Kym Hunter has gained a reputation for a slew of courtroom battles fighting for transportation reform and constitutional rights
By Sam Bermas-Dawes | Photography by John Michael Simpson
When asked to pick a word to best describe Kym Hunter, a close friend struggled to decide on just one. Instead, Karen Stegman highlighted Kym’s drive to help friends and neighbors. “Her personal and professional lives are guided by the same things: a value in community and a focus on doing what’s right,” says Karen, who is Chapel Hill’s mayor pro tem.
Kym’s commitment to public service is a key part of her work as a leading litigator at the Southern Environmental Law Center‘s Chapel Hill office. A senior attorney with the legal advocacy nonprofit, Kym brings expertise with government transparency, sustainability and climate change. She graduated cum laude from Georgetown Law School in 2010, where she was the editor of the Georgetown Environmental Law Review.
Transportation is a focus of Kym’s time. As state and local officials grapple with how to reduce their carbon footprint, transportation remains a leading source of greenhouse gases in North Carolina. Despite that, Kym says, there is not enough attention on thinking differently about transit.
“People think of big power plants, solar, wind and electrifying vehicles,” she says. “But a really important piece is making it so people can drive less.”
Pedestrian access and public transportation is part of what brought Kym to Chapel Hill in the first place. She moved here from Durham seven years ago seeking green, walking-friendly neighborhoods. Kym is engaged to Graig Meyer, a representative running for North Carolina Senate this year. The pair plan on tying the knot this June during a two-day celebration at their home in the Blackwood neighborhood. Together, they have six kids – Sky, 7, Rio, 10, Felix, 12, William, 15, Mason, 18, and Ashley, 30. Visiting the Chapel Hill Farmers Market is one of the family’s favorite things to do on a weekend.
At work, Kym is behind some of the SELC’s most influential cases. Together with the NAACP, she is challenging North Carolina’s constitutional amendments involving voter identification before the state Supreme Court. It’s a case with national coverage that could change the way North Carolinians vote. The SELC’s commitment to environmental justice led them to take up the case, Kym says, because a strong democracy is central to the protection of the environment.
It’s been a grueling case requiring many early mornings. But in the end, Kym says, her team’s determination is paying off. “I just had to stand up and square my shoulders,” she says. “But we were representing the NAACP, and I felt the strength and the weight of their history.” After more than three years of hard work, the case now waits for a decision.
Kym’s busy professional and personal life means she is always looking for the best use of her day. Her advice for anyone struggling to juggle priorities: “We all have limited time, and there is always so much to do. Make sure everything you are doing is meaningful, and make sure that you are working in the most efficient way possible.”