Name as it appears on the ballot: Jonathan Garza
Campaign website: garza4swcd.com
Phone number: 919‐848‐4225
Years lived in the district: 6.5
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.
I am running because I love Wake County. The people here have been tremendously welcoming and kind to me since I moved here several years ago, and I feel it incumbent upon me to give back to the community that has given me so much. The Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is the main local agency charged with resource and land management here in the county. The SWCD is governed by a five‐member board with two members appointed and three elected by the public. This election, voters will have the chance to vote for two members, wherefore I humbly ask to be one of their votes. As I have spent a decade in the private sector, I know how to tie financial allocations to results. I would like the opportunity to take my experience and knowledge to work for the people of Wake County.
2. What are the three most pressing natural resources issues in the county? How do you plan to address these issues?
The most pressing issues regarding natural resources in Wake County are to ensure that we continue to create opportunities for our family farmers to grow and sell the food and produce we eat everyday, protect our natural infrastructure ,all the while doing so in a fiscally responsible manner. Wake County has over 121K acres of arable farmland. As an elected supervisor, I will work with the board to ensure that the district protects farmland and provides technical assistance for farmers to combat soil erosion and run‐off; thus ensuring that Wake County farmers can grow our foods while continuing to be responsible land stewards. In addition, the SWCD works to ensure healthy watersheds, sustainable working lands, as well as providing expertise to stormwater and stream restorations projects. As an elected member of the board, I will continue to advocate and ensure that your SWCD provides cutting-edge services to ensure that our beautiful lakes, streams, and waterways are protected for all Wake County citizens to enjoy and treasure. Lastly, the SWCD spends over $500K of taxpayer money; as your supervisor, I will ensure that this money is spent effectively and efficiently. We need to protect our investments in Wake County’s farming, natural spaces, and future. I will work to ensure your tax dollars are allocated in a responsible and accountable manner. In short, I will treat your money as my own, because, like you, I am a taxpayer committed to responsible spending and preservation for future generations.
3. Identify examples of how the district can best balance agricultural/rural and urban interests in regards to soil and water conservation.
I would like to see additional outreach regarding the 18 farmers markets currently operating in Wake County. Furthermore, I think the Board can be the main point of contact in working with urban communities to develop a burgeoning urban agriculture economy. This would have numerous benefits of introducing new firms to service the growing population of Wake County by providing locally grown food to residents and restaurants. As we know, Wake County already has an extensive number of farmers markets so new firms could join these markets and gain opportunities to provide their produce to consumers. This would also have the added benefit of creating economic opportunities for those small businesses/entrepreneurs interested in small‐farming to learn the tools and techniques needed to grow food.
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?
I would like to see additional funding for Watershed management‐ There are 12 watersheds serving the majority of the county’s water supply. It is imperative that we maintain this infrastructure to support our water quality for consumption, irrigation, and industry. As a Supervisor, I will advocate this cause by lobbying for an increase at the County Commission as well as working with other members and staff to support cost share efforts though the USDA, the National Association of Conservation Districts, as well other funding streams which may become available.
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?
This education process has been part of my campaign. At every event, I articulate what the SWCD is, how it’s governed, and why I am running. As a Supervisor, I will continue these outreach efforts, whether to other governmental groups (i.e. the County Commission, the town and city councils in Wake County, the General Assembly, etc.) or to civic, philanthropic or industry groups. At most of the events, people are surprised to learn just how large the agricultural industry is here in Wake County, and how much agricultural output occurs in the county. As an elected supervisor, I will continue my endeavors in advocating and outreaching on behalf of the district and its constituencies.
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?
The Wake County Water quality department is the agency responsible for water quality and safety. However, the SWCD does play a role in watershed development, restoration, and management. These operations are essential to water quality as watersheds are the areas of land that drain water into our lakes and rivers. Weather cycles such as rain or melting snow can carry sediment into our drinking supply, which can affect our water quality and is a prominent reason why we must maintain healthy watersheds as a bulwark against runoff. As such, I support increases in the SWCD’s watershed management budget to ensure water quality and safety.
7. From a standpoint of conservation and the protection of natural resources, what steps should be taken in developing the Durham‐Orange Light Rail line and Wake commuter rail?
Any large infrastructure projects should have both an Environmental and Economic Impact assessment performed so the affected communities can have a full understanding of the impact of these projects. Once Environmental and Economic Impact Assessments are performed, and made public, I will advocate for the citizenry to become engaged in the planning process by attending community meetings, neighborhood forums, etc. This will allow us, the residents of Wake County, to have an input into how these projects will affect our lives.