Throughout Virginia, 47 Soil and Water Conservation Districts are tasked with doing just what their name implies: conserving soil and water. They are staffed and governed by boards of directors. Orange County is one of five counties represented on the Soil and Water Conservation Culpeper District Board. There are 12 members on that board; two directors are elected every four years from each county, and two directors are appointed, one of which is a county extension agent.

There are two certified candidates for two open seats to represent Orange County on the board: Robert “Bob” Brame III and Robert Bradford, both incumbent board members.

Charlottesville Tomorrow designed a questionnaire for Brame and Bradford based on more than 200 responses to a voter survey. Bradford provided answers, Brame did not.

Can you explain what the job of a director of the Soil and Water Conservation Board is and what you have learned about the role in your decades of service?

Robert Bradford: As Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) directors, we are elected to represent constituents. In the case of Culpeper SWCD we represent folks in a multi-county district to promote the protection of our natural resources, guiding our staff in outreach and assistance to local schools, local governments and citizens.

I have been involved with the Culpeper District close to thirty years, first as associate director and then 27 years as elected director. Over that time I have focused my energy on administering Virginia’s Agricultural Cost Share program (VACS), promoting best management practices to the agricultural community throughout the five-county district.

Bob Brame III: No response provided.

These elections are rarely contested and often don’t have enough candidates. Why do you think people don’t run for these roles?

Bradford: It is most likely a matter of lack of being informed of the work we do to serve. Most people in the agriculture community are aware of our role, but many in the general population are not. This is made more difficult by the lack of local and rural newspaper coverage.

All of our monthly district meetings are open to the public and we encourage interested citizens to attend. We are on the lookout for people who are interested, who can become an associate, non-voting director, to add their perspective to the Board of Directors.

I personally believe the position of director should be independent of partisan political affiliation, not bringing a party’s agenda to the work, so we can serve all citizens.

We are providing more cost share programs beyond agriculture to protect water quality: septic pump-outs and repair, residential conservation assistance through the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program, so more people are getting familiar with each district and what we do.

Directors who serve are volunteers, not compensated other than mileage, and it does demand a time commitment to attend monthly meetings and to do work in committees, in order to create a strong district both for our citizens and staff.

Brame: No response provided.

What do you think is the most pressing concern for conservation in your district?

Bradford: The Soil and Water Conservation Districts are independent entities, which enables us to give input to the Commonwealth of Virginia with programs and practices the state depends on us to implement on the ground. We are able to push back when we see things that are not in our citizens’ best interest. Conservation can take many different forms; it is key to use it as a tool to encourage smart development. Farms are under pressure from ever-increasing urban sprawl. SWCDs assist conservation agriculture communities to stay strong and viable with proactive measures rather than burdening citizens with over-regulation.

Brame: No response provided.

Do you have any certifications or qualifications for this position that you want voters to know about?

Bradford: I am a full-time farmer. I currently chair the technical committee for our district and now serve state-wide on the Virginia Agriculture Cost Share program technical advisory committee.

Brame: No response provided.

More about the candidate for Soil and Water Conservation Board

Polls in Virginia close at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, night. The Virginia Department of Elections will publish election results in real time, as they arrive from precincts around the state. To view them, head to this link. These are unofficial results until they are certified. Here’s more about how to get election results.

  • Sept. 22: First day of in-person early voting at your local registrar’s office.
  • Oct. 16: Deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration. You can also register after this date, and on election day, but you will vote with a provisional ballot, could take longer for officials to count because they will verify your eligibility.
  • Oct. 27: Deadline to apply for a ballot to be mailed to you. Your request must be received by your local registrar by 5:00 p.m.
  • Oct. 28: Voter registration offices open for early voting.
  • Nov. 4: The last day of in-person early voting at your registrar.
  • Nov. 7: Election Day. Here is where you can find your polling place.

Need to know if you’re eligible to vote? Here are resources from the Virginia Department of Elections.


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.


Interested in what we're working on next? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and never miss a story.