Executive Spotlight

Charles "Chip" Groat

Charles "Chip" Groat

Founding President and CEO, The Water Institute of the Gulf

Your appointment is your first professional return to Baton Rouge since 1995. How much has the city changed since you last worked here? What stands out the most to you?

More diverse economy, better shopping, more people, more traffic.

What does the average person not know about the Louisiana coast that they need to learn?

People outside of Louisiana need to understand that in addition to the beauty and productivity of our wetlands and waterways, our coast is a working coast that provides huge benefits to the nation through its fisheries, energy, and industrial output.

There's been discussion of research done by the institute bringing money to the state through intellectual property. Is this a viable funding opportunity for your organization and the regional economy as a whole? How does that process work?

We hope to galvanize the great coastal science and engineering capabilities present in Louisiana. As the institute builds its research staff and partnerships with university and private sector organizations, we will develop approaches to coastal restoration and protection that have commercial value and will be exportable.

What challenges come with attempting to combat the large-scale problems facing the Louisiana coast? What experiences do you have that might help you personally in managing the institute as it undertakes that mission?

One of the challenges is a continuity and focus of research into improved ways to restore and protect the coast. The institute hopes to provide that solid, enduring foundation for programs that are productive year in and year out. I have directed a large research organization and have a good sense of what is needed to shape and maintain this kind of effort.

The Water Institute is really still taking shape. How are you helping to guide its growth through these early stages?

I am very pleased with how quickly we are building staff and programs with only two or three employees putting it together. Their energy and the support of our board, consultants, Baton Rouge Area Foundation, and the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) have made it happen.

What was it like to spend seven years as the director of the United States Geological Survey? How did taking such an important and broad-spectrum post impact the way you work?

It was a privilege to be in that role and exciting to serve both Democratic and Republican presidents. The USGS is a wonderful science organization with great people and an important role in providing science that enhances the management of our nation's natural resources and helps protect our citizens from natural hazards. The position helped me understand how important interdisciplinary research is in understanding natural systems. This will be a great help as we build the Water Institute.

Why do you do what you do?
I am invigorated by opportunities to support good science in the service of effective environmental and resource management.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?

Thus far, leading the U.S. Geological Survey. I hope to eclipse that by helping build the Water Institute into what it has the potential to become.

What was your first job?

Research geologist with the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin.

What is the best advice you've ever received?

I have been fortunate in having received good advice at several stages of my life. I can't single out any one thing.

If you could have any job other than your own, what would it be?

None other than my present one. Once I have completed it, I aspire to a self-paced involvement in natural resources education and outreach.

If you started over, what would you do differently?

Become proficient in two things: Spanish and economics.

What is your prescription for life?

Keep pursuing things that motivate you and don't stop working until you aren't able to.

What book are you currently reading?

Mark Updegrove's new book, Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency.

What do you do to unwind?

I have been a runner for 40 years. I run very early every morning no matter where I am. This has great physical and stress-relief benefits, and I see lots of interesting places before normal people are awake.

What is the most expensive purchase you've made for yourself?

My 1996 Jeep Cherokee, which I still have.

What is your favorite weekend activity?

Observing sports, relaxing.

What's your favorite spot in Baton Rouge?

The levee of the Mississippi River.

What is your favorite movie?

The Horse Soldiers, a Civil War movie starring John Wayne. It ends in Baton Rouge.

What is your favorite gadget?

A wine corkscrew with two levers you push down to remove the cork.

If you could change one thing about Baton Rouge, what would it be?

Advance the quality of our education system for all students.

What is your greatest hope for Baton Rouge?

That it doesn't lose the south Louisiana flavor that makes it unique.

What is your greatest fear for Baton Rouge?

That the quality of services it provides for its residents will decline as budgets become tighter.

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