After months of denying speculation that he wouldn't seek another term in Congress, Rep. Heath Shuler reversed course Feb. 1, saying he’ll retire from office when his term ends in January.
“I have always said family comes first, and I never intended to be a career politician,” the Democrat said in an email statement. “I am ready to re-focus my priorities and spend more time at home with my wife, Nikol, and two young children.” He added, “I am proud of the work that my office has done to give Western North Carolina a voice in Congress and make life better for the people who entrusted me with the privilege of representing them in Washington.”
In last year’s redistricting, the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly cut most of Buncombe County's reliably Democratic voters out of Shuler’s 11th District, hurting his chances of winning a fourth term. Meanwhile, a host of energetic GOP candidates have thrown their hats into the ring recently. Shuler also faced a primary challenge within his own party from Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell. The new 11th District stretches from western Buncombe County to the Tennessee line.
Since taking office in 2006, Shuler has emerged as a leader of the "Blue Dog" coalition of conservative Democrats. In 2010, he lost a bid for House minority leader to Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Shuler has served on the powerful House Budget Committee since 2011, where he pushed for big spending cuts.
First annual Southern Green Living Expo planned
Less than a year after the annual Southern Energy & Environment Expo announced the end of its 10-year run, organizers are already planning a similar event for this fall: the Southern Green Living Expo.
The event will be held Sept. 14-16 at the newly renovated Asheville Civic Center. Like its predecessor, it will feature three days of workshops, presentations and products aimed at individuals, businesses and government agencies.
The idea, says organizer Ned Doyle, is to showcase "the Southern region’s opportunities, knowledge and successes in sustainable economics and conservative environmental stewardship."
Doyle, who also founded the S.E.E. Expo, has partnered with Tim Alexander, who owns HomeSource, a regional green building contractor and supplier. Doyle says they hope to learn from the past and appeal to a wider audience this time around.
“We’re not starting from scratch,” he notes. “Instead it’s building on the community successes that have both helped our region weather the poor economy better than most and emerge as leaders in sustainable economic development.”
Organizers are still finalizing the schedule, but Doyle says they don't foresee any problem filling three days with lively activities and products. If anything, they’re facing the opposite problem.
“With only about 250 spaces for the three-day event,” he reports, “not all the [local] businesses and green initiatives and programs can be represented."