Title: Interview with Mr. John Finlayson
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00072687/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Mr. John Finlayson
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: July 7, 2005
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Bibliographic ID: UF00072687
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: FWM 12

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Full Text


This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
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Fair use limts the amount of material that may be

For all other permissions and requests, contact the
the University of Florida

H: It is July 7, 2005. I am in the home with Mr. John Finlayson. Thank you very
much for agreeing to meet about the Florida Water Management project. I think
the best way to organize this is to start with your personal experience with the
water management districts. After that we'll sort of move on to some broader

F: We're talking ten or eleven years. I don't know just where you want to start.

H: We'll start from the beginning. I guess that's the best way to go. Maybe even
start with where and when you were born, just for the general reader.

F: I was born December 4, 1927 in Monticello, Florida. I lived there through the third
grade and then we moved to Pensacola, and I graduated from high school in
Pensacola in 1945, [from] Pensacola High School. From there I joined the U.S.
Navy, right at the end of World War II. I joined the Naval Aviation Program and
they sent me to Georgia Tech for college. Before I could even get enrolled at
Tech, the Japanese heard I'd joined and they quit. [Laughter]

H: They weren't ready to take your military might.

F: No, they weren't ready for anything like that. Then from Georgia Tech the Navy
sent me to the University of Florida, where I went to ag [agriculture] school for
one year, and then they had so many pilots they didn't need any more and they
discharged me. They'd given me two years of college. Then I finished up my
college with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the University of Florida. I
came back to the farm where we are now that was settled back in 1838, by my

H: Is that right? So this is all family land?

F: Right. It's been in the family. He actually got it from an earlier relative, a great-
great-great uncle that entered it from the U.S. government back in the 1820s.

H: What do you farm here?

F: We're in the cattle business now. It started out as a cotton plantation in 1838.
Then when I graduated from the University of Florida, my major was plant
breeding, my father and I went into the seed business. We were in the hybrid
seed corn business and the hybrid popcorn business. We stayed in that
business until they raised the minimum wage to one dollar an hour. We were
using a lot of kids to de-tassel corn, and what they did under that then-current
corn price, it wouldn't earn one dollar an hour. We had to go out of the seed
business when they raised that wage. It took several years for the price to raise
up after the cost went up. We didn't have the financial backing to stay in it. My
son now runs a place that's about nine hundred and fifty acres and he has a herd

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 2

of grade Angus beef cattle. He is trying to hit a niche market. He's not quite
organic with it, but he's raised them with no pesticides and no antibiotics and
things like that.

H: More natural than the normal beef.

F: Natural beef is what we're going for. He's developing a niche market, primarily in
Tallahassee. I guess that gets us pretty well up to date on the place. Both of my
sons live on this farm and all of my grandchildren live here. They can walk to my
house. My wife and I feel like we're the most blessed people anywhere, and
there's no other word for it but blessed.

H: You've got your own place but you've got them close by. That's awful neat.

F: Back to the water management, which is what you wanted to talk about, when I
was in high school I had a paper route for the Pensacola News Journal. One of
my cohorts that also had a route at that time was Reubin Askew [Democrat,
elected Governor of Florida in 1970.] When Reubin became governor, I
supported him and helped Reubin and Tom Adams [Lieutenant Governor] get in
by being on their committee in this county. Then when they started appointing
water management board of government members, his patronage committee
called me and asked me if I would like to be on the water management
committee. I had already testified before the Senate that I didn't want to be in the
Suwannee River Water Management District, I wanted to be in the Northwest
where the milage was .05 instead of one mil like it was here.

H: You wanted to stay away from those taxes.

F: I said, I'd rather have a dollar's worth of service for a nickel than a nickel's worth
of service for a dollar. Governor Graham, then Senator Graham, he said they
were not going to use man's boundaries, they were going to use God's
boundaries, which they didn't quite do. [Laughter] I was left in the Suwannee
River district and then they contacted me, and asked me if I would like to be on
the board. I was not on the original board, but I think I was the first one
appointed that was not on the original board.

H: I have it as 1977 as when you went on board, is that right?

F: Is that what I put down?

H: Yes.

F: That's what it is.

H: What was your experience with environmental and water issues at that point as a

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 3

cattleman and as a farmer?

F: We were one of the first farms in this area to go to irrigated crops because of our
seed business. I knew that in the future, as more and more people came to
Florida, and as more and more farmers irrigated, that water was going to become
a limiting factor, unless we made plans for the use of water. Of course, under
Chapter 373, that's the purpose of the Water Management District, to establish
beneficial and useful uses of water. That's what it was. I was interested in it
from that standpoint. Also, I'm the cheapest fellow in Jefferson County. I wanted
to keep our taxes low. The Water Management Districts had the ability to levy
taxes, and I thought it was fine to levy them if they needed them, but there wasn't
any point in levying more than they needed. That was a motivating factor for me.

H: You wanted to sort of be a fiscal watchdog while you were on there.

F: Absolutely. I'm just as cheap with tax money as I am with my money.

H: In 1977, what exactly did the term "water management" mean?

F: We had Chapters 373 that Buddy Blaine was the primary author of. Buddy and I
were fraternity brothers down at the University of Florida. It gave pretty broad
powers, and we had to get together and decide how to use those powers to be
most beneficial and least costly, and that's where I was heavily involved. I got on
the budget committee first thing, and after that I was the chairman of the budget
committee for the rest of the time I was on the Water Management Board. Don
Morgan was the executive director and Buddy Camp was the chairman of the
board at that time, and they came along with this open government that you had
to report your income at that time, I think it's still that way, you had to report your
sources of income but not the amounts. That was no problem for me. Several of
them got off [the board]. They didn't even want to report sources.

Then, Governor Graham came along and he wanted you to give your
income tax form, and give amounts and that sort of thing, all about your income,
which I thought was a little bit intrusive. I declined to do that. I was glad to
comply with the law, but he wanted to go past the law. He failed to appoint me. I
had been appointed for part of a term and one term, and he failed to appoint me
for my next term. My other term said that I would serve until someone was
appointed to take my place, and he couldn't find anybody in the district that
wanted to take my place. I served four years without an appointment, which
tickled Herb Morgan nearly to death.

H: Was that because people were so impressed with the job that you were doing or
nobody else wanted to do it?

F: I don't know. I never did enter into it. His appointment secretary was Matthews, I

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 4

can't think of her first name right now. I went up to the governor's office and she
said, you've got a problem. I said, how is that, Gwen? She said, you haven't
filled this form out. I said, no, I don't have a problem. You have a problem. I'm
not going to fill it out. That was kind of the way it went. We had a lot of fun. It
was interesting to me.

H: I guess from your vantage point you were probably pretty closely following in
1972 when the Water Resources Act passed, when it was first established.

F: Yes, that was Chapter 373.

H: What was your impression of that, even though you weren't yet on the board?

F: I didn't know much about it until I got on the board. I knew it existed, but I didn't
know much about it. When I got on the board I was amazed at the power that
went to the Water Management Districts. They had more power over my life and
everybody else's than I ever had any idea that they would. Their ability to
regulate the water also gave them the ability to regulate the land as well. It's
tremendous power in the ability to regulate. I was glad that I was on it.

H: As I understand it, it was in September, 1971 when the first levy started bringing
in money for the district. Had you been opposed to that levy?

F: I had been against it. In fact, if you study it, you find out that almost all of North
Florida voted against it and most of the state voted against it, but Dade County
had enough votes to carry it. It came from the water shortage areas, which is not
surprising. We had plenty of water. We didn't feel like we needed to regulate
nearly to the point that they did. Of course, at that time, there were enough votes
in Dade County to carry it. I was opposed to it as [were] the majority of the
people in this area.

H: Is that sort of an ongoing theme in your term at the Water Management District
between the North Florida and then the water-starved areas?

F: They're always talking about the water wars and they're going to ship all the
water to the south. There are a lot of people who think that they'll do it. My
opinion is that it's cheaper for them to find water other ways, than it is to build the
infrastructure needed to take it to the south. If it were cheaper to take our water,
they have the votes and the political power to do it. The marvelous efficiencies
they've made in reverse osmosis in desalinating water. Its going to be cheaper to
desalinate than it is to build that infrastructure and transfer it. It's really an
economic question rather than a political question. If they want it, they can come
get it.

H: You think that technology will ameliorate this problem down the road?

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 5

F: I think it already is. It's economics. Technology is making it cheaper to
desalinate water than it is to transfer the water.

H: It's the bottom line.

F: This is not based on any scientific study, it's just what I think.

H: Fair enough. How is the relationship between the water management districts
that you served on and the legislatures in Tallahassee?

F: We had a great relationship when I was there. Suwannee River Water
Management District had the smallest tax base. It's based on ad valorem taxes.
You can do up to a mill of ad valorem taxes. Every other water management
district in the state, the other four, had at least one county with more ad valorem
tax base than our whole district. Don Morgan made an appointment with
Governor Graham. We went over there and explained it to Governor Graham,
our situation being that we had to regulate a large area, but we didn't have a lot
of tax base. He said that if we went to the legislature and got the appropriation
that he wouldn't oppose it. He saw our problem and he knew that we had a job
to do and we had to have money to do it. So Don and I went over and talked to
Herb Morgan, who was the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Herb grew up in this county and we explained it to him. He said that he would
put a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar appropriation in there if we would
explain what we were going to do with that money.

We explained it rather simply that we were going to cut our ad valorem
taxes in half, and let the taxpayers in this district have that money and do what
they wanted with it. He was very conservative, as I am, and he said, well, if
that's what you're going to do with it, we'll get it done. He talked to the people in
the Senate and when they did the conference committee on the budget to
reconcile it, it went through. I think it's still in the budget. That was enough
money at that time to operate our district for one quarter of the year. Our budget
committee, we always wound up the year with two hundred and fifty thousand
dollars in the bank, where we could operate for one quarter while we looked for
other sources of income in case they cut that out of the budget.

H: That's a pretty sound fiscal plan.

F: It's cheap, that's what it is. I'm the cheapest guy you're going to talk to. They
asked me if I was a fiscal conservative when I went on the board. I said, no, I'm
cheap. Way past conservative. [Laughter.]

H: You think that there was a good relationship with the legislatures?

F: We were doing a good job, both Senate committees and House committees

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would come and look at what we were doing, and what it was costing. We never
got anything but good reports from them. We had a great relationship with the
legislature the whole time that I was on the board. I assume it still is, but I've
been off of it for a good while.

H: Talk a little bit about the influence, since we're talking about the confluence
between the districts and the legislatures, what role did lobbyists play in terms of

F: We were the lobbyists.

H: You were lobbying?

F: Yes, that's what I was doing when I went over there to talk, the whole board went
and talked to the governor, and then Don and I went and talked to the chairman
of the House of Appropriations Committee.

H: You paid lobbyists?

F: No, we didn't. Our district didn't. Others did. Buddy Blaine was paid by some of
them. Don was paid. He was our executive director. Don was a superb lobbyist.
When he saw that he could use one of us through a personal relationship, we
became lobbyists and lobbied for the district.

H: I know that you had said that your relationship with Askew went pretty far back.
Were you involved in politics aside from Askew's campaign, or is that how you
really got involved?

F: Not too much. I've been involved somewhat in LeRoy Collins's [Florida governor
from 1955 to 1961] campaign. I guess Dan McCarty [elected Florida in Governor
in 1952], but not too much since then.

H: As you look back at the actual issues and situations that you were dealing with
when you were on the district, certainly taxes were foremost, what were
particular issues or situations that you thought were [important]?

F: They were mostly regulatory, because that's the primary function of the district.
The first thing we did was we required permits for drilling wells. That was the first
thing that we did, or one of the first things. Then the next thing, one of the big
issues that came up was consumptive use permits. Of course, as a farmer and
an irrigator, I was very much involved and interested in that. When we started
talking about consumptive use permits, my farmer friends said you're going away
from home. That's crazy. We want to be exempt from it. I said, hold on a
minute. Let's look at this thing. The farmers in Georgia had become exempt
from consumptive use permits. They were exempted, and when the drought

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 7

came, guess whose water they cut off? They cut off the exempt people.

What I convinced my friends and what sold me on the water use permit,
once you get a consumptive use permit from the Water Management District,
they're guaranteeing you that water to use. They defend the use of that water.
Somebody wants to cut it off and they go to court, the Water Management
District has to defend that permit. So it's much more than a regulatory thing. It
gives you a vested right to use that water. Once my friends got onto that, they
saw it wasn't a bad thing. It was going to be regulated, there was no way around
that. To get a permit and have your water guaranteed is great. We did it for a
very low cost at that time. I don't remember exactly. I was very pleased with the
regulation that we came up with. Our farm holds permit number one for
consumptive use in the Suwannee River Water Management District. That was a
big thing. It was something that sounded bad, but once you got into it and
understood it, it was good. Not only for the state, but for the user as well. It
worked out good. That was one of the things that we did. Then we put in a
works of the district rule, to control some of the development along the
Suwannee River. Then we got into the surface water management rule. This is
where the water management takes over the regulation of your land. One of the
first things we did is we exempted residencies from it. But if you put up a building
on a parking lot or something, you had to put in a retention pond so that that
water couldn't go directly from that building right straight in to a natural water
body. It would have to be held and help prevent flooding and pollution.

Then we went way past that, the surface water rule did, we went to a
meeting down in Cross City, and the meeting was very controversial. We had
great public participation. Auley Rowell and I rode down together, we saw one of
the deputy sheriffs there and I backed my car in, I said, I'm going to have this
where we can get out of here in a hurry, if we needed to. The deputy said, well,
we're going to look out for you. We got in there and it was a very, very rancorous
meeting. People didn't want to be regulated. They didn't understand that we
were trying to institute non-structural flood control. We had seen the structural
flood control and how much it cost in South Florida. The simplest idea is just not
to let people build where it's going to flood and have non-structural control.
People didn't want us telling them that they couldn't build on their land. I have a
little bit of that feeling, too. We did it in such a way, they can build on it, but they
would have to raise the first habitable floor one foot above the one hundred year
flood. Of course, they didn't know how it was going to work out. During the
course of the meeting, they started accusing us of being Communist. We kind of
took that [in stride]. Then a little later in the meeting they said we were Fascists.
I could stand that a little bit. Then one fellow said, you bunch of bureaucrats! I
couldn't stand that. I said, you can call me a Communist or a Fascist, but I'm not
a bureaucrat.

H: They were trying to get a reaction out of you.

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 8

F: Yeah, they got a good reaction.

H: Given that you had some sort of sympathy for their perspective, how did you
explain? How did you justify what you were doing to them?

F: Just like I told you, if they build it where it floods, who is it going to cost? It's
going to cost them either directly or through a raise in insurance. If we had it
where it can't flood, who is it going to save money for? It's going to save money
for everybody. It was a good idea that was sort of difficult to explain to a fellow,
that we're going to tell you how to use your property. It still kind of rankles me a
little bit, but I see that it's for the public benefit; the individual as well as the public
in general. That's kind of how it came to be.

H: It seems a little bit tricky because on the one hand you have this perspective that
the government should really keep its hands off, but through your experience and
through studying the issues, you also see that they can preserve rights. I'm sure
that's a warring complex within you.

F: I still have mixed feelings about how far government can go to protect everybody
from everything. You see, it's impossible. You know it is. Then, how far do you
need to go? That's when it gets quite interesting. That meeting was very
interesting. It was really funny.

H: What other issues [were there]? Certainly, constantly monitoring the tax
situation, the regulation, any other issues stick out in your mind as particularly
important during your tenure?

F: Yes, the normal levels and flows. They kept talking about people from South
Florida coming in to get our water. We had to establish a base line. They were
talking about taking the water out of the Suwannee River, and pumping it to
Tampa. We had to establish a base line as to where the least level of water
could be, without affecting adversely the environmental function of the river. We
had to do a good many studies on levels and flows to establish that base line.
They're still doing some work down in the mouth of the river where they flow into
the Gulf. That's where the fish nurseries are, where the little shrimp are raised
and the little fish. They need water that's not fresh and it's not real salty. It takes
a certain amount of fresh water flowing into those marshes to keep those
nurseries viable. That was another reason we needed the levels and flows.

The next thing that we went into was the Save Our Rivers [campaign]. We
had to go over and lobby Herb Morgan again. They took that off of the
documentary stamp tax that's on the transfer of property. Herb was a realtor at
the time and we explained to him what we wanted to do. He said, well, I'm a
realtor, but I see the good that will come out of this and I support it. We got Save
Our Rivers, that was SOR, then Save Our Coast (SOC), and Don Morgan and I

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 9

got the idea that they ought to have the SEE Bill. They had Save Our Rivers and
Save Our Coast, this was Save Everything Else. We never could get it passed.

H: You didn't find a lot of support for that bill, huh?

F: No, none at all. It was kind of fun.

H: I understand that was a joke, but did that betray a sense that all these bills ? ? ?

F: It wasn't all together a joke. There were initials all over the board of things that
they were trying to pass that were similar to that, to Save Our Rivers and Save
Our Coast. We were just saying, don't bother with all of that multitude of
alphabetical spaghetti. Just have SEE and that will take care of it all.

H: You had maybe a sense that each one of these initiatives, it was getting ahead of
itself. First the rivers, then the coast.

F: They were beginning to take it too far, in my opinion. Save Our Rivers has
worked out very well. We were very careful [with] the land that we bought. We
put a priority on the floodplain, on these rivers. We didn't want to develop in the
flood plain because of our non-structural flood control. My pitch was, if you're
going to tell a fellow that he can't use that land, let's just buy his land. That went
over well. I wasn't the only one that had that idea, but it was a saleable idea. If
you're going to regulate the flood plain and not let the man use it, just buy it.
That was the focus of Save Our Rivers. It's worked out well.

H: Did that soften some of the criticisms from a meeting such as this in terms of the
people reacting?

F: It helped, yes. If you don't want to be regulated, sell it to us. We did not use the
threat of regulation to try to depress the price. We used an appraised price that
was as close to market price as we could get.

H: [Was it] independently appraised?

F: We hired independent appraisers. We didn't do the appraisal. It still takes two
appraisals in order to buy a tract of land.

H: You were talking earlier about having to digest all this scientific information
because of water levels and preserving fish, nurseries, and hatcheries, and all
that stuff. Talk a little bit about the process of having to deal with all that
scientific information.

F: We had people on staff. We had hydrologists and biologists and the people that

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 10

we needed, but then what we would do on these studies on the levels of flows,
we would decide the information needed and then we would hire the U.S.
Geological Survey to get that information. They are better equipped to do that
than anybody else in the world. Then we would hire a company to do a biological
assay of what we had, and how the system works. We didn't try to put
everybody on staff that we needed to do everything. We had enough on staff to
figure out what we needed. Then we would contract that out, and we didn't have
to build up a big staff to do it. We would pay for it and then we would find
another problem that we needed done by experts, rather than hire the experts.

H: You tried to keep it project-oriented.

F: We would keep it oriented where we spent money one time. We didn't ramp up
staff to do it continually.

H: That makes sense. From your perspective, was keeping up on all this
paperwork, all these scientific reports?

F: It took a lot more of my time than I ever thought it would. We would have an inch
or two of paper for every monthly meeting. If you're going to make decisions,
you want them to be informed decisions and it took a good bit of time. It did. It
takes even more now, because you know the computer came along to eliminate
paperwork, and when they got the computer in place, the next thing we had to do
was build four rooms to hold the paper that it generated.

H: It's quadrupled it.

F: That was supposed to eliminate paperwork, but it actually multiplied it. I'm sure
they've got more than they can read now.

H: What sort of satisfaction did you get out of serving on the board, because you're
not paid.

F: The personal relationships with the board members were very rewarding and
with the staff and in general, with the public. They understood that we were
trying to do a job that would give them the most service with the least intrusion, at
the least price. They understood this and we had great cooperation. It was fun.
In fact, if it wasn't fun, I wouldn't play. Auley Rowell and I--he was the chairman
and I became the vice chairman--Auley's probably my best friend now. We
learned to work together and trust each other. The personal relationships, plus
the satisfaction of thinking that we were doing a good job.

H: What other board members did you really have good working relationships with?

F: With all of them. There was one of them, he was a strong environmentalist and I

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 11

was not what they call an environmentalist. I'm all for a good environment, but I
see it a little differently] from some of the more radical environmentalists. We
had a good time being in opposition to each other.

H: What was his name, do you remember?

F: Oh shoot, I'm having a senior moment. Do you have a list of the board

H: Not off hand, actually, but you can fill it in later if it comes back to you and you
see the transcripts.

F: I saw him not long ago. Margie, do you remember the board member's name
that taught at the University of Florida?

H: John DeGrove?

F: No, he worked under John some. Go down a step. Of course, John and I didn't
see eye to eye on things. We saw them from a very different perspective.

H: I'm sure we can come up with it later.

F: Anyway, occasionally we would agree on something, and both of us would then
agree that we needed to reexamine our position; something must be wrong.

[Wife Margie Finlayson in background] Earl Starnes.

F: Earl Starnes. Earl and I were very good friends but we had very different view
points. I think that was helpful.

H: To create a tension.

F: Yes. Neither one of us would let the other one by with anything. When you took
his view, he always sat over on this side of the board, which he said was the
Right. I said, well, the audience sees you as the extreme Left. I considered
myself on the Right and him on the Left. When you got between us somewhere,
you've got a real good solution. That was a fun thing.

H: Talk a little more about the differences you had. How did you approach
protecting the environment verses his approach?

F: I was more [of] a minimalist and he wanted complete control of it. That was from
my viewpoint. Of course, his viewpoint of what he wanted was probably different.
Since that time, he's built a house in Cedar Key. When he went through that
permitting process it opened his eyes. He has a little different viewpoint than he

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 12

did when we were making all those rules.

H: He changed his tune a little bit.

F: A little bit. I saw him a few weeks ago, and we laughed about that. Occasionally
we'd get at logger heads, we couldn't go anywhere. Auley Rowell would call a
recess for us to go to the bathroom. While Earl and I went to the bathroom in the
sunshine, we would kind of thrash it out and come to some sort of a compromise.
It was amicable. We didn't fuss and holler and yell at each other. We just
expressed our interests differently. The fellow that wrote Robert's Rules of Order
would be really interested-that was supposed to control our meeting, Robert's
Rules of Order- occasionally, I would make up some really good rules of order
that favored my position. I found out that if you stated it real authoritatively
nobody bothered to look it up. [Laughter]

H: Nobody's actually read Robert's Rules of Order.

F: I got away with it a time or two by making up some rules of order.

H: What about some other people you worked closely with on the board? Any other
names stick out in your memory?

F: I enjoyed working with John Wershow. He was an attorney. I enjoyed Don
Morgan, the executive director. He was the absolute epitome of an outstanding
bureaucrat. He was just great. He was a bureaucrat but kept the citizenry in
mind. He wanted it to work to the advantage of the general public. He was
great. Our attorney, Tom Brown, also was good. We had a black man on there
named Sam Thompson. He was about my age and he came up during the time
of segregation and all. We had a good relationship. I enjoyed Sam. I just really
enjoyed everybody on the board. Lynetta Griner came along later. She was
good. Bob Miller was a good one. We had to build a headquarters while I was
on the board. I had an airplane at that time. I flew three or four of the board
members, we'd go look at other headquarter's buildings and interestingly enough
we didn't find out what we needed, but we found out what didn't work. That was
kind of interesting, too. We built the current building in Live Oak that they've
since expanded on. Live Oak was a fairly centrally located [place].

One of the reasons that we built it there, they gave us a beautiful piece of
land to build it on, and the two bankers there, Buddy Knot and, oh shoot,
anyhow, there were two banks there and they came to invite us to Live Oak.
When the two competitors could get together and come hand in hand to make
the invitation, it was very impressive. Claude Craps was the other one. It was
real impressive. We did vote to go to Live Oak. We went to temporary quarters
up in White Springs at an old motel that they had changed around. It was a good
move. It worked fine for us. Our land buying program, the first land we bought

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 13

was a Brunswick tract. It belonged to Brunswick Pulp and Paper Company. It
was down near Cedar Key and it had joined the National Wildlife Refuge down
there. We bought it and they paid us back for it. We just transferred it to them.
Then, let's see what paper company it was, it owned the land up there in Santa
Fe Swamp. I forget which one it was.

H: Not St. Joe's?

F: No, it was huge nationally.

H: Buckeye?

F: No. I'll think of it after a while. Santa Fe Swamp had a huge peat deposit in it,
right there in Santa Fe Lake. They came to us for a permit to mine the peat. We
were in a position where we could issue that permit, as long as they went within
the conditions that we set on the permit. A bunch of people came from around
Santa Fe Lake. They said, oh, they didn't want to mine that peat. They didn't
want to mess with that peat. Georgia Pacific is who it was. I said, well, y'all like
that lake, Santa Fe Lake. You really like that lake. They said, it's great. I said,
well, how would you like to double the size of it? They didn't think too much
about that.

We kept bickering with Georgia Pacific, [and] we wound up with them
giving us Santa Fe Swamp, [about] five thousand acres. The first land we bought
the federal government paid us back the money. Then the second parcel we got
them to give it to us. They could deduct the value of that peat. They got a great
tax deduction by donating it and having it appraised through the value of the
peat. Under the law, they could have mined it. We could have doubled the size
of it. I told Don Morgan that we had pretty good luck. We got a bargain from the
Brunswick company and Georgia Pacific gave us five thousand acres. I wanted
to go out and find somebody to pay us to take the land. He had done good, but
we needed somebody to pay us to take the land.

H: I'm going to take this opportunity to flip the tape over.

[End of Tape A, Side 1.]

F: One time we took a field trip down to the South Florida Water Management
District, and they were showing us all these big diesel pumps they would use to
regulate the water down there. They asked me what kind of operation did we
have in the Suwannee River Water Management District? I said, well, I'll just use
the Suwannee River, God made it and gravity runs it. That's all there is to it. We
don't buy any diesel fuel, it doesn't cost anybody anything. We found out that the
diesel pump we were looking at, the budget for diesel fuel in that district was
bigger than our whole budget. So we felt really good about that.

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 14

H: Do you think that using that example, was that a difference in mentality between
your district and theirs, or did they just have a different set of missions?

F: No, it's a difference in geography, to begin with. It started out as the South
Florida Flood Control District. They were not using non-structural. They were
making structures and pumping water. That's what it took. They're flat. We're
hilly. Gravity can't run theirs, because it won't go anywhere. It was a difference
in geography, it was a difference in need, and it was a difference in philosophy as
well. It was all of that.

H: You've talked about how great the executive director was of the Suwannee River
WMD. Talk about the relationship between the board and the staff. How did that
function in terms of day-to-day operations?

F: It was primarily through the executive director. We hired him and he hired the
staff. We tried to stay out of that as much as we could because my feeling was,
if he's got to work [with] them, he ought to hire them. If it doesn't work out, we
don't need to fire all the staff, we need to fire the executive director and get
another one. It did work out very well. Don was excellent at finding good staff,
and excellent at getting good product out of the staff. He was an excellent
executive. He did a good job. As I say, he was the best bureaucrat I ever saw.
He didn't try to pad his budget. He tried to keep a tight budget. When we built
the new building, we built it for forty-one employees. We said, we're not going to
have any more employees. You can do what you want to. Don was in
agreement with this. They kept it at that as long as he was there. They did more
programs and all, but they kept what I'd call a minimal staff that was well
compensated. They worked hard and did a good job.

H: This might be a little bit of a tangent, but how did the Sunshine Laws [open
government laws allowing for the public's right of access to governmental
meetings and records] effect the [Water Management District]?

F: It just made it harder to do anything. I couldn't talk to other board members
about problems unless it was at a scheduled meeting where the press was
invited. Don used that quite a bit. He would invite one reporter or something like
that, and then we could sit around and talk. That reporter, he could report
anything he wanted to. It made it a lot easier than having very formal meetings.
When your meetings get too formal, it slows your thought processes and your
action way back. I think it's good for the public to know what's going on-and this
is me personally-but I think if you appoint good people, you ought to have a little
trust in them. I agree that it ought to be open, but I feel it can be taken to

H: How did you feel about the reporters who were covering water management

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 15

F: They did a good job.

H: You thought it was an accurate representation of the issues you were dealing

F: They did the best they could. Of course, it would depend on how good the
reporter was, [and] how good his product was. I didn't find fault with what they

[Interruption in tape]

H: What I'd like to do now, Mr. Finlayson, is ask you one by one about the
relationship of the Water Management District with other entities; governmental
or private. First of all, how did the Suwannee River coexist with the other districts
in Florida?

F: It was a good relationship. We had meetings together once a year where all the
board members and the executive directors met together. During the legislature
the executive directors lobbied both for water management in general, and [for]
their specific districts. They got [to the point] where they worked together and
never did, to my knowledge, work at cross purposes. It was very smoothly done.
They would pick different districts to handle different thorny issues. For
instance, we were the first district to do the surface water rule. After we did it,
they took that overlay, and put it on the other districts. It made it much simpler.
Other things the other districts took the lead on, for instance, every district didn't
have to reinvent the wheel on every topic. It was very efficiently done, in my

H: How did the various governmental district administrations approach your district?
Did you see a difference, for example, between Askew and Graham?

F: Yes. It was an evolving thing, the districts. It started under Askew and Graham,
was real strong on the Sunshine Law, as I told you. Gwen Matthews told me that
I had to sign that and I told her I wasn't willing to do it. I would do what the law
required, but I wouldn't go past it. Then when Martinez [Bob Martinez, fortieth
governor of Florida, served from 1987-1991] came in, the Republicans got really
excited and they wanted their own people in. Martinez made a rule that you
couldn't serve more than two terms on the Board of Governors, and then you'd
have to be replaced. Auley and I and several of the others had served our two
terms, and I made the statement that I didn't feel too bad about being a two-term
water management Board of Governor, fired by a one-term governor because I
didn't think he was going to be there. As it worked out, that's exactly what
happened. It's more political at that point than it had been in the past. Askew
and Graham tried to appoint people that they thought would do a good job,
regardless of political affiliation.

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 16

H: When you say political you mean party partisanship.

F: Yes, partisanship, that's what I mean. They wanted to appoint their own
members of the board, and as time had gone by the governors had taken a more
active role in trying to tell the boards how to run it, which I think is
counterproductive. The reason they have the board is so they can have
differences between districts, because of the different geography and the
different amount of water and the different uses and all. Then for the governor to
try to put people on there and tell them how to do it, it sort of defeats the purpose
of having water management boards. Each governor has gotten a little stronger
in that. I was on the Water Management Study Commission that was appointed
by Governor Chiles [Lawton M. Chiles, Democrat, served from 1991 to 1998]. I
got one thing passed that I think is helpful in that they could appoint the whole
board back then, and we got it changed to where they could never appoint the
majority of the board at one time. It gives continuity to the board when you can't
appoint them all at once. You just turn it over to the staff when all are appointed
at one time. If the staff is going to run it, you don't need a board. That's what I
used to tell Earl Starnes, [that] he ought to just write them a letter and say, I
move the staff recommendation. Of course, I was teasing Earl.

H: You intended that measure as sort of a stop-gap against this partisanship?

F: It's something to give continuity to the board, and keep the bureaucracy from
taking over the running of the Water Management District. It was passed by the
legislature, that recommendation, and I feel that it has served a very useful

H: Just so that I'm clear, this was in the mid-1990s, the district review board?

F: Yes, the Water Management Review Board.

H: [Did] any other significant items come from that review?

F: There were a good many more, but that was my primary goal when I got on
there, was to fix it where the board had continuity. Phil Lewis was the chairman
of that, and he was instrumental in passing Chapter 373. Then I had ten or
eleven years of experience on the Water Management Board. It was helpful.
People would come up with ideas that looked good that I could explain wouldn't
work. They would come up with other ideas that I could affirm, and I think my
experience was helpful in that. The final report we had, I thought, was in general

H: You mentioned that Bob Graham was preoccupied with the Sunshine Law

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 17

F: He wasn't preoccupied with it, he was just more aware of it. He still appointed
good people and all. He was interested in how the thing worked. I forget which
governor they called Mr. Clean, but they really went to extreme with the Sunshine

H: Did he and Askew have a similar approach in terms of hands-on dealings with
the districts?

F: They didn't have an awful lot. They had some. In our district Askew had little to
none. We weren't far enough along. Graham helped us. When we needed help,
we could go to him and he would help us. He was more concerned with Lake
Okeechobee and the Everglades, and had a lot more hands on to do with south
Florida and the southwest. Our district was fairly problem-free. They had
problems and he needed to be involved in those and was involved.

H: What about the relationship between Suwannee Water Management District and
various environmental groups?

F: We had a fairly good relationship. Our land-buying program-I might have
overstated this-we had one environmentalist who will remain nameless, she
never saw a piece of land that she didn't think the state ought to own, because
every time we bought something she felt good about it and affirmed it. They
wanted much stricter surface water rules than we were willing to implement.
They wanted to implement strict rules on isolated wetlands, for instance. They
said that certain species of frogs needed those isolated wetlands to reproduce
and all this stuff. I suggested that if they get a security light and a mud puddle to
attract insects, they could get all the frogs they wanted in that one puddle and
they wouldn't need puddles scattered all over the place. It was kind of in jest, but
we never did get too involved in isolated wetlands. They were disappointed.
Probably somewhere between my mud puddle and their isolated wetlands, reality

H: When you say they, which groups in particular did you interact with? Any
particular people?

F: There was a local group [that had] something to do with the Suwannee River.
Friends of Suwannee, or Suwannee River Coalition or something. I can't
remember the name of it, but we reacted to it. Then the Nature Conservancy.

H: [What about] Thousand Friends of Florida?

F: I don't think we had much to do with them. The Nature Conservancy, we had a
very good relationship with them. They helped us buy some of the land. The
land buying process of the state is sort of slow and cumbersome to make sure

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 18

it's done correctly, and without any inkling of anything wrong going into it. The
Nature Conservancy could act quickly. We would find a parcel of land that they
could buy and then we could buy it from them. That worked out very well. It was
good. The Audubon Society, we worked with them. Pretty much everybody. We
had many goals in common with environmentalists. In my opinion some of them
were extreme, and in their opinion I was extreme. We usually hit between that

H: What do you mean in terms of extreme?

F: How much regulation that we should have in order to protect the environment.
My philosophy was if it's important enough that the state needs to control it, they
ought to buy it. Theirs was, if it's important to the little critters and all, we ought
to regulate it no matter who owns it. This was the primary difference. We
worked things out. In addition to the state buying it, I thought that they could use
some of the state's monies for incentive payments, to pay landowners to do
practices that would be favorable for the environment. Finally, the environmental
group and I got on the same page on that, and that's come to pass in some
instances. It's being done through federal pass-through funds, primarily. Natural
resource conservation services, there's a lot of that now, where they didn't back

H: Did you see a difference between these private environmental groups and
someone like Earl Starnes who's environmentally oriented but was also on the
board and working within the actual bureaucracy?

F: Earl served in the cabinet with some of the governors and he was right under
John DeGrove. They had very similar ideas. In general, Earl would be more in
concert with the environmental people than I would be. All of us wanted to
protect the environment. It was how we go about it that we disagreed. There
was no conflict in that the environment needed protection. The extent of it and
the method is where we would come to disagreement. Like I said, if you got
about halfway between us, it was probably pretty good.

H: What about business and industry groups, private sector, agri-business? What
was the interaction with the district and those folks?

F: We tried to keep the permitting process as low in cost as we could. My feeling,
and I think the feeling of our district was, Chapter 373 made water property of the
state. This water you see in that pond down there, that's not my water. It
belongs to the state. My feeling is, managing the water is a benefit to everybody
in the state. Rather than making the person that owns the well or owns the pond
pay for it, that it ought to be as cheap as could be to regulate them, because it's
not for their single benefit, it's for the overall benefit. We tried to keep our
permitting reasonable, and I think everybody appreciated it. We found three or

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 19

four industries that used an awful lot of water, and had lowered the water table
pretty drastically. We tried to encourage them to conserve water and reuse
water, and not just continue to increase that cone of depression that they had
created through pumping more water than was filtering down into the earth.

H: Which industries were those?

F: The power industries and paper [industries]. Those were the primary ones in our
district. Pulp mills used a lot, and power plants used a lot for cooling. The one
belonged to the Gainesville Regional Utilities Board, you could look at them on a
hydrological map, and you could see right where they're located; the cone of
depression was right there. Of course, the phosphate mine up there in Hamilton
County and Buckeye. They were the main ones. They were very cooperative,
and we had a good relationship with them.

H: Was there somebody on the staff that would deal with them in particular or would
the board do it? How exactly would that work?

F: It was usually handled at the staff level and they came to the board with the
recommendation. Then we would hash out the recommendations. Many times
we would set the recommendations. Earl Starnes would say I move the staff to
recommend, and I would too sometimes. At times we felt like the staff wasn't
doing enough or was doing too much. Earl thought they weren't doing enough
and I thought they were doing too much. We worked it out. The staff was very
good and they had the background information, and we had that knowledge
before we went to the meetings. It worked out well.

H: What about Suwannee's interaction with local governments? Was that ever an

F: We tried to include local governments as much as we could. That has continued.
Local governments are well pleased. They like to be in the Suwannee River
Water Management District, because they get services from the district. For
instance, property appraisers; we had an aerial photo over the whole district.
Now they're in computer form on disks, and the property appraisers don't have to
get that done. They can get it from the district. In fact, they've done a lot of
things like that. Where the district has bought land and it's come off of the tax
roles, they have paid the counties when they cut timber or something like that,
they pay them a payment in lieu of taxes, and share some of that revenue with
the counties. If the county commission is opposed to the purchase of a parcel of
land in their county, the district won't touch it. We try to work together all the
time, and try to involve the county. Are you familiar with the CARES program?

H: I don't think so.

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 20

F: It's something that's started since I was on the district. It's a cooperative
program between government and farmers to regulate through incentives and
best management practices, rather than firm regulations. It's seen as a model.
People from all over the country are looking at it. The environmentalists have
sued, thinking that they ought to be more regulated. The Department of
Environmental Protection has joined as a party in the suit defending it. It's
something that [demonstrates] government private partnership is preferable to
hard-handed regulation. You can make a regulation, I can get around it. You tell
me why I need to do it and show me where it benefits me, guess what I'm going
to do? I'm going to do it. This is a good system. It's working well.

H: That's good to know. What about, since you brought up DEP, the working
relationship on your time with the Water Management District ?

F: It was good. They didn't always get us everything in that budget that we would
like, but you have infinite needs and finite resources so they had to do that.

H: What about federal agencies then? Did you have much dealings with the Corp of

F: I don't know. The Corp and us didn't always get along too well. We got along
pretty well. [We got along with] the U.S. Geological Survey very well. We got
along very well with them. The Soil Conservation Service, which is now the
Natural Resource Conservation Service, we got along well with them.

H: Where was the conflict with the Corps? Did they have a different philosophy?

F: They're just bound up in regulation. That's all they knew. I don't know, there's
no flexibility. You need to have some. Water is a pretty flexible thing, if you think
about it.

H: Bureaucracy doesn't always match that flexibility, I guess.

F: No. We didn't have too much to do with them. We heard a lot of criticism about
them. It wasn't actually us being willing. It was the public dealing with them
[that] had problems that we were unable to help them with sometimes.
Sometimes we could help.

H: Sometimes you would actually have to serve as a mediator?

F: [We would] try.

H: What I'd like to do now is voice some criticisms that have been levied against the
Water Management Districts and just have you give your opinion on whether you
agree or disagree.

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 21

F: Sure.

H: There's the claim that Water Management Districts do not heed scientific
evidence as much as they should.

F: I think that's a paper tiger. When I was on the board we went to extremes to get
the best information we could, and then we based our decision on the practical
use of that information. Two people will take the same information and they'll
come up with different ideas. That's going to always be [true]. We tried to be as
fully informed with the best information that we could get. So I think that's an
unjust criticism.

H: Is that right?

F: Yes.

H: I think I know what you'll say about this, but the idea that Water Management
Districts have too much authority.

F: Probably so.

H: You think?

F: I don't know where to draw the line. The line's already drawn, try to work within
it, is all I know.

H: That's particularly the taxing and regulatory authority for you?

F: The regulatory authority and to some extent the taxing. That's limited. I don't
think any district's taxing up to the limit. They may be. The regulatory authority
could be abused. I'm not aware of a particular abuse as I say this, but the
potential for abuse is there.

H: Do you think in turn that the districts need to be regulated themselves more?

F: No, I don't think so. The reason there are five districts, Florida is a very varied
state, what we need to regulate up here wouldn't apply worth a flip down in the
Everglades. What they're doing down there won't fit up here. Taking a super
board over them, and trying to organize them to where they are doing the same
type of job everywhere is a step backward. You need the flexibility of five
different boards. You don't need a super board putting rules and regulations
above them. The legislature is there to take care of their need.

H: What about the idea that the water management district is limited by politics?

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 22

F: They're governed. Where there's government, there's politics. I think having
appointed board members is a real plus, because you are not subject to local
pressures to get reelected. You can make your decision based on the scientific
evidence and the needs. I think it would be a real mistake to elect board
members to Water Management Districts. I think they're appointed and they're
approved by the Senate, and they're subject to removal if they don't do their job.
I think it's great the way it's set up. I wouldn't change the way it's set up. As far
as politics, if you're appointed by the governor and he calls you on the phone,
you're going to listen to him, but you're not bound to do what he says. Appointed
boards, though very political, are less political than an elected board would be.

H: You don't have an issue with the fact that as appointees, it's essentially a
patronage position?

F: You can say that, I guess I take some issue with that, but not a lot. Most of the
governors, I believe, try to get a varied board, and while they'll pick people that
supported them, there's plenty of good people that support all the governors.
That shouldn't be too big of an issue.

H: How do you think governors try and select to assure that variety on the board?

F: I don't know. They did a good job when I was on it. See, I've been off of it a
good while, and I can't speak to the present as much as I can to the past.

H: That's fine. Did you feel that was the case when you were there?

F: I thought they did a good job. We had a real varied board.

H: What criteria were they trying to vary?

F: I don't know.

H: You just got the sense that it was varied?

F: I know it from seeing the board work. I knew that it had a wide variety of
interests that were at the table every time we met. That's what you wanted. I
would be fearful that they might go too far one way or another. Industrial uses
have one axe to grind, agriculture has another ax to grind, water for residential
use has another axe to grind. In my experience, everybody was well
represented. It wasn't packed one way or another.

H: Let me ask you, in just sort of taking a longer view, how has your view of Water
Management Districts changed since when you got on board and when you look
at it now?

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 23

F: I think as time goes on, we'll see how smart they were to create it when they did.
If you were trying to create it now, well, look at California and the water problems
they have. With the number of people coming to this state, we could get to that if
we didn't have the Water Management Districts to sort of level the use of water.
Of course, we are much more blessed with water than they are, but you get
enough people and they can drink up all the water or use up all the water. I think
the Water Management Districts serve a very useful purpose in doing that in a
fairly efficient way for government. I like it. Of course, when I got on it, I didn't
particularly like it. I got on it because I wanted to protect myself from it.

H: In some ways, you're a convert then.

F: I sure am.

H: From your perspective as a citizen and still being active on the farm, just as a
private citizen, do you feel like they're continuing that?

F: I think they're doing a good job. You know, I could do it better, but... [laughter].

H: Fair enough. How would you judge the strengths and weaknesses on how the
districts operate?

F: I can only judge the Suwannee River Water Management District. I think that
some of the other districts were more political than our district was. This is
because the water issue is stronger. From my perspective, the Suwannee River
District is well-run and well-respected. It started off with people fearful of it. Over
time we've gotten the confidence of people, and I think it's pretty well-respected
at this point.

H: What do you think the districts are going to be doing in the future? What sort of
issued to you see as coming to the forefront?

F: Consumptive use, of course. As you get more people. I think there's going to
have to be technological improvements for the southwest and south Florida
where water is scarce. Up here, I don't see that. We are blessed with the best
ground water anywhere in the world. If we just stay the course, we're in good
shape. They'll have to be careful about letting industry come in and soaking it
up, but at this point I don't see any danger of that. We're just in good shape,
partially due to the foresight of the people who created the management districts
and the people that established and are running them. The big problem is going
to be on the coast. Everybody wants to live on the coast, but the water is salty.
They're going to have to learn to desalinate water, that's all. That's going to be
the solution to that. If you can use salt water, there's no shortage of that. You've
got a gulf on this side and an ocean on that side. That's the solution. It will work.

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 24

Water's been free. We've never paid a nickel for the water. All that we've ever
paid is for the movement of the water from the ground to where we use it.
Water's not going to be free when you desalinate it. It's a commodity that you've
got to use. It's not unfair to pay for it.

H: You don't have a problem with that even though you're a self-described 'cheap'

F: I think you're going to have to be practical. If it costs money to get water and you
want to use water, you've got to pay for water. I don't want them messing with
my water, you see? Let those people on the coast desalinate their water, and
then they won't deplete [the aquifer]. Once you get salt water intrusion, you can't
reverse that. You want to be very careful that you don't over pump. That's the
problem with the coast. Deep down is mineralized water. Then the fresh water
is floating on top of that. Then [as the lensatic effect], when you get to the coast,
the salt water under it and the salt water coming over it, and if you get that salt
water intrusion, you can't reverse that. They need to be careful about that.
Down in Pinellas County, they've got salt water intrusion back in the [19]20s and
[19]30s. They've now emptied out Pasco County's water. They need to be
desalinating water and getting it that way. They don't need to be messing up the
ground water somewhere else. I don't remember what the question was, but I
don't think I answered it. [Laughter]

H: No, I think you did in terms of forthcoming issues that you think are going to be
confronting the districts in the future.

F: As more and more development comes, probably private wells and septic tanks
can become an issue, too. This is not a water management issue, but it's an
issue of water, how to dispose of sewage without causing harm to the
environment. I don't know just what the solution to that is, but that's an
approaching problem that's coming fast. It's already here, but the solution has
got to be found pretty fast.

H: Is there anything that the district shouldn't be doing in terms of confronting these
problems that you see as a danger?

F: I'm not that close to it now. I've been out of it for twelve or fifteen years. At the
time I was in it, we tried to go forward slowly. If it wasn't a defined need, our
opinion was just to stay out of it as long as we could. Wetlands is going to be an
issue. The first issue is defining the wetlands. Once you define them, how much
do you regulate them and how much do you use them and mitigate? That will be
a big issue. It is now in some places. I think it can be solved without a doubt. It
can be solved. It is and will be an issue. Consumptive use, and wetland
regulation, and coastal are three of the biggest issues.

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 25

H: It sounds like from your perspective, your tenure on the board, you've said that
you're very much concerned with the amount of governmental intrusion, that
sometimes the method could outweigh the results. Did you have a basic
operating principal or rule of thumb that you used that helped you to strike that
balance? It seems like a very delicate balance, as you sort of indicated.

F: It is. My argument on government regulation is that less is more. We need to
protect the resource, but to go past that costs money and doesn't solve any
problem. Then you get into defining what is needed to protect the resource.
That is when you get into a gray area that I would be slower to regulate than
some people probably. When you get down to it, for instance, agricultural land, I
live on this land. Why would I pollute the land that I live on and mess it up? I'm
more concerned about this than Governor Bush or anybody else. To say that
regulation is going to make me more concerned and make me do a better job, I
disagree with that. What they need to do is we need to have incentives to help
me do what I already know I ought to do. My approach is more cooperative and
less regulatory. This CARES program in the Suwannee Valley has shown this to
be a valid approach. Now, some people would take advantage of that. You've
got to have regulations to keep that from happening, but most people, you'll get a
lot more done through cooperation than you will regulation. That's my

H: In some ways it's the expansion of government is less an issue for you when it's
oriented in that sort of way?

F: Right. That's the best way for them to get the job done, through cooperation, not
through strict regulation. You've got to have the regulations there for the stick,
but the carrot's going to carry you a heap further down the road.

H: What are the important things that historians fifty years from now, one hundred
years from now, writing a book on the Water Management Districts, what are the
important things, whether they're good or bad or neutral? What do they need to
understand when they are talking about these districts?

F: They need to understand that water is necessary. You're about eighty-nine
percent water yourself. We've got to have water. That as there are more people
and more uses and it becomes scarce, someone has to prioritize a use. The
Water Management Districts were a superb way to do this. It took it out of
Tallahassee, which is completely political, and put it into units geographically that
could respond to those needs. They did it through appointed boards, which were
less subject to political pressure, and should be able to make more logical
decisions based on scientific evidence. That's the primary good of the Water
Management District. While it is political, it's less political, and while it is based
on science, you have to make those decisions in a political arena. It's a good

FWM-12, Finlayson, Page 26

H: Obviously moving the districts away from Tallahassee was the first step. How did
you feel that the politics did infuse their way?

F: I didn't want to go because the board members would say, I want you to do this.
That's a pretty good political [example]. Of course, you don't have to do it.

H: Were there any particular examples where that happens? Was it just the

F: I know some of them, but I don't want to get into that. I never did feel pressured.
I know of some instances where pressure has been applied. It became more
politicized through the party process. When I was on the board they didn't. It
was less patronage than it was trying to establish something that would do the
job. That's always a danger. They need to try to keep it, while it is political, keep
it somewhat removed from the political process.

H: Did you see the politics being more from the governor than from the state

F: No.

H: [There's] plenty to spread around.

F: He [the governor] just had a bigger stick. We had great interest from both
senators and representatives. Their interest, while they were completely political,
their interest was in getting the job done, and done in a way that least impacted
their constituents. That's politics at it's best. It doesn't get any better than that.
Down at that meeting that we had down at Cross City that was so controversial,
the senator from Gainesville came in, George [Kirkpatrick] I can't think of
George's last name though.

H: I'm blanking on it myself. I know who you're talking about.

F: He is a great politician. He came in while the meeting was going on, and John
Wershow punched me and said, they're going to crucify George. I said, you wait,
when George gets through they're going to be eating out of his hand. He got up
and they were fussing about the water management districts. He said, I didn't
want this water management district. I didn't vote for it. See these members up
there on the board? They didn't vote for that. Those people in Miami voted this
thing on us. They just laughed, and hooted, and hollered.

[End of Interview]

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