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Why this Water Scientist is Running for Office

By Mare Ahmed

Wednesday, October 18th, 2023

Rhonda Bitterli is running to be one of the three people who are elected to the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District Board Directors. Having grown up in the southwest, Rhonda was always interested in environmental issues. As an undergraduate, she pursued an English degree with a minor in computer science and mathematics. Then, she earned a Master of Science in Soil & Water Science. That is where her career as a water scientist started. Her experience includes working for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, domestic and international agricultural research institutes, and for environmental consulting firms. When she heard one of the NVSWD Board members, Chris Koerner,

say that the Board is always looking for good candidates to run, she took it as a sign. Rhonda was always interested in politics & the legislative process. In fact, when she first moved to the Washington D.C.-area she actually wanted to work for Congress and even wanted to run for office at some point. She sees running for the Board as her opportunity to use her expertise in soil and water science to help Fairfax County address the conservation issues they are facing.

When I asked her what advice she could share with the Bluebonnet community, she said “Follow your passion, don’t doubt yourself (and if you do doubt yourself, acknowledge the doubt and keep on going), don’t hold back. Run for office. And go forth and do great things!” In fact, Rhonda herself wishes she had run for office earlier. For those of you who are in STEM, Rhonda advises you “to study whatever STEM field excites you, and also to get exposed to other supportive areas in STEM. Also, big data is becoming more important, and a very solid grounding in big data—what it is, how it can be used, and its limitations—will be invaluable.” The double University of Arizona alum believes in a multidisciplinary approach to learning, especially because the issues we are facing are multifaceted. She studied an array of subjects, and they have all helped her make better-informed decisions about the world. The importance of strong communication skills cannot be overstated. Though there is a temptation to use technical terms, it is far more effective to convey your message in a way everyone can understand. Rhonda will be on the ballot this fall in Fairfax County. (Learn more about her campaign: If you live in Fairfax County, you can vote for her and two others for the NVSWCD Board of Directors. Voters are encouraged to research the candidates and vote for those who can best help address the county’s conservation issues.

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