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Waynesboro: Sharon VanName wants your vote for soil and water conservation board

Crystal Graham
Sharon VanName
Sharon VanName, submitted

If you live in Waynesboro, and plan to vote early or in person for the Nov. 7 general election, you’ll likely know who you are voting for in the 3rd District Senate and the 36th District House of Delegates races before you get to the polls.

You might be surprised to find one other position on the ballot: Soil and Water Conservation Director. While voters may select up to two choices for the open positions, there is only one name on the ballot: DuBose Egleston Jr.

However, one city resident wants you to consider writing her in for the second open position.

Sharon VanName has launched a write-in campaign for the second seat on the Headwaters Soil & Water Conservation District, a statewide board that covers Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro.

The SWCD maintains, inspects and makes repairs for 11 flood control dams and five additional dams of partner agencies. Through cost-share programs, it also assists agricultural producers who need monetary relief for taking steps to improve their land’s conservation and residential landowners taking steps to improve stormwater management and conservation.

“What could be more vital than where we grow our food and the water we drink, and you know, kind of by extension, the air we breathe,” said VanName in an interview Friday with AFP.

“What we do here affects not just us, but everybody downstream from us,” she said. “I really think that it’s part of my personal values, the stewardship of the earth and just taking care of things for us.

“I’m a grandmother, and I have to take care of these things for my grandkids and their grandkids after them,” she said.

VanName isn’t a farmer but spent some of her early married years living on a farm. She is a former factory worker who spent much of her life in a small town in New York with a population of approximately 2,000 people.

“Wyoming County at that time had no stoplights and more cows than people,” she said.

It wasn’t a big change for her when she moved to the Valley for a job in Verona in 1990.

“I’ve always worked in factories, and I’ve done quality control and workforce development and training. My background is trying to figure out how to make systems more reliable and how to help people upgrade their skills and their knowledge. So, it feels like my work experience is kind of a nice fit for this position.”

VanName is a regular at Waynesboro City Council meetings recently speaking out in favor of the need for a rental inspection program in the city.

She has also been involved in a number of civic endeavors in the area including working with Learn English and Reading Now, which has a mission to offer tutoring and for English as a Second language instruction; the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, where she has served many roles and current organizes blood drives for the church; and she volunteers at the Verona Food Pantry.

Many people also know VanName through her involvement in politics with the Waynesboro Democratic Committee. However, VanName said, she doesn’t see this role as having anything to do with her personal political beliefs.

“I think it works better if we set that national stuff aside and just work together on local issues,” she said.
“I’m definitely not running for this position as a Democrat. I think it’s really unfortunate that some of these local positions have gotten to be more partisan.”

VanName said that Waynesboro has not had an active representative filling the second seat for some time. She said that while she hasn’t been involved with the organization before, she’s committed to learning about it and being there for the full four-year term.

“I think the agriculture programs are pretty well known amongst the agricultural community,” she said. “But I didn’t know that they also do homeowner things for urban and residential areas. They’ll help you with erosion problems, poor drainage, if you’ve got an empty area that won’t grow anything, they’ll help you figure out what to grow there. I don’t think these programs are known at all.”

She said last year they only did five urban programs.

“I mean people need to know about this stuff,” she said. “So that’s going to be one of the things that I’d really like to do is help people know what is available.”

She said that SWCD returned money to the state this past year that they weren’t able to make use of. She’d like to help people understand how to take advantage of programs so more money remains in the SAW region.

“I’d like to try to help understand what barriers are and see if we can get more participation in the programs,” she said. “I hate sending money back to the state.”

Voting for Sharon VanName

A sample ballot for the City of Waynesboro is available online here.

  • To vote for VanName, Waynesboro voters need to write her name in the write-in area below Egleston’s name.
  • Voters should also fill in the oval beside the write-in line so the scanning machine will pick up the write-in vote.

VanName knows her name isn’t the easiest to remember, but she said that Waynesboro’s Registrar Lisa Jeffers has assured her that “intent” is the most important thing.

“She said as long as she could determine the voter’s intent, they would be able to count the votes,” VanName said.

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.