Ann Daisey is the North Carolina Coastal Federation’s community conservationist, and her position is unique to the state. She focuses on improving water quality in Dare County as both a staff member of the federation and as the staff member for the Dare Soil and Water Conservation District — but her position might have never existed.
Daisey started in her role with the federation at the end of 2015 after the federation negotiated an agreement between the Dare Soil and Water Conservation District, Dare County and the federation.
Most counties cost-share with the state to hire a full-time staff member focused on soil and water conservation for the county. But in 2015, after the person currently in that position left for a new job, Dare County assessed its needs and budget and concluded that it would only be able to fund a part-time staff member in that position.
As a result, Dare County might have been the only county in the state without a full-time paid staff member focused on soil and water conservation efforts had the federation not stepped in to make sure such a position remained.
Erin Fleckenstein, regional manager and coastal scientist at the northeast office, first learned that the county was not going to fill the position when a project it was working on with the Dare Soil and Water Conservation District was stalled by the employment vacancy. Recognizing the important role that this position plays in each county, the federation agreed to provide up to 50 percent of the funding to hire Daisey.
“If the federation hadn’t stepped in with match money for the state, then the district would still exist,” Daisey said. “But it wouldn’t have a full-time employee to run operations, provide assistance or implement projects in the community.”
The three parties agreed to maintain the community conservationist position to ensure the protection of the county’s natural resources, to improve water quality and to educate the community on conservation practices.
“The unique partnership between the Dare Soil and Water Conservation District and the federation is exciting because it capitalizes on shared objectives to overcome funding shortfalls to continue important efforts to protect and restore the natural resources and water quality in Dare County,” said David Williams, the deputy director of the Division of Soil and Water Conservation at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
County manager Bobby Outten said while agriculture is not a huge industry in Dare County like it is in many other parts of the state, there was a need for a position that addressed stormwater management.
“It was a good opportunity for all three entities to collaborate to do something we all thought was important,” he said. “The federation is always looking for ways to collaborate with the private and public sector to do things that are needed in the community.”
In her role as a community conservationist, Daisey works to improve water quality through education, outreach and technical assistance. She educates the public on how to reduce stormwater runoff and assists in implementing best management practices — practices that capture and treat stormwater runoff, protecting water quality and promoting soil conservation.
“I give host workshops and give advice to people in the community on best management practices, but another part of my job is participating in the construction of best management practices, such as rain gardens,” she said.
Since starting her position, Daisey has helped create an outdoor classroom at Manteo Elementary School, using money from a grant from the North Carolina Soil and Water Foundation. She also received grant funding to clean up stream debris caused by Hurricane Irene in Wanchese. Without a paid employee in this position, applying for and securing grants like this could slide through the cracks, she said.
Soon, she will start developing a watershed restoration plan in Dare County, which will create a voluntary plan for improving water quality in a designated watershed through the implementation of best management practices.
Before starting at the federation, Daisey previously worked as the northern sites manager for three reserve sites in the North Carolina Coastal Reserve Program and as a park ranger at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. She holds a Master of Science from Mississippi State University in geosciences and a Bachelor of Science from Virginia Tech in natural resources with a minor in forestry.
All three entities are excited about what Daisey brings to the position.
“The Dare District Board of Supervisors, Dare County and the federation deserve a great deal of credit for thinking creatively to piece together the partnership to maintain a comprehensive conservation effort benefiting the citizens, local governments, businesses and natural resources of Dare County,” Williams said. “Because of her experience and motivation, Daisey is sure to make the partnership succeed.”