We know it can be difficult to find information on candidates running for local races. Informed voters are key to making wise decisions that will impact our county. Often, candidates don't provide information about themselves, create websites or attend public forums. We want to help make candidate statements and campaign links as accessible as possible.
The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District has 5 voting Supervisor positions who serve at-large to all 918 square miles and ~948,651 people of Duval County with no political affiliation. The seats are numbered, Group 1-5. Every 2 years, a staggered amount of seats are open for re-election. In 2020, Groups 2 and 4 were on the ballot. Supervisors John R. Barnes (2) and Ashantae Green (4) were elected and sworn into office.
In November of 2022, Groups 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are on the ballot. This is unusual and marks a restructuring of conservation district law in the FL Legislature. After a bill to abolish conservation districts failed to get traction, legislators amended the proposed bill to add new criteria to qualify to hold this office. Barnes is not seeking reelection and Green is a candidate for Group 4. Elected candidates for Groups 2 and 4 will serve a 2-year term and elected candidates for Groups 1, 3, and 5 will serve a 4-year term.
CANDIDATE IN GROUP 1: Tiffany Bess
CANDIDATE IN GROUP 2: Kym Wallace Maye
CANDIDATES IN GROUP 3: Eugene Ford III and Demetris Harrison
CANDIDATE IN GROUP 4: Ashantae Green
CANDIDATES IN GROUP 5: Ray (R.J.) Deacon Jr. and Bryson Kade Morgan
The candidate's photograph and statement are supplied by the candidate and are not endorsed by Duval Soil and Water Conservation District or checked for accuracy.
Group 1, Tiffany Bess
"She’s got soil in her soul, the St. Johns in her veins, and a servant’s heart. Tiffany Bess’s love for her community, and planet, is what drives her every step. Growing up in the rural outskirts of Jacksonville, she has been surrounded by farm workers her whole life. And even though she moved to the “big city” as a young adult, she soon found her hands deep in the soil once again when she created Jacksonville’s first food scrap composting business in 2015. After the launch of her business, she helped create the Gastrofest Green Action Committee and then took over the leadership role the following year. She was then invited to join the board for The Elements, the young professionals group at our beloved cultural institution MOSH. This led to her becoming the President of the Elements and a Board of Trustees member for the museum. She was a founding member of the North Florida Green Chamber of Commerce and consulted with the group on projects including a resource database for hard to recycle items. And her next big adventure will be serving as the Education Director for Compost Jax, our city’s first industrial composting business. But the group that has captured her heart the most is the Duval Soil & Water Conservation District. She has volunteered as an affiliate member and community liaison for the board for nearly 4 years and is eager to continue her service in helping the District to promote the conservation of the natural resources of Duval County, Florida."
Group 2, Kym Wallace Maye
Candidate did not provide a statement or a photo.
Group 3, Eugene Ford III
“Greetings! My name is Eugene Ford III, I am a graduate of Paxon School for Advanced Studies with a Bachelor’s of Science in Agricultural Operations Management with a focus in Construction Planning from the University of Florida. I’ll be transparent in saying that I don’t have a large dose of belief in the political and policy making system as it stands in the United States, however with the little bit I do have I helped with a campaign for the same office Im running for because I saw tangible change in the 2 years from that person running for office and holding the position, and the term “grass roots” felt like more of a double entendre than ever, sparking hope as well as encouraging action in me to be the difference I want to see. That may sound a cliché euphemism but as you get to know me more you will see that I am the “anti-politician” in the sense that I will not change my core essence in order to earn your vote or your donation, it will be because of my differences from the norm that I hope to achieve your trust, because we deserve radical changes to the benefit of all. Vote for me on November 8th, this is only the beginning of my disruption to the powers that be. Power to the People! Gene For The Peeps! Follow @gene4thepeeps on Instagram where I will be most active, I am a millennial after all.”
Group 3, Demetris Harrison
"Demetris Harrison is president of the Jax Lions Quest Cyber Club, an organization that works towards fostering a better community for unprivileged youth. Originally from South Carolina, Demetris grew up as a military brat. After graduating high school, Demetris joined the United States Navy, which led him to the beautiful city of Jacksonville, Florida. Demetris has resided in Jacksonville for over 20 years. A father of two, son, brother, uncle, and a grandfather to a handsome little grandson. Demetris is running for the DSWCD position for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, he believes it is his civic duty and responsibility to give back to the beautiful city of Jacksonville. Furthermore, he is committed to doing his part to ensure that the future generations will have environmental sustainability. With his background as a Call Center Manager for two global companies, Demetris honed his skills to be known to be a motivational thinker with unique abilities in driving results. A dynamic leader with experience in Research & Metric analysis. Reputation as a self-directed individual skilled at developing strong relationships with clients of varying backgrounds. Demetris is confident that he will bring that same creativity, collaborative spirit, and commitment to Soil and Water Conservation (DSWCD) position. If elected, Demetris will work indefatigable to address the Soil and Water Conservation issues."
Group 4, Ashantae Green
Candidate did not provide a statement or a photo.
Group 5, Ray (R.J.) Deacon Jr.
"Ray “R.J” was born in Staunton, Virginia. Growing up off a dirt road on his parent’s farm in Augusta County which they raised corn, soybeans, chickens, and cattle. Ray enjoyed helping his mother with her well known "enormous vegetable garden" every season. He graduated from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. in 2001 with Bachelor of Arts in Business. He then moved to Lexington, Kentucky. to pursue a new job and in which he became involved with many numerous community organizations such as the Kentucky River Keepers and as an active volunteer with the PRIDE Spring Cleanup to collecting over 700 bags of trash at Cumberland Falls. He then moved to Jacksonville in 2019 to pursue a life’s dream to live by the beach, with his husband of 20 years, along with their 3 dogs and cat. After moving to Jacksonville, Ray saw a that Jacksonville needed a change in OUR local environment. He made a clear-cut decision to become a candidate to educate and encourage change to protect OUR water, soil, and beaches. Ray understands that clean soil and water is a necessity for our community now and for future generations. His campaign has also been endorsed by Florida NOW Pac and The Victory Fund."
Group 5, Bryson Kade Morgan
“My name is Bryson Kade Morgan and I am running. Running to be your next voice for Duval County Soil and Water Conservation District 5. As a resident here in Jacksonville, Living on the Southside for the past Seven Years I have seen what overdevelopment has done to our ecosystem. Growing up in Northwest Rural Georgia tending to the family farms I know what is needed for our community. As a recent Graduate of Atlantic Coast High School, it is time we have a Young, Youthful voice in our ecosystem talks as it is drowned out by those who no longer see the issue as a sustainable issue but another can to kick down the road. This is why I ask for your Vote on November 8th, as we need a voice for not only the Future of Jacksonville, but for the Future of Northeast Florida.”
We are excited to announce that one of our winners in our 2022 Poster Contest has won 2nd place at the State Contest hosted by the Association of Florida Conservation Districts. Congratulations to Aadithi Arjun of Stanton College Preparatory School!
This year's theme was, "Healthy Soil, Healthy Life". Healthy soils are the foundation for all life on Earth. Soil is an important resource for everything from human health to agriculture to water filtration. The benefit of healthy soil is food production. Healthy soils also give us clean air and water, plentiful crops and forests, diverse wildlife and beautiful landscapes. It is important that each of us recognize where our food comes from and the farmers and ranchers who are dedicated to ensuring a sustainable food supply and healthy land and soil for future generations.
2022 Duval County Winners:
1st (Grades K-1) - Evan O'Donoughue, Homeschool
1st (Grades 4-6) - Finn Moore, Hendricks Avenue Elementary
1st (Grades 10-12) - Aadithi Arjun, Stanton College Preparatory School
Thank you to all the students who participated!
The Fred B. Miller, Jr. Regional Envirothon was held on Thursday, March 3, 2022 at Tree Hill Nature Center. The annual environmental science competition was open to students in 9th to 12th grade. Students competed in teams and answered questions about forestry, soils, aquatics, wildlife, and a current environmental issue. This year's topic for the current issue was "Waste to Resources". The winners went on to compete at the Florida Envirothon which is a qualifier for national competition. Both of our qualifying teams won big at the Florida Envirothon! Darnell-Cookman's team “The Koalafied” represented Duval County and earned 1st place in the Wildlife category. Yulee's team “Hornets” represented Nassau County and won 3rd place overall. Congratulations to both teams!
Our 2023 Regional Envirothon will be at A. Philip Randolph STEM Center on Thursday, March 2, 2023. The Florida Envirothon Committee has developed a Resource Study Guide that is available to all students and teachers who may be interested in participating in the subject event. Additional materials are available at www.envirothon.org and on the Duval County Envirothon Facebook page.
2023 Envirothon Brochure
Regional Envirothon Website
COMING SOON Envirothon Registration Form
Joyce Miller, Coordinator at email@example.com or 410-688-2365
Allen L. Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 904-465-0678
Advocating for the stewardship of our land, water, forests, and wildlife is at the heart of all we do. For the last 68 years, the District has promoted the wise use of land and best management practices that will conserve, improve and sustain the natural resources of Duval County. It brings us great pleasure to know that we are joined by nearly 3,000 conservation districts across the nation working for voluntary, locally-led conservation. Through this work, we ensure that we always have the ability to feed our communities and that our children and grandchildren will continue to enjoy our beautiful natural resources. We invite you to read our 2021 Annual Report and consider partnering with us. With your help, we can continue to be a model for conservation and stewardship!
The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District board is urging Governor DeSantis to veto SB1078. As Florida’s economy and population continues to grow, Soil and Water Conservation Districts provide a critical service promoting the conservation of our most valuable asset, Florida’s natural resources.
What is the purpose of Soil and Water Conservation Districts? Florida Statue 582.02 identifies the purpose of Soil and Water Conservation Districts as being to promote the appropriate and efficient use of soil and water resources, protect water quality, prevent floodwater and sediment damage, preserve wildlife, protect public lands, and protect and promote the health, safety, and general welfare of the people of this state. The statute also identifies the focus of this mission as being not just on farmlands but also the forest, grazing lands, green spaces, recreational areas and natural areas of the state. Soil and Water Conservation District leadership provides assistance, guidance, and education not just to the agricultural industry, but also to landowners, land occupiers, and the general public in implementing land and water resource protection practices. SB1078 limits board membership to only those with farming or agricultural background which will prevent soil scientists, civil engineers, water quality experts, educators and conservationists from serving. This will severely limit the ability of Soil and Water Conservation Districts to fulfill the obligations of the statute.
It is worth noting that the Governor has made it a priority of his administration to improve water quality across the state and to protect wildlife including Florida manatees. The passage of SB1078 undermines the Governor’s achievements in these areas of natural resource protection.
The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District urges the Governor to veto any bill which weakens any Florida Soil and Water Conservation District, specifically Senate Bill 1078. We urge the people of Florida to join us in this effort!
We are pleased to partner with the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) to increase awareness about the importance of water conservation with our annual Water Conservation Month Proclamation.
This spring is a great time to check your automatic sprinkler system to make sure it is functioning properly to conserve water. Here are some tips to help:
Other great resources recommended by SJRWMD:
The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District would like to thank April Thomas for her contributions to our organization, and especially the S-Line Regeneration Park Project. April was part of the University of North Florida's (UNF) Environmental Leadership Program. In Fall 2021, she and her cohort participated in leadership training and a retreat through UNF. This is also when different organizations participated in an online interview to match students with their community partners. April was matched with us and met with Duval SWCD's Urban Agriculture Coordinator, Alison O'Donoughue, to discuss the plan for her project.
April's project began in the spring. She was tasked with helping develop and advertise the mulch spreading work day and pollinator garden workshop. April researched pollinator plant species, discussed the plant palette, assisted in spreading mulch and planting at the park. She also created a multi-media presentation of the progress of the Regeneration Park Project using photos and videos collected by supervisors and staff over the course of 10 months. Finally, as part of the UNF requirement, she created a poster about her experience and will be presenting it at a future conference.
Thank you again, April! If you're interested in learning more about the UNF Environmental Leadership Program you can visit their website here. If you'd like to volunteer or intern with the Duval Soil and Water Conservation District, feel free to email us at email@example.com
Applications are now open for the 2022 Start Farming Mentorship program! The goal of the mentorship is to empower Duval County residents with the tools and information necessary to start their own farm or agribusiness. In a mix of in-person workshops, virtual training, and on-site farm tours, mentees will learn about sustainable farming practices, resources available to start a farm and issues in farming practice. The program will take place from May to December, 2022. To receive a certificate of completion, mentees must attend at least 80% of programs offered.
An outline of the calendar of events is as follows:
May- In-Person Workshop on Water Conservation, Farm Tour of Juicy Roots
June- Virtual Workshop on Uprooting Racism in Food Systems, Farm Tour of White Harvest Farms
July- In-Person Workshop on Soil Health
August- Virtual Workshop on Florida Farm Bill
September- Farm Tour of Congaree and Penn, In-Person Pollinator Workshop
October- Farm Tour of Lola Farms
December- Panel Discussion & Holiday Market, Closing Celebration
The Start Farming Mentorship program is open to new farmers who reside in Duval County and are interested in starting a farm business. Preference will be given to past attendees of the District’s annual Start Farming events. Applications are only accepted online through this Google Form and must be submitted by April 16, 2022. Please note that there will be a small charge associated with this program. Additional details will be provided if you are chosen for the mentorship. If you have any questions or comments, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Duval Soil and Water Conservation District is excited to announce that Allen Skinner of Soil Life Organics has recently been named a Soil Health Champion by the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD)! Only the second Soil Health Champion in Florida and the first to be recognized in Duval County, Skinner joins approximately 300 members who practice positive soil health management and will help conduct outreach in their communities to improve soil health.
Skinner graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and practiced for over 20 years before becoming interested in soil biology. He is the founder and president Soil Life Organics, a local company that completes soil biology, structure and mineral assessments then assists in implementing programs to optimize soil performance. Since 2016, Skinner has been mentored by renowned soil biologist, Dr. Elaine Ingham. This spring (2022) he will complete his certification as a Soil Food Web Consultant. Skinner also serves on the board of Greenscape of Jacksonville, which is working to improve the urban tree canopy in Jacksonville FL. He recently completed a study at White Harvest Farms under a NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant. The study analyzed different farming methods using soil biology to reduce chemical inputs over the course of 3 years and has recently been published (short report here).
Duval SWCD has had the pleasure of working with Skinner, most recently helping to improve the soil quality at Regeneration Park. He performed an in-depth soil analysis of the site, made recommendations, then returned a few months later to inoculate the mulch with his company's special compost extracts all while sharing his extensive knowledge with the community and volunteers who attended the workshops.
Says Duval SWCD Chair, Jennifer Casey, “Allen has been a friend of the District for many years. His passion and enthusiasm for soil health has improved both public and private land while inspiring a new generation of land stewards in Duval County.”
We are excited to again host the annual Speech and Poster Contest! The winners of the Duval County Speech Contest receive a cash prize, plus one student will get an invitation to compete regionally and statewide for grades 6-12th. The poster contest is an additional way to compete in the competition for grades K-12.
This year the Speech & Poster Contest will be 100% Virtual. Students must submit their entry online for judging.
The topic for both competitions is "HEALTHY SOIL, HEALTHY LIFE". Speeches are to be no more than 5-7 minutes. Independent research on the topic works to further educate students in conservation and natural resources, while public speaking provides a host of additional benefits. Artistic skills are called on for the poster contest, and all ages are encouraged to participate. Cash prizes are given to top winners.
Entry Deadline April 30, 2022. Email to email@example.com.
Please download the ENTRY FORMS below.
To enter the Poster Contest, please email the completed sign up form and high quality photos of the poster to show the front and back including ALL edges.
To enter the Speech Contest, please email the completed sign up form and a video recording of the student reciting their speech via an attached file or YouTube.com link.
2021 Speech Contest:
First place - $ 50.00
Second place - $ 30.00
Third place - $ 20.00
2021 Poster contest:
Categories - K-1; 2-3; 4-6; 7-9; 10-12
First place - $ 40.00 for each Category
Second place - $ 20.00 for each Category
Third place - $ 10.00 for each Category