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The Commissioners

Frederick Martens, Chairman
Dan Hanrahan, Vice Chair
Mike Koch, Secretary/Treasurer
Jim Hochstetler, Commissioner
Tim Palmer, Commissioner

2017 Madison County Commissioners

Left to right: Jim Hochstetler (Douglas Township), Frederick Martens (Madison Township), Mike Koch (Jefferson Township), Tim Palmer (Ohio Township), and Dan Hanrahan (Lee Township).



(left to right) Anna Golightly, Badger Creek Lake Watershed Project Coordinator; Joe Moore, District Technician; Megan Sutton, Conservation Assistant; Julie McMichael, State Technician; Lance Porter, NRCS Soil Conservationist; Seth Spire, Acting District Conservationist; Josh Heims, Pathways Intern (Not pictured: Kelsey Fleming, Pheasants Forever Wildlife Biologist)

Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District
Board of Commissioners

The office of Soil and Water Commissioner is an elected office. Commissioners are elected by the voters of Madison County to serve on the board for a 4 year term. The only qualification for office is that you be a resident of Madison County. Your place of residents in Madison County makes no difference. People of all back grounds are welcome to run for office. The election for commissioner is nonpartisan, candidates do not have to declare an affiliation with any political party.

Commissioners usually run unopposed but if you do have a competitor you will have to call on your friends and neighbors to be sure that they vote and that they know to look for you name on the ballet.

The job of commissioner is challenging and very rewarding at the same time. A very short job description would say that Soil and Water Board Commissioners, there are five, decide how the money allocated to Madison County for soil and water conservation is spent. 

The current issues facing Madison County Commissioners are:

  • Soil loss during new home construction
  • Soil loss from farming practices
  • Construction in environmentally sensitive areas
  • The up coming farm bill
  • Construction and maintenance of terraces, ponds and waterways
  • Maintenance of Badger Creek water shed and impoundments
In addition to all their other duties the commissioners also work with and give guidance to the staff at the NRCS office on behalf of the residents of Madison County.

Commissioners attend one regular board meeting a month. They also have the opportunity to attend several informational and educational meetings per month. Should they decide to attend any of these meeting they are reimbursed for mileage and any expenses that they may incur. Meetings are optional but we are usually be rewarded with a good meal and valuable information when we do decide to attend.

Keith Sparks, former Commissioner

How to Become a Soil and Water Conservation Commissioner
If you are an eligible elector residing in the soil and water conservation district, you’re eligible to be a candidate for election to your county’s SWCD board. You will need a nominating petition from the county Auditor. At least 25 eligible voters must sign the petition and you must file it with the Auditor no later than the 69th day before the general election. You must also file an affidavit stating your name, residence and an assurance that you are an eligible candidate. No political party is designated. If elected, you will take an oath of office and begin your four-term on the first business day in January following the election (that is not a Sunday or a holiday).

Districts offer services without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, political beliefs or marital status. Studies have shown that where minorities and/or women are represented on boards in proportion to their presence in the area, program participation by these groups increased. District boards are seeking more diversity in their representation. To help broaden interest in district programs and to bring different perspectives to district boards, districts encourage members from those groups to consider serving as a soil and water conservation district commissioner.

The major criteria for being a successful commissioner is an interest in the natural resources and the people of Iowa.

Commissioner’s Role
As a commissioner, your role will include establishing conservation priorities, resolving soil loss complaints, establishing acceptable soil loss limits, publishing an annual report, approving soil conservation plans, and assisting in the management of district funds and personnel.

A commissioner is a volunteer conservation promoter in the community, who helps direct activities such as field days, educational meetings and materials, contests, awards programs, and publicity.

Learn more about how to become a SWCD Commissioner – Conservation Districts of Iowa has provided several helpful resources here.


History of Conservation Districts

In 1937, as the Dust Bowl focused attention on soil erosion, President Roosevelt sent a model law to governors recommending legislation that would allow landowners to form voluntary soil conservation districts. It was recognized then, as now, that local, voluntary efforts are most effective in getting conservation practices established on the land. The legislation was adopted by Iowa’s legislature in 1939 and the first conservation district was formed in three Marion County townships in April 1940. By 1952, all of the land in Iowa was served by Conservation Districts. Since that time, CDI has been working with the 100 soil and water conservation districts in Iowa to promote sustainable agricultural practices for the protection of soil and water resources. Today, work is also being done in urban settings, promoting conservation practices for homeowners, developers, and communities.

How Conservation Districts Work
Conservation Districts in Iowa are managed by five commissioners elected on the general ballot in each county. Each of the five commissioners serve four-year terms and only one commissioner may reside in any single township. With assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship-Division of Soil Conservation, commissioners address the natural resource issues that are most critical in their districts.

Conservation Districts’ Role
Soil and water conservation districts are legal subdivisions of state government. Commissioners are responsible for carrying out state laws and programs within district boundaries. These include:

  • sediment control law
  • conservation cost-sharing
  • conservation revolving loan funds
  • water quality protection projects
  • resource enhancement and protection

Districts also play a key role in carrying out federal programs including, but not limited to:

  • the Conservation Reserve Program
  • the Environmental Quality Incentives Program
  • Conservation Compliance
  • the Wetlands Reserve Program
  • conservation planning

Districts serve as local sponsors for watershed projects, resource conservation and development areas, and soil surveys as well.