Judy Bolin, the state’s Big Sweep coordinator recalls how a trip to the beach 27 years ago inspired her to move to the coast and open a book store before she found her true calling.
Q: How did the state’s Big Sweep office, which you manage, move from Raleigh and locate to Vance Street in Zebulon?
A: Parking was an issue, and getting shipments to all of the 100 counties in North Carolina was difficult to do where we were in Raleigh. I live here in Zebulon so we located here in 1997. It made the commute so much better. It was in Wendell for a couple of years but it came back to Zebulon.
Q: You work hard making sure North Carolina stays clean of pollution and litter. Are you originally from the Tar Heel state?
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
A: I grew up on a farm in Ohio. I have been living in North Carolina since 1972. My dad worked for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in Cincinnati and they said they were shutting down that branch and we had the option to move to Michigan or here. Dad chose here. I have two brothers and two sisters and we were older and most of them stayed in Ohio. My younger sister moved down here and I came down here to visit my dad. I really liked it. It is a whole different lifestyle down here. People are friendlier. It is just a completely different attitude. It was like learning another culture (laughing). I applied for a job at RTI (Research Triangle Institute) and got the job. I later attended college at N.C. State and majored in psychology because I wanted to better help the people at my job. I worked at RTI for about seven years. I also later worked at other jobs – human resources, helping people find a job, I worked in the mortgage insurance industry. And one day I took a drive to the coast and drove over the bridge in Oriental and it just felt like I was driving home.
Q: So you fell in love with Oriental?
A: Yes. It just had a great feel to it. I quit my job and decided to move down there and open a bookstore. But Oriental is small – only about 1,000 people. Not enough to keep my business going so I began to work in county government and I later became the Big Sweep coordinator. Sometimes it takes you a while to figure out what you are supposed to do. I was in Oriental from about 1987-95. When they spoke of moving it (Big Sweep) to Raleigh, I felt like the energy was being zapped out of me.”
Q: You are definitely not a big-city girl.
A: No I am not (laughing). Oh, I know there are a lot of conveniences to living in the big city but it is just not for me. When we were able to move the office to Zebulon, it was better. Zebulon is a lot like Oriental – friendlier, nicer.
Q: Do you have any children?
A: I have a daughter and two grandchildren. But my daughter is in the Coast Guard and she is stationed in Washington state so I don’t see them that much.
Q: So when you are not coordinating Big Sweep efforts, what do you do for fun?
A: My spare time is occupied with my dogs. I show dogs and I am a breeder.
Q: What type of dog?
A: Pembroke Welsh corgi. The Pembroke corgis are the ones without the tail.
Q: Ever made it to the big time – Westminster Dog Show?
A: No, but I have a goal to get there one day. Westminster and also the Eukanuba Dog Show.
Q: What has been your biggest achievement with Big Sweep, or what gives you the most pride?
A: I would have to say I am most proud of having all 100 counties participate in Big Sweep. Of course, our focus is to have a litter-free environment and we provide clean up supplies for all 100 counties. Last year, we had 17,000 volunteers. Of course, getting rid of litter is more than just about aesthetics. Dangerous chemicals can seep into the ground. Litter attracts disease-carrying rodents and mosquitoes. People cut themselves on broken glass from people throwing out bottles and the one thing that I am passionate about is protecting our wildlife. Pollution can injure our wildlife – animals can get entangled in trash. Our mission is to do our part to address all of those problems.
Correspondent Dena Coward