Commissioners OK reorganization, put weight behind medical marijuana

A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING: The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved a new organizational chart at the request of the new county manager. Among changes are having the chief financial officer work for the pleasure of commissioners rather than report to staff. Chart courtesy of Buncombe County

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners signed off on changes to the county’s organizational chart during its meeting Sept. 19. Some commissioners also lent support for a letter urging North Carolina lawmakers to approve medical marijuana. Commissioners also approved a resolution stating the county’s intent to actively seek litigation opportunities against painkiller manufacturers, an issue that was covered in an earlier recap you can read here.

Charting success

While presenting her pitch for organizational chart modifications, County Manager Mandy Stone stressed it did not involve new money or positions. She called the reshuffling a “reflection of consolidating services across the county … and to remove duplication and maximize skill.” The move transitions some positions from the Department of Health and Human Services to the county manager’s office, an effort Stone says will “take department functions and bring them to a countywide level.”

For example, Rachael Nygaard, director of strategic partnerships, moves from HHS to the county manager’s office, and her position will “focus on priorities commissioners ask about like pre-K,” Stone noted.

Stone said the move also puts a firewall between the chief financial officer and county manager by having the CFO now serve at the pleasure of the board. “Those are distinct roles, and both need total access to Board of Commissioners, and the Board of Commissioners needs guidance from both of them,” said Stone.

Commissioners unanimously approved the changes. Next month, commissioners will consider another such compartmentalizing move by having the county’s internal auditor serve at the pleasure of the Audit Committee rather than reporting to county staff. That change was approved by the county’s Audit Committee on Sept. 19. For more on that meeting, you can read “County moves to give internal auditor autonomy” here.


A majority of commissioners signed a letter in support of having the N.C. General Assembly approve the use of medical marijuana. The signed letter was presented to members of the group North Carolinians for Medicinal Rights. The group has been using the open public comment period over the last few months to put pressure on commissioners to support the cause. Fletcher resident Todd Stimson cited a Public Policy Polling survey. “You’ll be on right side of history. People are not in favor of recreational use, which is understandable, but it shows 74 percent [of North Carolinians] support medical use recommended by a doctor.”

“I have Crohn’s disease, and this is life changing for me and lifesaving for people across the states. Having our local government push for this means a lot to us,” said Taylon Breeden, a member of N.C. for Medicinal Right.

The letter states:

“Numerous health organizations have endorsed the medical use of cannabis, including the American Nurses Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, Lymphoma Foundation of America, American Preventive Medical Association and American Public Health Association.

The Federal government holds patent number 6,630,507 which describes the therapeutic potential for cannabinoid chemical compounds derived from cannabis. There are no reported deaths from an overdose of cannabis.”

It was signed by Commission Chair Brownie Newman and Commissioners Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Ellen Frost and Al Whitesides. You can view the entire letter here.

Earlier this year, Xpress featured in in-depth report on local and state attitudes toward medical marijuana called “Blunt talk: Medicinal marijuana takes root,” which you can read here.

Commissioners are slated to next meet for a workshop on Tuesday, Sept. 26.


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About Dan Hesse
I grew up outside of Atlanta and moved to WNC in 2001 to attend Montreat College. After college, I worked at NewsRadio 570 WWNC as an anchor/reporter and covered Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners starting in 2004. During that time I also completed WCU's Master of Public Administration program. You can reach me at

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One thought on “Commissioners OK reorganization, put weight behind medical marijuana

  1. Robert Thompson

    Did the Mountain Xpress obtain a statement from commissioners Belcher and Pressley who didn’t sign the letter to the NC legislature as to why? Hopefully, it won’t be an ignorant statement like Mike Fryer’s ” I don’t care about studies.” It strikes me that with an attitude like that, he is unfit to serve the public as a commissioner, regardless of hs position on the matter.

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