Curtis Seltzer, 65, has lived and worked in the country for the better part of 40 years. He graduated from Pittsburgh's Peabody High School in 1963 where his classmates voted him second funniest, which he continues to think he is.
He has a B.A. from Oberlin College, and an M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Columbia University in international relations and American government. He was briefly enrolled in the Ph.D. program at the school of education of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in the early 1970s, because he wanted to learn how to teach. If the secret was there, he did not find it. He left after intentionally flunking a course called, “Survival Techniques in the Educational Bureaucracy.” He did not survive the real educational bureaucracy either; neither did his UMASS professor.
He bought his first land in 1971, 60 acres of recently timbered woods in Wendell Depot, north of Amherst. Subsequently, he’s owned property in about a dozen states and has scoped property in more than a dozen others.
He has helped clients find and buy timberland (both pine and hardwoods), farms, development land and conservation property. He facilitated the purchase of 5,000 acres in eastern North Carolina that is red wolf habitat and 3,100 acres in the Adirondack Park that was owned by Mutt Lange and Shania Twain. Since the mid-1990s, he’s worked with properties ranging from 600,000 acres in Canada to 3,000 acres in Hawaii, from 30 acres in West Tennessee to 55,000 acres in Georgia.
As a land consultant, he’s drawn on skills that he’s used in other work. Experience in question-asking and problem-solving gained during more than 25 years of experience as an arbitrator transfers directly into knowing how to scope property for clients. Researching a land deal is similar to digging out a news story. He often writes summary memos for clients that lay out a target property’s benefits, risks, costs and unknowns.
Since 2007, Curtis has written a weekly column, “Country Real Estate,” which is self-syndicated to more than 1,700 outlets and contacts. These columns have been collected into Land Matters (2010) and Blue Grass Notes (2011).
Curtis also wrote more than 100 weekly advice columns for “LandThink.com” in 2009 and 2010 about issues arising in the search for, purchase and management of rural property.
Curtis wrote Fire in the Hole: Miners and Managers in the American Coal Industry (1985) and several book-length reports. He produced a newspaper column for several years that won awards from the Virginia Press Association. He has written for the Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, Washington Monthly, Nation, Equus, Le Monde, Financial Times and many other publications.
He contributes commentaries to Virginia public radio and is available to speak at conferences.
Since 1983, he’s lived on a cattle-and-timber farm in Blue Grass, Va., where he can see the crests of both Devil's Backbone and Snowy Mountain from his front porch. He owns timberland investments in two states.
His wife, Melissa Ann Dowd, is one of two lawyers in Highland County. She grew up in Charlotte where her family was involved in the newspaper and printing businesses.
Their daughter, Molly, graduated first in her class with a Masters in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University after graduating from the University of Virginia. She has worked on the headline desk at Bloomberg News in New York City since 2009 and published her first book in 2011 at www.mollyseltzer.com .