“If it’s wild to your own heart, protect it. Preserve it. Love it. And fight for it, and dedicate yourself to it, whether it’s a mountain range, your wife, your husband, or even (heaven forbid) your job. It doesn’t matter if it’s wild to anyone else: If it’s what makes your heart sing, if it’s what makes your days soar like a hawk in the summertime, then focus on it. Because for sure, it’s wild; it’ll mean you’re still free. No matter where you are.” —Rick Bass, Wild to the Heart
After we interviewed Macye Maher, she sent along the above quote from Bass, an author and conservationist. It might not capture the kind of sentiment some might expect of a Commerce School alumna working in real estate. But then again, Maher is just further proof that a McIntire education is often the start of many an unexpected journey.
“Honestly, I never thought I’d be in real estate,” she admits. “I was never enamored by commercial buildings or even residential properties.”
Yet what transpired merged her enduring love of the outdoors with her business interests, ultimately culminating in an impressive career in the field.
Both passions took her and her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Alex, out West to Jackson, WY, where they founded the brokerage Live Water Properties in 2001. Their environmentally conscious company has thrived, connecting people buying and selling fishing, hunting, cattle, guest, and farming ranches; plantations; and timberland across the West and Southeast.
Maher is frank about having found a fitting avenue for her talents and her role, which includes financial oversight and marketing growth strategy. Helping people pursue nontraditional forms of investment, she says it’s empowering to match sellers with buyers who will continue to advocate for the original owners’ vision of preservation. It’s the same overarching belief that serves as a guiding principle for Maher’s brokerage, too: an aim to protect, restore, and enhance the wildlife habitats and ecosystems of the scenic landscapes in which it specializes.
So how did an Accounting concentrator at the Commerce School wind up in Wyoming? It took a few visits and a little time.
While attending McIntire, Maher found that Finance courses engaged her greatly, and she credits them with piquing her interest in the path she would later pursue.
“I never missed Professor George Overstreet’s class. For sure, his Finance class was the beginning of my career in finance,” she says.
The steward of the Live Water Properties financial team also recalls an individual project for her Marketing course, for which she ventured to Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery.
“I stayed an extra long time there, touring and understanding wine production,” Maher notes. “To this day, I remember it in vivid detail, from the immaculate property to the grapes growing in the foggy Virginia land to the smoky smell of the tasting room.”
Those details of the landscape reflect another of her interests that has remained one of her chief concerns. Maher also minored in Environmental Science—a loose indicator of the professional life she would assume a few years later while fusing two areas of great import to her: commerce and the natural world.
But a strong connection to the environment permanently took root midway through her college years. At age 19, Maher drove from Virginia with two friends to Moose Pass, AK, to spend the summer working at a lodge two hours south of Anchorage.
The rugged lifestyle of her Alaskan experience had an indelible impact on Maher, and she put visiting the Jackson Hole valley at the top of her bucket list. As planned, she spent a holiday skiing in the popular tourist spot the following winter. That trip increased her desire to return after graduation to the area, where she worked for sporting goods company Orvis.
“It suited my outdoor needs, and the light stays around forever—until 10 p.m.—so I could fish, hike, or bike after working,” she recalls.
That idyllic summer experience would come to an end, at least temporarily, when that fall, Maher left for big city life and a job at a large firm.
Call of the Wild
Her position took her to Atlanta and Coopers & Lybrand (now known as PwC), where she spent a year and a half in the accounting firm’s audit department. While she found the city “electric” and was stimulated by the atmosphere of intellectual and driven colleagues from different parts of the country, it was only a matter of time before she needed to get back to a lifestyle more firmly entrenched in the great outdoors.
“The mountains were calling,” Maher says. “My childhood was spent in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. So I told Coopers politely, ‘I’m moving out West.’”
Her coworkers responded by passing along their hope for her success in her then-unknown endeavors, wishing Maher “good luck on the ranch.” It would prove to be an ironic valediction, as neither her Atlanta colleagues nor Maher herself could have guessed with any clarity that ranches would actually play such a key part in her future.
A Growing Concern
Once established in Jackson, Maher and her husband were invested in the idea of a real estate-focused firm where they could steward sales that support symbiotic relationships with those who value wild areas, protecting these crucial lands in a world where they are constantly under siege.
“We wanted people to own the lifestyle, not just take a trip for it,” she says of the sprawling properties they feature. “But [to also] be accountable while seamlessly enjoying land ownership.”
That core belief and business acumen led to excellent growth and specializing in ranch real estate across Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Nebraska, California, and Utah. The company then launched Live Water Jackson Hole in 2018 to offer upmarket residential properties, and in 2019 began representing unique sporting resort properties in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina under the Live Water Southern name.
Maher says her goals for Live Water are both internal and external and nothing short of developing both “the corporate culture of the century,” while continuing to connect buyers and sellers in logical geographic areas.
As she leads her firm, sustainability remains paramount as the company oversees its mission to preserve and enhance wildlife and fisheries habitats as well as historical ranches and agricultural operations with many of the sales that they broker.
She says environmental concerns have only intensified as the country’s populations migrate to less populated areas, opening previously untapped mountain regions to potentially damaging numbers of additional human traffic.
No doubt Maher will keep doing her part to safeguard these natural estates as her company facilitates agreements with potential new owners of the breathtaking ranches and homes that Live Water offers, ensuring that the buyers serve as good stewards of the lands in which they invest.
So she went West, and she stayed. Along the way, she’s been leading marketing efforts for her companies, raising three children, and publishing several books, the latest being a novel titled Fireworks and Fertility. By all accounts, it seems as if she persisted in a manner that proved she was as driven as any of those young rookies she worked with in Atlanta when she was fresh out of McIntire.
“I’m in it to win it,” Maher says.
It’s hard to argue with the results.