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Candidates Make Their Case For Lesser-Known Soil and Water Conservation Race

Editor's Note 2: For the most recent coverage of this race, please check out this storyfrom Oct. 19, 2016.


Editor's Note: The following story is about the 2012 election. For WFSU's coverage of the 2014 candidates for Leon Soil and Water Conservation District, check out this story


This November, Leon residents will vote on everything from President of the United States to local county and city commissioners.  But there are some other, lesser known races that voters will also have to decide, and some officials are even questioning the need for one local office: the Leon County Soil and Water Conservation District.

For candidates like Martha Lang and Ryan Terrell, local election forums, like WFSU-TV’s Bandwagon, are the only opportunity for them to get their messages out to the public. Messages like promoting sustainable growth and striking a balance between urban sprawl and small-town charm. Other hopefuls have more specific plans.

“We can add to this district by increasing the funding, and looking for new grant opportunities, creating a website to reach out to the people, and help educate the people,” said Evan Power. And his fellow rival, William Helmich, says, “So it’s about the synergy of both the animals and people and the environment of Leon County coming together.”

All these candidates want to change the world one synergetic, sprawling, green, eco-friendly farm at a time. And, they’re all running for the Leon County Soil and Water Conservation District. But in reality, the position tends to act as just an advisory board on conservation issues, and wields very little power. At least one current board member questions the quality of services the board is able to actually provide.

“Is it best served as it is today, or would it be best served to, you know, the responsibilities go to another group, I certainly believe that that would be a fair discussion for my fellow supervisors who sit on the District,” said Board member Wayne Bertsch.

The Districts were created by the Federal government in 1936.   Back then its main goal was to combat water management issues brought on by the Dustbowl droughts that devastated much of the Midwest and southwest portions of the country.   Bertsch says Conservation Districts may be out of date.  But, try telling that to Blas Gomez who’s running for re-election.

“During my service on the District, I have demonstrated my passion, commitment, and dedication to the conservation and preservation of our most valuable resources,” Gomez said to a packed audience during WFSU’s Bandwagon who cheered him on.

Also running in these races is Lorin Pratt, Tabitha Frazier, Bill Howell, and Phyllis Basch-Smith.  There are 64 Water and Soil Conservation Boards in the State of Florida. There are currently three seats up for re-election this November in Leon County, with three candidates running in each race.  As a Board Supervisor, members receive no salary during their four year terms.  

For more news updates from Steven Rodriguez, follow @StevenRFS on Twitter