District 2 commissioner primary questionnaire: Frost vs. Peterson

Above, Ellen Frost; below, Carol Peterson. File photos
Above, Ellen Frost; below, Carol Peterson. File photos

Buncombe County’s historic shift to a district election system continues this year as six candidates square off seeking four-year terms on the Board of Commissioners.

In each of the three districts, an incumbent and a challenger from the same party are competing for the seat. The incumbents, who finished second in their respective districts in 2012, won two-year terms that expire this year. The first-place finishers in 2012 will hold their seats through 2016. Going forward, all commissioners will serve four-year terms, staggered so that one seat in each district will be up for grabs every two years.

In District 2, which encompasses Fairview, Black Mountain and Weaverville, Vice Chair Ellen Frost, a Democrat, faces a primary challenge from former Commissioner Carol Peterson. In 2012, Frost defeated her by just 38 votes. The primary winner will go up against Republican Christina Merrill in the Nov. 4 general election. Merrill lost to Frost in 2012 by a mere 18 votes; the November contest will determine which party holds a majority on the seven-member board.

Early voting runs through Saturday, May 3; the primary is Tuesday, May 6. Xpress asked each candidate five questions designed to elicit their priorities and views:

Name: Ellen Frost

Profession: owner of Bed and Biscuit Pet Spa
Residence: Black Mountain
Party affiliation: Democrat
Endorsements: Sierra Club, Sheriff Van Duncan, Commissioners David Gantt, Brownie Newman and Holly Jones, former Black Mountain Mayor Carl Bartlett, Black Mountain Mayor Mike Sobol, Vice Mayor Don Collins, Aldermen Ryan Stone, Carlos Showers and Maggie Tuttle

What would be your top priority if elected? Why?
1. Continue to strive for the very best education for our children, including making sure we keep our supplements for teachers. 2. Continue striving to create living-wage jobs and help our small businesses. 3. Continue to protect our environment. We have a firm foundation, but we must be relentless.

What’s county government’s most important role in job creation?
Be innovative, think out of the box. Two great examples, GE Aviation and the pilot microloan program, are vast in scope but both create jobs. We as a community must do all we can to continue to be attractive to business: i.e., good schools and environmental stewardship.

What specifically should the county do to meet its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent?
The energy audits this Board of Commissioners passed under Brownie Newman’s leadership will save taxpayers more than $1 million in utility expenses. Reducing the carbon footprint is not a Democratic or Republican issue: It’s an economic issue that will create a far better future for our children and grandchildren.

In this year’s budget, are there any specific expenditures you’d cut or increase? Why?
It will be a tough balancing act. We continue to face great challenges from federal and state government. My goal is to support our teachers, continue to create opportunities for small businesses to create living-wage jobs, and have the fairest and most responsible tax rate we can offer.

Why would you be a better commissioner than your opponent?
In my business, I hear people’s stories, challenges and triumphs, which help me be the best commissioner I can be. I’m accessible, answering emails within 12 hours. Brownie, Holly, David G. and I are proven innovators with vision. It would be a step back for our county if this changed.

Carol Peterson

Profession: home economics teacher, Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools; director of vocational education, Asheville City Schools, retired
Residence: Fletcher
Party affiliation: Democrat
Endorsements: Buncombe County voters in four election cycles

What would be your top priority if elected? Why?
To assure a more transparent process in communications with the public. Our current commissioners have raised your property taxes from 52.5 cents per $100 valuation to 60.4 cents. That’s a tax increase of 7.9 cents per $100 valuation (an 8.7 percent increase). There was never any public dialogue or justification.

What’s county government’s most important role in job creation?
Continuation of Buncombe County’s support to the Economic Development Commission that recruits new businesses. Support our local businesses and industry with tax incentives for growth. Continue Buncombe County’s support of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College to educate and train a world-class workforce.

What specifically should the county do to meet its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent?
Convert our buildings to LEED-certified where possible. Convert heating systems to natural gas where possible. Convert Buncombe County vehicles to operate on compressed gas. Continue to convert the county’s mowing and maintenance equipment to compressed gas.

In this year’s budget, are there any specific expenditures you’d cut or increase? Why?
YES. I would eliminate the Culture and Recreation Authority. $10,479,740 of your tax dollars from last year’s budget was transferred out of this year’s budget to the CRA, and your property tax was increased 3.5 cents per $100 valuation to pay for something that you already own.

Why would you be a better commissioner than your opponent?
I have lived and worked in Buncombe County my entire life and know the culture of our people. I am more experienced, since I had the honor of serving as a commissioner for eight years. No one could have a greater love for the people of Buncombe County than me.

For more coverage of this year’s races, visit mountainx.com/news/politics-elections. For a sample ballot and more information from the Buncombe County Election Services Department, visit avl.mx/08p

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning writer and reporter who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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