Name as it appears on the ballot: Stephen E. Xavier
Age: 64 (65 at time of election)
Party affiliation: Republican
Campaign website: Xavier4SoilandWater.com
Occupation & employer: Business Consultant/Self-employed (30 years)
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.
As a strong believer in our Rights belonging to us, and not to bureaucracy, I felt it important to run for this open seat. Running as an endorsed Republican is important to me and as a “Whole Foods Republican” (The caring, compassionate variety) I feel I have a platform to demonstrate and dispel many myths about my Party and their position on all matters that are environmental.
With Wake County still being farmed by 390+ Farmers, farming 77,000 acres and all of these farms being family owned and operated, preserving these Farms is critical to me. These aren’t just “jobs being preserved,” these are legacy institutions, some dating back more than 100 years and are, and should remain, an important part of our landscape, history and culture. Further, with the continued growth of “factory farming” sweeping the nation, wouldn’t it be a good thing to have other choices that includes locally owned and run family farms to support our personal food choices?
Being a voice and advocate for these Farmers is important to me and ensuring they aren’t drowned out by bureaucracy, are getting the education, technology and other support they need is a top priority to me.
2. What are the three most pressing natural resources issues in the county? How do you plan to address these issues? Please be specific.
From having met with several Wake County Farmers I was surprised to learn their concerns about several issues:
- The risk of their water use rights being controlled. Water on private land used for irrigation, watering livestock and other uses should not be controlled by the County, the State or other governing bodies. These Farmers know what they need, how to properly utilize it and, how not to pollute or otherwise damage this precious resource.
- Growth state-wide and county-wide is out of control and “experts” can’t keep up – During a recent family farm visit I was shocked to hear the Farmers described to me how their 100 year old farm is now “under pressure” with state agencies finding Nitrogen in the Farm’s creek and nearby water supply. The same for pesticides and herbicides. The Farm has documents that they have not used any of the above in years but state agents taking the tests failed to acknowledge that 100 yards away – uphill – were sprawling housing developments that spray frequently with the chemicals and Nitrogen washing downhill across the farm and into the water supply. The same goes for area power utilities – uphill – who spray frequently to manage overgrowth and weeds around their power lines and towers, also washing downhill. The Commission needs to work with State agencies to ensure that the testing technology advances and that common sense is applied and not placing further burdens on these Farmers for pollution that is of no fault of theirs
- Pressure to sell to Developers – Helping support these Farmers in responsible ways to ensure their sustained viability depends somewhat on helping them “fight the temptation” to sell out, sometimes for millions of dollars, to Developers. There are discussions underway currently on the Commission about Federal programs that could help ensure that Farmers can get a payday but instead of selling to Developers, Farmers are paid a percentage of the property’s actual value (which is likely in the millions) but the property Deed then carries a “will not build in perpetuity” to allow the land to be used for farming (or recreation) only. This is a concept plan, as I understand it, and needs further research.
4. Identify examples of how the district can best balance agricultural/rural and urban interests in regards to soil and water conservation.
In my experience the optics, not the actual balance, is out of sorts. Farms in Wake County have the least effect on the areas environment and water use. Urban/Suburban sprawl is the issue here. If one were to examine “square feet per use” of Wake County farms the number is relatively static. Look at those same stats of how many tens of thousands of homes/units have been built in the last decade and that is where “balance” needs to be examined more closely.
We’ve become a “destination for good living” for hundreds of thousands of people who have moved here for a better life. Although I’m not anti-growth, moratoriums on building or at the minimum, much better growth planning is desperately needed to create a better balance for our County. Most towns see big tax dollars and as a result, won’t say “No” to big Developers. We need to change that attitude and slow things back down and have a better plan for measured, thoughtful growth and reimagine what this little paradise of our should look like for the future.
5. 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?
Maintaining a good, maybe better, relationship with the NC GA is key. Educating State Legislators on the changing and emerging needs of our County Farmers is key to ensure the necessary funding is in place to support this vital resource. Further, better linkages through our Federal office holders (Senate and Congress) is also key to bring in, where needed, federal funds to further support these farms. As a fiscal Conservative I would not support “welfare farming” (deeply subsidized) but instead, bring necessary, thoughtful funds to further the education, needed technology and other related resources to give these Farmers the edge to be successful and viable well into the future.
6. 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?
While campaigning I was shocked to learn that although I, as a person campaigning, was well known, few people if any knew what I was running for! With that in mind my campaign took a non-traditional approach skipping the stump speech and instead, having open sessions focusing more on constituents questions rather than me telling them “why to vote for me.” The feedback on these sessions was very positive and voters pleased with some newfound knowledge.
Something I have felt since I considered running was that for as long as anyone can remember, this Commission ran “under the radar” and that must change and change dramatically. In addition to my nearly 30 years of local, national and global consulting experience, I have also worked extensively with Media outlets as a go-to source for TV, radio and print when they were seeking expertise and opinions on political, social, business and cultural matters. It is my intention, after being sworn into this Commission, to start an aggressive PR campaign to educate the public as to what we do, how we do it and why public support is growing increasingly more important to Wake County residents.
7. 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?
To the best of my knowledge matters such as that are handled elsewhere in another State Agency.
8. Are there any other issues you would like to address that have not been covered by this questionnaire?
With more than 30 years of global business consulting experience from Aerospace to Automotive, from Power Utility to Pharma, and Banking to Agricultural, I bring a wealth of business experience to the table. This Commission has a good voice from the Agricultural side, same from the Educational side. Adding a solid, well-rounded voice from the Business side is critical. In addition, as mentioned previously, my extensive experience in Media and, my standing as a go-to source with the media, allows me to bring another entire voice to the table; a chance to trumpet the successes of the Commission and, educate the public as to who we are and, how we can benefit Wake County in its growth and development while saving and supporting our precious resource, our Wake County farm families.
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