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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: John Camp
Interviewer: Julian Pleasants
Date: October 5, 2004
P: This is Julian Pleasants and I am in Live Oak. It's October 5, 2004. I'm
speaking with John Camp. Just briefly, Mr. Camp, tell me when and
where you were born.
C: I was born in Jacksonville, June 16, 1915.
P: You grew up in White Springs?
P: Give me a little bit of your educational background. I know you attended
the University of Florida.
C: I attended the University of Florida, but I flunked out. [laughter] No, I
didn't really flunk out, but I quit. I went into the timber business and took
over the business my father had. I was twenty-one years old when I did
P: This would have been at the University in 1933 to 1936?
C: I was the class of 1937, and I quit in 1936.
P: That would have been pretty much in the middle of the Depression, so
obviously it would have been difficult financial times for a lot of people.
C: It was difficult financial times, but I really didn't quit because they
couldn't afford to send me. I quit because I was of an independent
nature. I didn't like the social subjects down there. I did very well in
mathematics. I did very well in English, construction and all of the
business things. I thought when it came to ancient history and stuff like
that, I said, I needed to study more so on the history in my county and in
the United States.
P: Did you learn much that would help you later in water management?
C: Not at all. No, sir.
P: So you leave the University, then you operate some turpentine stills.
C: Right. I went into the turpentine business, then I took over the operation
P: You also had a saw mill as well?
FWM 6 Camp: Page 2
C: Yes. We built a saw mill and we went into the timber business then and
land procurement. That's about the background I have.
P: You were, in effect, a businessman working in this area most of your
P: One little comment. I understand in the turpentine business, rivals,
particularly from Georgia, would come in and steal your workers. Is that
C: We had kind of an honor system. It's kind of a peonage system, really, if
the government were to look at it today. We honored, if a fellow owed
you some money and he wanted to move, they'd come to your place,
and if it was reasonable, they'd pay it. If it wasn't reasonable, they'd
leave the fellow there. It wasn't really a peonage system, but it kind of
bordered on it because it was an honor system. Everybody didn't
prescribe to that, but the people that we dealt with up and down the
Georgia line through there and then until the Florida line, we pretty well
worked towards each other. There's one thing that's a misnomer, and I
find frequently that people have got the wrong impression of that. We
looked after our hands. I never had one go hungry. I never had one
who needed to go to the doctor that he didn't have it. We did police the
quarters. We didn't have the sheriff come in there and police the
quarters. The only time the sheriff came on to a lot of places is if he had
a vendetta, he'd come to the woodsman's house and say, well, I want to
see so and so. The reason for that was if that sheriff was identified, and
everybody knew what kind they had, if you rode down the quarter
hunting this fellow, the next morning about fifty percent of your hands
was gone. Your labor was gone because they were wanted somewhere
for something in those days.
P: That was hard work, wasn't it?
C: Not really. I always said one of the benefits of the naval stores business
or the turpentine business over the sawmill business was that if you
didn't have but one man on the quarters, he was getting something to
do. He'd go chip boxes, he'd go out there and pull the high boxes, or he
could dip gum or he could just clean up around the place. You could
give him something constructive to do. There wasn't so much teamwork
as at the sawmill, you know. [At the sawmill] you start with the sawyer,
and if the sawyer's out, that's it. Then if he's not out, the block setter's
out, there again, you see. Everything pretty much drifts down .
P: Early in your career at one point, I think it was 1948, you tried to raise
FWM 6 Camp: Page 3
money to seed some clouds because of a drought.
C: [Laughter.] Oh, yes.
P: Tell me about that.
C: It wasn't in 1948. 1948 was a wet year because I had a place out here
on the river that got six feet deep in it. It was probably in the mid-1950s,
the drought. There was an outfit from, I can't think of his name right
now, [Irving P. Knick] they were from out in the mid-west. They'd had
some success. They were very frank about it. They said that they had
to have certain clouds in order to seed them, that it wasn't possible to
seed a cumulus cloud because there wasn't enough moisture in there.
They came down and we all met and, of course, I got saddled with the
chairmanship right away. Remarkable as it might sound, we raised
about $65,000 for seeding the clouds.
P: No state money or local money?
C: No, that was private money. Buckeye Cellulose sent me a check for
$10,000. He said, spend it like you want to, in that category.
P: How did it work?
C: The theory was good, but the mechanics were wrong. Every drop of rain
starts as a snowflake. That snowflake attaches to a minute particle of
dust, and that particle of dust makes a raindrop. Then it comes on down
and it goes through a strata and it might be real cold and you've got hail
and freezing rain there. Then it comes on by, [it goes] through a long
[warm] phase and it turns back to rain. Then when you get closer to the
ground, if it's still constant temperature, that's fine, if it don't, if it re-
freezes, then you've got hail. Now, that's what they told me. Snow is
the same thing, only snow comes down and it might become ice, but
most of the time it didn't, as I understand it. It came down and it floated
P: The attempt to seed this didn't produce anything.
C: We didn't feel like it was satisfactory, although we had some of these
generators out there, or they did. They called me in the middle of the
night from the Jacksonville Times Union and said, we're about to get
washed away down here. Y'all been seeding over there? I said, I don't
know anything about seeding.
P: It's sort of hard to tell what's natural and what's scientifically produced.
FWM 6 Camp: Page 4
C: Later I testified before a Senate committee in Washington on the
success or non-success of it. At that time, the chief of the U.S. Weather
Bureau, I think his name was Baron something, it was a German name,
and he said that fundamentally it would work if you did it with clouds, that
they had used it some to disrupt typhoons during the war over in the
P: To switch topics a little bit, one of the problems is always droughts and
flooding. In 1949, the Central and Southern Flood Control Districts were
first put in. Did you have anything to do with them? Were you aware of
C: No. Prior to that, we had legislation passed and formed the Suwannee
River Authority. Would this be in order now to talk about that?
C: I'll give you the background.
P: This is your first involvement with what we would call water
C: Right. Actually, our main purpose was the development of tourism up
and down the Suwannee River, and some industry, if we could. There
was Hamilton, Columbia, Madison, Levy, I believe Taylor, and maybe
Gilchrist County. I forget how many exactly. The legislature created this
thing but they didn't give us any money. We did the best we could
under-funded, got a little bit of money from the county commissioners.
Then we put on the legislative boat-a-cade. I don't know whether you've
ever heard of that or not, but we had the governor there. That was
during LeRoy Collin's [LeRoy Collins, governor of Florida, 1955-1961]
term. He kind of got interested in the Suwannee River then, and he
gave us some money to put in a trial dam at Suwannee Springs to back
the water up during the drought period, kind of funnel it through as you
need it. Then we had some floods come along there and it was the
sheet metal dam, and it was in soft lime rock, and they didn't extend the
dam on out, it feathered out till it was dry on level out here on the curve,
and it washed around it. That was not successful. He gave us $25,000
for that out of his contingency fund. I'll never forget when we went over
to talk to him about getting that money, he didn't have a lot to say, but he
said, I'll tell you, I'm going to give you $25,000, but we're going to have a
better engineer than Buddy Camp. [laughter.] LeRoy Collins was the
governor. He's the one that went on the boat-a-cade and you got kind of
interested in him. We got all the legislature, we got out and promoted
FWM 6 Camp: Page 5
P: Let me go back and get specifics on this. What exactly was the [purpose
of] the Suwannee River Authority? Did you deal mainly with floods?
C: No. Mainly, to retain enough water in the river to make it attractive for
development, you know, summer homes and things like that, also to
open east pass down there. At that time, it silted in and you couldn't
hardly get out of the mouth of Suwannee River. We had the Army
engineers down there for several different times and finally got them
interested in it. They finally did dredge it out. By that time, I had gotten
off of the Suwannee River Authority and gotten on the Water
Management Board. The governor asked me to resign the Suwannee
River Authority and go on the Water Management Board, which I did.
P: I understand you wrote the legislation which set up the Suwannee River
C: I didn't write it, but I was right there having it. We had a Senate clerk,
and at that time, the Senators from this district were H.H. Horrie Hair,
and we all [worked] together and Randolf Hodges down in Levy County.
That year, Randolf, I think, was president of the Senate. We sat down
and designed this bill. That's what we came up with.
P: This is, in effect, the precursor of what we have now. The Suwannee
River Water Management District.
C: For my activities, yes sir.
P: At the same time, and this is all part of the development concept, you set
up what was then known as the Hamilton County Development
C: Yes. Where you get all that from?
P: Well, I've done my research [laughter].
C: Yeah, I got that legislation passed, and also the job for the [Jasper]
P: All of that as a whole was designed to...
C: Trying to develop these rural counties, really. That was the purpose.
P: Was it successful?
C: Well, it could have been, but I don't think it really was, because, for
instance, everything then was everybody trying to get these trailer
FWM 6 Camp: Page 6
manufacturers in. We had to back away as we were going to use the
[Tobacco Warehouses] in the off season. We got one small trailer outfit
that came in. He came in and he started building the Suwannee Coach.
But he was a crook.
P: It didn't help much.
C: No. We caught him out right quick. We had [to] close [that] down. It
helped in other areas, like advertising and stuff. We got some publicity
out of it that was favorable.
P: How important was Randolf Hodges to the development of water
management in the state of Florida?
C: Randolf was one of the most persuasive types of individuals that you
ever saw. He could sit down and see your side of an argument and
discuss it with you and maybe come to a compromise on something. He
was a great influence on [the Suwannee] River Authority. I'm not sure
about the water management board, but all of this came out of the
Suwannee River Authority up in here, as far as our people were
P: How did you personally end up being the first chairman of the Suwannee
C: I was elected by the board members. I was chairman of that until I
retired and took an appointment to the water management board. The
governor asked me to do it. That was during [Robert Martinez's] [Florida
governor 1987-1991] administration. I stayed with it and we did very well
with it. I got off the board just before this movement to relocate the
headquarters. I have to say vainly that it would have never moved if I
had been chairman of that board.
P: This is something that's very different for you now. This is the first time
you've really gotten involved in what we would call water management.
P: What peaked your interest about this? Why do you think you got
involved so heavily in it?
C: I talked to a Senator from down in West Palm Beach. At that time, he
had either been selected as president of the Florida Senate, or else he
was going out as president. I can't remember his name. I sat down and
talked to him one day, and he told me the importance of it. Now, up
here, we didn't have a water problem. We put down a well in Hamilton
FWM 6 Camp: Page 7
County, and in eighteen feet you come up with good water. Just pump
you out a little [basin] down there, get rid of that sand to start with. Louis
[Phil Louis] was his name, I'm pretty sure. He told me the importance of
water management in most of the areas south of Gainesville. At that
time, Jacksonville wasn't worried about it. He told me then that it's going
to be a big fight about this thing. Y'all better get on board, because
you're going to have to protect your water. We're the main source of
water up here.
P: The Suwannee River Authority started in 1959?
C: I believe so, yes.
P: What official regulatory powers did you have? Did the legislature give
you any authority?
C: Very little. Tourism or promotional things, [but] we didn't have any
authority. We couldn't [make] any assessment, like the Water
Management Board does. We had to get what funds we got from the
individual counties, and maybe from the larger towns in the area. We
didn't have a paid executive. The [secretary] was a fellow named Otto
Wellstein ,he was president of the North Florida Telephone Company.
He was secretary/treasurer of it, and I was chairman. We did the
legwork for it. None of us were salaried.
P: At one point, there was a proposal to make the Suwannee River a wild
and scenic river. You were opposed to that?
C: Absolutely, yes sir.
P: Tell me why.
C: Well, because when it was first presented to us, it wasn't tailored to the
Suwannee River Valley at all. They started talking about having this
corridor down there and having limited boat ramps and access ramps.
You couldn't have an outboard motor on there over three horsepower or
something like that. I don't recall. We came back, and I don't want to be
vain about this, but we came back and we were meeting with these
people, and I just took an aerial of the Suwannee River from north of
Suwannee Springs down there about eighteen miles. Here's this river
going like that. The high bank was always limestone bank. The other
bank was a sand bar. I said, why can't we just have a scenic corridor
down here? I said, I own a lot of land on that river. I wasn't fighting it for
that reason. I said, I'd be willing to lean back without any authorization
or anything else or compensation, I won't cut any timber up that's visible
from the normal water level on the off side of the river up here. When
FWM 6 Camp: Page 8
you look from over here you're just going to see beautiful timber. I said,
now, that's going to mean that it might not be but maybe 150 yards wide.
It might not be that wide. But when you get on the other side and that's
your low bank, it's going to have to extend out maybe three or four or
five hundred yards. I said, I'm agreeable to that. We sat down and kind
of worked it out.
P: You did go to Washington to testify, did you not?
C: Yeah, I think so. While I was in Washington, I got tired of Washington.
All at my own expense. I think I did testify on that one, too.
P: The environmentalists were really pushing that because they saw the
preservation of this very pristine river and they were afraid that it would
be built up, there would be fish camps and there would be tourist sites.
P: You worked out this basic compromise?
C: They had a good position over there. I'm not an anti-environmentalist,
but I also think you should have to expect some of the old English laws
like property rights and stuff like that. You know, let's work this thing out
together. It worked out pretty well. We got out of that. The biggest
mistake that's been made by the Suwannee River Water Management
Board was in the legislation that created it. I reckon maybe I was
responsible for that, too, and if I did it, I'm surely sorry. They were
acquired by purchase. You know that. When we wrote all that, we said
that the Suwannee River and all of its tributaries [should be included].
Well, that was a big mistake. We spent much too much money thinking
way out up here and all around in other places. It shouldn't have been in
there. I was one of the ones that did it. I reckon humans make
mistakes. I sure made a lot of them.
P: It's sort of hard to anticipate.
C: Right, well, that means, I've got a lake right behind my house. It was a
swamp. I cleaned it up years ago. There's a little ditch that runs out of
there. Theoretically now, these people could go up there, now, they
don't do that, they're not pushy. We've got a good management team.
They go up there and they could go right up there to my little lake there
because the overflow of it is a little trickle of water that goes out and it
comes about a mile and it goes down Hunter Creek, and goes in
Suwannee River, and that's a tributary. We made a mistake there. I did.
P: Talk about the 1972 Water Resources Act, which created these five
FWM 6 Camp: Page 9
water management districts. Did you have much to do with that?
C: No. I was consulted about it. That was about the time they started
creating all these bureaus and things.
P: Yes. It started with the Department of Natural Resources. Then they
went to DER [Department of Environmental Regulation].
C: They had these area meetings around. They had the input from all the
areas, but it wasn't broad enough.
P: Did you attend any of the hearings, or were you participating at all in the
actual writing or development of that particular bill as it related to the
Suwannee River Water Management District?
C: Only that I suggested that it include tributaries, and that was wrong.
P: One of the issues, as it comes up early on, and this is something we'll
talk about in some detail, but obviously the __ tax for this district is
much less than the other districts. Did you think that you had enough
money? I think you favored a half a mill.
C: I wanted a cap on it at a half mill. We're poor counties up here. We're
doing better, but at that time, we were very poor counties. Most of the
tax revenue in those days about that time had their own tax raise. It was
a pretty good burden on people that they keep adding tax and adding tax
to it. I was in favor of the Districts and for their taxing power, but I
wanted a cap on it at a half mill.
P: Was that enough money to operate on?
C: We had money running right out of our ears before we got through,
[when] I turned over this place. I don't know what they did with all that
P: Hopefully they still have some of it [laughter]. Do you think they have
enough money today to operate?
C: If they would operate with some fiscal restraint, yes. Now, if they go
overboard on a lot of these little things they do or could do, then no.
P: Some of these districts have airplanes.
C: No, no, no. We don't need that. Over there where we bought that old
motel there and we had a meeting room there. I think Don Morgan was
probably the executive director then. One day he asked the board, we
FWM 6 Camp: Page 10
had a huge draw curtain in the back. He said, do you think we ought to
electrify that? Man, I hit the ceiling. I said, no sir. I said, as long as
we've got people around here they can pull [the curtain] back. I was
P: Well, you had to be. Maybe Jack Riddard was the first [executive]?
C: Yes, Jack Riddard was the first one. Jack was good. He helped us get
organized. Then he got some other kind of job, I forget what it was.
Then we got Don Morgan from the Southeast Water Management...what
was the one down there by Palm Beach?
P: At that time it was South Florida Water Management.
C: Okay, we got that one, and he was assistant executive director, I think,
down there, and he applied for the job. We hired him, and he was very
good. We had good personnel.
P: You started out in a motel in...
C: The motel in White Springs was a nice motel right on the Suwannee
River. Have you ever been through there lately? The state's got a great
big welcome station.
P: Yes, I've seen that.
C: It was right there. It was built in two sections. Right in the center of it,
about fifty feet wide was an open area and we made that the lobby. In
other words, that was a meeting room. You look right out there and see
the river and it was real beautiful.
P: Why did the board decide to move [the headquarters] to Live Oak, and
were you in favor of the move?
C: I was opposed to it. Politics got into it. First thing you know they said
they didn't have enough room over there to do what they wanted to do.
Saunders owned a piece of land that ran from the Water Management
Board's land down to the bridge there. We couldn't get anything
reasonable out of him. They were going to benefit more out of it than
anybody else, the Adams family. Anyhow, it was kind of cramped.
There was some good argument on their side. I thought the aesthetic
argument was much better. Gosh dang, there's the river right out there,
beautiful, all these big live oaks and everything.
P: Was it the right decision, do you think, to move it to its present location?
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C: No. I didn't want it to go to Lake City. I leaned towards Live Oak for that
reason. Lake City was growing. I didn't think they would appreciate it as
much as Live Oak would. They needed some but I was opposed
to it. I was off the board by then. I'll tell you why I got off the board. Do
you want to know?
P: Yes sir.
C: They passed that full-disclosure act, and when my appointment came up
I refused to take it. I said, no, I won't fill out any files for disclosure. I'm
doing all this for fun and for nothing. But I'm not going to tell you all my
business. So, I refused another appointment. I believe, Lawton Chiles
was governor then. I just eased off and got in the shadows. Then
whenever they voted to change the [office], Jerome Johns and I from
over in Bradford County, we went around and tried to get them to
reverse it. Later on, Aurley Rowlell, he was a fine boy, he said he
wished he had listened to us. He was from Shady Grove. John
Finlayson said we couldn't do anything with John at all. He had his own
opinions and he was entitled to them. I wouldn't argue with that. I kid
with Wally Townsend a lot about it.
P: When they first set up the water management districts, it was set up on a
geographical basis according to how the water flowed. The district
sometimes would split counties. Did you have any problem with how
they set the boundaries for the district?
C: No, I felt like it should be natural boundaries. For instance, we had that
problem over in St. Mary's River, over in [Baker] county of there?
Anyhow, we met with the St. John's Board. We said, we're not hunting
up more area. Ya'll might be hunting more area, more authority, but
we're not. We want this thing to be practical. We would kind of arrive at
St. Mary's where the boundary is between the two. It's a natural
boundary, a water boundary. But I don't know that we split any counties.
P: In some cases, I know Orange County [was split between districts].
C: I don't think we split any.
P: Did you ever have any problem with setting these final boundaries, as far
as you were concerned?
C: No. We only had one issue, and that was the issue between us and St.
Johns. We said, this is our position, we're not trying to expand our
territory, we think this is the natural boundary, and that was it. We didn't
have but one meeting and that was it.
FWM 6 Camp: Page 12
P: Talk about how you were designated as the first chairman and why you
agreed to accept that job.
C: I don't know why. I think I had been the chairman or the president of
everything I had belonged to. I reckon it was just a natural [thing].
People just selected me. I didn't lobby for it. I didn't ask for it.
P: Were you first appointed by Governor Askew [Reubin O. Askew, Florida
governor 1971-1979], or were you elected by the board, the Suwannee
C: I was elected by the board.
P: When you took that job, obviously this is a brand new concept, the first
time water has really been managed in the state of Florida. What were
your initial goals? What did you think you needed to do while you were
C: Well, since you mentioned water, I'll just use a good example of it. I'd
say we traded water. We kind of felt our way along to see what we felt
was best. One thing wrong with the state of Florida and all this
management and so forth, DER, particularly, is they have the same rules
and regulations in Miami where the water is sixteen inches below the
surface of the land that we've got up here when we're 100 and some-
odd feet above water level. I've always felt like they should have some
differentiation there. When you set up a bureau and give them
regulatory powers, you'd better watch it.
P: Did you have much supervision from DER? Did you have to write
C: Oh, yes. By that time this was a water management board, we're out of
the other one [Suwannee River Authority]. We had personnel that was
necessary for us to do all that. We had a director and we had
stenographic people and other things.
P: Did you have much in the way of scientific personnel?
C: We began to get into that when I got off. We began to get into that water
sampling, well sampling, those things, and build up a history.
P: Speaking of wells, did you do much permitting?
C: Not much, not right then. We were kind of just feeling along. Like I said,
it wasn't really necessary, the permit wasn't, when we first started.
Under the general act though, we had the authority to do it. I don't think
FWM 6 Camp: Page 13
that's been changed much.
P: When you started out, did you get much help and support from Swiftmud
and South Florida, because they had been in existence prior to your
C: They were very cooperative. We had a different problem from them.
Topographically speaking, we had a different problem than them.
P: What were your biggest problems while you were chairman?
C: People asking for money. I don't recall anything I can isolate and say
there was a big problem. We had to manage our budget mighty
carefully. In my county, I had a problem of selling it to the people over
there because I was over there at the coffee shop all the time and they
were always bruising me up. You educate the people gradually.
P: Did you do a lot of that, because this is so new, did you go around and
talk to the county commissioners?
C: Oh yes. Basically, each member of it would handle that county
commission. I handled ours and sometimes I'd help somebody else.
P: Did you talk to the general public as well? I talked to one of the heads of
Swiftmud and he said he was on the radio a lot talking to the community
P: They still run the radio spots.
C: Yeah, but we never got into that. We didn't have a public relations office
at that time. You know, we didn't have that. We didn't have any water
emergencies, either. We had plenty of water for ourselves. We had
flood water that we needed to control.
P: You have that problem right now [with] the Suwannee and the Santa Fe
and all of those [rivers] overflowing? How did you deal with the problem
C: Never was able to do anything about it. We thought one time that if you
open the mouth of the Suwannee River, we got all the engineers to
dredge that out, that would relieve some of it. It probably did. You see
this? That Suwannee River's in the watershed there, boy, it drains a lot
of land. We'd come out of the Okefenokee Swamp. You know more
about it than I do.
FWM 6 Camp: Page 14
P: Obviously you dealt with drought and you dealt with flooding, and did
you work, other than this one occasion, with the Army Corps of
C: No, we never got into that phase of it. We didn't have a project on that.
You see, for some reason, the Army engineers controlled the Suwannee
River, the navigation on Suwannee River all the way up, they claimed
they went to White Springs one time. They couldn't have gone to White
Springs. I can tell you that because of that bar across the river, unless it
was in flood stage. Up to, I think the railroad trestle down there, below
Suwannee Springs there.
P: Did you get along alright with the Army Corps of engineers?
C: Yes sir. Fed them good and took care of them.
P: That always helps, doesn't it? [Laughter.] Did you have, in this district
like Swiftmud did, any basin boards?
C: No. You're talking about sub-committees, no.
P: There's no need for them here.
P: Talk a little bit about the board. The Board of the Suwannee River Water
Management District, they are appointed by the governor, is that
P: What kind of appointments were made while you were on the board?
Were they good appointments?
C: We had an exceptionally good board. Most everybody on that board
were individual businessmen. They applied business tactics to their
decisions. I would say we had a real good board.
P: Was it diversified? Did you have some environmentalists, some
ranchers, some businesspeople?
C: No, I don't remember ever lobbying for anybody to ever be on it. Just
thinking back over it, we had people with more interest down in the lower
part of Suwannee River because it would develop over in Suwannee and
in those days they'd put those finger canals in. We had supervision over
that and stuff like that, but we didn't have to permit. We didn't have that
FWM 6 Camp: Page 15
P: But you did, on the board, have all of the different points of views?
C: I was chairman, and Jerome Johns was over in Starke, he was vice-
chairman. Bully Helviston, Jr., in Live Oak was secretary and treasurer.
Bully's people were more or less in the insurance business and things of
that nature, but I do think that the had some ranch interest, his father
did. Don Byrant was from Madison, and he didn't stay on there very
long. Jack Carlton was from Cross City, and he and Maylon McKenny
were developing Suwannee and all of that down there. Maywood
Chesson was president of the phosphate company over in White Springs
in Hamilton County. Eddie Richberg, I think Eddie was in the fishery
business from Cedar Key. Aurley Rowell, he was area timberman for
Buckeye Cellulose. Then we had William Stanley from High Springs,
and he wasn't too active. He was replaced. Two of them were replaced
pretty soon after it started. I think maybe by their own volition. They
probably resigned finally. It wasn't what they thought it was.
P: It's an interesting job, but there really are no perks for [serving]. It's a lot
of work, there's no pay. Why do you think there are people willing to
serve on the board?
C: You need to put something back into your community if it's been good to
you. That's my theory. I've been very fortunate in my life. I haven't had
a whole lot of people who have interfered with my life's program. I feel
like I need to help the community. Not just Hamilton County, though, the
whole area. I think most of them felt that way when they first got on.
Later on I think some of them had some perks in there.
P: What would that be?
C: A pet project, or something like that.
P: That's what I was going to ask. Were there conflicts of interests? For
example, the guy from [Buckeye] Cellulose, they owned a lot of land,
and they might need a little extra water?
C: No, they had plenty of water down there in the swamp.
P: They may need less water. Would you feel that in some cases they
might vote where it would benefit their business?
C: There might have been one or two on the board that would probably
push their common interest. I think when they decided they wanted to
move the headquarters over here, I think there was some local interest.
FWM 6 Camp: Page 16
For instance, Bully Helviston is in the insurance business and other
businesses on the bank board. Wally Townsend was with the telephone
company and he'd like to have all of this over there. But they'd have had
it over there. I served on that North Florida Telephone Board for thirty-
one years. I served with Altell for a number of years.
P: So it's sort of a local pride, local interest
C: I don't think you could really point to anyone on that original board that I
worked on where personal interest overshadowed their community
P: Should the board members be appointed as is the case now or do you
think they should be elected.
C: Well, there's a big argument about that now. They say if you've got
taxing powers, they should be elected. I think you've got a stronger
board if they're appointed. That's my own opinion.
[End of side Al]
P: Why would an appointed board be stronger than an elected board?
C: Up in this rural country where we are, this district water management
board, Suwannee River Water Management Board, politics do enter into
everything. You have a lot of people that are not dedicated to the cause
like on the school board, just a deviation. We've got a school board up
here, we pay them $23,000 apiece to serve on the school board. That's
ridiculous. You're pulling people in and they end up with economic gain
on it. They don't care about the school. Go ahead, you've got
something else you want to add?
P: Yes. If there were a problem, if somebody either didn't do their job or
there were conflicts of interest, could you remove them from the board?
C: No, we couldn't remove them, but we could isolate them.
P: The governor could remove them.
C: The governor could, but he never did. Most of the time one of the
people in the governor's office would contact us about putting somebody
on the board. It wasn't a requirement, that was just occasionally that
P: When ELMS, 1973, this is the Land and Water Management Act, it
required a regional impact statement. Did you participate in those
FWM 6 Camp: Page 17
statements at all?
C: No. I think they were done at state level. They used our people.
P: You were consulted, obviously.
C: Yes, but we didn't have any real voice in it.
P: Did you purchase much land while you were [on board]?
C: Not any, no sir.
P: Was there no need to purchase land?
C: You mean for the board?
C: No, we didn't have the budget for it.
P: Later on, there are these Preservation 2000 and things like that, [where]
the state provides [funding].
C: That's where I disagree with what I did when I said that we put the
Suwannee River and it's tributaries, and you get all this big money in
here, and I've criticized this. I'll tell Jerry this. You get this money in
your hand and you feel like you've got to spend it. I sold them a little bit
up and down the river, but I didn't want to. I did it more or less because
it was an accommodation to them. I could have sold it to somebody else
for more money.
P: Do you think there's an important function for the state and water
management to preserve some of these pristine areas?
C: Yes I do, yes indeed.
P: Particularly, I guess, with [wetlands] mitigation and all of that, you want
to make sure that some of these lands are not going to be drained and
developed like they did it in the beginning of the state of Florida.
C: Where most people look at these boards and they look at what the
Water Management Act did, it's of short duration. In other words, they
said, oh, well, that's terrible. In twenty years they won't need it. Most
boards were created to take care of the future, it might be 1,000 years.
What you do here today may be effective 1,000 years from now.
P: Did you have anything to do with wetlands mitigation at all?
FWM 6 Camp: Page 18
P: What about in paying for water regulation. Were you concerned in your
tenure with the quality of the water?
P: How did you determine that?
C: Right about the time that I got off the board, we started taking samples
of the subterranean water and the well depth and all of that. We're just
beginning to get into that. I think the biggest capital of our labor was a
couple of pick-up trucks. I feel like that gets into a lot of things when you
start talking about the resource water itself. Where, life depends on
water, and if you don't have water that's of a quality that humans can
use and utilize and drink, and animals too, you've got a big problem.
P: So you do see water as a state resource?
C: Yes sir.
P: Particularly the aquifer.
C: Absolutely. I think we're going to have a real water fight in Florida.
Somebody from down the state one time-I wish I could find that thing
when I'm done in my office down there, I don't know what happened to
it-sent me a cartoon out of the paper. I think it was the Tampa Tribune.
What it had, it had a canal going down, did you ever see that? Going
right down Interstate-75 in the median. We send them water, they're
sending us garbage.
P: Well, as you know, you might comment on this, Governor Bush [Jeb
Bush, Florida governor, 1999-present] set up a state-wide water board.
Wouldn't that literally take away the regulatory control of the water
C: It could, if these people sleep on it. They might as well get ready to fight.
I want to tell you right now, a good source of water is going to be one of
the most important assets in a community. You see it everyday. It's not
that far away. You can see it in Gainesville, Florida.
P: Is it going to be, as this resource becomes more valuable, more
expensive? Water right now is cheap.
C: It could be but it shouldn't be. You can over-regulate anything, you know
FWM 6 Camp: Page 19
P: Would you ever favor a user fee?
C: Not now, but I think it's something you might have to depend on later on.
You're getting them in some of the other water management board
P: Of course, this particular district has plenty of water.
C: I'm not opposed to using it. If they could figure out the series or the low-
level dams, and this is just me, that they could impound that water all the
way up to the Georgia line and release that water as needed down
below. Low-level dams, not high-level. Then I would certainly feel like
we would have an obligation to those states down below that are hurting
for water to give them the surplus water rather than put it in the Gulf of
P: Or have it evaporate.
P: The problem would be at some point if it got to be a political issue.
C: That's what we're going to do, that's what it's going to be.
P: Because they need more water and you've got more water, so they want
to get it from you?
C: Right. But I don't know what the answer is to that. They've got the
political power based on population. They elect the governor. They
elect every state-wide office. They elect two United States Senators.
We do have a say in Congressmen. What would happen, we've got one
congressman from Jacksonville, which we vote on, and my side, and I
think the other, Boyd [U.S. Congressman]...
P: Alan Boyd.
C: Boyd's over there on the other side I don't know what it is. It's a
pretty slick deal.
P: If you were dealing with, let's say, a drought, what would you do about
watering? Would you issue a formal [regulation]?
C: Yes, if it was serious enough, yes sir. I'd stop it.
P: What would you normally do?
C: Depending on how drastic it was, but my first step would be to limit the
FWM 6 Camp: Page 20
consumption of water for aesthetic reasons, like lawns and highway
shoulders and all that kind of stuff. By the way, the highway road
department must have spent a half million dollars, maybe three-quarters
up there at our entrance. Do you know what they did? They're going to
have to hand-work everything up from that welcome station all the way
to the Georgia line. They had put more into it, but boy, that irrigation
was terrible. A waste of money. Those things would be the first. The
next thing I think would be agriculture and industry, depending on each's
requirements. You might say industry here because they need it for
certain things and agriculture over here.
P: You can't favor industry over farming.
C: No, it shouldn't. Then, of course, row crops should take favor over
pasture land. You really get into a good one there.
P: It's difficult to make some choices under those conditions. Would you, in
that particular case, go through the county commission? Would you
issue your own regulatory advice? How did you work it?
C: [I would] stay out of these little local courthouses. I've been here a long
time, and I know. Politics just, it's like a bucket of worms. They're just
teeming in these courthouses. Stay out of there.
P: How did you enforce your regulatory decrees?
C: How would we or how did we?
P: How did you?
C: Well, we didn't. We didn't really get into anything while I was on the
board now. After that, I don't know what they all did. I can't answer that
because I wasn't in that [position]. As I said, we really weren't doing a
lot except learning our way, feeling our way, when I was on the board.
P: How would they do it then? If they were into it now, they would have to
check to see if somebody was watering their lawn, [then] they could fine
them. You had the authority to [fine offenders]?
C: I don't know if they had the authority to fine them or not. I think they got
the authority to regulate it. Now, if they got the authority to regulate it,
they must have some penalty system that they could impose.
P: Did you do other things to encourage the conservation of water? Did
you talk to schools, did you encourage low-flow toilets?
FWM 6 Camp: Page 21
C: No, we didn't have any public relations offices.
P: Would you encourage low-flow toilets or anything like that?
C: South Carolina, I have a place in North Carolina, quickly I'll say this.
They built this new, fine, beautiful South Carolina welcoming station.
The federal law said they had to use those low-flow water things. They
had a big sign in the restrooms that said, please flush the toilet twice.
Because they were having too much trouble with it that they weren't
getting a clear flush. People would go and fill it full of paper and all that
kind of stuff. I mean, a big sign, as big as that wall. It's probably still
P: When you were dealing with the minimum flow for rivers and the
minimum-maximum flow for lakes, how did you judge that, minimum-
C: We weren't into that.
P: You didn't start that, okay. What did you do to protect the Florida
C: First thing we did was start well-permitting.
P: How about run-off? Were you concerned about that?
C: No. I would be concerned about that, but we were not. I forget what our
budget was. Our budget was so ridiculously low, you can't imagine. I
wish you'd look in those minutes and see what we had.
P: I know one time when you started it was something like $50,000. When
you first started.
C: Yeah, I think so.
P: You didn't have much to [work with]. One of the problems is that the
Suwannee flows out into the Gulf of Mexico. Can you control that flow
and make it consistent? Did you ever try to do that?
C: We did not try to do it, but I advocate low level damns.
P: At one point there was a proposal to develop a Suwannee River
Wilderness Trail. What was your position on that?
C: I felt like they went about it in the wrong manner. They didn't ask
anybody for permission. They took a hatchet and went about as close to
FWM 6 Camp: Page 22
the river as you could and blazed it like that and then sprayed some
paint on it. They had no authority. I put them off my land. Now, when
they came back, now that they've got that wilderness trail, it's properly
legislated, and it's properly supervised. You know, they're putting in
those cabins up there now. I think it's a great thing.
P: They would have campgrounds and access to fishing and that sort of
C: They're doing it, right now. At White Springs I think they've got five
cabins that are available this month.
P: This is the National Park Service?
C: No, this is state.
P: Something we talked about earlier is the property rights. Sometimes they
could go in and simply take that land. I think one time you proposed that
landowners could give people an easement.
C: A visual easement. I told you earlier about sitting on the other side of
the river and look out here and see nothing but trees.
P: You kicked them off your property, how do landowners respond to this
kind of thing?
C: I think if the people trying to do it recognize the rights of the landowners,
they've got half the battle won. To just go out there and do it ... that
was a commercial deal that I had my run in with. Somebody was selling
maps or something, running down the river blazing the pine trees and
your trees, spraying some paint of them.
P: Did you have much to do with supporting tourism in the Suwannee River,
the Stephen Foster memorial, and the folk festival, was the Water
Management Board involved?
C: The Water Management Board was not too involved with it. I was as an
P: Talk about some of the people that you were involved with during your
time at water management. You left in 1976, is that correct?
C: I think so.
P: One of the names that comes up is Maywood Chesson
FWM 6 Camp: Page 23
C: Yeah, Maywood Chesson. He was president of the Occidental. He was
an excellent public-spirited citizen. I remember one time we were in a
meeting, and they were talking about the run-off from Occidental. It was
in the water management board meeting, and I said, now wait a minute.
I know that pretty well biologically you kill that Swift Creek. But I said,
we're going to have to sacrifice something in order to have the assets
that the public community [gets] from the payrolls out there. I said, I
think we just ought to not make an issue of that. It's not that important,
it's just a small [thing]. Maywood jumped up and got on the other side.
And he was president of the company. He was very conscientious.
P: Of course, there's always this argument that the phosphate industry had
done so much environmental damage.
C: Yes. They bought a lot of phosphate from me. But I put in my contract
with them that they had to restore it a long time ago.
P: Another name that comes up is Aurley Rowell.
C: Aurley was very conscientious. He worked for Buckeye Cellulose. He's
an area man, lived down at Shady Grove. He's attentive during the
meetings and knowledgeable about forestry, which is an integral part of
the whole thing.
P: What other unforgettable characters did you come across?
C: Jerome Johns.
P: He was the vice chairman of the board at one time.
C: Yeah. He was broad-minded. You would be surprised that he would be.
Jerome had a genuine interest in the district at large. He was a good
P: I want to go back to something that we talked about earlier.
C: Finlayson, he was a good man. He and I very seldom agreed on
anything, but we worked it out.
P: When we talked about acquisition of land, I think you preferred rather
than just have fee-simple acquisition if you could somehow work out
some kind of conservation easement. Why would that be a preferable
C: First thing is every time the Suwannee River Management buys an acre
of land, it takes it off the tax roll. Because they feed something back
FWM 6 Camp: Page 24
whenever they get some revenue from that land. They split it up with the
counties and so forth, but basically that's it.
P: Plus it conserves the land.
C: They're doing a good job over here on one thing, and that is that on this
land that's been idle, the industry more or less passes by, they have
started re-forestation on it and it's going to be productive. They're doing
a good thing. Forest also helps retain water in the area. It uses it, but it
also retains it.
P: When you look at the early water management boards, what would you
say would be the biggest weaknesses when they started out, and what
would be their biggest strengths?
C: I think the strength is that relies on the core members, maybe the
officials/officers, and the weaknesses would be the fact that people get
on there just so they could be on there, but they didn't want to contribute
their time, they didn't want to contribute anything else. There are still
some of those.
P: What were your most difficult decisions when you were head of the
C: Well, they weren't difficult, but the most important decision we made was
hiring the executive directors. We did a good job of it, I thought.
P: What authority would you have over the executive director?
C: I was his boss. [laughter]. It wasn't really like that. He got along better
if he got along with me, I'll put it that way.
P: The board would have to approve the hiring.
C: Oh yeah. We had a committee that selected that. We had a committee
that selected our first attorney, which is Tom Brown, who's still here. I
recommended him. We had a committee that hired the director and
things like that. The director was in charge of hiring personnel. You
know, same deal.
P: Were you ever affected by the Sunshine Law?
C: Yeah. We were subject to it. We might have violated that thing one
time. When they voted to move here [to Live Oak], we went to see the
individuals, Jerome Johns and I did, to talk to them about it. Jerome was
chairman, but I wasn't [on the board]. We were probably pretty close to
FWM 6 Camp: Page 25
the fringe on that one, but I never had thought of it before. [The] statute
of limitations has already run out on that one.
P: [Laughter.] You're okay. That didn't inhibit your work at all?
C: No, not really.
P: What about the board members, shouldn't there be term limits?
P: What were the terms when you started? How many years would you
C: I don't remember mine, but I would say that a fellow could succeed
himself one time. In other words, you appoint him for four years, and so
therefore eight years would be the term limit on it. That would be my
P: Did you apply for federal funding or federal grants while you were there?
C: No we did not.
P: Did you have any dealings with federal agents other than the Army
Corps of Engineers.
C: Well, of course that wildlife deal we did. We had a lot of dealings with
them on that. Wild Scenic River, they called it.
P: When all this started out, I don't know if you remember this, but you
know, at one point there was a sixth water management district. I don't
know if you were aware of that.
C: I don't recall it.
P: There was land that was ultimately divided up between Swiftmud and
South Florida. You didn't have anything to do with it.
C: I think they did a good job in creating those water management districts
because the natural condition of the area of each one of them seemed to
be pretty well defined. For instance, in South Florida, down there,
Swiftmud and the other one, they've got the same common problems
most of us have. Except for the ridge country down there where the
P: I found this. The first budget of the Suwannee River Water Management
FWM 6 Camp: Page 26
District, 1974 is $50,000.
C: That's right.
P: The current budget is $46,000,000. What would you have done with all
C: I would of held it. I'm going to have to terminate this thing. I have to
pick up my wife. I'm sorry about it.
P: Can I ask two final questions? How would you like to be remembered in
terms of your contributions to water management?
C: I'd hope I used good judgement. If they think I used good judgement,
that would be all I'd expect.
P: What was your opinion, I think you had to work with Tommy Clay, did
you not, with St. John's? I don't know if you remember.
C: We did have to work with him once. We met with him once. I doubt if he
was director then. That's when we decided to define the boundary there
on the St. Mary's River.
P: Is there anything that we haven't discussed that you would like to talk
C: No, not really, but if you'd go back and find out that we've omitted some
things, and then you want to, we can have another meeting. If I could
have gotten a hold of you before you started coming down, I would have
stopped you this morning. This other is a very important physical matter
to my wife. I've got to do something for her. They're working me in up
there at Valdosta at 2:40.
P: On that note, we'll conclude the interview. I want to thank you for your
C: Yes sir.
[End of Interview.]