Alachua County Soil and Water Conservation District

Races are nonpartisan, open to all voters in the county

Every four years, the five board members of the Alachua County Soil and Water Conservation District are filled in the general election. These races will be on this November’s ballot.

One of the most frequent questions we get during election cycles is: “What is the Soil and Water Conservation District and what does it do?” These districts were created across the nation in the late 1930s and originally represented small-scale farms by reporting soil and water needs to the government. Conservation and safety of the beaches are also in the purview of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and the elected supervisors often serve as environmental advocates and educators in the community.

Although the district cannot levy taxes and has no enforcement powers, they work with agencies, individuals and local businesses to promote best natural resource management practices and conserve the environment.

Elected board members receive no pay for serving but may be reimbursed for travel expenses. Some former district supervisors have gone on to run for City Council or other elective offices.

District supervisor seats are nonpartisan and are elected countywide.

News4Jax sent a questionnaire to each candidate asking about their background and their views on several issues. Scroll down to read the responses of those seeking your vote -- in their own words.

Note: Responses are sorted alphabetically by party and are presented exactly as submitted, with no editing by News4Jax staff.


  CANDIDATES IN GROUP 1

Richard Feagle

Occupation: Self/ Rancher

Age: 58

Your family: Wife Cecile , 2 Sons Justin 33 and Ryan 31 , 5 Grandchildren

Education: High school Grad.

Political experience: none

What do you see as the top three issues you’ll likely face while holding this office?

  • Balancing water quality and practical use of water with producers.
  • Helping producers with programs that can enhance yield with less acreage.
  • Educating the public about the farming and ranching in our County.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

  • My Ag background and current involvement in agriculture.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

  • In helping with programs the help our natural resources in a common sense way.

Campaign website: (none listed)

Campaign’s social media site(s): (none listed)


Jancie Vinson

Occupation: Retired

Age: 63

Your family: I am the 10th child born to my parents out of eleven siblings.

Education: BSBA/ University of Florida

Political experience: Former Political Candidate

What do you see as the top three issues you’ll likely face while holding this office?

I believe the top three issues are as following:

  1. Green Infrastructure is important because it reduces and treats stormwater which is beneficial and is a supplement to the existing gray infrastructure. The stormwater runoff from urban areas can deliver pollutants and the green infrastructure can reduce stormwater discharges. The green infrastructure can improve the water quality and quantity, air quality, climate resiliency, habitat and wildlife and the communities.
  2. Sustainable Health Care is important because it improves energy efficiency and invest in alternative energy sources, redesign transportation systems to be more eco-friendly, reduces waste generation and conserve water.
  3. Environment Justice is important because it means fair treatment and meaningful involvement to all regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the enforcement of environment of laws, development regulations and policies.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

  • I was born and raised on a small farm in the SW section of Gainesville, Florida. I would bring to the position a wealth of knowledge with great respect, dedication and commitment to preserving the quality of life in Alachua County.

I understand the importance in conserving water, preventing soil erosion and protecting our environment. I will do my part in keeping the public informed on conservation problems and encourage the ongoing continuance of education to the public and youth through administration programs in order to make wise decisions in order to implement conservation practices.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

  • I would like to be remembered as a voice of influencing positive changes that will protect and the use of our precious natural resource commodities, soil and water which is vital to our existence and future generations.

Campaign website: (none listed)

Campaign’s social media site(s): (none listed)


  CANDIDATES IN GROUP 2

Archie L. Matthews

Party affiliation*: Democrat

Occupation: Farmer

Age: 68

Your family: Married - 5 children

Education: Santa Fe College - AA

Political experience: 30 plus years as a Soil and Water Supervisor

What do you see as the top three issues you’ll likely face while holding this office?

  1. District Funding.
  2. Food insecurity in East Gainesville.
  3. Conservation education for urban/suburban homeowners.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

  • Long experience with soil and water conservation. Contacts with other soil and water supervisors, water management staff, Florida Department of Agriculture staff, farmers and teachers of vocational agriculture.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

  • That there is more awareness of the necessity for conservation of soil and water, regardless of whether or not a person is engaged in agriculture or is an urban/suburban homeowner.

Campaign website: none

Campaign’s social media site(s): none


Chris Trowell

Party affiliation*: Republican

Occupation: Sr. Project Manager / Rancher-Farmer

Age: 50

Your family: Wife Tammy, 5 children (26, 24, 21, 19, 17), 1 grandchild (2)

Education: UF, BS Construction Management

Political experience: None

What do you see as the top three issues you’ll likely face while holding this office?

  1. A need to provide education and awareness to the purpose and role of the Soil & Water Conservation District. As well as a restraint on overreach within our county government.
  2. Engagement with the agricultural community to help them be a part of this process and understand that they are the front lines in soil and water conservation.
  3. Return a focus of limited government and an idea that government boards, bodies and officials are there to serve their constituents and not impose their own will on the electorate.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

  • I bring a wealth of knowledge and experience from both my construction back ground as well as farming. The opportunity to use my leadership skills and problem solving abilities to enhance the effectiveness of the SWCD.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

  • As a native Floridian and farmer, I understand deeply the relationship we must have with our soil and water. The conservation and efficient use of each is vital both for our population but also for our agricultural community. Florida is a special place and much of what makes Florida so special are the waterways, natural springs and diverse lands. Finding ways to enhance the efficiency of our water and water usage, conserve our soils and do it in a way that protects the private land owners rights is vital to healthy communities.

Campaign website: None

Campaign’s social media site(s): None


  CANDIDATES IN GROUP 3

Walt Boyer

Party affiliation*: Non party seat

Occupation: Business Owner/amateur gardener

Age: 58

Your family: (No response)

Education: (No response)

Political experience: Have been politically active for 11 years as a citizen of Alachua County

What do you see as the top three issues you’ll likely face while holding this office?

I really only see two issues that I may encounter

  1. Assuring that all policy promoted from the Soil and Water board will not negatively impact or target a specific group or groups of citizens in Alachua County.
  2. Pushback from pro climate change groups if I disagree on anything with no chance to debate my disagreement.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

  • I am led by logic and truth and am not led by fear mongering campaigns. I live in the rural part of the county and can be a voice for our rural citizens and farmers. I am not tied to any environmental groups so am not beholden to push any specific policy.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

  • standing up for logic and truth

Campaign website: none

Campaign’s social media site(s): none


Daniel “Danny” Gordon

This candidate has not returned a candidate survey. It will be added if received at any point before the election.


  CANDIDATES IN GROUP 4

Nevaeh Martinez Renwick

Occupation: Researcher/Graduate Assisstant

Age: 21 at time of election

Your family: (No response)

Education: Bachelor’s

Political experience: Community Organizing

What do you see as the top three issues you’ll likely face while holding this office?

  • The state of our environment is a regulator of the state of our community. Our environment is integral in how we live and is interconnected with everything that we do, so it is my vision that more people of all demographics are aware of the possibilities that soil and water conservation bring to our community in terms of environmental safety, health, and equity. The environment is something that we all share. This world provides us with so much that we take for granted, like soil and water. People often have the misconception of only thinking of soil and water as simply two natural resources, or as scientific worlds that are disparate from society. People do not often think about the deep impacts that soil and water have on our communities and well-being. However, soil and water significantly affect so many issues that we face right here within our community. For instance, someone needs to be the checks and balances for development in Gainesville. Inequitable and unsustainable development disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities. That someone is us, and proper knowledge of environmental conservation allows us to protect our communities. I will fight against environmental injustice as it relates to soil and water, and help cultivate education about how conservation of these resources can help lead to positive impacts both environmentally and socially.

Three issues summed up:

  1. Lack of education about environmental health, safety, and equity
  2. Environmental injustice as it relates to disproportionate environmental harm towards BIPOC communities
  3. Lack of community resources/projects/grants towards environmental conservation, restoration, and justice in Alachua County

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

I am a proud Black and queer honors graduate with a Bachelors degree in Environmental Management of Agriculture and Natural Resources, along with minors in Soil and Water Science and Sustainability Studies. I currently work at UF’s Soil and Water Chemistry Laboratory as a research assistant where I completed my own honors thesis research on a potential novel environmental remediation technique for restoring phosphorus levels in the Florida Everglades. This fall, I will continue to work in my lab as a Master’s student in Soil and Water Sciences. I am a community organizer with Dream Defenders Goddsville Squadd here in Gainesville where we organize for transformative justice within our community and fight against systemic oppression. I am also the youngest person to run for this position in Alachua County.

This helps voters in a way that others running for this office cannot because I am a representative of the Gainesville community. I am just a student. I am not running for money or political power. In fact, politics were never something that I wanted to involve myself with. I am running because I feel as though I HAVE to. There is no other choice--given the state of our community. I also offer a unique perspective to this office as a researcher. I have the scientific advantage and knowledge that others do not. I have dedicated my life towards learning about how to protect the environment, and it is now time for me to share this knowledge with my community. Not only am I aware of the surface-level environmental issues that are occurring in Alachua County, I am also innovatively and tenaciously working towards figuring out research-based solutions.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

  • I hope to be remembered as the Soil and Water Conservation Board Member who made a difference within our community. I want to leave office knowing that I made the environment a little better (i.e., healthier, safer, more equitable) than I found it. I want to leave office with grant-funded projects being carried out, new community organizations started and funded under our board, and with the school district prepped with new presentations/events/workshops that focus on the importance of natural resources and environmental conservation and restoration.

Campaign website: linktr.ee/NevaehforSoilandWater

Campaign’s social media site(s): instagram.com/nevaehforsoilandwater and facebook.com/NevaehSoilandWater


Patrick Sell

Occupation: Director of Disbursements

Age: 36

Your family: Wife and 3 children (10, 8, and 5)

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science- University of Florida; Master of Arts in Government- Georgetown University

Political experience: Appointed by Alachua Board of County Commission to serve on the Economic Development Advisory Committee; volunteer on numerous state and local political campaigns.

What do you see as the top three issues you’ll likely face while holding this office?

  1. A need to expand the District’s relationships with state and local agencies in order to enhance the mission of soil and water conservation.
  2. Overcoming the fact that most constituents do not know what the Alachua Soil & Water Conservation District does. I hope to increase awareness among ordinary citizens.
  3. The agricultural community viewing the Soil & Water Conservation District as an enemy and not an ally. I hope to change this perception as farmers are one of the most important stakeholders in the effort.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

  • I value relationship building and am good at bringing groups together to accomplish a shared goal. I did this at the U.S. Department of State working across governmental agencies to launch a global entrepreneurship summit, and continue to do this at the University of Florida to enhance our stewardship efforts.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

  • That I share Florida’s passion for water and am committed to giving the next generation cleaner rivers and springs than we have currently. I also hope to be remembered as a reasonable person who listened to constituents and stakeholders in the soil and water conservation effort. I am not an ideologue; I want to listen to experts in order to make wise decisions.

Campaign website: (none listed)

Campaign’s social media site(s): (none listed)


  CANDIDATES IN GROUP 5

Natasha F. Holt

This candidate has not returned a candidate survey. It will be added if received at any point before the election.


Patricia Lee

Party affiliation*: Democrat

Occupation: Non-Profit CEO

Age: 71

Your family: Siblings Only, Parents and Only Child Deceased

Education: B.S. Business Education Bethune-Cookman University and MBA, Southern Methodist University

Political experience: I live to serve, not to be a politician. Politics as a career tends to get pretty messy and far too often cause elected officials to drift from serving all citizens equitably to devoting more time and attention to getting re-elected by those with the resources to help make that happen. Politicians tend to make promises they either can’t or never intended to keep. The focus should always be on collecting and using relevant information coupled with critical thinking skills to serve the community for the good of all. That is what I have always done and will always do, no matter what position I may find myself in.

What do you see as the top three issues you’ll likely face while holding this office?

  1. Protecting our soil and aquifers from over building and chemicals while also helping our farmers, especially small farmers to learn how to be productive without overuse of harmful fertilizers and pesticides
  2. Protecting our springs from excessive withdrawals by bottled water companies
  3. Protecting the cleanliness and beauty of our environment

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

For my particular seat, I bring maturity, wisdom, exposure, experience, and independent critical thinking skills. The exposure I mention reach far beyond the borders of Alachua County because I have lived in 8 states and 16 cities as an active member of each community. While in San Francisco, California, I experienced the controversy between Northern California, including the North Pacific and Southern California’s demand for more water from the north--Southern California’s need was due in part to overbuilding and overuse of water for lawns and landscape. Florida may well experience a similar situation without appropriate education and conservation practices.

During my childhood, most of the men in my family were farmers; my dad was one of the best and my grandfather was one of the largest African American landowners in Alachua County. My great uncles all had farms and made a good life for their numerous children. Pretty much all of us who grew up on those farms turned out to be some pretty successful well-adjusted people.

As a child we swam and played in the beautiful ponds, springs and streams of Alachua Couty--I even got whippings for playing in those waters sometimes when my parents weren’t around to supervise. Most of my family, except me enjoyed fishing for fresh fish from our clean lakes, ponds, and rivers (I only like to eat them, not catch them). Also, I still enjoy drinking spring water because my first drinks came from a manual pump whose pipes brought up water from a cool underground spring.

These memories and experiences will make me a strong advocate for protecting our natural resources while having as little impact on reasonable commerce and development as possible.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

  • Keeping my word!

Campaign website: None

Campaign’s social media site(s): Coming Soon


* While this is a nonpartisan race, we have chosen to include the answers to party affiliation for the candidates who responded to that survey question as an additional piece of information to help voters.