Occupation: Retired AT&T Bell Labs project manager
Endorsement: “I have the support of many residents in District 2, but did not formally seek endorsements during the primary.”
Xpress: What neighborhood/area do you live in? What are those residents’ concerns?
Reems Creek Valley encompasses people who’ve been there for generations and recent arrivals. The top issue is education; the second is knowing what county services are available and how to access them. Third is wise land development for a strong economy.
What are your top concerns regarding county residents’ health? What would you support to fix those problems?
Health includes mental health, which kind of slops over into human services. The physical health system in the center of the county is strong, but when you get farther out, it’s different. The new Family Justice Center in downtown Asheville is an excellent idea, but how does somebody from Broad River or Leicester get there if they’re in an abusive relationship or their children are being abused? I want to look at things like extending mass transit, having a
Would you support measures to encourage job growth outside the city center? If so, what measures?
I support job growth throughout the county. District 2 has all of the municipalities in it except Biltmore Forest; they’ve been working hard on their own strategic planning. I support that, and I believe the commissioners are bringing in businesses that are good fits. I sat on the Weaverville planning board for 2 years, and I saw how Weaverville used its 2012 master plan, how they designated areas for different purposes. I want to make sure the municipalities are helping each other and that there’s an open line of communication to county staff.
Do you support giving companies economic incentives to relocate/expand in Buncombe County? Should companies receive economic incentives even if not all the jobs they provide are living-wage?
I support incentives. Companies like Linamar, AvL Technologies, GE Aviation are bringing very high-paying jobs, and their service-level jobs pay a living wage. Improvements are needed with workers in the food and hotel industries, especially with all the hotels being built in Asheville.
Given the county’s financial state, would you consider raising property taxes in the next two years? Would you try to cut the budget? If so, in what areas?
No, I wouldn’t. Buncombe County is very strong fiscally: We continue to have a AAA bond rating, unemployment is low, and we pay less than 7 percent for debt. From a strictly business perspective, the county’s well run. But the state [needs to] step up to what it should be responsible for: accepting Medicaid [expansion] and getting back to funding public education, especially our teachers. I’m hoping the 2016 election will make some of that happen, so the property tax revenue could be used for different things. Right now, the county is supplementing teacher pay and building and renovating educational facilities. I would say the budget could be cut depending on our future relationship with the state.
Should we consolidate the Asheville and Buncombe County school systems? Why or why not?
Not for it. It wouldn’t save that much money, and the implementation would be extremely disruptive. Both systems are running very well right now, and only a small number of people would actually be displaced — not enough to warrant consolidation. I’d like to see them look for more ways to partner, beyond student transportation.
What can and will you do to address inequality in Buncombe County?
Education is the remedy for inequality. When kids are exposed to exciting things, they look around and see people who are different from them and hear different ideas. That opens their eyes to the choices they really have. If poverty is anything, it’s a feeling of hopelessness. I think quality education can help change that.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents can’t?
I’m the candidate with a business background in project management. When I got here, I talked with my neighbors and said, “I’m not from here. What can I do to be a good neighbor?” and they told me. I’ve worked on saving the farms, saving the cultural heritage, for the last 10 years. I sit on the county’s Land Conservation Board and the VA Hospital’s clinical research review board. As a commissioner, I’d be doing what I’m doing now, but with a different purpose: leading. X