Candidates for Buncombe County Board of Commissioners District 2, 2018 general election voter guide

Amanda Edwards

Democrat
Website: electamandaedwards.org
Occupation: Executive director, A-B Tech Community College Foundation
Previous candidacy or offices held: I am a first-time candidate
Key endorsements: Buncombe County Association of Educators, Police Benevolent Association, Sierra Club, AFL-CIO Central Labor Council of Western North Carolina, Rep. John Ager and Annie Ager of Fairview
Amount of money raised: $27,851
Top three donors: Nancy Edgerton, Walter McConnell, Bernard Arghiere

Why are you running for county commission?

This is my home. I won’t stand on the sidelines during this crisis. I chose to be part of the solution, running as a first-time candidate to replace the sitting commissioner. I’ve pledged to restore trust and accountability so we can truly serve our people. I have consistently called for change, reform and transparency. My expertise, experience and training in county management, executive oversight, and disaster preparedness and response are a skill set that no other candidates (nor sitting commissioners) bring.

What’s the single most pressing issue facing Buncombe County government? How would you address it?

Restoring trust and ensuring fiscal oversight and accountability. Each commissioner is equally responsible from day one for supervising the county manager, providing fiscal oversight and setting sound policy. Instead, commissioners hadn’t even delivered the bare minimum. We can’t achieve our priorities before restoring trust. I have a needed skill set, sense of urgency and a straight-talking, solutions-focused approach. I’m bringing change and reform by putting my expertise, experience and training in county management and executive oversight to work for Buncombe.

What’s the most underreported issue facing Buncombe County government?

Poverty, and our responsibility to reduce poverty and help our neighbors. Even formerly “middle-class” people have been pushed into poverty. An illness, accident, job loss, change in family situation or mistake can push a person or a family into poverty. They join many people already struggling. When you have very little, just surviving takes all that you’ve got and leaves you vulnerable to exploitation. Commissioners can fight poverty through comprehensive planning for affordable housing, childcare, education, and career training.

Alleged fraud and corruption by former county officials seem to have stemmed in part from a lack of oversight by the Board of Commissioners. How can the commissioners better police the county manager and other top officials?

Though I’m a first-time candidate, my training in county government management and nearly 20 years of the-buck-stops-here CEO experience prepares me to provide oversight that has been lacking. I earned a Master’s of Public Administration from UT-Knoxville, the degree required of county managers. I know best practices, including how to implement and improve policies, oversee employees and how to ensure that people I entrust with responsibility are held accountable. I am known to be professional, thorough and not a pushover.

How many commission meetings have you attended in the past six months? What is one commission decision made in that period you don’t agree with, and how would you have handled it differently? 

I attended and disagreed with the majority of commissioners who voted to refuse to reduce their pay despite the fact that they are among the highest-paid in the state. Their pay is disproportionate based on all available data, and the vote sent a message that they don’t feel accountable for their lack of oversight of Wanda Greene and their decision to appoint Mandy Stone without interviewing anyone else. I’ve attended several meetings; I mostly watch them online or on-demand.

How can Buncombe County government responsibly address the opioid epidemic? Has local government done enough?

Addiction is an illness that ensnares people from all walks of life. We haven’t found a cure for addiction or a guaranteed means of prevention, though I see many people and agencies doing the best they can, from EMS, law enforcement, the DA and the courts, to social services. I want to ensure we are tapping proven experts with experience turning the tide on opioids (enhancing local resources) and elevate the work of the Western North Carolina Substance Use Alliance.

Buncombe County is growing rapidly, and county residents are pushing back against the pace of change, particularly in the face of proposed large multifamily housing developments. How can the Board of Commissioners foster a responsible rate of development in Buncombe County? Is it already doing that?

Common sense begs that we preserve our scenic mountain landscapes, creek valleys, productive farmlands and critical wildlife habitat. Those are investments in our quality of life through clean water, food resources and the ecosystem that is the foundation for Buncombe County’s beauty. We are all in this together. The harder conversation is how we foster responsible development by objectively identifying where we will invest in new infrastructure. We must follow through with comprehensive countywide planning and policies that match.

Given the financial state of the county, would you consider raising property taxes in the next two years? Would you try to cut the budget? If so, in what areas?

Whomever commissioners hire as the next county manager will have the greatest impact on our ability to provide efficient, effective services — more so than what commissioners decide in two budget cycles. That said, any tax-increase proposal that fails to ensure a dramatic improvement for the people of Buncombe would be unlikely to earn my vote. I generally seek balance while ensuring quality of service. Given our opioid epidemic and rising poverty, I wouldn’t rule out action that addresses those devastating crises.

 


Glenda Weinert

Republican
Website: glendapweinert.com
Occupation: Small-business owner
Previous candidacy or offices held: Did not answer
Key endorsements: Did not answer
Amount of money raised: $25,000
Top three donors: Terri and David Luck, Albert Sneed

Why are you running for county commission?

I am running for office first because I want to serve my community and second because of our current challenges and corruption we face. I believe that a candidate should have the skills necessary to add value to the commission to address these issues. I am an accountant with many years of small-business ownership and experience. I also have nonprofit experience and early education experience. I have an MBA and a DBA in organizational management.

What’s the single most pressing issue facing Buncombe County government? How would you address it?

The single most important issue facing Buncombe County is the financial corruption and misuse of taxpayer money. I would address the issue first by implementing COSO, which is a model for developing internal controls. The county commissioners have voted to implement but have yet to do that step. It is now time to implement so that we have a system of effective and efficient operations, reliability of financial reporting and compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

What’s the most underreported issue facing Buncombe County government?

The most underreported issue is the steps taken to add an additional voting site. Chairman Newman agreed for the county to provide dollars for an additional voting site for early voting without holding a public vote on the matter. It is in the best interest of all taxpayers that these matters be handled openly.

Alleged fraud and corruption by former county officials seem to have stemmed in part from a lack of oversight by the Board of Commissioners. How can the commissioners better police the county manager and other top officials?

Fraud is set up by intentional deceit and control. Commissioners, while delegating and working with all employees, should not lose control, must have appropriate reporting standards and tighter management oversight. Checks and balances are always required, especially in the use of public funds.

How many commission meetings have you attended in the past six months? What is one commission decision made in that period you don’t agree with, and how would you have handled it differently? 

I have attended five meetings in the past few months. I would advocate that the commission move forward with the implementation of COSO. I think this is a step in the right direction to better manage the use of public monies and reduce the potential for fraud and misuse of taxpayer money.

How can Buncombe County government responsibly address the opioid epidemic? Has local government done enough?

The opioid issue is a huge challenge, not just here in Buncombe County. Buncombe County is working hard to address the issue as we try to understand all of the challenges associated with the epidemic. The Sheriff’s Office is directly faced with the challenge and is working hard to meet this issue head-on. The question of whether local government has done enough is very broad. We all want to be diligent in our efforts and work to find ways to combat this issue.

Buncombe County is growing rapidly, and county residents are pushing back against the pace of change, particularly in the face of proposed large multifamily housing developments. How can the Board of Commissioners foster a responsible rate of development in Buncombe County? Is it already doing that?

Buncombe County Planning and Development provides direction for the citizens of our county and works to maintain orderly responsible growth by developing and enforcing ordinances, policies and procedures relating to land use. As we grow, as in any situation, these steps and procedures will be evaluated and developed based on best practices and standards.

Given the financial state of the county, would you consider raising property taxes in the next two years? Would you try to cut the budget? If so, in what areas?

I would not raise property taxes. I believe we need to get a true picture of our current financial situation and current tax revenue.  We need to assess waste and duplication of services. In any budget process, there must be analysis of potential cost savings, budget opportunities and overall revenue. With the fraud and corruption we are faced with, we certainly do not need to raise taxes. We need to get a handle on the money we are already responsible for.

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