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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).



District Conservationist, Matt Allen
Conservation Assistant, Megan Sutton
Soil Conservationist, Julia Gubbels
District Technician, Joe Moore
State Technician, Austin Reed
Badger Creek Lake Watershed Project Coordinator, Anna Golightly
Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Kelsey Fleming
Elyon Contract Support Specialist, Teresa King

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, Conservation Districts of Iowa (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

Soil and water conservation districts in Iowa are managed by five commissioners elected on the general ballot in each county. Commissioners are elected on a nonpartisan basis for staggered four-year terms. Candidates must reside within the district, and no more than two commissioners may reside in the same township at any one time.

With assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) - Division of Soil Conservation and Water Quality, 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:

  • Erosion and sediment control laws
  • Conservation cost-sharing (IFIP, REAP, WQI, etc.)
  • State Revolving Fund loans
  • Water quality protection projects

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

  • the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
  • the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
  • the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)
  • the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
  • Conservation Compliance
  • Conservation Planning

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

Commissioners’ Role 
Commissioners’ roles include establishing conservation priorities for the district, 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.

In the words of a commissioner…
“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 upcoming Farm Bill
  • Construction and maintenance of terraces, ponds and waterways
  • Maintenance of Badger Creek Watershed 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.”


Keith Sparksformer Chairman, Madison County SWCD Board of Commissioners

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.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a SWCD Commissioner, Conservation Districts of Iowa has provided several helpful resources here.