Vote for four. The candidates are Mark Crawford, Republican; David Gantt, Democrat; Mike Harrison, Republican; Mike Morgan, Republican; Carol Weir Peterson, Democrat; Bill Reynolds, Republican; Bill Stanley, Democrat; and David Young, Democrat.
Address: 18 Panorama Drive, Asheville
Years in Buncombe County: 47
Education: Electronics, UNCA, radio disc jockey
Political party: Republican
Political experience: At-large member, Executive Committee, Republican Party
1. What sets you apart from your opponent?
“I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’ve been a Democrat for the majority of my life, and I’ve been a Republican for the last seven or eight years. This election is not about Democrat or Republican; it is about the person who can do the best job for the citizens of Buncombe County. I’m really thankful — I’m the American dream.
I was very poor. I started a cleaning service that grew very large, and I just retired out of that cleaning service after 21 years. This county has been very good to me; I feel I need to give back to Buncombe County.”
2. What’s the biggest problem facing the county? What would you do about it?
“The biggest problem facing the county right now is jobs, our economy — laying the foundation to bring those jobs to this county. That is the No. 1 priority.
“We’re going to start an economic-development commission in the county that will bring those results back to me. We’re going to sit down and do what is necessary to bring those things in here. I don’t care what it takes to bring them in here. I do care about whether it is going to harm the environment, yes sir. I don’t want any of that in here.”
3. What, if anything, needs to change about construction in floodplains?
“I don’t know if you’ve kept up with me years ago, but I’ve told [RiverLink Executive Director] Karen Cragnolin that construction needs to look at this 100-year flood [before putting] these buildings down close to the river; now she does believe it. Special provisions must be made. I’m not an engineer, but yes sir, we do need to develop the riverfront; I believe it’s an asset to this community.”
4. Are you in favor of countywide zoning?
“I am not. I am the only citizen — [Buncombe County Manager] Wanda Greene sent me to county commissioners’ school; I’m the only person who has ever attended county commissioners’ school in the state of North Carolina. Zoning … you know how when you took mathematics and you have an absolute value? Well, you know this — when it’s in a little vacuum tube, it’ll work? Well, I’m not going to do anything to pitch neighbor against neighbor; I want to see us all work together. I don’t care where we come from or our cultures, I want to see us work together.
“You know, the experience I have brought to this — here, for example. I have built this business by making someone who comes by here for five minutes — you know they’re beat down by their job, you know — for five minutes to feel like somebody. You wouldn’t believe how this business has grown.”
5. How would you manage sprawl?
“We’re going to have to — you know what we need to do, which isn’t going to happen — and I don’t believe it’s going to be allowed to happen. I believe, and it’s going to step on a lot of toes, that the county and the city need to merge at some point in time. Soon.
“In 1987, if you research this, there was a commission formed to do just that. The city passed it; the county commissioners wouldn’t allow it.”
6. What’s your position on the city of Asheville’s intention to dissolve the Regional Water Agreement?
“I think it needs to be dissolved. If you have ever looked at that agreement, it’s very thick. You’re going to talk to some guys that really don’t know what’s going on here, that’s running for office.
“No. 1, it contains the Municipal Golf Course, it has McCormick Field, all these properties involved in this agreement. It should stay basically with what’s concerned there, and that’s water.
“It needs to be dissolved, and I am for that. That is the city’s assets — it is not an authority. Legally, it is not an authority; if it was an authority, it would save the taxpayers a lot of money.”
7. I-26 Connector: Six lanes or eight? Why?
“That’s a hard one. I’m concerned about a couple of things, and I don’t care who’s — I’m a little bit with both sides on that. I’m not really good on the highway thing and don’t know as much as I need to know. But I will look at it very, very hard. I’ve talked to [Asheville City Council member] Brownie [Newman] about it, I’ve talked to CIBO about it. I’m going to make a decision. Any decision I make — the road, any decision — I want to hear from my staff the pros and the cons of that issue. I do not see that with the city; I do not see that with the county. They come in, the staff does, and say either we are for this or we are against this. If you come before me, I think the people elected me to make the decision. I’ll hear the pros and the cons and make the decision. You know yourself, any time you make a decision you’re going to make some people unhappy.”
8. Is the county’s economic-development policy working? If so, what’s the proof? If not, what’s wrong with it?
“No. We need to aggressively work on that. It needs to be tweaked. I think the Chamber has done the best job that they could do; we don’t need to focus just on tourism. That is a part — and a big part — of our local economy. But we’ve got to work together with tourism, but we’ve got to bring in small business in this area. That’s the future: small business.
“We need to attract — you know, there’s gonna be no more Ball Brothers, no Gerbers. I worked at Ball Brothers. There’s not going to be any of those jobs anymore.”
9. Should the county’s electronic voting machines be required to provide a paper trail?
“I think they should, yes.”
10. Do you think county government is open enough? If not, what would you change?
“No. The city is more open than the county. Public comment is before the meeting, and you have to [state] your topic. I haven’t been to a meeting for years and years, but they call and tell me.
“First of all, we’re going to go back to public comment if I’m elected. If you want to call me a bastard, you can. If [Chairman] Nathan [Ramsey] picks up that gavel, I’m going to grab it out of his hand. Because you have a right to call me that.
“How do I know what’s going to be talked about ahead of time?
“And look at the consent agenda. It’s 50 miles long, and the public’s being left out of it. If a miracle happens and I win, we’re all going to work together. One thing we’re going to be is open.”
11. What responsibilities should be approached regionally? How would you build regional cooperation?
“Take that air-quality agreement — Henderson and Haywood counties have jumped out of that agreement, so I don’t know what I can say about that.”
12. What does the county spend too much money on? What does it spend too little on?
“I don’t mind helping people and nonprofits, but I believe if the Mountain Xpress wants to see where that money is going, or Mike Morgan, they should be able to tell them. I believe that anywhere your tax money goes, you should be able to go see where the money is spent. So I have a problem with just handing money out to everyone.
“I feel the schools should come and present a budget plan to the county. Do you see them do that? No, they don’t. ‘We need $1 million for this and that and that.’ Boom, it’s over. They don’t come in and tell them, we need this and this in the county budget process. They don’t have to prove it. They just say, ‘We need this money.'”
13. How much money do you plan to spend in the general election?