Spending His Retirement Outdoors

PAYSON PEOPLE

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For a guy who loves the outdoors, a day under the sun and a panoramic view of the Rim couldn't be a better retirement.

After more than a quarter century of working beneath the artificial glare of office fluorescence, Monte McCord is living out his dream on the greens of the Rim Club.

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Monte McCord

"I love the outdoors," he said. "I can't think of a better job."

McCord's well-earned bronzed skin stands out against the white collared shirt with thin-blue stripes he wears to his job as a golf attendant.

A voice crackles through the small headset in his ear. It's the attendant who greets the club members. McCord jumps in his golf cart to pick up the golfers and their gear.

At an exclusive course like the Rim Club, the members rely on the staff to clean their clubs, set them up for the links and make sure they're happy. And that's OK with McCord. His clients are respectful and friendly, and, best of all, he's outside.

McCord wasn't always a golf course buff. In a previous incarnation, he made a career out of hazardous-waste transportation.

It started in the early 1970s by mastering the trucking industry, and as his livelihood progressed, he became a hazmat-disposal ace.

"It's not like handling regular waste," he said. "This country is really sensitive about how it handles radioactive waste."

McCord's experience took him to the Department of Energy where he oversaw the hauling of "mixed waste" -- a combination of low-level radioactive refuse and other material. From there, the cargo was shipped via 18-wheeler to the missile test sites of the Nevada desert.

Trucks dumped the refuse in massive, lined trenches out in the middle of nowhere. McCord said the lack of rain and tectonic activity creates an ideal location for this type of garbage, because the decay won't leach into the ground.

"I had to go out and make sure they were burying the stuff properly," he said.

On a few of his adventures, McCord experienced a government phenomenon few civilians see -- the craters created by nuclear testing.

Before retiring, McCord combined his hazmat expertise and database knowledge at the Oracle Corporation. There, he helped software developers produce a computer program that tracks hazardous material transportation.

But above all, McCord prides himself as an environmentalist -- a "liberal environmentalist."

"I'm not a rigid environmentalist," he said. "I know that you can't have everything."

His passion for nature began as a child growing up in the South. McCord said since most of the local land was privately owned, he found few opportunities for exploration.

And then he moved out West, to Colorado. That's where he met the love of his life, Diane. They married and had two children, Erin and Ryan.

McCord said he loved Colorado and its rugged topography. He received his undergraduate degree in computer science and a master's degree from the University of Denver in environmental policy and management.

He even went to the first Earth Day in 1970.

Since then, hiking has been his passion, which is why he's volunteered to head up the mayor's Firewise Community Task Force.

"I'm supportive of the environment," he said. "I don't get into the politics."

The task force presents a challenging opportunity to combine his expertise and his love of the land. McCord is specifically focusing on the creating a firewise community in Payson. He's started working with the county and local firefighting personnel on implementing a "wildland/urban interface" around the town -- a half-mile barrier that serves as protection against wildfire.

If McCord and his task force get involved with the program, which benefits from multi-agency support, Payson and the county could receive state and federal grants.

"I know a lot of people would say, ‘Good grief, why would an environmentalist want to cut down all these trees?' But if you don't, everything will burn up," McCord said. "I love this area and I don't want to see it burn down."

When McCord isn't hiking, working at the golf course or advocating for the environment, he writes short stories and novels.

Check out his monthly outdoor articles on the first Friday of every month in the Payson Roundup.

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