It’s not easy being an environmentalist in Texas. You’re likely to find yourself constantly fighting the state legislature and the governor’s office. But that didn’t stop Brigid Shea, a former journalist, from moving to Austin in 1988 to start a new state chapter of Clean Water Action. “I really got involved in government initially as an activist,” she says.
Shea founded the Save Our Springs Coalition to conserve Barton Springs in Austin, and she’s credited with passage of one of the strongest water quality ordinances in the nation. She served on the city council from 1993 to 1996, where she pushed for the first wind energy contract for the utility, Austin Energy. She was elected to the Travis County Commissioners Court in 2014, where her priorities include housing affordability, ethics reform and increasing community preparedness for floods and wildfires. She’s still involved with Clean Water Action, too, serving on the group’s national board. Shea says she’s proud that Austin continues to chart a course that’s different from most of the rest of the state when it comes to green issues. “The city has been an environmental leader for a long time,” she says, “and that makes it easier living in Texas.”