The Skyline Soil and Water Conservation District provides conservation technical assistance and education to protect the soil and water resources of Floyd, Giles, Montgomery and Pulaski counties. The District is run by a 10-member Board of Directors, two of whom are elected from Floyd. The county also contributes $13,000 in funding to the district each year. While typically this race is not competitive, this year, Floyd County residents have three choices of director for only two spots.
Jack Lawson is an incumbent (currently serving) board director, as well as the current chairman of the Skyline Board. Lawson runs a beef cattle operation in Willis Ridge, and has been on the Skyline board for 35 years. When asked what he does for fun, Lawson answered, “Farm work,” but then added, “I like to hunt and fish.”
Lawson said his work on the board is motivated by his personal interest in water conservation. “Our real goal is water conservation, and that’s a big interest for me,” he said. “Water’s a resource that needs to be protected.” In Lawson’s view, the main purpose of the district “is for education on best management practices for the farm.” Although the director position is unpaid, the district does manage a considerable amount of money for different practices and cost-share programs, Lawson explained.
In terms of what he enjoys most about his work with the Soil and Water Conservation District, Lawson cited the people—his colleagues. “I enjoy working with the board. It’s a group of conscientious farmers who care about what they’re doing, and things going in a good, smooth manner,” he said.
Curtis Sowers co-owns the Huckleberry Dairy Farm with his brother Mark, and is also an incumbent member of the Skyline District, currently running for re-election. Sowers has served on the board for eight years, and for him, the unpaid position is a way for him to give back to people he says have helped his business enormously.
Sowers’ father passed away at a young age, and when he and Mark took it over, they were young too. “We were young when we started. (The district) helped us do a lot of stuff, where erosion had washed out, and we started strip-cropping fields,” Sowers explained. “They’ve helped us in years past with our water systems, grazing systems.”
Sowers said both the conservation goals of the district and benefits for the farmer motivate his work. With strip-farming, for instance, “It’s eye-appealing, but it also helps cut down on erosion,” he said. The main goal of the district, in his eyes, is to teach “best management practices for the farm.” For Sowers, the best part of being a farmer is working outdoors—he loves the rural nature of life in Floyd. “When I go to Blacksburg,” he said, “I understand why I want to be here (instead).” The best part of serving on the conservation board, though, is the people. “I like interacting with other farmers,” he said, and credited Jack Lawson’s leadership for a well-run board. “He keeps up with everything and he’s just really been an inspiration to everyone on the board, not just myself,” Sowers said.
John Myers is 30 years old, currently works in the produce department at Food Lion in Floyd and has previous experience with repairing and programming computers. He said one of his interests is, “contributing to improvement and preservation of the best aspects of…my hometown.”
Myers said that running for Skyline district director would represent “a first step on an unfamiliar road,” but he is seeking to be “brave enough to step forward and try, and humble enough to accept that I do not know everything. I am prepared to accept the challenge,” he said.
In Myers’ view, the role of the district director is to, among other things, “(take) the concerns of the people they serve into account, and addressing them as necessary on a cost-effective, fair and non-partisan basis.” Myers acknowledged that the primary responsibility of the director is oversight, and ensuring that, “projects and activities being addressed on his watch are properly supported, appropriate, well-managed and maintained.”
When asked what inspired him to run for the Soil and Water Conservation District Director position this year, Myers answered that, “It is my fervent belief that the platform of this election season affords me the opportunity to learn and grow further as a prospective public servant.”