Soil & Water – ready to serve and educate

By Nick Blank
Posted 1/16/19

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay Soil and Water Conservation District held its first-ever swearing-in ceremony for its four newly-elected members.

At the University of Florida Institute of Food and …

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Soil & Water – ready to serve and educate

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay Soil and Water Conservation District held its first-ever swearing-in ceremony for its four newly-elected members.

At the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension building Jan. 11, Board Chair Richard Darby said swearing in new members for their four-year term, with family members and other officials present, adds formality to the position. Fourth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Michael S. Sharrit presided over the ceremony.

“When I was elected four years ago, I just showed up and started,” said Darby, Seat 3 supervisor. “There was no real swearing-in ceremony or anything like that.”

Board members are called supervisors and the organization traces its roots back to 1937. Darby said district supervisors partner with the county’s agricultural industry, whether it’s cows, crops or trees.

The Clay Soil and Water Conservation District acts as a middleman between the industry and government agencies such as the Florida Forest Service, the St. Johns River Water Management District, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

As for the new members, Harrison “Ted” Clark, of Orange Park, the Seat 1 representative, said he wants to publicize the board’s work and give the public access to resources. Clark, who works in land development and has an engineering background, said it is an honor to serve Clay County.

“We’re here to help them,” Clark said. “(The District) was initially started because of the Dust Bowl. I believe there’s a lot more we could do, even though there aren’t a lot of farms anymore.”

Improving irrigation systems throughout the county and cutting waste is another one of Clark’s goals.

“We can encourage people to do more conservation practices and we could work on reducing the algae bloom in the river and all,” Clark said. “I really want to do more plant beautification projects. I know (Seat 4 Supervisor) Wes (Taylor) wants to do that as well.”

Seat 2 Supervisor Cassandra Shaw was appointed to the board on a temporary basis in June. After an uncontested election in November, Shaw said she wanted to see Clay remain an agricultural county.

“It’s nice to be able to know you can do something for your community,” Shaw said. “I’m excited to be on the board and to see how we can keep agriculture in Clay County and help those individuals out.”

In Seat 5, Michael Cassidy won the only contested election, defeating Richard Russell with 54.65 percent of the vote. Cassidy is a real estate agent with a volunteer background. He said he saw there wasn’t a social media presence for the District.

“That’s one reason I wanted to step in. I’m new to this,” Cassidy said. “I’m looking forward to being a part of it and contributing as much as possible.”

Cassidy said he was excited to get started and the biggest challenge was getting the word out about the District’s efforts.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t know that the Clay Soil and Water Conservation District actually does things to help with their county,” Cassidy said. “It’s very important people understand what we’re doing in the community.”

The Clay Soil and Water Conservation District meets the second Friday of every month at 9 a.m. at the Clay County Extension building at 2463 State Rd. 16.

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