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Learn everything you need to know about voting in the upcoming election, including how to vote in person or through the mail as well as local candidates' positions on various issues and why they think you should vote for them.

Soil And Water Conservation District Supervisor

Candidates for Mecklenburg County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor answered questions about why they should be elected (or reelected).

Gregory Denlea - Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor
Gregory Denlea

GREGORY DENLEA
Explain how your experience will better help Mecklenburg’s Soil and Water Conservation District?
Business actions which adversely affect the environment need to be mitigated with conservation practices. Business objectives and environmental conservation goals must be aligned over the continuum to ensure that we serve as stewards for future generations. I am a transformation leader and superlative communicator capable of succeeding tomorrow in areas we are politically divided on today.

  • I have lived experience in soil and water conservation projects – Working with the California Conservation Corps I worked on water conservation projects, national park trail building and maintenance, wild land forest fire fighting, and urban conservation projects (e.g. tree planting).
  • I hold a relevant and recent masters degree in environmental assessment from NC State University – I completed my masters in science in 2014 with NC State where I studied environmental assessment. I also have an undergraduate bachelors in science in environmental science from Washington State University
  • 16 years teaching environmental science at the university level - I have taught environmental science courses to college students since 2004 at the University of Phoenix
  • 30 years management and governance experience – I have worked in multiple industries and I currently serve on multiple boards in our community
  • I am an active member in the community and servant in the church – I volunteer, sing in the choir, cantor, and teach faith formation classes to our youth.

What are your plans to better assist your district and county with erosion prevention and water and soil contamination?
I will be an active participant with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Storm Water Drainage Committee.

As your Soil and Conservation District Supervisor charged with the conservation of natural resources I will maximize the capture and expenditure of state and federal funds for:

  • the restoration of our local wetlands
  • the cleanup of our local waterways
  • the preservation of our farmlands and natural habitats
  • the education of our community members on conservation.

I also serve as a primary connection between conservation groups like the Sierra Club and local, state, and federal organizations when prioritizing initiatives and developing/communicating our common goals. Under the Memorandum of Agreement signed by the North Carolina Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts NCASWCD (which includes Mecklenburg County) we collaborate, communicate, and execute programs together with the following organizations:

  • North Carolina Soil and Water Conservation Commission
  • North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – Division of Soil and Water Conservation
  • North Carolina Conservation District Employees Association
  • N.C. Foundation for Soil and Water Conservation, Inc.
  • North Carolina Resource Conservation and Development Association (NCRCDA)
  • United State Department of Agriculture (USDA)– Natural Resources Conservation Service

What are your plans to assist local farmers in Mecklenburg County?
The SWCD is a sub-division of the State of North Carolina (NC) and rolls up under the North Carolina Association of Soil and Water Districts. The district supervisor seat is a non-partisan and a non-paid local government position. Mecklenburg County is unique from other SWCDs (there are 96 SWCD districts in our state) because our county is predominantly urban. Traditionally the SWCD has supported rural cost share programs. My candidacy for district supervisor proposes to transform our SWCD through education, communication, and collaboration.

What do you want people to know about what the Soil and Water Conservation District does for Mecklenburg County -- and what it should do moving forward?
As a member of the board my work will compliment the work of professional staff by providing good governance of our district, understanding staff resource development and utilization, and campaigning to enlarge the district’s funds. Our district was the first district to create the position of an urban conservationist. I believe we should have multiple urban conservations on our staff at this time. As a professor I also understand how to promote education in the community and I will work tirelessly to ensure that each and every child in our school district receives an education in environmental conservation.

My objective as your Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) supervisor are to further environmental education, develop cost share programs for urban farming, and partner with the government to generate additional funding. We will continue stewardship in our community with the clean-up and conservation of our local waterways. Under my leadership you can expect your SWCD to extend urban opportunities for the production of microgreens and fish and hydroponic farms in Mecklenburg County.

DAVID MICHAEL RICE
Candidate did not respond

Rich George - Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor
LunahZon Photography/LunahZon Photography
Rich George

RICH GEORGE
Explain how your experience will better help Mecklenburg’s Soil and Water Conservation District?
My professional and personal experience and expertise both drives and qualifies me to serve as Mecklenburg Soil & Water Conservation District (MS&WCD) Supervisor. Specifically, my “E*O*S: A NEW DAWN FOR MECKLENBURG’S ENVIRONMENT” strategic plan will deliver: 1) EQUITABLE access to natural resources for everyone; 2) OPTIMAL usage of natural resources for agriculture, housing, recreation and industry; and 3) SUSTAINABLE natural resource management.

First, I am a passionate environmentalist fighting to protect the planet and its inhabitants from our life-threatening climate crisis. As a certified member of VP Al Gore’s Climate Leadership Corps, I am equipped with global expertise built on the leading and latest scientific research. As a 10-year Mecklenburg resident, I am energized to protect our local environment. As a tribute to my late fiancée, I am inspired to defend life-sustaining biodiversity, especially defenseless animals and plants.

Second, I am the product of my family’s small farms in central PA. As someone who relied on the land to survive, I deeply appreciate fertile soil, fresh air, and clean water. As someone who grew up hunting animals, and growing fruit and vegetables, to eat, I clearly understand the importance of fresh, healthy food. As someone who saw countless farms converted to commercial warehouses and residential development, I strongly support local agriculture struggling against global food conglomerates.

Third, I am a powerful, yet practical, change agent. As Brand strategist for Fortune 100 companies, I lead significant change that positively impacts change-resistant organizations by establishing group objectives that are clearly, consistently and compellingly communicated. As owner of three small businesses, I have served clients ranging from small NC mobile-home parks to multinational companies. As an effective team-builder, I optimize budgets to maximize impact.

What are your plans to better assist your district and county with erosion prevention and water and soil contamination?
With no regulatory authority and limited funding, MS&WCD focuses on stream stabilization (i.e., public-private partnerships to stop erosion on landowners’ single parcels) rather than on more comprehensive and costly stream restoration. The District largely supports other Mecklenburg agencies (e.g., CharMeck Storm Water Services) primarily responsible for soil and water quality.

As Supervisor, I will help expand MS&WCD’s impact on soil and water quality by: 1) pursuing increased funding from local, state and federal sources; 2) effectively and efficiently implementing County projects, using job authority recently approved by NC legislature; and 3) building awareness of our County’s most dangerous contaminants: single-use plastics and microplastics (nurdles, PFAs).

What are your plans to assist local farmers in Mecklenburg County?
MS&WCD can best assist County farmers by expanding support for urban farms and gardens, while continuing successful programs that support rural, traditional farms. Expanded urban support will require working with state and federal officials to broaden the current profit-based definition of farm (any establishment from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were sold or would normally be sold during the year) to include personal, small-scale agriculture.

As MS&WCD Supervisor, food safety and security will be my top priority, especially in areas without access to fresh produce (i.e., food deserts) since our current food system has separated people from their food, with disastrous consequences. Empowering urban small farms and gardens to grow, prepare and enjoy their own food -- like my family did on their small PA farms -- will improve residents’ physical and economic health by connecting them to fresh, healthy food.

With limited regulatory power, MS&WCD must use its voluntary incentives and public platform to educate, excite and empower residents about their relationship with food, and with rich soil and clean water needed to grow it. Ideally, available urban land in disadvantaged communities will be reclaimed and utilized for agricultural use, with educational and financial support to help residents understand:

  1. Where does my food originate? County residents know their food mostly comes from grocery stores, but many have little idea how it got there (e.g., bacon from hogs, avocados from trees, blueberries from bushes). Commercial food producers have increasingly exploited this knowledge gap for profit, often at the expense of consumers’ health.
  2. Why is my food important? Poor diets lead to poor health, especially when County residents may not be aware that processed foods are loaded with fats and sugars. These overlooked additives are leading contributors to life-threatening obesity, while deadly zoonotic viruses (including COVID-19) grow from an overstressed global food supply chain.
  3. How can I grow my own food? County residents, especially in food deserts, must be equipped with the necessary tools to grow fresh, healthy produce: micro-farming training and education, equipment and supplies, and access to neighborhood land. Naturally, this food production depends on MS&WCD’s existing soil health and water quality efforts.

What do you want people to know about what the Soil and Water Conservation District does for Mecklenburg County -- and what it should do moving forward?
Locally, MS&WCD principally collaborates with County organizations and individuals to protect Mecklenburg’s natural resources by offering voluntary incentives. Further, MS&WCD secures and distributes funding from state and federal agencies – primarily state water quality programs and federal soil health programs – and advocates for policy and funding changes that benefit Mecklenburg County environmental promotion and protection.

My professional expertise as a Brand strategist serving Fortune 100 companies is ideally suited to complement MS&WCD’s work to-date. Specifically, these skills will allow me to define and deliver:

  1. STRATEGIC PLANNING that drives MS&WCD activity by: a) defining a clear roadmap to success; b) developing a comprehensive database that combines existing information into a single, searchable resource to facilitate fact-based decisionmaking; and c) detailing stakeholder input needed to protect and promote Mecklenburg resources.
  2. STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS that maximize MS&WCD visibility, funding and impact by: a) coordinating environmental plans with City of Charlotte to supplement SEAP carbon reduction; b) collaborating with stakeholders to solicit expertise and experience; and c) communicating clearly, consistently and compellingly, leading to common understanding and objectives.
  3. STRATEGIC PRIORITIES that deliver MS&WCD goals, including: a) soil health needed to reconnect County residents with fresh, healthy food, especially in disadvantaged communities; b) water quality focused on single-use plastic and micro-plastic contamination, in conjunction with County and City agencies; and c) green infrastructure to stimulate job training & creation.

Duncan St. Clair
Duncan St. Clair

DUNCAN ST. CLAIR
Explain how your experience will better help Mecklenburg’s Soil and Water Conservation District?
For decades, Mecklenburg’s sky is the limit growth and development has benefitted us pretty well. But today, the shear cost of our natural and green resources at the expense of limitless growth makes us pause to wonder more than ever before, “Does it have to be this way?” So just think: right as we are beginning to understand how invaluable our tree canopy is to Mecklenburg - and will become - we are now beginning to wonder when did all the farms vanish?

As a resident, the need to maintain our tree canopy spares no expense! Imagine Soil and Water Board’s prioritization and funding of “erosion control” on private property for tree maintenance. In many ways, tree maintenance is the paradigm of preventing stream erosion! Now imagine a dramatic and unprecedented expansion of urban and micro farms to enliven residents within all pockets and communities in Mecklenburg to grow food. I see a Soil and Water Board shifting its focus to reveal what Mecklenburg needs – soil and water conservation reimagined, reenvisioned, reinvigorated 2020.

What are your plans to better assist your district and county with erosion prevention and water and soil contamination?
Provide incentives and invent new partnerships for widespread support of the tree canopy preservation - whose conservation and maintenance initiative results benefit all residents, watersheds, and soil health. Preserving the tree canopy conserves and protects all natural resources, including soil and water, thus diminishing erosion. The proliferation and prominence of micro and urban farms precludes “laying waste” to centuries of soil and water conservation when organizations, residents, and others partner to grow food.

Facilitating the integration of micro and urban farms within all areas of Mecklenburg and effective management of the tree canopy means coordination with many towns, neighborhoods, businesses, and most certainly, residents – and the Soil and Water Board is best to lead! Think of a backyard chicken coup and its value to residents’ economic health and welfare. Think of certified arborists with the expertise to champion the effort! Think of how every resident should experience an incredibly integrated, solidly functioning, and remarkably focused Mecklenburg Soil and Water Board working to assist them with soil and water conservation in distinctive, affordable, and easily manageable ways that improves economical resources for neighborhoods; extends beyond county lines; and ultimately grows both urban forests and farms in Mecklenburg County and resident well-being and happiness.

What are your plans to assist local farmers in Mecklenburg County?
Expand Soil & Water Conservation Board resources toward not only preserving, but also adding farms in Mecklenburg County! Nearly every farm I once knew is now a row of houses, parking lots, shopping centers, etc. Plus, almost everywhere you go, there used to be a farm. Our focus on preserving large farms has lost sight of the details – the bigger picture is to serve all Mecklenburg residents better and synthesize today’s needs by reimagining the possibilities. Enter micro and urban farms – chicken coups, community, school, and backyard gardens. Harvesting vegetables and engaging with neighborhoods. An orchard or even a tree farm. Growing the prominence of micro and urban farms are a better fit for Mecklenburg County’s future in farming - a comprehensive plan to assist local farmers in Mecklenburg County by literally creating more farmers, so more residents benefit from the priorities and policies of Mecklenburg’s Soil and Water Conservation Board.

What do you want people to know about what the Soil and Water Conservation District does for Mecklenburg County -- and what it should do moving forward?
The Soil and Water Conservation Board in Mecklenburg County can be the keystone bridging effective land use among our unique natural, suburban, and urban environments – ultimately contributing both economic and health benefits for neighborhoods and residents. It can be the most influential agency championing tree canopy preservation. It can focus on growing the number of micro and urban farms. It can be more effective at both change and preservation. By expanding its priorities, adopting new programs, and innovating conservation in Mecklenburg County, Soil and Water can improve the quality of life for all residents.