Cathey pointed to accomplishments of the soil and water district over the past few years. It got a $500,000 federal grant to address pollution on Hyatt Creek resulting from livestock operations that create erosion and manure runoff. The soil and water office was also in charge of restoring and stabilizing 45 miles of riverbank damaged by the 2004 floods along the Pigeon River.
“We started quick and got off the ground running,” Cathey said of the storm recovery work.
Holbrook is running as a challenger. A full-time farmer, Holbrook said he could bring a needed perspective to the board. The primary role of the board is to use federal funds to help farmers reduce erosion and water pollution. While the assistance is solely voluntary, some farmers are hesitant to participate out of fear of hidden regulations.
“There is a distrust for any agency of the government,” Holbrook said. “But it is a great program to take advantage of. If farmers know they are talking to another farmer we can understand what they are saying better.”
A third candidate running for the soil and water board is Ellene Francis. Francis was appointed to the board in 2001 to fill the seat of her husband, Pink Francis, who passed away before his term expired. Pink Francis, an apple grower, was a popular figure in Haywood County who tirelessly promoted agriculture and conservation. Francis did not want to be included in election coverage of the race, but did say why she is running for another term.
“The reason I am so dedicated to it is the whole future with Haywood County rests on what we do with soil and water with our slopes and building and all the things happening in the next 10 years,” Francis said. “We need to be prepared.”