Near the bottom of this year’s ballot lies a position that’s literally down to earth. The Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors manages programs to conserve Buncombe County’s natural resources, from rivers and streams to quality farmland.
Three of the board’s five seats are elected positions, but only one is up for election in 2020. Incumbent Gary Higgins, who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Jeff Foster in February, is making his first run for office after a nearly four-decade history as a civil servant in county soil and water conservation.
Opposing Higgins is perennial candidate Alan Ditmore, who has run unsuccessfully for a Board of Supervisors or Buncombe County Board of Education seat in every election since 2008. Ditmore did not respond to multiple requests for participation in the Xpress voter guide. However, his previous campaigns have repeatedly proclaimed a belief that contraception and abortion, through preventing human overpopulation, are the most effective means of protecting the environment.
The names of the candidates are linked to their responses in the post:
Ditmore did not respond to multiple requests to participate in the Xpress voter guide.
Party affiliation: Democrat
Occupation: Retired from Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District
Previous candidacy or offices held: Presently serving as chair of the Buncombe SWCD Board of Supervisors
Key endorsements: None
Amount of money raised: None
Top three donors: None
How can the local work of the Soil and Water Conservation District support broader efforts for environmental protection and climate change? The Buncombe SWCD assists landowners with planning, designing and installation of soil and water conservation practices that result in increased resilience to climate change. This includes conservation practices that conserve and retain water. The district is participating in the WNC Carbon Farm Planning Pilot, which is a regional effort promoting agricultural weather resilience at the farm level. The program will use computer-based programs that will document on-farm carbon sequestration.
What new collaborative opportunities do you see for Soil and Water given the district’s recent merger with the Buncombe County Center of N.C. Cooperative Extension? The recent change was primarily administrative and will allow one county director to oversee two separate departments. The Agriculture and Land Resources Department director works with both the SWCD and Cooperative Extension, but there has not been a merger (meaning that there is now just one department). Both departments will continue to direct their separate programs. We might anticipate some increased collaboration, but at this time, I am not aware of any specific steps that are planned.
How will you make the district’s work more visible to the public? I will promote a strong environmental education and marketing program, which includes utilizing the county website, social media, newsletters and other outreach. We need to make a strong effort to reach out to local media to tell our story and let the general public know what we do every day to protect our soil resources and water quality. We have a lot of good projects and initiatives that we need to publicize more effectively.