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Contractor wins elite environmental award

DULUTH - If he had known Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful was going to honor him with an award, John D. Stephens probably would have changed his schedule so he could have been at the ceremony.

As it was, he missed it twice: first because he was out of town last Friday, and then because an important meeting came up Thursday afternoon.

But after he learned of his win, Stephens said he appreciates being the recipient of the group's fifth annual Legacy Award.

"I'm very pleased," he said. "Had I known it, I would have been there."

His company, Stephens M.D.S., builds pipelines and does construction and Stephens worked on the fifth runway at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, moving dirt off the site in a 4.5-mile conveyer system.

Connie Wiggins, the executive director of Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful, said Stephens' work prevented increased traffic congestion and pollution by ensuring the dirt didn't have to be trucked off the site. And that was just one of his many contributions to the environment.

"He's truly someone each of us know is committed to this community," Wiggins said.

Wiggins and Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful Chairman Jim Steele both said Stephens likes to avoid the limelight, but that he has been a major factor in cleaning up illegal dumps in the county and influencing others to care more about the environment as well.

Stephens said in his work as a contractor, he always tried to do something to help the environment.

"Everybody's environmental, just to some degree," he said. "It's where we live. I hope to leave things in better shape than I found them."

Past recipients of the organization's top award are former county commission chairman Wayne Hill, former state Environmental Protection Division chief Harold Reheis, former Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Wayne Shackelford and Department of Natural Resources board member Tom Wheeler.