James Pinsky: Conservation’s steadfast soldier

James Pinsky

Nothing lasts forever.

In fact, that very notion is what inspires conservationists in the first place as we try to keep our most precious treasures, our natural resources.

For 30 years, Lord Fairfax Soil and Water’s most precious resource hasn’t been our fertile soil, wonderfully clear water or even the Shenandoah’s vast and luscious views. No, our most treasured resource has been Amanda Campbell, our administrative assistant.

Let me be clear here: what she is to us garners more than a polite and professional compliment. She hasn’t simply performed as required for more than three decades. She is the very heart and soul of everything accomplished by anyone who has ever proudly worn the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District colors. It is a compliment anyone with any kind of career in any field often only dreams of. Don’t take my word for it — I’m still a rookie here.

From my perspective, her institutional knowledge is invaluable,” said Joan Comanor, vice chairperson, and former chairperson for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.

Institutional knowledge is much more important than you might realize. You see, while the nobility of what we do here at Lord Fairfax Soil and Water is intriguing, if not alluring, we still get our fair share of professional turnover. Good people, and their minds, come and go. Farmers, schools and the general public ebb and flow with the conservationists who pass by Amanda’s desk, again for more than 30 years. As such, Amanda, the consummate caretaker, was wise and savvy enough to always keep just a little bit of what each employee brought to the team, store it and then hand it out like intellectual candy when we needed a boost.

She keeps straight our support pay-outs and tax credits to participating farmers, manages the leave, time and attendance records of our staff, ensures that every committee and board has the necessary records/paperwork  whenever they meet,” said Richard “Dick” Hoover, chairman, Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. “She keeps our sprawling financial records and presents them in intelligible form.  Files — whether electronic or hard-copy — are organized and breath-takingly accessible. Then, there’s the speedy reimbursement of directors and staff for expenses incurred in the line of duty. And, of course, when things go terribly wrong Amanda steps in; whether it’s the internet, the telephones, pay records or some custodial crisis, Amanda has the contacts in the tech world, in our neighboring SWCDs and within state and county governments and institutions  to put things right. ”

You see, most employees can perform when things are fine. The better ones of course even excel, but the truly special ones, the ones which are invaluable, are the employees who, when the sky is falling, keep their cool and simply fix things. Amanda is just such a jewel.

Her luster doesn’t shine just on these accomplishments though, as Hoover points out.

On top of all this, Amanda is the elected secretary of the board, responsible for the minutes and the gathering and distribution of reports from committees, staff and from our partner-agencies. She arranges board luncheons.  On that note, she has contributed mightily to the planning and embellishment of the district’s public events, specifically Envirothon, the combined meeting of those SWCDS belonging to the Area I jurisdiction and our annual awards banquet.  I have never seen such expert handling of cheering festive detail —  flower arrangements, table and place settings, prizes — all to reflect the season, an impending holiday and the substantive significance of the event itself.”

The parade of cheers is a long one for Amanda. Soon to be National Conservation Hall of Fame inductee Bud Nagelvoort echoed his colleagues’ sentiments. “As former chair and vice chair I would strongly reiterate Dick’s remarks from an administrative perspective. As treasurer I would say we always had fun straightening out minor accounting problems and always kept the auditors reasonably happy, a monumental accomplishment. “

Robert Frost once wrote a poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” The poem, a classic for certain, reminds us all that even the very best things begin and end. As professionals, we know this to be true of Amanda’s time with us, but as her friends and admirers we hope she somehow becomes the gold that stays. 

Thank you Amanda Campbell for all you have done and continue to do for all of the people who work for and are impacted by the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.

Nothing Gold Can Stay – Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.

James Pinsky is the Education and Information Coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.