In 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. 

On the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District Board — which covers Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson counties, and the City of Charlottesville — there are 12 members. Two directors are elected every four years from each locality, and two directors are appointed.

There are two certified candidates for two open seats on the board for Fluvanna County. Angus Murdoch is an incumbent who has served since 2016. Charles Parrish is running to be a new director on the board. Because there are two seats open, this is an uncontested race.

Charlottesville Tomorrow designed a questionnaire based on more than 200 responses we received to a voter survey. Murdoch responded, Parrish 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 since your appointment?

Angus Murdoch: TJSWCD covers the counties of Fluvanna, Louisa, Albemarle, and Nelson and the City of Charlottesville. Soil and water conservation directors oversee the work of district staff to implement a variety of measures to maintain and improve soil health and water quality. Most of the programs involve measures to reduce damage from non-point-source pollution from agricultural and urban land uses and to educate the public to be better stewards of environmental resources. I am pleased by and hope to see continuation of the current strong state and public support for this now ninety-plus-year effort of work.

Charles Parrish: Did not provide a response.

There are two candidates for two open seats to represent Fluvanna County on the board. Many of these elections are uncontested or don’t have enough candidates. Why do you think people don’t run for these roles?

Murdoch: The SWCD directors are unpaid volunteer positions that require a significant time commitment, mostly during what many of us would consider normal daylight working hours. Candidates need to be willing and able to commit this time and should, ideally, have at least some hands-on working knowledge of agriculture, environmental science, and conservation techniques. SWCD directorates don’t work well as stepping stones to partisan political glory. Candidates need to do the job for love of the land, the community, and the conservation mission. All this narrows the pool but creates an excellent and effective group of people to spend a portion of one’s time with.

Parrish: Did not provide a response.

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

Murdoch: The counties in our district don’t contain high proportions of land in intensive row crop or concentrated animal feeding operations. The majority of the land is in forest, and the majority of the agricultural land is in permanently vegetated pasture, which tends to hold soil much better than cultivated fields. The most pressing concern in the district is the ongoing conversion of forests and pasture to urban and suburban developments with high levels of impervious surfaces that severely impact water quality in local rivers and streams.

Parrish: Did not provide a response.

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

Murdoch: I’m running for my third term as a TJ SWCD director for Fluvanna. I’ve been a part time farmer in Fluvanna Country for the past twenty-eight years. Since 1993, I’ve been a board member and active volunteer with the Rivanna Conservation Alliance and its predecessor groups Rivanna Conservation Society and StreamWatch. During this time I’ve worked on numerous urban and agricultural stream protection projects, many of them in collaboration with TJSWCD. Before returning to Fluvanna, I worked with a number of community forestry and stream repair efforts in Central America, the Pacific Northwest, and western Canada.

Parrish: Did not provide a response.

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.

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