KEVIN LINDLEY, Chatham County Environmental Health Department

Posted 9/13/19

Burlington-born and Silk Hope-raised, Kevin Lindley is somewhat new to his position as director of Environmental Quality for Chatham County, but he’s been around Chatham most of his life.

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KEVIN LINDLEY, Chatham County Environmental Health Department

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Burlington-born and Silk Hope-raised, Kevin Lindley is somewhat new to his position as director of Environmental Quality for Chatham County, but he’s been around Chatham most of his life. A graduate of Jordan-Matthews High School, Lindley earned undergraduate and masters degrees in civil engineering from N.C. State.

“My job,” he says, “focuses on a part of life to which most people pay little attention, namely their trash! It’s not something I thought I would enjoy doing when I was a teenager, but I love that success in my job means that people’s lives and the environment are just a little better off.”

The largest function of Lindley’s department is Solid Waste and Recycling, but a growing aspect is the oversight of sustainability projects in the county. He’s the son of Harry and Brenda Lindley — who also live in Chatham County — and he and his wife Julie have four children (ranging in age from 16 to 22), as well as “one cat, two dogs and five chickens.”

What was your first paying job, and what did it teach you?

The first job I remember getting paid to do was priming tobacco on a neighbor’s farm. I learned that was something I didn’t want to do for a living! It was also great to see the farmers helping each other out. There was a great sense of community and I liked being part of that.

What’s the most difficult job you’ve ever had?

The toughest job I’ve ever had was teaching high school. I taught math for four years in Chatham County at Chatham Central and then at Jordan-Matthews. Teaching was a very rewarding profession. It is also a mentally and physically exhausting profession. I think to do the job well you have to share of yourself in a deeper way than most other jobs and teaching is not a job that is easy to “turn off” at the end of the day. I am very appreciative to those who taught me in school and to those who still teach our youth every day.

What’s the most unusual customer request or question you’ve ever had?

I was overseeing a construction project for a sewer line. A property owner along the route called and said the contractor had thrown some tree roots into his yard and wanted me to come out and take a look. When I got there, the house was clearly not lived in and had not been lived in for a while. The yard was about thigh high and a lot of saplings were starting to take off. Even so, I didn’t think our contractor would have tossed roots into the yard. When I asked where the roots were, he started walking into the woods next to the house, where to my surprise there was another, even more grown up house that you couldn’t even see from the road because of the trees growing up around it. He showed me the roots on the ground in front of THIS house and very indignantly asked me how I would feel if someone tossed tree roots into my yard like that? Considering we had to bushwack through the woods to get to the roots, I had a hard time answering with a straight face. I just picked them up and carried them out of the woods to my truck.

What was your most embarrassing moment at work?

I’ve gotten my truck stuck in muddy areas around the landfill several times at my previous job. There is usually a healthy dose of ribbing that goes along with calling someone to pull you out.

What advice would you give someone considering doing the same line of work as you?

I would highly recommend it. There will always be a need for solid waste management and sustainability is being integrated into nearly every major industry. With either profession, you have a job where you feel you are doing something good for the world.

Craziest or most unusual thing that’s ever happened to you at your current job?

A lady I work with and see several times a week said something about high school one day and after talking a few minutes, we realized we were in the same graduating class at Jordan-Matthews and didn’t know each other.

Your standard order at a coffee shop?

The coffee of the day, unless it’s Colombian, with half and half.

Your ultimate “happy place”?

My bed at the end of a long, productive day.

Coke or Pepsi?

Cherry Vanilla Coke

Favorite weekend getaway:

Oak Island in the fall.

Which do you like better: starting or finishing?


Favorite character from a Disney movie:

The lightning bug, Ray, from “The Princess and the Frog”

When will robots take over the world?

I just heard that a computer has recently been developed that can pass an eighth grade science end of year test. If the computer can pass eighth grade exams now…maybe 30 more years?

Life on other planets? Yes or no?


Stay up late or get up early?

Stay up late.

On a snow day, you’d stay home and binge-watch:

Currently, I would probably watch “Zoo” on Netflix, but most snow days we lose power.

Dogs or cats?


Favorite N.C. celebrity?

Rhiannon Giddens

Favorite clean joke:

A man says to his waiter, “There’s something wrong with my soup. I need you to taste it.”

The waiter says, “Sorry, sir. Is it cold? We can heat that up for you.”

“Just taste the soup.”

“Sir, I really don’t need to taste the soup, if you’ll just tell me…”

“Taste the soup!”

“Well, sir, if you insist, I’ll just…wait, there’s no spoon.”


Ever danced in the rain?

Yes, many times!

What celebrity would you most like to hang out with for a day?

Lyle Lovett seems like a really cool guy.

What is one toy you wanted as a child but never received?


What’s the best use of a snow day?

Reading a good book, because our power would probably be out.

What’s the most amazing thing about you that most people wouldn’t have guessed?

I am an avid knitter. My wife taught me when we were dating and I really like it. I’ve knit socks, hats, scarves, baby booties, dish towels, etc. It’s really cool that you can create so many different things with just two basic stitches.

What is the most significant of your life’s goals that you haven’t yet accomplished?

I have always wanted to be conversant in a foreign language. I’ve studied Spanish in high school and German in college, but haven’t gotten beyond a basic ability to communicate.

What makes your home special?

My wife lives there!

Who was the best teacher (in school or at work) you ever had, and why?

I had many, many great teachers in Chatham County and in college. I would hate to single out just one. Their influence was a significant factor that drew me into teaching way back when and I was blessed to be able to teach alongside some of them during my brief tenure. The ones I remember fondly always seemed really dedicated to their students and enjoyed their subject matter.

The trait you most deplore in yourself:

I have a pathological need to fill a cup as full as possible.

Words or phrases you overuse:

“Oh, oh, oh!” when I am think of something great or remember something I had forgotten.

What’s your favorite athletic team, and why?

I’m a big N.C. State fan. It’s hard not to root for your alma mater.

The book you’re currently reading:

Fiction: Post Captain, Patrick O’Brian, part of the Master and Commander series

Non-fiction: The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl, Timothy Egan

Your favorite movie of all time:

“Secondhand Lions”

How many hours per week do you spend online?

Including research at work, 20-30, but it depends on the week.

What’s your favorite website?


If money weren’t an object, but you still had to work, what would your job be?

I would like to brew beer at a small craft brewery. I enjoy it as a hobby now and most brewers I’ve met are friendly and interesting people.

What radio station do you listen to most frequently?

91.5 FM WUNC

One day, when you have time, what would you like to learn how to do?


What do you plan to do after retirement?

Buy a sailboat and sail up and down the East Coast and the Caribbean.

What’s been your wildest adventure?

I visited a friend who was working for the Peace Corps in Tanzania. During the two weeks I was there we traveled all over the country by bus, ferry and occasionally hitchhiking. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Your ideal vacation would be:

Visiting a friend living in a foreign country for a few weeks. Added bonus if it’s in a German or Spanish speaking country so I can work on my conversation skills, but there are lots of cool places out there and having a place to stay and a tour guide is invaluable if you want to truly experience a place.

What’s your favorite snack food?

Hot peanuts in the shell or pistachios.

One food you’ll never be caught eating:

Turkey burgers

Favorite city in the whole world:

Seattle, Washington, so far.

What you like best (or least) about where you live now:

Best: quiet, family roots, privacy

Least: you have to drive to get anywhere or do anything.

The credo or motto you like to try to live by:

Esse quam videri (“To be, rather than to seem”).

Where would someone be most likely to find you on a Saturday night?

At home.

What was your dream job when you were a child?

I thought I wanted to design airplanes.

If you had lots of money to give away, you’d give most of it to:

Food banks/food security non-profits. Basic needs have to be met so people can think beyond survival and contribute to society.

What’s the worst injury you’ve ever had?

I had a nerve damaged during surgery. I’ve never experienced pain like that before or since.

Ever had a brush with celebrity?

I was an extra in a movie when I was in college. Kristy Swanson was in the movie and sat about three desks away from me in a classroom scene.

Do you have a tattoo?

Not yet.

Favorite kind of cookie?

Oatmeal raisin

Favorite season?


What’s your usual wake-up time in the morning?

The alarm is set at 5:45am during the week.

What talent do you wish you had?

I’ve always wanted to be a good storyteller.

What superhero power would you most like to have?


What’s your cell phone ringtone?

“Screen Door,” by Rich Mullins

Favorite dessert?

Mom’s homemade peach ice cream

What’s your favorite condiment?

Spicy mustard

Describe your life philosophy in six words or less:

Make the most of your gifts.

If you could instantly learn one language, which would it be?


What historic era would you like to visit?

New England right after the Revolutionary War

What’s the most important thing your job has taught you?

The importance of active listening.


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