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: 21 Valle Vista Drive, Asheville
Occupation: Retired school administrator
Years in Buncombe County: 47
Education: Master’s degree in biology, Appalachian State University
Political party: Democrat
Political experience: County commissioner 16 years, former president, N.C. Association of County Commissioners
1. What sets you apart from your opponent?
“Experience. I’m the oldest rat in the barn. I’m coming up on 16 years on the board. I’m 75, and I’m still healthy.”
2. What’s the biggest problem facing the county? What would you do about it?
“Our county is in fairly good shape. But we, like everybody else around, have an economic problem as far as jobs go. Of course we’re in a lot more trouble now, with these two floods. We’ve got a lot of restaurants closed that employed a lot of people in our city and county. I think economic development is what we need to do, and affordable housing is a must. We’ve got to do more in that regard. And of course, education of our children will always be important to anyone who has any morals at all.”
3. What, if anything, needs to change about construction in floodplains?
“That’s a thing we need to look at, of course. If I couldn’t get insurance, I wouldn’t build anything in a floodplain. But I’m not a builder; I don’t build things. Some of those things are controlled by state law, the floodplain laws. They draw those maps. The maps need to be fixed and, of course, it’s going to take the state too many years to do that. But they’re the ones that decide that, with the Corps of Engineers on the federal level.
“We need to do the best we can with ordinances that will help with that. We’ve done some mitigation before, we’ve bought some properties with federal money, and we will get some to do that this time, I’m sure. We’ll buy some people’s property to keep that from happening again.”
4. Are you in favor of countywide zoning?
“No. We need to keep control on growth the best we can, but that’s a combative word in our county. Of course, it was voted down by a majority of the people that voted, I don’t know that it was a majority of the citizens of Buncombe County. I don’t know how a majority of the citizens feel, but the majority of those that voted were against it. I can go along with that, provided that we take the ordinances we have and strictly enforce those. We may not always be doing that.
“We’re looking into that — making sure that every ordinance we have is enforced in its entirety.”
5. How would you manage sprawl?
“I think sprawl can be managed by where the infrastructure goes, Where the water and sewer lines go.
“We have ordinances that do that, too. We have the development ordinances about how far they can go up on a ridge, how close together houses can be, and all those things that we do. The barriers we need, etc.”
6. What’s your position on the city of Asheville’s intention to dissolve the Regional Water Agreement?
“I’m very much opposed to that; We’re going to do everything we can. I personally think we should combine water and the Metropolitan Sewerage District. It’s almost the same stuff, underground. The pipes run parallel to each other.
“I’m on the Water Authority and they ought to take that part off — it ought to be [called] the Water Board, because it has no authority. I’ve said that in the meetings almost every time we meet. Anything we do, the city can veto; the city manager and the mayor or the City Council can veto almost anything we do. But by law they have to have it to vote on certain things, but that’s controlled by the city and the county, particularly in their budgets.”
7. I-26 Connector: Six lanes or eight? Why?
“Six lanes. From what I’m hearing now, new information, six lanes will take care of what needs to be done out there. I am opposed to land-grabbing by the state of North Carolina. They will wipe out a neighborhood over there with eight lanes. I think they’re smart enough to elevate that thing and get by with less invasion of private property, and that’s what we need to do. I think six lanes will handle that problem.
“We finally got the state to listen to Michael Moule’s point of view, a little bit. Hopefully.”
8. Is the county’s economic-development policy working? If so, what’s the proof? If not, what’s wrong with it?
“It’s working; we’ve done a good job. This new Swiss company, the ground is broken. We’re doing everything we can legally do. The state needs to help us on what we can do.
“The major company that we lost, with a couple of hundred jobs, we lost to Greenville/Spartanburg. They can give them all kind of breaks down there, but that is up to the state. We maxed out on any money we had, that we could do. But it wasn’t enough.”
9. Should the county’s electronic voting machines be required to provide a paper trail?
“I don’t have any problem with that. But I don’t have any problem at present; the election staff tells us that it is all right.
“I don’t have any problem with getting the printers. It’s expensive to purchase those things that Sequoia can give us. We can’t do that by November. But it’s probably a bad situation; we wouldn’t want to have the kind of problems they had in West Palm Beach and other places.
“They assured me — I asked. [Board of Elections Director] Trena [Parker] assured me there’s no way that our machines can be tampered with. But you and I know that computers can be tampered with. I hope we don’t have anybody that smart, locally, who can affect that.”
10. Do you think county government is open enough? If not, what would you change?
“I think it’s open enough. I don’t know if you are referring to our public comments.
“Our public comments were used by five people to come and tirade against the commissioners, against everything we are doing. And they were the only ones coming. Now if we have a public hearing, they can come and have their opportunity. That’s the reason we have public hearings. But the public comment was taken over by about five individuals who had one thing in mind, and that was to cuss the commissioners, to downgrade the sitting commission. You know, we kind of got tired of that; I know I did.
“They don’t come anymore because they’re not on television. They’ll come to a public hearing, because it’s televised. Of course, there’s one of them who knows more about everything than anybody else.”
11. What responsibilities should be approached regionally? How would you build regional cooperation?
“Economic development can certainly be regional, because if we get a plant in Buncombe that helps Madison and McDowell, everyone around us. If Henderson gets one, it helps us all. Haywood needs it, after what happened to Champion. They need that sort of regional help. And whatever helps regionally helps all of us. I have no problem with doing that, all we can do to regionalize economic development.
“We’ve done that with Hendersonville on water. Of course, they don’t think the city of Asheville is treating them right, but that’s another story.”
12. What does the county spend too much money on? What does it spend too little on?
“Our major expense is education, and we don’t spend too much. We may not be spending enough there.
“Another thing is our Medicaid costs go up a little over $1 million per year because our number of eligible people is going up. Partly with some moving in, particularly those coming in to work on the farms and around and about. And of course, the loss of jobs has increased those numbers big time.
We did, this past Friday, 1,300 new people for food stamps, but that’s because of the flood, and they’re doing emergency help. Their jobs are gone and they need the money.”
13. How much money do you plan to spend in the general election? “Probably between $10,000 and $15,000, although I don’t have that much now. I’m having a fund-raiser next week. I’ve never been on TV and I may have to this year.”