Over the last few months, Bluestem's editor has been helping out a grassroots citizens group in Western Minnesota. The experience has left us deeply appreciative of the area's signature landscape of granite outcrops and prairie waters, but even more impressed by the need for good government and local control.
A Facebook posting by state representative Rick Hansen suggests a great opportunity for public service for those who appreciate both: running for supervisor of their local Soil and Water Conservation District. Hansen himself started his political career as a soil and water conservation district supervisor.
I didn't know Hansen yet in those days, but I remember how excited friends who had helped with his campaign were the November he was elected. His trademark expertise on natural resource conservation was as valued then as now in the House. Hansen holds degrees in biology and soil management. Supervisors don't need technical degrees, however.
This isn't a high-profile office, but a chance for genuine public service helping provide soil and water conservation services to owners of private lands while developing policy and long-term conservation plans. A number of civic-minded friends across the state serve on their county soil and water boards; the positions are unpaid but they do get compensation for attending meetings and expenses.
From a press release Hansen posted:
SWCD supervisor positions are filled through general elections on November 6. Individuals who wish to be on the ballot in 2012 must file for the election between May 22 and June 5.
SWCDs are local units of government that manage and direct natural resource management programs at the local level. Minnesota’s 90 SWCDs cover the entire state and generally follow county lines. Districts work with landowners in both rural and urban settings to carry out programs for the conservation, use, and development of soil, water, and related resources. Managing private lands, whether agriculture, forest, lakes, or urban, is key to Minnesota's quality of life.
“Districts fill the crucial niche of providing soil and water conservation services to owners of private lands,” said Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation District President Dr. Kathryn Kelly. “Serving as a SWCD board supervisor is very rewarding. It is an opportunity for locally elected citizens to develop policy and long-term conservation plans for their district.”
Interested citizens should file a Minnesota Affidavit of Candidacy (available from the county auditor), along with a $20 filing fee. All candidates for state and local offices must state on the Affidavit of Candidacy that they are eligible voters, will be at least 21 years of age when assuming office, and will have been residents of their nominating district for at least 30 days before the general election. Supervisor candidates must live in and file from a nominating district. Candidates are elected at-large on the ballot*. SWCD Supervisors are not paid a salary; however, they do receive compensation for attending meetings and are reimbursed for expenses.
More information on the filing process can be obtained at the Minnesota Secretary of State web site, www.sos.state.mn.us. Persons interested in finding out what nominating district they live in and which supervisor positions are open for election should contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District office. A directory of SWCDs is located at http://www.bwsr.state.mn.us/directories/SWCD_Dir.pdf and a list of SWCD web sites is available at www.maswcd.org/SWCDs_On_The_Web/swcds_on_the_web.htm.
*except for Washington Conservation District in the Twin Cities, where candidates are elected by each individual nomination district within the county.
Think about it, but not for too long. Filing closes on June 5.