New College alumnus Sean Patton (‘11) is channeling his love for learning and activism into his campaign for the top environmental advisory board in Sarasota County. Patton is running for a seat on Sarasota’s Soil and Water District Board and due to his hands-on lab experience at New College, years of work as a lake technician and current environmental consulting group, he believes he is the best fit for the job.
A seat on the Soil and Water advisory board is an unpaid government position. According to Patton, “as with all advisory boards and a lot of unpaid positions, people who work full time are generally restricted from serving on them.” While Patton is not the typical retiree on the board, he does own his own business—Stocking Savvy, an environmental consulting group—which provides him with the needed flexibility to sit on the board, something Patton views as an advantage.
“In a lot of these boards you see people who aren’t generally impacting the field today or have a more removed knowledge set,” Patton said. “I’m not saying that being a retired professional is bad, but a lot of times these people have been working in the field for 10, 15 years whereas I’m currently actively working in the field. So if a problem comes up, I might actually be working on it in my day to day job.”
The Soil and Water board is an advisory body that recommends actions to the county that work to improve local soil and water resources, with an emphasis on conservation. Patton’s work at Stocking Savvy Environmental Consulting aligns with the agricultural and environmental issues the board works with. Patton stressed that his strengths in long-term environmental strategizing will contribute to the agriculturally-focused board.
“While agriculture is a huge part of what the board does, it is also supposed to focus on other aspects of the environment, which I hope I will be able to bring a little more light to,” Patton said.
Patton’s work centers around long term agricultural and environmental strategic planning. “We do habitat restoration projects, we’ve done a project with orphaned river otters, we’ve done a project on floating butterfly gardens, we do a lot of shoreline habitat restoration, backyard restoration, pretty much anything that involves getting native plants and native fish into the waterways and the ground,” he said.
Patton studied marine biology at New College and said his education helped prepare him to enter the biology workforce: “Having an undergraduate lab was great, and I’ve actually used a lot of the techniques and research that I did at New College and applied it to what I do in the field,” he said.
“Ecology is honestly how I would describe my job today. So a lot of those [ecology] courses were very helpful and I actually use a lot of my skills in looking at ecosystems as a whole to do my job today.”
Patton stressed that if he is elected this November, his priorities will be centered around protecting already-established work surrounding sustainable development initiatives.
“My top priority is to protect groups that are doing sustainable development,” Patton said. “Some things that I’m going to propose are if we’re going to do something, can we do it in a way that benefits the environment and reduces nutrient pollution? I’m not saying we all have to stop eating beef, I’m not saying that we have to immediately switch everything, but we need to start moving towards more sustainable goals.”
Patton will be on the ballot for Sarasota Soil and Water District, Group 1, on Nov. 3—“So vote, plant native plants, and remember Sean Patton for Soil and Water District!”