Polk Soil and Water Conservation District (Polk SWCD) is a subdivision of state government administered by seven locally elected directors, who serve without pay for a four year term. Five directors represent landowners from each of the zones in the county and two at-large directors represent the entire county. Directors meet monthly to administer the business of the SWCD. The directors donate many hours of time and service on behalf of the residents of Polk County and its natural resources.
“Director” is the title given to a person who is elected or appointed to serve on a conservation district board. In some states directors are called supervisors or district officials. In Oregon, conservation district directors are elected in the November General Election held in even-numbered years. Directors serve four-year terms. Director terms are staggered so that all positions are not typically elected simultaneously. Staggered terms help provide continuity on the board and maintain operational consistency. A conservation board may appoint a person to fill a vacant director position between elections.
Roles and Responsibilities of Directors and Boards
ORS 568.550 outlines the general statutory powers granted to conservation district boards. Individual directors do not have individual powers and authorities under statute, unless granted by the conservation district board. Individual directors may be given authority or power to act on behalf of the board for specific limited tasks. This authority or power is granted through board action (resolution, motion, policy) and must be recorded in the conservation district board meeting minutes. Conservation district boards may choose to limit or grant authorities to individual directors relating to different actions, such as:
Obligating conservation district funds
Serving as a conservation district spokesperson for public presentations, media
Obligating or committing conservation district staff time or other conservation district resources
Effective Boards work cooperatively as a unit to plan and oversee the implementation of the conservation district’s programs. As a representative of the conservation district board, opinions expressed publicly by individual directors should be consistent with established board policy, regardless of the individual’s personal agenda or opinions.
Conservation District Board Responsibilities
In order to effectively exercise the powers and authorities as stated in ORS 568, conservation district boards should:
Identify local conservation needs, programs, and services
Keep its conservation district’s mission (“reason for being”) in focus
Work effectively with conservation district staff, cooperating agencies, and partners
Implement conservation district programs effectively
Be knowledgeable about laws that govern board operations, such as budget, audit, public meetings, and contracting
Develop and implement a long-range plan and an annual work plan
Report to the public on conservation district programs and accomplishments
Inform legislators and local government officials of conservation district accomplishments
Recruit, train and utilize volunteers and associate directors
Participate with the Oregon Department of Agriculture in a periodic review of conservation district operations
Recruit new conservation district directors and associate directors