Durham County

An important job with an unsexy title, Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisors are charged with protecting farmland and open space and finding crucial funding and incentives to preserve natural resources.

We strongly endorse Durham native and small dairy farmer Kathryn Spann, who currently serves as associate supervisor to the five-member board, a volunteer, non-voting position. She has been the board’s representative to the Farmland Protection Board since January.

Her grasp of environmental issues is vast, as is her understanding of the complex funding—cost-shares, conservation easements and budgets. Spann is converting her family’s former 90-acre tobacco farm to livestock—and thus can best understand the threats and opportunities to her fellow small farmers.

Spann also is rightfully concerned about our drinking water supply and the effect of development on that finite and vital natural resource: “Rapid development is swallowing up Durham’s farming and open space,” she wrote in her questionnaire. “These same areas serve as the watershed for our drinking water reservoirs. Development of these areas threatens water quality.”

Spann has spent some time in the city, too, working as a lawyer, principal court attorney for the state of New York and a volunteer fighting to protect sensitive urban eco-systems in Yonkers, N.Y.

Danielle Adams, a full-time N.C. Central University student, is committed to protecting the environment, particularly in regard to preserving wetlands. However, she lacks experience, and seems to lean on the legacy of her mother, Stella Adams, the district supervisor from 1988-2000.

Wake County

The issues facing the four-member Wake County Soil & Water Conservation District board are similar to Durham’s, but even more so: finding the funds and incentives to protect farmland and open space from encroaching development.

Fred Burt, a Fuquay-Varina farmer, gets our endorsement. A registered Republican, Burt wants more funding for the Community Conservation Assistance Program to assist in developed areas. According to his Indy questionnaire, he also believes that the county “must address the issue of development if we are to improve soil, water and air quality.

Open farmland and forestland provides the best and least expensive way to do this.”

William Cole grew up on a farm in rural Indiana. He is now a senior business consultant with Blue Cross/ Blue Shield. While he advocates for environmental protection of soil and water resources, we feel Burt, who currently farms, is better in touch with the issues.

Robin Hammond and Marcia Lieber did not return questionnaires.