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 Soil and Water Conservation Thomas Jefferson District Board, 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 Albemarle County: Mark Wastler and Steven Meeks. Wastler was appointed to the board in 2021.
Charlottesville Tomorrow designed a questionnaire based on over 200 responses we received to a voter survey. Wastler provided answers by email.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story inaccurately said that there was only one candidate for this position, Mark Wastler. Because of the error, we were late sending the Q&A to Steven Meeks, however Meeks did not return his responses before election day, Nov. 7.
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?
Mark Wastler: SWCD directors share public responsibility for the management and conservation of natural resources. The main area of responsibility in recent years is the oversight of millions of dollars of state cost share money that goes toward improving soil and water quality of the district, and which contributes to the healing of the Chesapeake Watershed. More information can be found here.
Steven Meeks: Did not respond.
You are the only candidate for two open seats to represent Albemarle County. What happens when there aren’t enough candidates, and why do you think people don’t run for these roles?
Wastler: Serving as a director is an unpaid labor of love and citizenship, often requiring 12-15 volunteer hours a month. The organization was founded in response to the Dust Bowl, and we have been addressing pressing environmental concerns ever since. The Soil and Water Conservation Board is community democracy at work and we welcome more public participation in the process. There is a process outlined in the by-laws by which directors might be appointed and approved in case of a vacancy.
Meeks: Did not respond.
What do you think is the most pressing concern for conservation in your district?
Wastler: Our most pressing concerns as a community, and as the Soil and Water Conservation Board, are healing soil health, improving water quality, conserving natural resources, and addressing the causes and impacts of climate change. We do those things in lots of different ways — through vigorous and vital education programs for all ages and by working with farmers and agricultural landowners to implement healthy land and water use practices.
Meeks: Did not respond.
Do you have any certifications or qualifications for this position that you want voters to know about?
Wastler: I have been farming for fifteen years, currently in western Albemarle County where I raise sheep. Additionally, I have worked as a conservation educator and technician. I have extensive experience in non-profit organization management and oversight, and have been serving as an appointed director for three years.
Meeks: Did not respond.
More about the candidate for Soil and Water Conservation Board
- Visit the board page of the Thomas Jefferson District’s website
- A 2015 report in CVILLE Weekly about Meeks being voted off Scottsville’s Architectural Review Board
- A 2018 report in CVILLE Weekly about Meeks’ resignation as president of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society
As you get ready to vote, here are some key dates and links from the Virginia Department of Elections:
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.