Sow Good Seeds: Interview with Jeffery Wenzel, St. Joseph County Drain Commissioner

Drain Commissioner Jeffrey Wenzel (Photo provided)

Sow Good Seeds is a column devoted to environmental issues, gardening, cooking, and anything else connected to the natural world that has so graciously hosted us on this earth. My hope is that it will encourage you to see the world around you in a different way, to make incremental changes in your daily living, and to treat our planetary home such that we honor the generations of life that will follow.

Jeffery Wenzel was re-elected to the office of St. Joseph County Drain Commissioner in November 2020. Since I’ve never really known what the Drain Commissioner does, I reached out to Wenzel to learn more about the position and hear his perspective on the issues related to his work. The following interview was conducted via email on January 26, 2021.

How long have you been in this position?

I was elected in 2009.

What inspired you to run for this position?

I had a difficult time trying to communicate with the previous Drain Commissioner to obtain information that I was inquiring about.

Take us through a typical day. What does the drain commissioner do?

I help constituents of St. Joseph County with any issues pertaining to surface water and lakes that have legal lake levels ordered by the court. My office also has the responsibility of fulfilling the requirements of the Part 91 Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control program through the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, & Energy. I work closely with engineers and legal counsel to follow the Michigan Drain Code of 1956 and its amendments as required.

We’ve heard voters ask why this is a party-affiliated position on the ballot. What’s your perspective on that?

It matters not to me. I do not make the laws; I just have to follow them.

The drain commissioner deals with water and earth. What’s your perspective on climate change? How do you see it affecting your work now and in the future? 

In the Drain Commissioner office, I always try to do what is most environmentally friendly.

What do you wish more people knew about your position?

The importance of surface water and drainage to relieve flooding.

To learn more about the Drain Commissioner’s work in St. Joseph County, click here.

Deborah Haak-Frost is grateful for every ray of sunshine that reaches her skin. She is the Caretaker for Community Engagement at GilChrist Retreat Center in Three Rivers, and volunteers with *culture is not optional, a Three Rivers-based community development organization.

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