Name as it appears on the ballot: Scott Lassiter
Party affiliation: Republican
Campaign website: votescottlassiter.com
Occupation & employer: Assistant Principal, Wake County Public School System
1. Why are you running for the position of soil and water conservation district supervisor? In your answer, please explain your understanding of the role and why it is important.
It is important that all levels of government have capable, professional, and engaged representatives holding elected office. I am a professional public administrator with the education (B.A. from NC State in Political Science/Education, M.S.A from NC Central and Ed.D. in progress from NC State) and experience to do an excellent job. I view the electoral process as one long job interview, so I hope to be able to give you enough information that you are comfortable “hiring” me. Simply put, I am invested in our community and am always interested in making positive change that protects and betters our way of life. Environmental stewardship practices and educational initiatives around that concept play an important role in doing just that. Though the Board of Supervisors does not have regulatory authority I know I can work through public/private partnerships as well as within the schools and with other government entities to not only expand the scope and level of service of the Board but also to educate future generations on their responsibility to be good citizens. After all, land and water are resources that we’re not making more of so we’ve got to protect what we have left!
2. What are the three most pressing natural resources issues in the county? How do you plan to address these issues? Please be specific.
Over Development- There is an inherent conflict between landowners/developers seeking to maximize profit and existing residents who are concerned about traffic, pollution and other factors that come with development. Wake County is fast growing and is an attractive destination for folks fleeing less desirable parts of the country. However, we must be careful not to “kill the goose that laid the golden egg.” The Board of Supervisors should take a proactive role in assisting municipalities and county government (with extensive input from citizens) in long-range planning for the remaining undeveloped plots of land and for the redevelopment of certain areas. Through purposeful zoning, planning and by increasing incentives like tax breaks for those seeking to protect their land from development we can create balance. The Board of Supervisors should lead a collective approach county-wide that brings all stakeholders to the table instead of the current fragmented approach to planning that exists.
Watershed Protection- Runoff from development and industry poses a great risk to rivers, lakes and streams in our county. Year after year we hear about unhealthy conditions in certain waterways (such as the Neuse) that cause alarm. Not only do we have a responsibility to protect our freshwater for its obvious benefits as drinking water we have a moral responsibility to protect those waters for ecological reasons. Tremendous amounts of federal and state money exist for river/stream/lake restoration projects. The Board of Supervisors should be going after every last dollar available to get this work accomplished. Also, businesses and landowners that are doing harm need to be held accountable. Purposeful planning and strengthening of requirements for storm water management devices to accommodate more intense rainfall will be helpful. Finally, public understanding of the issues surrounding run-off must be increased through continued and improved educational measures such as storm drain markings that indicate what body of water to which they ultimately flow.
Soil Regeneration/Farmland Support- Topsoil and its important ecological contributions in reducing carbon and supporting plant-life is extremely important. Unfortunately, it is most usually the first casualty in development and/or improper farming practices. The Board of Supervisors should work closely with local regulatory agencies to advocate for topsoil preservation. Also, farmers must be incentivized to rotate and rest fields in order to protect their soil. Through grants and tax-credits this can be done, and the Board must support that as well as any other feasible supports for farmers/large undeveloped tract owners. After all, functional, productive family farms tend to stay family farms instead of becoming apartment complexes. The family farmer is one of the most important contributors to conservation and I will work to lead proactive supports for them if elected.
3. Identify examples of how the district can best balance agricultural/rural and urban interests in regards to soil and water conservation.
The Board of Supervisors should be looking for ways to inject agricultural operations into urban environments. Through subsidies for micro/small farming operations that abut development citizens, especially children, gain an understanding of where their food comes from as well as valuable environmental understanding. By supporting small farmers markets, capable of accepting all forms of payment including credit cards, EBT/WIC, in underserved communities where “food deserts” exist Supervisors can help producers and consumers meet their needs while supporting agricultural best practices.
4. What funding issues are facing the Soil and Water Conservation District? How would you ensure the district receives full funding? Are there alternative funding sources the district could explore? If so, what are they?
The Soil and Water Conservation District is one of the, if not the, smallest department in Wake County Government. It is actually a money generator for the county in its ability to pull in significant grant funding from federal and state sources that would otherwise go untapped. However, without enough human resources to apply and manage those grants we are missing out on many opportunities. The county commissioners should be encouraged, by the Board of Supervisors, to invest in the department by allocating one or more full-time grant administrators who would seek-out and manage additional grant funding to increase environmental education, stewardship programs and pollution mitigation initiatives. A search of just 1 grant database from the Environmental Protection Agency, at time of writing, yields 381 results for environmental projects. Wake needs to be chasing these opportunities that support our environment, could clean up our highways, waterways and natural areas and create jobs!
5. Many residents don’t know what the Soil and Water Conservation District actually does. In what ways would you reach out to residents to educate them on the issues facing the county and the district’s efforts?
I commit to being in schools often to educate students and staff on what the district does. I also commit to introducing a resolution that would require staff to reach out to each municipality in Wake County to build a relationship. Additionally, I would work to get staff to reach out to homeowners’ associations. Finally, I believe that proper signage upon entering the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District would be beneficial for our community. I am very involved in the community so I am comfortable in saying that if elected I would be an active and energetic ambassador for the District.
6. What is the district’s role in making sure residents’ water–including those people who use wells―is safe to drink? What role, if any, should the district play in safeguarding the local water supply from emerging contaminants?
Though the District does not operate any drinking water systems in the county the Board of Supervisors has a duty to educate the public and take steps to safeguard resources that ultimately could affect the drinking water supply. As the only candidate who has firsthand experience running a municipal water and sewer system during my time as an Apex Town Councilman, I know what it takes to produce clean water and to manage municipal waste. This experience gives me an acute understanding of the difficulties municipalities as well as private well operators face when their input water is not of high quality. Therefore, we’ve got to ensure that everyone is doing all they can to protect our water.
7. Are there any other issues you would like to address that have not been covered by this questionnaire?
Taxation for Conservation. I do not support an additional tax on the citizens of Wake County specifically for conservation. Some would argue that that is the “easy” fix to boost the role of the Soil and Water Conservation District. However, through existing sources of revenue and an expanded focus on the millions of dollars in available grant funding, the District can do more without increasing the tax burden on citizens. We’ve seen Wake County property taxes rise and I am committed to holding the line on taxes. Simply put, with energy, enthusiasm and outside of the box thinking the District can do more without putting the citizens further into debt.
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