Candidates for Buncombe County Board of Commissioners District 3, 2018 general election voter guide

Donna Ensley

Democrat
Website: electdonnaensley.com
Occupation: Retired development professional
Previous candidacy or offices held: None
Key endorsements: Sierra Club, Buncombe County Association of Educators, Sen. Terry Van Duyn, AFL-CIO, Buncombe County Democratic Women
Amount of money raised: $28,497
Top three donors: Ron Edgerton, Dr. Charles Weiss, Dr. Bruce Rogers

Why are you running for county commission?

I love this place that I have called home for 31 years and where I raised my family. Further, I have a passion for service. My career and past experiences taught me how to lead and work with others ― solving problems through strategic planning, careful analysis and building consensus. My passion for truth and fairness to all makes me the ideal candidate to represent the interests of all our citizens ― rich and poor, young and old, working, retired and other-abled.

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

The Wanda Greene scandal has taken its toll on the whole of Buncombe County. It’s time for change. As commissioner, I will restore the community’s confidence in government and implement measures to prevent any recurrence of this issue. I will advocate for effective distribution of authority, review nepotism policy and form a finance committee of qualified citizens to review monthly financials. Buncombe County needs to be proud and trust that its government will serve the citizens with integrity.

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

The challenge of retaining the character of more rural parts of Buncombe County and ensuring carefully planned growth. This will require working for high-speed internet, infrastructure investment, public services and support of the schools serving the areas. It will involve engaging residents, businesses and government in a common effort. The goal is to make those areas competitive for jobs and preserve their character.

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?

As an experienced nonprofit executive and board chair, I believe that increasing transparency and trust is the most important role any board has. Commissioners can provide better oversight by requiring accountability in all departments, by understanding the income and expenses that comprise the budget and by continually evaluating whether our resource allocations are making life better for our communities. Our budget must mirror our values: improving infrastructure, strengthening education, protecting our environment and bettering the quality of life in Buncombe.

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?

Over the last six months I focused on talking to people in the county so that I can reflect the issues facing our communities. Also, I monitored the commission online for the past year, and I attended one recent meeting in person. One decision that I disagree with is the vote to withhold funding for our schools without a reason for the decision. As your county commissioner, I will work for transparency and collaboration with all our county resource administrators.

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

Our county has taken the first step in responding by recognizing that addiction is a medical issue that needs to be treated rather than a moral failing that needs to be punished. I would go further by advocating for programs like Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion that provide options for treatment and recovery instead of incarceration. Also, I would advocate for expanding first responders’ access to Narcan to help reduce opioid-related overdose deaths in our communities.

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?

Our existing commission is not adequately addressing the accelerated rate of development. Growth in our region is inevitable. We need to take a stand and face it proactively. This means ensuring that the plan is in place to accommodate our current and future needs. The challenges include planning for roads, water, sewer, high-speed internet, schools and emergency resources. As your commissioner, I will advocate for directing growth in Buncombe County for the good of all.

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 am a fiscal conservative and would raise property taxes as the last resort in achieving a balanced budget. We need to run our government and services it provides as a business. This means establishing short- and long-range plans to address current and emerging needs. We must have fiscal responsibility and accountability in all departments and continual evaluation of resource allocation versus outcomes. As commissioner, I will invest myself in understanding our finances and ensuring budget transparency and accountability.


Robert Pressley

Incumbent, Republican
Website: facebook.com/voterobertpressley
Occupation: Retired NASCAR driver and small-business owner
Previous candidacy or offices held: Current commissioner
Key endorsements: Did not answer
Amount of money raised: Did not answer
Top three donors: Did not answer

Why are you running for re-election to county commission?

I want to keep Buncombe County a great place to live, and I’m concerned for the future generations for Buncombe County. I want to continue the important steps that I have taken in providing transparency in Buncombe County government.

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

Educating and protecting the children of Buncombe County by investing in early childhood education and recreation opportunities. I recently supported increasing the number of school resource officers from four to nine.

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

Most of the tax money is invested within a 6-square-mile area. I have worked hard to make sure that your tax dollars are spread more gently throughout Buncombe County.

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?

Many policies and procedures have already been changed to address this, and we are currently working on a project to add an “Open Checkbook” feature on our website for the public to see.

What is one commission decision made in the past six months that you would you have handled it differently if it had been entirely up to you?

It is actually more than once that decisions are made that never come to all seven commissioners. For example: early voting.

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

So far, we have filed a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical companies; we are constantly educating ourselves regarding the epidemic to learn new practices in dealing with it. I feel that we need to engage every aspect of the community in the fight against opioids — schools, churches, and state and federal agencies.

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 is growing at a rapid pace, not just residential but as a tourist town, and our highways are 20 years behind. At this rate we will have traffic congestion of 20 years to come. We must look at everything. Are we growing too fast?

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 am against raising property taxes. My first year (2017) we dropped it from 60.5 to 53.9, and my second year, from 53.9 to 52.9. I am supportive of funding core services in a practical manner.

SHARE

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.