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Operations Guide

The Virginia Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts working with a committed group of SWCD staff and stakeholders has created the Operations Resource Guide to serve as a resource to  local Soil & Water Conservation District.cover2a

While this resource guide is by no means intended to serve as legal counsel it does provide critical personnel management materials including contacts, financial policies and procedures, operations and office policies, board members and agents, meetings, programs/ incentive programs, communication, as well as sample templates shared by soil and water conservation districts across the Commonwealth. This resource can also help ensure that districts have what they need, and that they are effectively matching skills and competencies to specific tasks, requirements, and outcomes.

In addition to the resources available within this guide, your VASWCD website serves as a repository of information on both operation resource topics as well as all items vital for district official training. Visit the Association Leadership Course to review these materials.

Your VASWCD serves you. As you review the enclosed reference materials and recognize a need for further training on a topic don’t hesitate to reach out to your Association leadership and staff. Annual trainings sponsored/hosted by the Association are tailored based on district need. Your Association can better serve you through trainings and staff support if made aware of the areas of growth needed at your district level.

We believe the attached resource is a strong starting point to strong personnel management practices within your local soil and water conservation district.

The DCR resource Desktop Guide for District Fiscal Operations PDF is also a useful tool for SWCDs wanting additional financial guidance. This guide is also referenced in DCR-SWCD grant agreement deliverables. 

Contact & General Information

The following are covered in this section:

  • Board of Directors
    • Elected
    • Appointed
    • Associate
  • Partners
  • Staff
  • Emergency
  • Legislative
  • Dam Owner

Financial Policies and Procedures

The following are covered in this section:

  • Desktop Guide
    • Budget Template
    • Audit
    • Direct Deposit
  • Grant contracts & agreements
    • Administrative & Operations Funding
    • NPS/Program Funds
    • Attachment E Guidance
    • Other Contracts
  • Purchasing Policies
    • Credit Card
    • Reimbursement Policies
  • Payroll
    • State & federal Taxes
    • Contracted Employees
  • Sales and Use Tax
  • Inventory/ Assets

Operation & Office Policies

The following is covered in this section:

  • Vision & Mission
  • Strategic Plan
  • Office Space
  • Records Management
  • Existing MOA’s
  • Vehicle Use
  • Biosecurity

Board Memebers & Agents

The following is covered in this section:

  • Responsibilities & Duties
  • Delegation of Authority
  • Recruitment/ Interview Techniques
  • Election/ Appointment Procedures
  • Board Member Development
  • Board Member Removal & Resignations
  • Local SWCD Officers
  • Committee Structure & Guidance
  • Legal Representation Information


The following is covered in this section:

  • Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
    • Open Public Meeting Guidelines
    • Closed Public Meeting Guidelines
    • Records Request
  • Quorum
  • Agenda Types
  • Meeting Preparation & Materials
    • Sample Board Packet
    • Meeting Minutes
  • Parliamentary Procedure Guidance
  • Conflict of Interest

Programs/ Incentive Programs

The following is covered in this section:

  • Virginia Agricultural Cost-Share
  • VA Agriculture BMP Tax Credit Program
  • Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
  • Nutrient Management
  • Resource Management Plan (RMP)
  • VA Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP)
  • Watershed Implementation Program (WIP)
  • Equipment Rental
  • Dams
  • Awards
    • Clean Water Farm Award
    • Local SWCD Awards
    • VASWCD Award Program
    • Fndtn Award Program
  • Supporting Foundation Programs
    • Youth Conservation Camp
    • Envirothon
    • Poster Contest
    • Scholarships


The following is covered in this section:

  • IT Security Policy
  • Website Tools
  • Social Media Tips
  • Publications
  • Email Management

Annual SWCD Calendar Templates




VASWCD Ed. Funds Leadership Opportunity

The Virginia Natural Resource Leadership Institute is a program for rising leaders working in collaboration with Virginia’s natural resource issues and who seek new skills in conflict resolution and collective problem solving.

The application process for the Fellow program is now open for the 2015-2016 class. The deadline for accepting applications is Friday, June 12, 2015. To apply visit the VNRLI website at

The VASWCD Education Foundation offers financial assistance, through the George Beals Leadership Fund, by providing two scholarships to attend the year long program. District directors, associate directors or district staff applying for the VNRLI program should contact Kendall Tyree at the VASWCD for consideration of financial support.

Participants in VNRLI come from all areas of Virginia from all sectors of activity and work with natural resources at all levels. The programs offer cross-sector perspectives to enable students the ability to interact and learn from each other in a safe non-threatening environment.  Goals of the program include: teaching strategies and skill for conflict resolution and collaboration, providing an opportunity to learn more on the range of natural resource challenges in the Commonwealth, and to understand the complexities of resolving conflicts involving these issues.

The VNRLI program consists of six 3-days sessions located across Virginia and focuses on a variety of environmental issues.  Sessions consist of a mix of mini-lectures, experimental role plays and exercise, stakeholder panel discussions and field trips on specific environmental hot topics. Some of the past environmental topics highlighted have included the Chesapeake Bay, sea level rise in coastal Virginia, green economics, advocacy and lobbying, TMDLs, coal mining reclamation, and conventional and sustainable agriculture.  

Many VNRLI alumni agree that they now better understand the complexity of Virginia natural resource issues, are more confident with group processes, building consensus and recommend the program as a way to gain leadership and collaborative problem-solving skills related to their daily work. Apply for the 2015-16 program via the VNRLI website at SWCD applicants are encouraged to contact the VASWCD for more information on the program and to be considered for financial assistance.









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District Directors



Piedmont SWCD Director Dr. Chaffin presented the VASWCD Education Scholarship award at Fuqua School’s Graduation Ceremony.

As a soil and water conservation district director you are a member of a district board that has been authorized by state law to fulfill important responsibilities related to the management and conservation of natural resources within your jurisdiction. You should accept this task willingly and with a positive attitude.

If you are going to be a director, you need to be serious about the job. It takes a commitment of your time, and sometimes some of your money, to do the job properly.

 District directors are local citizens elected or appointed to a four-year term of office.  They are the legislatively mandated conservers of local natural resources.  For several decades,directors were typically agricultural landowners.  However, as the scope of conservation has grown, so has the diversity of board members, lending broader perspective and credibility to the district’s position.  Today, district boards are made up of bankers, teachers, homemakers, farmers, educators, and business owners.  They represent a variety of local environmental concerns.

Take a moment to list the individual backgrounds of the directors serving with you on your local SWCD Board.

Directors are not public employees and receive no salary.  However, they may receive reimbursement for expenses incurred completing district related duties, such as travel expenses associated with attending a state-wide meeting.


Herb Dunford, SWCD Director from Henricopolis Soil & Water Conservation District visiting with lawmakers on SWCD topics

Each district within the Commonwealth should develop and provide a position description for directors to clarify roles and responsibilities. A general job descriptionfor director can be found in the Personnel Management Resource Guide. Yes, SWCDs share some common procedures as well as goals and objectives.  For example, all VA SWCD directors voluntarily assess local conservation needs and encourage cooperative efforts in achieving the district’s conservation goals.  Also, all are expected to attend 75% of the regularly scheduled district board meetings.  There is no doubt that each district is unique, with its own set of conservation issues.  For instance, agriculture may be a predominant issue in Southwest VA, whereas urban development may be of greater concern in Northern VA.  Therefore, position descriptions should reflect the issues relevant to a particular locality.

There are two types of directors, both of whom have voting privileges.  Directors are either elected or appointed.  Elected directors are elected during the General Election held the 1st Tuesday in November.  

Like most elected officials, elected directors are required to take an Oath of Office and make a personal commitment to fulfill the responsibilities of the position.


Don Philen, Director, welcomes the Grayson-Carroll Cattleman’s Association to New River Hill Farm.

There are two Appointed Directors on each District Board.  One appointment is held by the VA Cooperative Extension (VCE) Agent.  The other is an at-large appointment, which can be any individual interested in the mission of the district and is appointed by the State Soil and Water Board.  Both appointments are made in a non-election year.

Note that VCE appointments must be requested by the SWCD in a written memo and/or letter to the state VCE director.  The VCE state office must approve the appointee.

Before going to the next slide, take a moment to recall the name of the VCE Agent and At-Large Appointment that have been appointed to your district board.  Some of you may even fill one of these positions.