My votes for Collier Soil and Water Conservation District Board

Lake Trafford – restoration
completed in 2010

Florida’s 62 Soil and Water Conservation Districts and their governing boards of supervisors were established in 1937 as part of a nationwide response to the period of severe dust storms (the Dust Bowl) and other conservation problems that severely damaged the country’s ecology and agriculture during the 1930s.

According to Florida’s SWCD Supervisor’s Manual:

The powers of SWCDs and supervisors are quite broad, and relate to the development and implementation of soil and water conservation practices on private lands. These duties are performed in conjunction with federal, state, regional, and local partners through funding and technical assistance. Funding programs include state and federal cost-share for environmental protection practices, as well as federal disaster relief and emergency watershed projects.

The Collier SWCD administers two Mobile Irrigation Labs (MILs), which:

… conduct extensive irrigation system evaluations…. The information gathered is used to make recommendations for improvements to the system for water conservation and for the health of the plants….

Follow-up evaluations are conducted after improvements are made to measure actual water savings and to improve MIL procedures. Both potential and actual water savings number in the millions of gallons per year, and the MIL is considered to be an effective conservation program by numerous government agencies.

If you’re concerned about your home irrigation system’s water usage, you can schedule a MIL visit to identify potential problems.

The MILs also participate in outreach and education in coordination with the Rookery Bay Natural Estuarine Research Reserve, the University of Florida Best Management Practices program, the University of Florida Extension Service, and the Master Gardener program.

In Florida, District governing bodies are made up of five Supervisors elected in nonpartisan, district-wide elections to four-year terms. Supervisors are volunteers, receiving no compensation other than reimbursement for travel expenses.

Incumbents Bruce Reichert (Group 1, treasurer) and Dennis Vasey (Group 3, chairman) would have been on our ballot this year, however they had no challengers so are automatically reelected.

Incumbents Clarence Tears, who had been appointed to fill a vacant seat, and James Lang (secretary) each have challengers. I requested meetings with all four candidates, and, with my friend Susan Calkins, met with the two incumbents. Neither challenger responded to my invitation.

Group 4 – James Lang vs Jared Jones

James Lang

James Lang is a customer service manager with the City of Marco Island Water Department.

I found no Facebook or Twitter presence. A 2008 article in the Marco Island Eagle reported that “Lang is pushing residents to take steps both big and small to conserve water during the drought….” My web research also revealed that Lang is Commander, Marco Island VFW Post #6370.

Mr. Lang has served on the Collier SWCD Board eight years, but this is the first time he has had a challenger. When asked, he told Susan and me that he didn’t really want to serve another term, being seventy years old and still working, but is willing to run because he thinks protecting our water resources is so important. He helped Susan and me understand what the Mobile Units do, and how important it is to have their local presence.

No campaign finance reports have been filed.

Jared Jones

Jared Jones notes on his campaign Facebook Page that he’s “very pleased to announce that I have been endorsed by the Libertarian Party of Collier County,” and shares why he’s running for the Collier SWCD. Here is an excerpt:

The state of Florida is charged with the responsibility of soil and water conservation throughout the state…. [W]e don’t need two (2) government entities doing the same thing…. I believe the citizens of Collier County will benefit greatly by this board being dissolved…. It’s time to be fiscally conservative and do what fiscal conservatives talk about…. cutting waste and finding ways to save money! It’s a no brainer. We need to end the redundancy of government. Our soil and water conservation will not be affected by the dissolution of this unnecessary board….

The Facebook page notes that:

He has a background in Construction Engineering Inspection (CEI). As a roadway and bridge inspector, Jared assured the protection of lakes, rivers, creeks and canals from construction debris and run off. He has first hand experience with soil and water through his experience in earthworks. He’s been a consultant for Collier County, Florida Department of Transportation and the F.A.A. to name a few.

His personal Facebook page trumpets his support for “Adrian Wyllie and Greg Roe, Libertarians for Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Florida,” and lists his membership in 23 Facebook Groups, including “Opt Out Collier,” “Collier Tea Party,” “America, Here’s Your Wakeup Call,” and the like.

Nine campaign finance reports filed since July 2014 show a total of $269 in monetary contributions, $33 in-kind, and expenditures of $108.

Group 5 – Clarence S. Tears Jr. vs William Tolp

Clarence Tears

Clarence Tears has had a decades-long commitment to keeping Florida’s water clean and safe, including 33 years in water resource management. From 1996 – 2012, he was Director of the Big Cypress Basin, overseeing the response to and management of water resource issues in Collier County.

Mr. Tears’ LinkedIn page shows an engineering degree from Miami Dade College (1988) and an MBA from International College (1991). He served as Command Chief of the Homestead, FL, U.S. Air Force Base from 2007–2011.

Tears, who is now retired, was appointed to the Collier SWCD Board to fill a vacancy; this is his first run for office. In meeting with Susan and me, he was passionate about the need to put environmental protections in place, especially now with the economy improving and development picking up. His role in previous environmental protection efforts was impressive. He seemed most proud of the successful restoration of Lake Trafford. Like Mr. Lang, when asked, Mr. Tears told Susan and me he didn’t really want to run, but “with my background and connections in government, I think I can make a difference.”

No campaign finance reports have been filed.

William Tolp

I found no Facebook presence for William Tolp. He did not respond to my invitation to meet through his private Twitter feed @WilliamTolp1.

The Libertarian Party of Collier County’s endorsement of William Tolp says:

While this office is relatively unknown to the public, the [Collier SWCD] Board has an annual operating budget of over $200,000. William Tolp brings a strong background in relevant fields that make him well-suited for this position. [Note: I can’t find what that background is.] Tolp is bright, articulate, passionate, and dedicated to the principles of limited government. We trust William Tolp to find and eliminate redundancies and unnecessary expenditures in the Board’s bloated budget and to defend the interests of Collier taxpayers while ensuring that all necessary functions are handled appropriately. We believe that his voice is much needed on this board.

Mr. Tolp ran unsuccessfully for State Representative from District 75 on the Libertarian Party ticket in 2012.

Eight campaign finance reports filed since July 2014 show only one contribution to his campaign, by himself for $50.

My decisions

The drinking water supply for those of us in the southern part of the state is the Everglades. Protection of our water resources is essential. It seems to me extremely beneficial to have elected community members – people who know our area, our economy, our businesses, our needs – participate in state water quality and land-use management programs, and in the administration and oversight of funds which provide state financial assistance for installing soil and water conservation practices.

The most recent published Collier SWCD financial statements show fiscal 2012 revenue and expenses of about $200,000. To Mr. Jones’ and the Florida Libertarian Party’s comments about redundancy of government: the statements note that the District received 97% of its funding from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the South Florida Water Management District, and that the District owns no land or buildings for its operations. Office space is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at no cost. I fail to see the redundancy, because to me,
who better than local citizens – volunteers! – with a passion for protecting our water to represent our best interests in these matters?

I will vote for Jim Lang for Soil and Water Conservation District Group 4 and Clarence Tears for Group 5.

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