“I knew that I missed it, but I didn’t know how much until I got back home!” As we began talking, this was almost the first thing Mandy exclaimed to me. A true-blue Mississippi girl, Amanda was born Nov. 28, 1984, to Ada Boggan McGrevey and Michael J. McGrevey in San Antonio, Texas, when her father, originally from Ocean Springs, was stationed at Randolph Air Force Base.
Retiring as Lieutenant Colonel, Mandy’s father recently was honored by the University of Southern Mississippi by being placed in its Hall of Fame as one of the university’s “most dedicated and distinguished alumni.” Her mother Ada had a distinguished career as registered nurse and worked alongside her father, Dr. Austin P. Boggan at Decatur Family Medical Clinic. Her older brother Kyle lives in Oxford, managing his own computer businesses.
God’s timing is awesome! I had no idea of all that Mandy had accomplished in our nation’s capital, in only eight years as a young attorney from Decatur, Mississippi. Mandy had been one of my students when I taught at Newton County High School, so I was understandably interested when I heard she, her husband, Surya Gunasekara, also an attorney working in Washington, D.C., and their two young children were moving back home.
The day before our interview I had heard the news of the President’s formal steps to withdraw the United States from the United Nation’s Paris Climate Accord. When I spoke with Mandy and Surya, I learned that she personally briefed President Trump in the Oval Office on the importance of getting out and, to quote her biographical sketch, “…spearheaded many of the Trump Administration’s greatest energy and environmental policy achievements. Mandy was the chief architect of the Paris Accord withdrawal and the repeal of the Clean Power Plan.”
These accomplishments were achieved as she served President Trump in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. Earlier this year, she founded the Energy 45 Fund, a Jackson-based non-profit dedicated to informing the public about the energy, environmental and economic gains made under the Trump Administration. Naturally, I was impressed, but her warm friendliness and modesty put me totally at ease. Her husband, a transplant from Colorado, was also very cordial.
Mandy says the first four years of her life were spent in Washington, D.C., as her father’s military assignments took him from Texas to the Pentagon. After further military assignments in Texas, Mississippi, South Korea and Virginia, the family moved back to Decatur when she was in the seventh grade.
A Principal’s List scholar all through high school, Mandy graduated fourth in her class from Newton County High School in 2003. She ran cross country the first year NCHS had a team, winning a State title. She excelled in soccer, show choir and cheerleading, was voted Miss Newton County High School and was judged Newton County’s Jr. Miss of 2003.
At Mississippi College, she cheered, ran track and cross country and played soccer, before graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2007 with a B.A. in Communication. Entering law school at the University of Mississippi, she met Surya Gunasekara their first day at orientation. Mandy and Surya were married in Decatur Sept. 5, 2009 and received their law degrees together in 2010.
Surya’s father was from Sri Lanka, but for most of his young years Surya was reared by his mother Suzanne and stepfather Brett Conrad, of Canada. He graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder and earned his master’s from Denver University, before coming to Mississippi to attend law school. After graduation he became a tax law specialist working for the Defense Logistics Agency, where he was responsible for procuring all petroleum products needed to keep the military going. He now runs a boutique tax, trade and energy policy consulting firm called Section VII Strategies.
Throughout her college and law school career, Mandy did summer internships in D.C. on Capitol Hill. She worked for former Mississippi Representative Chip Pickering, in the Bush White House, and for the U. S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee. These internships piqued her interest in the “climate change” controversy. She told me, “The climate change in the political sphere is being used by the extreme left to scare the American people into accepting a higher degree of governmental control over every element of your life.”
Then, after the move to Washington, she began in 2011 as a research assistant to Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. She then jumped over to the U.S. House of Representatives and served as senior counsel to Congressman Robert E. Latta of Ohio.
Starting in 2015, Mandy served as majority counsel for Chairman Inhofe of Oklahoma and for Chairman Barrasso of Wyoming on the United States Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Surya said of their time living in D.C., “We had a good run, but I like this better. It’s great for the kids.” Their son, Rico Rhyder Gunasekara, is a first grader at NCES, and his little sister, Annabelle Scout, is 3½. Rhyder loves sports, and has been especially excited about his team, the D.C. Nationals, that just won the World Series. He loves soccer, Boy Scouts and living in Mississippi with all his cousins. Mandy says of her daughter, “Scout is a ball full of personality. She loves horses, is very animated, and is a good storyteller.”
Naturally, I asked Mandy about her beliefs and experiences as a Christian. She responded, “I was lucky to be born in a family that was committed to God and lived it in everyday life.” She continued, “From this foundation, I’ve grown in my walk and strive to get better every day.”
She believes that God has placed people in her life, which has helped her all along the way. One such person, “a very faithful Christian,” was Mr. Scott Pruitt, the former Administrator of the EPA when she worked in that organization. She told me, “I’m a runner. I run for mental and physical health and it’s also my time to talk to God. I’ve done that most of my life. This proved especially important to me while living and working in the stressful environment of D.C.”
She spoke lovingly of her grandmother “Mama I,” Mrs. Iris Boggan, who had shared so many of her own beliefs with Mandy. Mandy recalled, “After Trump won, I had taken a picture of the capitol and all the flags, that were a part of the inauguration. I sent it to Mama I and she called in tears, so overcome with joy and hope. She said she’d been so upset with the country under Obama, as she felt he was leading the country away from God and was proud that I was in D.C. to be a part of the new Republican movement.”
Mandy and Surya have made Decatur their home and attend Decatur United Methodist church. Even as they continue their careers from home, and commute when necessary, they feel they are bringing up their children in the best place for them. Mandy declared, “We are one nation under God.” I am thankful to see people like Mandy and Surya working to keep America free and godly.
Live for Jesus! He’s coming soon!
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