Emmett R. Duke of Chestertown, Maryland, has been named Riverkeeper®® by the Sassafras River Association. Duke, a native of Alabama, majored in Business Administration at the University of Alabama and the University of Maryland. He has lived in Maryland for the past 44 years, residing on the Chester River for the past seventeen years. An avid boater, fisherman, and hunter, Duke has a 100-ton Coast Guard Master’s license and has operated a commercial fishing and charter fishing business on the Chesapeake Bay for the past five years.
As Riverkeeper®®, Duke is responsible for monitoring the health of the Sassafras River, promoting best management practices along the river and advocating for clean water policies. The Riverkeeper® is the public face of SRA, an organization formed in 2004 to steward the Sassafras. “I’m excited to be a part of the SRA team,” said Duke. “I’m looking forward to getting started on the important issues facing the Sassafras.”
Duke managed the Chestertown Drug Fair for over twenty years before accepting Wayne Gilchrest’s invitation to serve as campaign manager on his first Congressional race. Duke served as Gilchrest’s District Director for more than ten years, focusing on Chesapeake Bay, environmental issues, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers projects, public housing, economic development, and Service Academy nominations. He also served as a spokesperson for Congressman Gilchrest in the 10 Maryland counties of the First Congressional District. Duke was based on the Eastern Shore, convinced it was important to be available and close to residents of the First Congressional District.
In his time with Gilchrest, Duke demonstrated the ability to affably bring together people with different perspectives and views and arrive at solutions. One example of this talent was his perseverance on a five-year, 9000-hour volunteer effort studying an $83 million Corps of Engineers C&D canal-deepening project for which he received a commendation from the Cecil County Commissioners and a commendation on the floor of the US House of Representatives from Congressman Gilchrest. The study concluded that the dredging was not economically justified and would be detrimental to the health of the Chesapeake Bay – stopping the project.
Duke has served on the Board of Directors of the Kent County Chamber of Commerce, and was Chairman of the Kent County Board of Zoning Appeals for 10 years. Other civic roles were on the Board of Trustees of Chester River Manor, and the Board of Directors and President of Kent Youth, Inc.
“We were truly impressed by the talent level of the candidates who applied for the Riverkeeper® position.” said SRA board President John Burke. “Emmett was a natural choice for us. He has exactly the right temperament and personality to represent SRA in the community. He has hands on experience fighting for the health of the Chesapeake Bay and working with policy makers to effect change. It’s a great fit.”