Political party: Republican
Occupation: Dairy farmer
Political experience: Eight years as chairman of Board of Commissioners, plus service on many boards and committees
Endorsements: “Not a one: My parents didn’t even want me to run again. My mom’s not saying much, but I think my dad might be voting for my opponent.”
1) How much money have you raised for your campaign? Who are your top three donors, and how much has each contributed?
Total: about $80,000
Top three: Bart Ramsey $8,000, Tom Thrash $6,500, Lora Thrash $6,500.
2) What most distinguishes you from your opponents in this race?
“My opponent wants to raise your property taxes higher than what his colleagues think is smart—one Democratic commissioner called his plan ‘fiscally idiotic.’ In a recession, that’s the last thing we need. We need better jobs here. We need to attract and cultivate businesses, not scare them away.”
3) What do you consider to be your most controversial policy position?
“My insistence that the citizens of Buncombe County be allowed to vote on district elections and zoning. None of the current board, including my opponent, wants citizens to be allowed to decide for themselves. It’s not only an obvious ploy to hold their seats, it’s insulting to democracy.”
4) Do you favor expanding zoning in the county, reversing it or keeping it at its present level? Why?
“The zoning plan adopted in 2007 will actually reduce affordable housing due to certain density restrictions. The zoning rules in the ‘open-use district’ do almost nothing to protect our mountains, contrary to my opponent’s political posturing. More importantly, though, citizens deserve the right to decide the question for themselves.”
5) What would you do to attract better-paying jobs to the area?
“When you ask businesses which are considering expanding or relocating here what they most need, it all centers on a more skilled workforce. We need to improve high-skill training programs [for jobs] in the manufacturing, health-care, construction and hospitality industries. Businesses will come if we build a well-trained workforce.”
6) Has the present Board of Commissioners conducted its business with sufficient transparency? If not, what would you do to increase openness?
“Hardly. We need to televise all public comments—something my opponent would rather not do—and we should reschedule meetings so that more working people can attend. We also need to require that all county departments publicly present their budget requests.”
7) Should the public-comment period before and after board meetings be televised? Why or why not?
“Of course. We live in a democracy, and vital to that process is the free flow of opinions and ideas. Our citizens deserve a voice; otherwise, you risk a few entrenched politicians arrogantly dictating policy from an ivory tower. Besides, the public comment is the best part of the meetings.”
8) The recent gas shortage revealed that this area is uniquely vulnerable to disruptions in fuel supply. What steps would you take to remedy this?
“Our community needs to have a continuing ethic of conservation in everything we do, and I want to lead the way. While the county itself has a strong fuel-conservation plan, we need a better communitywide plan with park-and-ride lots, carpooling and public transit when economically viable.”
9) What is your position on the Sullivan Acts and the water dispute with the city of Asheville?
“I oppose differential water rates and forced annexation, but I’ve tried to work with everyone to find a fair solution to the water dispute. My opponent would rather have the courts settle the matter; I think it’s scandalous that we’ve wasted $340,000 in taxpayer money on a bunch of lawyers.”
10) Are current slope-construction regulations appropriate? How, if at all, would you change them?
“I support steep-slope rules, but I opposed the county’s new rules because they apply at all elevations, regardless of where the property is located: That doesn’t make sense. The average slope in the county is 31%, so the rules shouldn’t take effect until 30% slope—not the current 25%.”