Four vying for Soil & Water Conservation board seats

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(Posted July 27, 2021)

The Madison Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) will hold an election for its board of supervisors in conjunction with its 74th Annual Meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 19. Participants are invited to cast votes in the election, take wagon tours, bring chairs, and enjoy food and fellowship. Two individuals will be elected to three-year terms.

The event will be held outdoors at the Gwynne Conservation Area, 690 Arbuckle Rd., London. The public is welcome to attend. Optional picnic dinner tickets can be purchased for $10 each at the Madison SWCD office or online at madisonsoilandwater.com by Aug. 12.

The SWCD board of supervisors consists of community leaders elected by county residents to give direction on soil and water conservation programs to address local natural resources concerns.  They volunteer their time for three-year terms. Candidates in this year’s election are Nancy Denes-Sparks, Jonathan Francis, Robert A. Hunter, and A.J. Schmitt.

Nancy Denes-Sparks

Nancy Denes-Sparks, 7550 Scenic Dr., West Jefferson, has been a special education paraprofessional/job coach with Dublin City Schools for the past 21 years.  She grew up in Jefferson Township on her family’s farm, Denes Tree Farm.  She served on West Jefferson village council from 1994 to 1998, when she moved out of the village. She volunteers with Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church, the West Jefferson Ox Roast and various organizations in the community. As of this year, she is part of a third generation 4-H family, with her oldest granddaughter taking a market goat project to the fair.

Denes-Sparks believes Madison County always has been a strong agricultural county and, with current growth, there is a great need to make sure natural resources are protected. Many areas of the country struggle to maintain and collect quality water, so we need to be good stewards of our water and land for future generations, she said. She knows she would have a lot to learn as a member of the board and would welcome the challenge to serve Madison County.

Jonathan Francis

Jonathan Francis, 9990 Lilly Chapel Georgesville Rd., West Jefferson, is a salesman and integrated solutions specialist at Ag-Pro and is seeking his third term on the board. He grew up on a farm and continues to farm today.

Francis feels the most important natural resource issue in Madison County is water. Rain does not always come at the right place at the right time. The challenge is handling drainage and runoff in an economically and environmentally sound way, he said. He is interested in running for the board again because he likes to be involved and he knows there is a lot to learn. He sees the board as a good opportunity to volunteer his time to benefit others in the community.

Robert A. Hunter

Robert A. Hunter, 7800 Correll-Maxey Rd., London, is a retired farmer and self-employed certified public accountant. He is seeking his fifth term on the board. He currently serves as secretary/treasurer.  Hunter has lived in Madison County his entire life except for one year he lived in Columbus. He and his wife, Anne, have two sons, Sam and Jesse. He belongs to several professional organizations, including Ohio Society of CPAs, Madison County Farm Bureau, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, Ohio Corn Growers’ Association, and the Ohio Soybean Association.

Hunter believes managing the water supply and water quality are the most important concerns in Madison County and that a time may come when our grandchildren or great-grandchildren will wonder why we did not do more to maintain water quality. Hunter is running again because he likes being actively involved in the conservation practices being implemented in Madison County and being a part of preserving farmland and family farms.

A.J. Schmitt

A.J. Schmitt, 310 Riverside Dr., Galloway, has been in the construction business his whole life and has a civil engineering degree. For the last 20 years, he has worked on residential remodeling. Prior to that, he worked on municipal sewage plants, wastewater treatment plants and all kinds of commercial buildings. He and his wife, Angela, have two grown children.

Schmitt believes the top priority is preserving stream quality for future generations. He feels fortunate to live next to Darby Creek, a state and national scenic river, and sees how keeping water clean leads to healthier fish and better recreation. He is running for the board because he is passionate for water quality, he has time to give and wants to serve the community.

Options for casting a ballot are: cast a ballot at the kick-off event on Aug. 19; request an absentee ballot by sending an e-mail to gail.wilson@oh.nacdnet.net; or visit the Madison SWCD office, 831 U.S. Highway 42 NE, London, after Aug. 19.  Voting by absentee or in person at the Madison SWCD office will be available until Sept. 17. For more information, call (740) 852-4003, option 3.

Established in 1947, Madison SWCD is a legal subdivision of state government that provides natural resource management assistance to county landowners and other units of local government. The district is funded by the Madison County commissioners. The county funds are supplemented by funding from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. A five-member board of county residents governs the district. Board members serve staggered three-year terms.

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