Florida law reduces candidate requirements for Soils and Water Board seats

Every time you turn on the sprinklers, not just around our homes, but in the citrus and other agricultural industries, the depletion of our water supplies and the effects on our ecosystem are watched by elected leaders in almost every Florida counties. supervisors of soil and water conservation districts that report directly to state and United States governments. The mission is to “conserve water, prevent soil erosion, convert irrigation systems, and inform the public of local issues,” Banks Helfrich, former Lake County Soil and Water Supervisor . He fears the new law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis will exclude ordinary citizens and, in some cases, those most qualified to serve. Senate Bill 1078 establishes new requirements for who can fill the unpaid elected position. They must be active in the agricultural industry, or be retired with a minimum of 10 years of farming experience, or they must own or lease agricultural property. In other words, someone working in a grove or field would qualify, but an engineer would not. Helfrich calls it more of the state telling cities and counties how to run their governments. The new law was signed just two days before the end of candidate qualifications on June 17 and requires that every Land and Water seat be elected in November, voiding the four-year terms of many elected in 2020. “We We have candidates who have only filed for two of those seats,” said Lake County Elections Supervisor Alan Hays. Hays is one of seven local counties where voters will not see a full slate of candidates for occupy five Soil and Water Supervisor seats. 45 places up for grabs. There are only six races contested with at least two contenders. The 25 uncontested candidates will automatically win. And there are 14 vacancies for which no one qualified leaving voters, initially, with fewer people who are conserving our water and natural resources Those elected to soil and water conservation seats one, three and five will be able to serve four years.Those in two and four will serve two years and must seek re-election in 2024. The sponsor of the new law told WESH 2 News that the vacant seats will be filled by newly elected supervisors.

Every time you turn on the sprinklers, not just around our homes, but in the citrus and other agricultural industries, the depletion of our water supplies and the effects on our ecosystem are watched by elected leaders in almost every Florida counties.

They are supervisors of soil and water conservation districts that report directly to state and United States governments.

The mission is to “conserve water, prevent soil erosion, convert irrigation systems and educate the public about conservation issues”.

“I strongly believe in keeping government local,” said Banks Helfrich, former Lake County Soil and Water Supervisor.

He fears the new law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis will exclude ordinary citizens and, in some cases, those most qualified to serve.

Senate Bill 1078 establishes new requirements for who can fill the unpaid elected position.

They must be active in the agricultural industry, or be retired with a minimum of 10 years of farming experience, or they must own or lease agricultural property.

In other words, someone working in a grove or field would be eligible, but not a water engineer.

Helfrich calls it more of the state telling cities and counties how to run their governments.

“They go too far in local government municipalities where I think local government should stay local,” he said.

Voters may also be affected. The new law was signed just two days before candidate qualifications expire on June 17 and requires every Land and Water seat to be elected in November, overriding the four-year terms of many elected in 2020.

“We have candidates who only filed two of those seats,” said Lake County Elections Supervisor Alan Hays.

Hays is one of seven local counties where voters will not see a full slate of candidates to fill five land and water supervisor seats.

WESH 2 News reviewed nine local counties, with 45 seats up for grabs.

There are only six races contested with at least two contenders. The 25 unopposed candidates will automatically win. And there are 14 vacant seats that no one has qualified for.

“If I had been the sponsor of the legislation, I think I would have been somewhat embarrassed that we had, unwittingly, created quite a mess,” Hays said.

A mess that will leave voters, at first, with fewer people guarding our water and natural resources.

Those elected to Soil and Water Conservation Seats One, Three and Five will serve four-year terms.

Those in two and four years will serve two years and must seek re-election in 2024.

The sponsor of the new law told WESH 2 News that vacant seats will be filled by newly elected supervisors.

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