Melanie Davenport, Head of the DEQ Water Division

Melanie Davenport speaking with the VCPC students.

Melanie Davenport speaking with the VCPC students.


The head of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Water Division,

Melanie Davenport, returned to William & Mary Law School on February 12. On this snowy day,

she joked that she chose William & Mary for law school after completing her undergraduate

studies at Boston University because she “was sick and tired of the cold and snow” in New

England. However, Davenport braved the wintry weather to come speak to the Virginia Coastal

Policy Clinic about her career.

Davenport has been the head of the DEQ’s Water Division since spring 2011, but her

career path has been anything but predictable. “I haven’t been in court since the day I was

sworn into the Bar,” says Davenport.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in marine biology, and as an undergraduate participated

in a work-study program with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) where she worked on

regulating point-source pollution and protecting environmental quality. Since the Clean Water

Act had been passed only a decade before, Davenport returned to school to pursue her law

degree at William & Mary to help interpret these new regulations. After graduating from law

school, Davenport worked for a large law firm in Richmond, the Chesapeake Bay Commission

with Ann Swanson, and the DEQ enforcement section.

In her current position as head of the DEQ Water Division, Davenport is a lawyer among

scientists. However, she argues that her legal training has been invaluable to her career. “There

a lot of nuance to what we do…which still after all these years is a surprise to me,” she says.

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