Candidates Put Focus On Fighting Pollution

By Fredrick Kunkle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 1, 2007

Four candidates are running this year for three slots on the board of Fairfax County's Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, which has been around since Congress authorized creating such advisory groups after the Dust Bowl.

The slate includes two current members: Sally B. Ormsby, of Mantua, who has served two terms since 2000, and John W. Peterson, of Burke, who was appointed in January to fill a vacancy created by the departure of David Bulova (D-37) for the House of Delegates. There are two challengers: Johna Good Gagnon, of Franconia, and Daphne D. Sahlin, of Annandale.

The boundaries of the district are the same as those of Fairfax County. Its five members include three directors elected every four years and two appointees, including a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent and a director named by the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board. The agency works to minimize the impact of development on Northern Virginia's landscape, particularly by controlling erosion and protecting bodies of water that feed the Chesapeake Bay.

Ormsby, 71, initiated a bi-monthly "green" breakfast about four years ago to draw together people interested in protecting the environment. She is also the district's representative on the Potomac Watershed Roundtable, which pulls together elected officials, environmentalists, builders, utility representatives and members of the public interested in boating, fishing and other pursuits to find ways to protect the bay.

Gagnon, 54, is a member of the Fairfax County Environmental Quality Advisory Council who in 1999 ran unsuccessfully for the district board in a field of seven candidates. She is a retired FBI fingerprint technician who coordinates and offers instruction on criminal justice for Kaplan Higher Education. (Kaplan is owned by The Washington Post Co.)

Gagnon served her homeowners association and said an interest in serving the community led her to run for the district board. If elected, she would like to focus on fighting runoff pollution from driveways and parking lots and overuse of lawn fertilizers, particularly making each neighborhood aware that its activities can directly affect nearby watersheds and the Chesapeake Bay.

"I'm a big one for getting the schools involved, because if you get the kids involved, they go home and bug their parents," Gagnon said.

Peterson, 71, said his credentials as a former U.S. Agriculture Department official make him particularly well suited for the board. He spent 40 years in the USDA's Soil Conservation Service before retiring as deputy chief in 1994.

"Erosion, per se, is probably one of the biggest pollutants we have to contend with in the United States," Peterson said.

Sahlin, 52, who retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel and works for the Defense Department, said biking and running on county trails has deepened her appreciation of the environment.

"I care deeply about our streams, our soil, and our natural resources," Sahlin said.

If elected, she said, "I do think we can do a better job of communicating to the public."

Sahlin, who did not respond to a request for a biographical statement for the Voters Guide, said, "I do have a job, and it takes up a lot of my time."

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