Meet PEC: Winter 2022

Don McCown, Land Use Field Representative, Orange and Madison counties

“Conservation is something I’ve cared about for as long as I can remember. I’m just so excited to finally have the opportunity to do this as my full-time job,” says Don McCown, who joined PEC’s land use team as the field representative for Madison and Orange counties in January 2022.

headshot of man with blue shirt with green shrub in background
Photo by Hugh Kenny/PEC

The 15-year Virginia Piedmont resident has lived the past eight years in Crozet, a designated growth area of Albemarle County, and before that, in Clarke and Loudoun counties. “Land use proposals in Orange and Madison are pretty quiet compared to other areas,” he says. “And when I go into these counties to talk about large development proposals, like a Wilderness Crossing, I’m able to share what I’ve seen firsthand.”

Describing his move to PEC as his “second career change,” Don spent the past 10 years as a supervisor in Virginia’s magistrate system, steeped in criminal law. His prior work experience has translated well into his new role at PEC, where he spends a lot of time conducting outreach with the local community. “I’m trying to build and maintain relationships in preparation for when one of these big issues comes up for a vote, so that these counties can get it right.”

Outside of work, Don and his wife and children, 9 and 13, like to take day trips around the region. “We love where we live, and really just enjoy anything that gets us outdoors and into the countryside.”

Montana Lanier, Meeting and Events Coordinator

Photo by Sophie Langenberg

“I want to be where the people are!” says Montana Lanier Ruffner, PEC’s new meeting and events coordinator. Montana was born and raised in northern Fauquier with a deep appreciation for the value of rural areas. “I grew up on a farm right on top of Bull Run Mountains, half in Fauquier, half in Prince William,” she says, explaining that her childhood experience was being “raised by a village as ‘Middleburg’s kid.’”

Naturally, her admiration for the area, its people, natural environment and culture aligned perfectly with the mission of PEC. “I’m literally living in this little area where I’m watching the effects of uncontrolled development without thought or care,” she says, noting the landscape change around Gainesville and Haymarket.

With a focal point on area-connectedness, Montana is excited to bring in the next generation and strengthen PEC’s reach to help define a better, alternative future than one of sprawl. And “connection comes from events,” she says. Since starting in May 2022, she has coordinated a family farm day, an “under 40” party, numerous county-specific informational meetings, and PEC’s 50th anniversary gala.

In her free time, Montana can be found paddling with her husband and dog, horseback riding, and hitting live music events in town with friends. She also volunteers with area nonprofits Great Meadow Foundation and Buchanan Hall, is a member of the Middleburg Business and Professional Association, and gives back to her alma mater, the Hill School. “The humanity and the community of it all. That’s why I do the work I do.”

These profiles appeared in The Piedmont Environmental Council’s member newsletter, The Piedmont View. If you’d like to become a PEC member or renew your membership, please visit