January 17, 2013 | Volume 43, No.2

Haines politics provided edge for federal attorney

Juge Gregg, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice and professor of law at Stanford University, has been photographed in public places wearing a skirt.

A kilt, that is.

As president of the St. Andrew’s Society of Washington, D.C., a charitable and social organization, Gregg is expected to dress the part. He said he joined St. Andrews because of his interest in his Scottish ancestry, because of his fondness for a “wee dram,” and because he comes from a family deeply immersed in the theatrical arts and can appreciate the “grand pageantry” of their events.

During Gregg’s early childhood, according to his father Tresham Gregg, he was “shunted about with our dance theater show… Often we lived in buses, at festivals, or in handmade homes on other people’s property.”

Probably not the typical childhood of most lawyers with the Department of Justice, but there were early hints that his path would be more buttoned down. “I think he was relieved, when we came back to Haines to live permanently, rather than traveling around with a bunch of entertainers. He was always very straight and helpful,” his father said.

Gregg remembers himself as an eager participant in any kind of activity that looked like it promised adventure, learning or travel.

He participated in as many sports and extracurriculars as he could, from the Chilkat Dancers to the bell choir. “I learned early on that if something was going to happen, you had to do it yourself. If there was going to be a parade float, you had to make it... If it was going to be a good event, it was up to the collective ‘you’ to put it together and make it happen and figure out how to get over the hurdles.”

Last summer, Gregg brought a diverse group of friends from across the U.S. to Haines. Friend Brian Mabry from the St. Andrew’s Society said that his understanding of Gregg grew exponentially immediately after the flight landed.

“We were heading back from the airport when we passed a young guy on a skateboard being pulled by a big dog on a leash and Juge said, ‘There is Haines, right there.’ He was saying that Haines was about making do with what you have, being creative and resourceful. I’ve seen him ‘display his Haines’ a number of times before... It is, simply, the idea that if you want things to happen, you have to pitch in.”

Gregg’s attitude and smarts carried him from Haines High to Stanford University, where he received his Bachelor of Science in Earth Systems, a program of rigorous scientific study of environmental issues and technologies.

Gregg feels that he was well-prepared for Stanford’s coursework by “fantastic classmates and... phenomenal teachers,” including John Bruce (science), Harold Morden (math) and Dan Henry (English).

“The flip side,” Gregg said, “is that where you don’t have good teachers, you don’t have a good program. But I felt incredibly well-prepared in these core areas.”

While at Stanford, Gregg spent a semester in Washington, D.C., participating in a program where students work full-time internships and take classes at night. Come graduation, Gregg was able to parlay his internship at the National Council for Science and the Environment into a job.

After a few more years in Washington, D.C., Gregg headed back to Stanford for law school where he specialized in International Environmental Law.

Washington was also where he met his wife, Katharine Delo Gregg, an attorney and self-described “East Coast girl” who thought “Alaska was just a cool-looking state on the map.” She said she fell in love with him at first sight.

After receiving his law degree, Gregg bounced between private law firms, nonprofit organizations and consulting. He also returned to the Stanford’s Washington program as a professor and a lecturer. He said he finds his students “ridiculously impressive” and even a little bit “intimidating.”

Last year, Gregg landed a plum job with the U.S. Department of Justice in its Environmental and Natural Resources division. He specializes in international issues.

Gregg says that his work is a “grab bag of odd and fascinating issues, all over the map.” His responsibilities include representing the U.S. government in environmental lawsuits, working with other U.S. and international agencies on environmental issues (such as attempts to limit illegal logging worldwide) and reviewing international treaties and legislation.

Growing up in a town dependent on natural resources for economic survival helped him understand the effects of environmental policies, he said. “I recognize that environmental policies and law have real impacts. It is not an academic exercise. You can devastate a community with an ill-informed policy, just the same as a toxic spill or ruining a salmon river will.”

Also, exposure to contentious issues in Haines gave him a head-start in navigating the tricky politics of Washington, D.C, he said. “In Haines, I learned to sit down with folks who have wildly divergent political views, whether it is slightly to the right of Genghis Khan or just to the left of Mother Theresa or Ralph Nader.”

Gregg enjoys living in Washington, D.C, and is fascinated by the intellectual breadth of the city.

“Almost every day you meet an expert in some topic you didn’t even know there were experts in.” He lives near his wife’s family, and while he cannot offer his 4-year-old daughter Cooper the same freedoms that he grew up with, he is enthusiastic about being able to enroll her in the Spanish-immersion public charter school where she is already thriving in their pre-kindergarten program.

Wife Katharine said she appreciates that Haines is a part of their lives. “We are city dwellers and that comes with some restrictions on childhood freedom...Watching (Cooper) run across the parade grounds to visit grandpa Tresham while he carves outside of his shop, or as she picks the perfect hiking stick for a climb up Ripinsky or spends hours down near the docks collecting pink rocks for her fairy friends, I am grateful we have that to share with her.”

Although he has settled far from home, Gregg is committed to keeping his Haines roots nurtured. He sets aside time and funds to travel here for family reunions at least every other year. In the distinguished circles in which he travels, he is a constant and passionate ambassador for Haines, even in a skirt.

“Over the Mountains” is a series of articles profiling people from Haines who’ve achieved success. To nominate an individual to be featured, contact the Chilkat Valley News at 907-766-2688 or cvn@chilkatvalleynews.com.