Touting his background in agriculture and water system management, local businessman David Shipp is running for an elected seat to the Rockdale County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Board of Supervisors.
"It's education. It's being a voice of conservation," Shipp told the News, describing the position.
The little-known SWCD is a state agency under the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission. Various district boards were created in 1937 by the state legislature as a way for federal funds for erosion control and water conservation projects to flow here with local direction. Today, their role is largely "teaching and training," as Shipp puts it.
The Rockdale SWCD's agenda for this fiscal year includes monitoring all local developments for compliance with state erosion laws and to promote green space and similar conservation. It also helps local organizations get conservation grants and sponsors educational programs, such as upcoming March 29 bus tours of the South River area and local farms to discuss best practices.
SWCD has five board members who are state officials, but are unpaid and have no regulatory authority. Two of the seats are appointed and three elected. All three seats are on this fall's ballot in a nonpartisan race. Shipp is running for one left open by last year's death of board member Roger Hatch.
Shipp, 55, is best known locally as owner of Puritan Dry Cleaners and as vice chairman of the Rockdale County Water and Sewerage Authority.
The authority manages the county water system's finances and infrastructure. That work raised Shipp's interest in water issues.
"Rockdale County is very blessed to have a lot of water resources. We need to preserve and conserve our water resources for generations to come," he said. "The growth of a community is entirely dependent on having water resources."
He aims to continue serving on the authority if he is elected to the SWCD. "It ties together. There is no conflict of interest," he said.
Other activities also have led to Shipp's interest in the SWCD. He recently participated in an effort to change watershed ordinances in northern Rockdale regarding livestock and runoff issues. He is also a member of the local East Metro Beekeepers Association, which made him "very concerned about the environment and maintaining bee habitat."
Shipp has a degree in agriculture from the University of Georgia, where he studied soil science. He worked as a dairy farmer for five years in the 1980s and is an "avid gardener."
The dry-cleaning industry uses some dangerous chemicals and sometimes raises concerns about pollution. Shipp said his careful handling of those substances also sensitized him to conservation issues. He even knows exactly where Puritan's waste chemicals go-not locally, but shipped to a facility in Michigan.
"We maintain a clean environment here," he said. "That's part of me being concerned about the environment, to make sure we're good stewards of what we do here as well."
What about dry-cleaning? Uses dangerous chemicals and often concerns about pollution. His careful handling of those chemicals also sensitizes him to these issues. Even knows exactly where waste chemicals go-not here, but shipped to a facility in Michigan.
Shipp has not held elected office before. In recent years, he made an unsuccessful run for a county Board of Commissioners seat. He is also a former chair of the county Republican Party.