What is the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District?

What began as a simple search for information has become an interesting story that we (Broward voters) should care about.

Last election cycle, I wanted to make sure I voted with information about the candidates I was selecting – and I did some research on a number of roles/candidates I had little knowledge of. One of them was the race for the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District (BSWCD) Seat that was up for election. The two candidates – Fred Segal and Oliver Parker – were completely different animals.

Fred is a very active member of the 4H Club, President of the Broward County Farm Bureau (yes, there are still farms in Broward) and the Kiwanis Club. Oliver Parker was the former Mayor of Hollywood-by-the-Sea who leveraged his name recognition to win this 2008 election (IMHO) to then run for a judgeship (and subsequently lost). Fred’s loss did not effect his efforts in this space – he has stayed involved in the above groups and has applied and succeeded in running unopposed for Seat 4 this season.

This year, Cynthia Thomas and David Kout are competing for one of the five seats up for the 2010 cycle. You can read more about my interview with them via this link:

Cynthia Thomas / David Kout for Broward Soil & Water Conservation District

So, what is the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District?

Funny thing about state, county and local politics – people get involved for various reasons and things get started for a multitude of reasons. Researching the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District has been an interesting effort – since very few people know what it actually is.

According to the CompanyDatabase.org, the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District is:

The Broward Soil and Water Conservation District (BSWCD) is a political subdivision of the State of Florida created to implement Chapter 582 Florida Statutes, in general for the purpose of “conservation of natural resources, preserve wildlife, protect lands of the state and protect and promote the health, safety and general welfare of the people of the State of Florida.” The BSWCD promotes leadership in the conservation of natural resources through stewardship and education programs.

Reading Russell Setti’s post on the BSWCD, he tells that:

Soil and Water Conservation Districts are governmental subdivisions of the State of Florida created under Chapter 582 of Florida Law. In 1937 the legislation established a state and local partnership with the federal government to protect and restore soil and water resources, and to assist private landowners in using conservation practices.

When you go to the 2009 Florida Statutes site, you find out that the State of Florida puts a lot of stock in the importance of soil erosion and water conservation since agriculture has been and always will be a part of the Florida economy (how else do we get great Florida Orange Juice?). But another consequence of this is the conservation of the beaches that make up a great deal of our tourism dollars – and safety of the beaches and the dunes are part of the remit of this organization.

Evidentially, in 1973, some individuals from Broward petitioned the State of Florida to create the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District. From my research, the main purpose of this group seems to be a board of volunteers who have the support of the State of Florida to execute on the interests of the citizens of Broward County to secure fund – whether state, federal or local – to address environmental and conservation issues. In recent years, this group has been behind the dune restoration of Hallandale Beach and the educational efforts on water conservation across Broward County. In addition, the BSWCD has also completed a project for the NOAA which they secured a grant/funding to accomplish.

Interesting to me is that the BSWCD dos not levy any taxes on the county – even though my read of the statutes suggests they could (note: I m not a lawyer). They simply lobby state, federal and local governments for grant money and execute on their efforts.

In reading the statute, elected supervisors are:

  • not appointed due to party affiliation – meaning anyone can run for the office
  • should not really campaign for the office – but, if you do, you will need to follow the campaign laws in Chapter 106 of the Florida Statutes
  • get elected every two years

Now, what is interesting is that there are five seats on the BSWCD – and in the past year, three of the seats were made vacant by supervisors who went on to run for another office. Seat 1 and Seat 3 (the one won by Oliver Parker) are still open and not appointed as of yet. This year, Fred Segal went for Seat 4 (which has been unopposed) and due to a reported mix-up at the Supervisors of Elections office having to do with perceived status of who gets to appoint what seats, Cynthia Thomas and David Kout are both running for Seat 2.

So, why is there an election?

Well, from my read, it looks like the election process was designed to suggest that anyone could run for the seats, and ensure that the local residents that would be affected would know who might be levying taxes on them. With the focus on non-partisanship, it looks like the spirit of the statute was to ensure that the environment was addressed by the general citizenry and not be a political party.

For Seat 3 – I am excited that two people are interested in running for this District – primarily because this organization seems to be an entity designed to affect positive change with the protection of the State of Florida while acting locally without the local politics. It is a bit of an interesting snafu that the Supervisors of Elections did not ensure that both interested parties were afforded the empty seats – and now they are running for the same empty seat – while two others are still empty. But, by placing the seat on the ballot, it is increasing the awareness of this District and the good works that they do.

So, why should I care?

Truthfully, you should care because as a Broward citizen, your county well-being rests on a number of issues which happen to include clean and plentiful water, continued tourism, agriculture. The BSWCD is supposed to address these issues through their efforts like the dune restoration project, the water sprinkler assessment system, non single-point-source pollution efforts and other projects that could get waylaid in political bureaucracies – and allow for citizen volunteers to act instead of worry about political brew-ha-has.

Currently, the BSWCD is owed $60K from the State of Florida from their effort for Hallandale and $200K from their project with NOAA. Sadly, it seems as though both organizations are dragging their feet to repay the District for their efforts – and this can potentially hamper their success on future projects. Because of the loss of the three eats this past year, the BSWCD has not met but twice (this past May and last week) which has impacted their effectiveness.

As of the meeting last week, it is my understanding that Fred Segal – since he is running unopposed – will be appointed by the SOE or the BOE to the seat without major delay. Additionally, David Kout and Cynthia Thomas are running for the office, but not truly competing with each other (since the statute seems to suggest you should not campaign).

I interviewed both of the candidates – and can honestly say that the two of them are good citizens that wish to be involved in making the BSWCD an effective body for the needs of Broward citizens. They each have their strengths – and would be difficult to choose one over the other. I provide my interview notes in another post for your perusal.

Dr. Snipes, are you reading?

This District does not usually have two interested candidates for this District and it seems that only bureaucratic process is holding up the good works that these two individuals could offer to the great County of Broward. My simple question:

Why not offer to these two candidates that whomsoever loses this election for Seat 2 be appointed to Seat 3?

Simple. Clean. And in line with citizens who step up to perform their civic duty to be able to contribute in the betterment of our county?

UPDATE: I did some more searching and found an interesting article about Russell Setti and what seemed to have been some issues in 2007. Could be that the BSWCD has had some strange goings-on which has made it a bit of a hot-potato. I believe that with Fred and the others, the BSWCD can make something happen.

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6 Responses to What is the Broward Soil and Water Conservation District?

  1. Mary LePage says:

    I voted for Fred and just had a feeling during that election voters were not aware of the BSWCD. I agree that if Ms. Thomas and Mr. Kout are interested in a seat, the person that does not win should be appointed to Seat 3. Do you get a feeling that this is a spring board to other political aspirations for some of the candidates? Thank you for the writeup.

  2. admin says:

    Mary – not sure how much of a springboard this seat truly is. it is an elected volunteer position, but gives the seat members a chance to work directly with the County and the State with some level of authority. If someone uses their good works for a political springboard, i can not see anything wrong with that. but if they simply use it as a resume filler, then I am not a fan/supporter.

  3. Rhonda Meeks says:

    Mr. Dickert: THANK YOU for researching the politics, topics, and candidates for this position. You have helped me greatly choose my candidate for Seat 2 and I agree that the loser (for lack of a better term) should be given the opportunity to represent Seat 3.

  4. Sanford Dickert says:

    @Rhonda – nothing but a pleasure. And if you can, tell Dr. Snipes your thoughts here.

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