Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) are political subdivisions of the State. Supervisors serve four year staggered terms; generally, two or three of an SWCD’s five supervisors are up for election every two years. These positions have been local elected officials since SWCDs began to be formed in 1937. Since 1971 the offices have appeared on the November ballot as a nonpartisan office.
The elections have always been at-large within the district. In 1974 “supervisor nomination districts” were mandated for the purpose of ensuring some measure of geographic distribution of elected supervisors across each SWCD. The rationale for this is that the SWCD programs deal with land and water issues of geographic scope; thus, it was seen as good government to ensure geographic distribution of elected officials across the SWCD.
There are 90 SWCDs in Minnesota, providing 100% coverage of the state. There is at least one SWCD in each of the 87 counties, while a few of the larger counties have more than one.
SWCD boards set overall policy and long-term objectives for their district and work with the SWCD staff to see that policies and plans are implemented. They are not paid a salary; however, they do receive compensation for attending meetings and are reimbursed for expenses.