Each fall, VIRGINIAforever hosts our signature event – the Bridge Builder Celebration – in Central Virginia. The event honors elected officials and others who have championed efforts to protect Virginia’s land and water.


Register as a Sponsor or Individual Attendee

THANK YOU TO ALL OF OUR SPONSORS (1000 x 1200 px) - 1

For sponsorships, please contact
Nicole McAllister, or (804)775-1959

Please make checks payable to VIRGINIAforever

Send to: 800 East Canal Street, 7th Floor
Richmond, VA 23219

Bridge Builder Award Recipients



Ann Jennings

Ann Jennings served as Virginia’s Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources from September 2021 to January 2022. Prior to her appointment as Secretary, Ann served for more than three years as Virginia Deputy Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources, helping to implement Governor Ralph Northam’s priorities for the Chesapeake Bay, water quality, and natural resources. Additionally, Ann represented the Chesapeake Bay Commission as Virginia Director, where she worked with legislators from Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania on Bay restoration. Prior to that, Ann worked for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) for 18 years, for much of that time as CBF Virginia Executive Director.


Joe Maroon

Since 2013, Joe Maroon has served as Executive Director of the Virginia Environmental Endowment. Under Joe’s leadership, VEE has catalyzed water quality improvement and land conservation across the Commonwealth, funding initiatives which contribute significantly to the reduction of nutrient pollution to local waters and the Chesapeake Bay and the expansion of effective private land conservation. Joe served as the Director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation under two governors, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, from 2002 to 2010. During his tenure, the Department accomplished significant changes in the management of stormwater, in the administration of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, in controlling erosion, in addressing dam safety, in increasing funding for nonpoint source best management practices, and in helping to meet the state’s ambitious land conservation goals. Joe’s more than 35 years of leadership in conservation began with his appointment as the first Executive Director of the Virginia Office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a position he held for over 16 years.


David Paylor

David Paylor served as Director of the Department of Environmental Quality from 2006-2022. He was appointed by Governor Ralph Northam in 2018, Governor Terry McAuliffe in 2014, Governor Bob McDonnell in 2010, and originally by Governor Tim Kaine. Prior to his appointment, David served as Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources with Governor Mark Warner. Over his career, David has also served as Director of Operations for DEQ, President of the Environmental Council of the States, 2007-2008 and President of the Environmental Research Institute of the States from 2013-2022. David’s life commitment has been protecting and restoring air and water quality focusing on constructive environmental management.


Ann Swanson

Ann Swanson has served as a leader in the Bay restoration for 40 years, the last 35 as the Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. It is the Commission’s responsibility to sponsor legislation at the state level and to work with state legislators, members of the U.S. Congress, and the federal and state regulatory agencies to coordinate programs aimed at restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Ann has been recognized regionally, nationally, and internationally for her work. She delivered a keynote address at the Stockholm Water Festival and chaired the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources for 11 years. Ann is a founder of the Chester River Association (now ShoreRivers), the BayFunders and the Chesapeake Conservancy. She currently serves on the Advisory Boards of the Maryland Sea Grant and the Galapagos Conservancy.



Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute Contribution

VIRGINIAforever announced during the 2021 Bridge Builder Celebration that the organization will make a contribution to the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute (VNRLI) to sponsor one fellow’s full program fee with proceeds from the event.

VNRLI is a professional development program for leaders confronted with Virginia’s most pressing natural resource issues who seek new skills in conflict resolution and collaborative problem solving. The program offers six, three-day sessions in different locations around Virginia focusing on a variety of environmental issues.

VNRLI was established in 1999 by co-founders Bettina Ring, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, Tanya Denckla Cobb, director of both the UVA Institute for Engagement & Negotiation and VNRLI, Frank Dukes, also with the UVA Institute for Engagement and Negotiation, and Dr. Mike Edelbrock, Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and has produced 625 graduate fellows to date.

Many members of VIRGINIAforever have been fortunate enough to participate in and graduate from the program while sharpening personal and professional leadership skills and gaining a better understanding of key emerging environmental issues affecting the Commonwealth.  We are excited to be able to provide a similar opportunity to the next generation of Bridge Builders.

Message from The Honorable Ann Jennings, Virginia Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources

Message from The Honorable Bettina Ring, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry



The Honorable Gerald L. Baliles

As a legislator, an attorney general and the 65th Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, The Honorable Gerald L. Baliles made countless contributions to Virginia. His influence is seen directly in the 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement, a landmark covenant that detailed specific goals for reducing nutrient pollution; in the establishment of a Natural Resources Secretariat, which created a cabinet-level position devoted solely to protecting and promoting the natural resources of the Commonwealth; in the creation of the Department of Historic Resources and the Natural Heritage program; and in the passage and implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, which set regulatory programs recognizing the connections between land use and water quality. Looking back on his legacy, what strikes many Virginians about Governor Baliles is his keen understanding of environmental policy and the clear connection he made between economic development and natural resources protection. As Governor from 1986 to 1990, he recognized that protecting our land and water would lead to economic vitality – a concept that many had yet to fully grasp at that time. Governor Baliles passed away in October 2019; the Bridge Builder Award was presented posthumously and his family lovingly accepted the award.



The Honorable David Bulova

Representing the 37th district, including the city of Fairfax and part of Fairfax County, Delegate David Bulova has served in the Virginia House of Delegates since 2006. An environmental planner by profession, Delegate Bulova is uniquely qualified and driven to fight for environmental issues in the General Assembly. His key accomplishments include spearheading legislation that enabled better understand the funding required to restore the Chesapeake Bay through an annual assessment process (HB1822); protection of water resources from certain chemicals as a result of firefighting activities (HB2762); and protection of water supplies by requiring the State Water Control Board to consider the state water supply plan when making permitting decisions (HB1158). In addition to receiving VIRGINIAforever’s Bridge Builder Award, other environmental organizations have celebrated Delegate Bulova’s commitment to natural resources protection. For example, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation crowned him “Legislator of the Year” and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters named him a “Legislative Hero.”



The Honorable W. Tayloe Murphy, Jr.

As a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1982 to 2000, Tayloe Murphy served as chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission and was chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission during its two-year review of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  He was the patron of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, which for the first time imposed state authority over land use decisions in areas close to the Bay. He also sponsored Virginia Water Quality Improvement Act, which established a funding mechanism to pay for Bay-related nutrient reduction efforts.  As Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources from 2002 to 2006, Secretary Murphy placed a strong emphasis on the Chesapeake Bay, the crown jewel of all of the bays and estuaries in the United States.  A longtime Bay advocate, he worked under Governor Mark Warner to ensure that Virginia emerged as a leader and active participant in the Bay’s restoration. During his tenure as Secretary of Natural Resources, he convened a landmark summit that brought together business representatives, non-profit organizations, government officials and others to discuss the importance of natural resources protection.  The energy of this summit led to many things, including uniting many of the key players involved VIRGINIAforever’s inception. Throughout his career, Secretary Murphy has been hailed for his commitment to conservation and environmental stewardship.  Even in his semi-retirement, he has worked to preserve the historic home of Francis Lightfoot Lee and the surrounding wildlife habitat on the Northern Neck. Secretary Murphy is regarded as one of Virginia’s foremost authorities on Virginia’s natural and historic resources.


The Honorable Kirk Cox, Virginia House of Delegates

Delegate Kirk Cox was first elected from the 66th District to the House of Delegates in 1989. February 22, 2017, Kirk Cox was unanimously elected Speaker-Designee by the 66-member House Republican Caucus. In addition to his role in House leadership, Kirk serves on the House Appropriations Committee and the Rules Committee, where he serves as Vice Chair, and the Joint Legislative, Audit, and Review Commission (JLARC). Delegate Cox has a keen interest in protecting natural resources. As a member of the Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Commerce, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Technology, he plays a critical role in understanding needs and appropriating state funds to programs that will conserve land and enhance water quality – both which are vitally important for the Virginia economy and for everyone who calls Virginia home.


The Honorable Emmett W. Hanger, Jr., Senate of Virginia

Senator Emmett W. Hanger, Jr., has served in the Senate of Virginia for 20 years during which he has taken on important leadership roles as co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee and chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources. In these positions, Senator Hanger and his committee control the fate of a number of bills and budget amendments that impact land conservation and water quality improvement projects across the state. Notably, Senator Hanger championed setting the second week of June as Bay Awareness to bring attention to the importance of the Chesapeake Bay to Virginia’s economy and quality of life and to tell the stories of the many private and public organizations and individuals taking steps to reduce pollution.


The Honorable Tim Kaine, United States Senate

In his roles as Mayor of the City of Richmond, as Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Virginia and now in his role as a Senator, Tim Kaine has supported the protection of our natural resources. He has introduced federal legislation ranging from marsh and oyster reef restoration to protection of Civil War battlegrounds. As the 70th Governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine worked across party lines with House Speaker Bill Howell, environmental organizations and government agencies to preserve more than 400,000 acres of open space in the Commonwealth.


Dr. Charles W. Steger, president emeritus, Virginia Tech

Dr. Steger served as president of Virginia Tech for 15 years. Under his leadership, Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources was renamed the College of Natural Resources and Environment, with its mission to advance the science of sustainability. As part of this mission, Dr. Steger supported a new interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science degree program – Water: Resources, Policy, and Management – that has recently been approved. Today, the College of Natural Resources and Environment is renowned as one of the best programs available, due in part to the Dr. Steger’s vision for the school.


Gerald P. McCarthy, retired (former executive director of Virginia Environmental Endowment)

Mr. McCarthy’s legacy includes a long list of outstanding accomplishments in protecting our lands and waterways. Under his enduring leadership of 35 years, the Virginia Environmental Endowment awarded an impressive 1,250 grants totaling nearly $27 million. Investment of these funds enabled improvements in environmental education and awareness, funding of scientific research and pollution monitoring, conservation of natural areas, issuance of grants for farmers to reuse wastewater, and improvements of Virginia’s water quality and the Chesapeake Bay fisheries.


Honorable A. Donald McEachin, Senate of Virginia

Senator McEachin has long made natural resources policy a priority in his legislative career. Placing a high importance on Virginia’s lands and waters, he sits on the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee. Senator McEachin’s legislative achievements include several bills advancing renewable energy in the Commonwealth.

The Honorable John C. Watkins, Senate of Virginia

With a deep commitment to the environment, Senator Watkins is member of the Senate Agriculture, Conservation & Natural Resources Committee and has spent most of his life in agriculture. Over the years, Senator Watkins has made nutrient trading and funding for upgrades to wastewater treatment plants a top priority.


The Honorable William J. Howell
Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates

As Speaker, Del. Howell presides over the Virginia House of Delegates. A leading advocate for land preservation, he sponsored the landmark law that made Virginia’s Land Preservation Tax Credit transferable from one taxpayer to another.


The Honorable John Warner, retired, United States Senate

Senator Warner served 30 years in the U.S. Senate. As a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, he supported many legislative initiatives to enhance and preserve the outdoors for future generations, channeling a passion for the outdoors into a public career spent steering the earth toward a cleaner, more stable future.


Eva Teig Hardy, Dominion

Eva Teig Hardy, a retired executive at Dominion Resources who held key posts in the administrations of Govs. Gerald L. Baliles and Charles S. Robb, is a mainstay at the Virginia General Assembly. Hardy spent 17 years in local and state government, including serving as Secretary of Health and Human Resources from 1986 to 1990 in the administration of Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles.