Conservation board seeks to fill vacancy

By Alex Bridges

The Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District needs to fill a vacancy on its board of directors.

But board Chairman Richard Hoover warned Friday the volunteer position requires a considerable amount of time and energy from the member who takes the seat.

Shenandoah County’s board representative, Kenneth Cruise, resigned this week, Hoover said. Cruise tendered his resignation at the request of the board after he missed several meetings, Hoover confirmed.

The district board plans to hold a special meeting Thursday to formally accept Cruise’s resignation and then to set up the process needed to find a replacement. The law requires that the board take formal action on a member’s resignation.

The board faced filling a vacancy recently when Shenandoah County representative Craig Orndorff stepped down for health reasons. The board filled the vacancy by appointing associate director Joan Comanor, of Woodstock. Craig and Orndorff’s terms were set to expire at the end of 2015. Craig’s successor will fill the unexpired term through 2015. Shenandoah County voters will choose two board members in the general election in November 2015.

Hoover said the process also includes keeping the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors apprised of the directors’ progress in finding a nominee for the vacancy.

The board plans to post information about the public process on its website and in the local media with the ultimate goal of finding candidates to fill the vacancy.

“I hope that it can be somebody not only with the time to spend on this, but with some knowledge of soil and water, the environment and agriculture,” Hoover said.

The board keeps a busy schedule of at least 12 regular meetings a year. Hoover holds a staff meeting ahead of the regular session the same week. The board holds a meeting of the conservation technical committee, consisting of about nine directors skilled in agriculture, on the last Thursday of the month.

“With the staff, these people are working flat out, whether in committees or in the field, to protect and even improve our environment,” Hoover said. “We are an active, high-performance, soil and water conservation district.”

The chairman pointed out Shenandoah County’s importance in the district and noted that the jurisdiction requires “full-time representation” on the board.

“Having said that, our situation with Mr. Cruise was, I suspect, brought on by the fact he had many professional commitments,” Hoover said.

Hoover confirmed that the board had asked Cruise to resign for missing meetings.

The Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District covers the counties of Clarke, Page, Shenandoah and Warren, and the city of Winchester. Voters in each jurisdiction elect two members to the board of directors. Additionally the board includes two, at-large directors, creating a panel of 12 voting members. The board nominates the two at-large members and seeks their approval through the Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. The board also includes six associate directors who can provide input but cannot vote. Shenandoah County has three associate directors.

The directors and associates oversee a district staff of five paid employees. Comanor introduced several new staff members to the Shenandoah County supervisors at their meeting this week.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com