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Four individuals are vying for two seats on the Orangeburg County Soil and Water Conservation District in the Nov. 6 general election.

Incumbent commission vice chairman John Cuttino Sr. and Harold Donnelly, Jackie Ryan Fogle and Jim Johnson are running for the two seats.

In addition to Cuttino's open seat, Ewart Irick, who currently serves as the vice commissioner, is not seeking re-election. Irick has served on the SWCD for 12 years.

The seats are for four-year terms.

On the five-member board, three seats are elected and two are appointed.

The Soil and Water Conservation District aims to promote the conservation of natural resources in coordination with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Palmetto Pride/Keep America Beautiful.

The SWCD also offers assistance to farmers in various forms, coordinates litter cleanups and promotes conservation education through outreach.

John F. Cuttino Sr. 

A Cope farmer, Cuttino is running for his second four-year term. He initially ran as a write-in candidate.

During his time as a commissioner, the Orangeburg SWCD office has received funding for additional technical help to create more than $3 million in conservation plans for the county.

"My priority is to put as much conservation into Orangeburg County as we possibly can," he said. "Seeing a plan go from nothing to finality, whether it is fencing or high tunnel or irrigation that is applied for or implemented, has been among the most enjoyable experiences."

A graduate of Edisto High School, Cuttino received his general business degree from the University of South Carolina in 1983.

He currently manages a family-owned pine plantation, agricultural land and wildlife food plots.

Cuttino has been involved in a number of farming organizations including Edisto Young Farmer Chapter and the South Carolina Young Farmer and Agribusiness Association.

Cuttino has worked with Stone Container Corp. in the company's landowner-assistance program and in the company's forest products procurement division.

He has also worked with the South Carolina Forestry Commission as a district ranger and served as the coastal region program manager/investigator for 13 counties.

Cuttino has been on the front lines of helping in the development of triticale locally.

Triticale is a combination of wheat and rye that combines the grain and forage aspects of both parent species. As a grain, the crop serves as feed. As forage, it provides silage and hay and is a double-crop complement to corn and sorghum.

Cuttino and his wife Susan have a son.

Harold Donnelly

Donnelly, a pecan farmer in Elloree, is a retired New York City police detective.

A native of Staten Island, New York, Donnelly received his law enforcement training from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Despite growing up in urban New York, Donnelly comes from a long family line of farmers.

His grandmother farmed in her native Ireland and his grandfather farmed in New Jersey.

Leaving New York, Donnelly moved 20 years ago to Elloree, where he grows 120 pecan trees.

He is currently involved with Cornell Lab of Ornithology's E-Bird Bio Diversified/Related Citizens Science Project, which is an online database of bird observations providing real-time data about bird distribution and abundance.

"I have done over 1,000 reports with Cornell University," Donnelly said. "I have seen over 520 species of birds since I started. Most people don't know there are about 10,000 species of birds."

He is an active member of Audubon South Carolina and the Carolina Bird Club.

Donnelly, a self-identified naturalist, cites the importance of nature conservation especially for the future generation.

"I believe in conservation and how important it is," Donnelly said. "I believe I can bring in a whole new energy and am looking forward to working with my fellow commissioners, if I am elected, on how important it is."

Donnelly says he would like to bring the importance of nature into the school system and utilize and implement NRCS programs in the schools.

"They have the tools to do this in our schools," he said.

Donnelly and wife Donna have three boys and four grandchildren.

Jackie Ryan Fogle 

Born and raised in Livingston, Fogle grew up loving the outdoors -- a love he received from his father Ryan.

Fogle graduated from North High School and then attended the University of South Carolina and Liberty University.

Fogle enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served with Special Forces in Vietnam from 1967-68.

He is no stranger to community service.

Fogle has served as the mayor of Livingston, on Orangeburg County Council, North District School Board, Silver Springs Water Board and the Orangeburg Boys and Girls Club Board. He currently serves on the Orangeburg County Transportation Committee.

Fogle said his leadership experience and ability to work as a team has prepared him for the SWCD position.

"I have benefited from programs presented by Soil and Water," Fogle said. "I feel I have a lot to offer by helping to make every citizen aware of the resources and educational opportunities available through the Soil and Water District."

Fogle says he will make sure he stays informed in order to do what is best for the environment and natural resources.

"The present board has taken responsibility for the Keep Orangeburg Beautiful Chapter," Fogle said. "I view this as an opportunity to get the public involved in keeping our roads, streams and towns clean and beautiful. Working with Palmetto Pride, I hope we can eliminate litter and make our county a show place."

Fogle gets to spend a lot of time outdoors with his herd of Boer goats, beekeeping and feeding birds as well as hunting, fishing and planting things for wildlife. 

Fogle and his wife Lynda have been married for 51 years. They have five daughters and 14 grandchildren.

Jim Johnson

Johnson, the current region director for the Small Business Development Center at South Carolina State University's School of Business, has spent most of his career in small business.

He owned a medical equipment business for many years as well as a restaurant. Johnson currently serves as an adjunct instructor at Claflin University.

He is an Orangeburg native. 

He has a bachelor’s degree in English from College of Charleston and a master’s degree in business administration from Claflin. He also graduated from the South Carolina Economic Development Institute.

Johnson was appointed to the Orangeburg County Election Commission in 2007 by the Orangeburg County Legislative Delegation and has served in that capacity for 10 years, seven of them as chairman.

Johnson unsuccessfully ran for the Orangeburg City Council District 1 seat against Richard Stroman last year.

"I've been in management most of my career and learned how to work well with a team," he said. "The Soil and Water Conservation District is a very small organization (two employees) and requires a high level of collaboration with other organizations to reach its goals."

Citing his contacts on the local, state and federal levels, Johnson believes he can help the SWCD.

His priorities would be to implement a SWOT analysis of the organization (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) then using the assessment to develop a contemporary strategic plan.

"I'd be very interested in continuing to develop projects to enhance the Edisto River and assist farmers as well as create some new strategies to encourage development of our local food system," he said, noting getting more access to local foods would be a goal.

He serves as the Scoutmaster for Troop 45 Boy Scouts of America. Other boards he has served on include the advisory council at the YMCA of Orangeburg, DORA's economic development committee, S.C. Rural Resource Coalition, Federal Committee for Rural South Carolina and ACE Basin Growers Food Hub.

Johnson has been married for 20 years and has three children.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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