Chuck Koch did not have long to plan his first run for elective office.
He was working the polls in Fredericksburg on Election Day to gather signatures to get Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on the Democratic presidential primary ballot in March.
A voter mentioned that only one person was running for two director spots on the Tri-County/City Soil & Water Conservation District.
And then Koch remembered some words from Sanders. Bernie wants people to participate and become part of the system, he thought.
“I’ve got to do this.”
Koch launched an “immediate, grassroots write-in campaign,” he said. He had about an hour, because he needed to pick up his sister at the Springfield Metro station in Fairfax County after her flight landed.
He told voters he supports clean air and clean water and is pro-ecology and pro-environment.
“I was wearing Bernie pins,” he said. “I was wearing 38th state to ratify the ERA. I was wearing my Moms Demand Action wristband for gun reform and I was asking people to vote for me, and it was a great experience.
“When we all participate, when we get people to stand together, we can accomplish great things and we can afford to be bold in bringing out the change that we envision.”
He left to pick up his sister that day, making good time on Interstate 95 north. He was just a little behind schedule.
Koch, 62, retired six years ago after working for nearly 32 years at the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board. He teaches introductory Spanish and American Sign Language to homeschooled children in a classroom-like setting, he said, and occasionally works as a substitute teacher for Fredericksburg schools.
“It’s up to us to step up and become part of the solution instead of complaining about problems,” Koch said.
The Virginia Department of Elections listed Koch’s name in official results online.
He received 21 votes.
He called “and they told me that it looked like I was the winner. They said that a candidate’s name doesn’t appear unless they won.”
A Department of Elections spokeswoman said Friday that, indeed, Koch won.
He was invited to attend a meeting of the soil and water directors as an observer, and took careful notes for about three hours. He was even allowed a chance to offer some input at the meeting, he said, and he looks forward to learning what he needs to know to serve in the post.
Soil and water districts are a subdivision of state government founded in 1944 and the Tri-County/City District is one of 47 districts across the state, according to its website. The directors are unpaid, and they guide personnel who work with all branches of government, schools and conservation organizations on conservation goals.
After picking up his sister in Springfield, he was able to fill her in on his write-in campaign on Election Day. They had plenty of time, since they got stuck in rush hour traffic.