Asheville City Council

The Asheville City Council’s Dec. 11 meeting—the last one in 2007—saw some shuffling of seats as the newly elected Bill Russell replaced outgoing Council member Bryan Freeborn, and incumbent Jan Davis got the nod as vice mayor.

This seat taken? New Council member Bill Russell (right) takes a seat vacated by Bryan Freeborn as re-elected member Brownie Newman looks on. Photos By Jonathan Welch

Russell, a Republican who came in third in the November general election, was sworn in alongside Davis and fellow incumbent Brownie Newman.

Following an unsuccessful run for Council in 2005, Freeborn was appointed by Council to complete Terry Bellamy‘s term after she was elected mayor. He spoke briefly after Bellamy presented him with a resolution of appreciation.

“It wasn’t until losing [the election] that my wife and I began to realize how much time we haven’t spent together,” said Freeborn. “I look forward to getting to re-know my wife and my family.” As for his time on Council, Freeborn spoke about “the good things and the few bad things,” concluding, “I’m impressed with our record.”

Born free

by Hal L. Millard

Bryan Freeborn lost his bid on Nov. 6 to keep his seat on City Council. But despite his razor-thin defeat to newcomer Bill Russell—his seeming political antithesis, no less—Freeborn is doing swimmingly, he says.

Free to go: Bryan Freeborn received a send-off by Mayor Terry Bellamy. Photo By Jonathan Welch

While Asheville City Council members will be busy over the next two years with their many time-consuming political duties—in addition to juggling their full-time jobs, family time and other obligations—Freeborn says he will be content to once again tend fully to his job, his wife and two small children. All of which, he says, had to take a back seat too often because of city business.

“It’s incredible, the decrease in my stress level,” he told Xpress two days after his last official Council meeting on Dec. 11. “In the two years I was on Council there was not a day that went by where two to four hours of my day was [not] consumed either talking with someone on the phone, answering emails, going to meetings or thinking about city issues.”

But don’t think that Freeborn is ambivalent, nor that he believes his time on Council was wasted. Far from it, he says. “I consider myself as being one of the most effective members of Council in a generation. All the issues I ran on I had major successes on,” he says. “While I didn’t win either time I ran, while I served on Council I was extremely effective.”

Those issues include a greater emphasis on public transit that has boosted ridership, green-space preservation, more pay for city police, better benefits for city firefighters and more autonomy for the Asheville Regional Airport, which Freeborn says is on a path to becoming self-governing after decades of city-county oversight.

While Freeborn says he is content for now as a private citizen, his days as a public servant may not be over—yet.

“I committed to my wife that the earliest I would commit to anything would be 2010,” Freeborn says of another run for office. But, he adds, “I never say no to anything.”

 

In her send-off, the mayor complimented Freeborn’s championing of neighborhoods and working families as well as his focus on transportation issues.

Russell, an insurance agent, is a political neophyte whose success in the November election came as something of a surprise. “I am just humbled to sit up here with this Council … and look forward to listening and learning,” he said.

Russell added that his supporters, many of whom were in the room, “did an amazing job of bringing a newcomer to politics to this seat.” Then, taking a cue from Freeborn, he said to his wife, “I love you very much—and I’ll see you in four years.”

Davis’ selection as vice mayor (replacing Council member Holly Jones) came on a unanimous Council vote following a speedy nomination process. “I think it speaks very well when so many people want to nominate you,” noted Bellamy.

“It’s a huge honor,” Davis said about his election to a second term on Council. “It’s tremendous to have the support of the community.” To his mother, who he said was watching from home, Davis said, “Mom, you haven’t done too bad over the years.”

Newman, who’s also beginning his second term, called on community members to remain involved in city affairs. “I ask for your support as we serve—and that means your ideas,” he said. “Everyone thinks that their town is the most beautiful in the world, but Asheville is truly a special place.”

City Council won’t meet again until Jan. 9, 2008, but Bellamy said she’s fired up about getting started. “We are going to hit the ground running,” she promised, highlighting gang activity/crime and infrastructure needs as key issues. Council will identify more priorities at its annual retreat (slated for early next year), said the mayor.

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3 thoughts on “Asheville City Council

  1. Brian: “I consider myself as being one of the most effective members of Council in a generation. …”

    huh?

    I must now go roll on the floor in uncontrollable laughter! That’s a GOOD one!

  2. travelah

    Cookie Freeborn is a riot in an odd sort of way. It’s almost like Dennis the Martian Kucinich sitting back and pondering what a super effective candidate he really is.

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