Walton County Conservation Leaders appointed as GACD Board Members Emeritus

Press release from Georgia Association of Conservation Districts

Dan Bennett and John Redding were appointed at GACD’s February 9 Board Meeting

The Georgia Association of Conservation Districts (GACD) has appointed Dan Bennett of Good Hope and John Redding of Monroe as Board Members Emeritus. This honorary position was extended to Bennett and Redding at GACD’s February 9 Board Meeting in recognition of their long and valued history with the Association and efforts in promoting soil and water conservation.

Board Members Emeritus act as advisors to the Board of Directors, adding to the Board’s knowledge and experience, and provide enhanced continuity of leadership. Board Members Emeritus shall have all rights and privileges of other Board Members, except they shall not have voting privileges.

For 25 years, Dan Bennett has served as a District Supervisor for the Walton County Conservation District, half of those years as its Chair. Dan has worked hard with his fellow District Supervisors to set priorities and direction for the needs of Walton County’s soil and waterways and to educate Walton’s citizens on the importance of conservation. Innovative programs for youth and adults alike as well as valuable stewardship projects have been the rule under his leadership.

Dan has strong agricultural roots, growing up and working on a dairy farm in New York State as a young man.  After graduating from the University of Georgia in 1977, Dan became an agriculture teacher, working for a time at Monroe Area High School, then becoming an adult agriculture educator for 33 counties in Northeast Georgia. Dan taught everything from chainsaw maintenance to pole-barn construction.  He helped to organize many FFA contests on the local, state and national level, and participated as a judge, as well.

In addition, Dan’s service has extended well beyond Walton County through his many positions with GACD. He has served most recently as GACD Past- President, as well as President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and represented 14 Conservation Districts spanning 42 counties as the Group 3 Vice- President. In these capacities, he has worked with a range of elected officials and conservation professionals to promote resource stewardship at the state and national level.  In 2017, Dan and the Walton County Conservation District were both honored by GACD.  Bennett was inducted into the GACD Hall of Fame for his steady commitment and focus to conservation in Walton County.  The District was also recognized as GACD’s District of the Year.

Throughout it all, Bennett has prioritized his family and his faith. He and his wife of 41 years, Abbie Bennett are proud grandparents of two. They have been active members of Bethel Baptist Church where Dan has served as choir director for 35 years. 

He has also held leadership roles for the Walton County Chamber of Commerce, Monroe Lion’s Club, Good Hope Volunteer Fire Department and North Georgia Two Cylinder Tractor Club. Dan is currently employed as Director of Corporate Services at Walton EMC.

As he continues in the role as Chair of the Walton County Conservation District, Walton County citizens can take pride in having such a committed champion of conservation in their midst and can look forward to continued opportunities for local conservation education and action.

John Redding

John Redding’s foundation as a leader and advocate of conservation started at Clay County High School as an FFA member.  After high school, John attended Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and received an Associate in Science Degree.  He then continued his education at the University of Georgia where he received a BSA and ultimately a Master of Education degree.  

His teaching career began at Monroe Area High School, where he was a vocational agriculture teacher for six years.  It was also during this time that he became acquainted with Julian E. Brown, District Conservationist with the organization that is now known as the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS).  Mr. Brown encouraged John to become involved in local conservation issues and ultimately, their partnership led to the creation of the Julian E. Brown Study Area at Mathews Park in Monroe, GA.

After his work as an educator, John began a career as an agent with the Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company.  He held this position for almost 48 years and won numerous contests including Round Table, All-Star and Master Agent.

In 1978, he was appointed to the newly formed Walton County Soil and Water Conservation District and in 1979 was elected its Chairman.  He held this position for the next 31 years, in which the District won the Goodyear Award four times, the TVA Distinguished District Award, and the NRCS Earth Team Award. As District Chairman, he collaborated with the area’s cities and counties to support planning and construction of two Regional Water Supply Reservoirs -Lake Varner and Hard Labor Creek reservoir.  He led strategic planning and policy development efforts for Georgia and the United States to expand the Conservation Title of the Food Conservation and Energy Act, aka, the Farm Bill.

In the early 1990’s John worked extensively with state legislators to secure funding for districts and the RC&Ds in Georgia to purchase no-till planters, tractors, trailers and lagoon pump-out equipment.  This equipment has allowed districts to contract with local landowners to plant or reseed pastures offering benefits to the producer in savings on equipment, to the environment as fuel savings and to the districts as an additional source of income.

John took his enthusiasm and experience to the national level when he became involved with the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD).  He served as a NACD board member, committee chair, regional chair, executive board member, and treasurer.  These experiences prepared him to take on the role of President of NACD in 2008.  As President, John was able to testify and present the National Conservation District’s proposals to the US House and Senate Agriculture Committees.  He is most proud of when he was selected by US Secretary Vilsack to serve as panelist at the National Rural Summit and when he was asked by President George W. Bush to participate in the Collaborative Conservation event in Washington, DC.

A second-generation landowner, John practices what he preaches.  He owns a 500-acre farm where cotton, peanuts and timber are produced.  Each of these crops are irrigated using four wells and a nine-acre pond.  Other conservation practices he employs are riparian buffers, conservation tillage and grassed waterways, just to name a few.  This hands-on practice of conservation fuels his passion for sharing with others. 

John’s work in conservation has taken him around the country, challenged his way of thinking and brought many opportunities to overcome obstacles.  But in all this work, John has most enjoyed meeting and working with some of the greatest people throughout the United States: people who share his passion and love for the land. John is married to the former Levon Wilkerson, father to Cynthia (Tom Walker) and Carly, and proud grandfather to Lucy. He attends Pleasant Valley United Methodist Church where he serves as Chair of the Administrative Board and Finance Committee.

The Georgia Association of Conservation Districts represents all 40 of Georgia’s Conservation Districts that encompass 350 District Supervisors representing every county in the state. GACD serves as the voice of conservation in Georgia and promotes conservation through community and educational outreach. More information can be found at www.gacd.us or on Facebook @GACDConserve.

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