Sustaining community: A conversation with local candidate Jennifer Horton

Editor’s note: As part of Xpress’ monthlong Sustainability Series, we reached out to all candidates running for Buncombe County Board of Commissioners as well as Asheville City Council. These conversations will appear throughout our four April issues.

Jennifer Horton, a lifelong resident of Buncombe County, is a registered nurse who manages residential family and elder care homes across the community. Horton, a Democrat, is running against fellow first-time candidate Paul Benjamin for the open District 1 seat.

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month. Commissioners vote on policies related to property taxes, zoning, education and more.

Xpress: What misconceptions do community members have about the role of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners?

Horton: While it’s understandable that some may perceive the role of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners as merely administrative, the truth is far more impactful. Commissioners are tasked with making critical decisions that directly influence our daily lives in profound ways. These decisions encompass vital aspects of community welfare, ranging from allocating funds for essential services like law enforcement, infrastructure development and supporting vulnerable populations to overseeing county employees. In essence, the Board of Commissioners plays a pivotal role in shaping the socioeconomic landscape of our county, ensuring the well-being and thriving of all residents.

What can local leaders do to promote thoughtful community dialogue about complex and difficult topics such as the opioid crisis, crime, housing and health care?

Local leaders play a crucial role in fostering open and constructive dialogue within communities, especially when addressing challenging issues such as the opioid crisis, crime, housing and health care. They can facilitate discussions through community meetings, forums and town halls, providing a platform for residents to voice their concerns and share their experiences.

To ensure productive conversations, it’s essential for local leaders to provide accurate information and expertise on the topics being discussed. They can invite professionals, advocates and community leaders to these meetings to offer insights and guidance. By bringing together diverse perspectives and expertise, communities can gain a deeper understanding of the issues at hand and explore potential solutions collaboratively.

By fostering an environment of open communication and mutual respect, local leaders can empower residents to play an active role in finding solutions to pressing issues. Together, we can work toward creating safer, healthier and more resilient communities.

What can the city and county do to help small businesses thrive?

The city and county can undertake various initiatives to create an environment conducive to their success.

Firstly, simplifying bureaucratic processes and reducing red tape can streamline the process of obtaining permits and licenses, making it easier for entrepreneurs to navigate regulatory requirements. Aspiring business owners can access information and guidance more efficiently by offering online portals or dedicated assistance centers.

Providing affordable workspace options, such as shared coworking spaces or business incubators, can significantly lower overhead costs for startups and small businesses. These spaces not only offer affordable rent but also foster a collaborative environment where entrepreneurs can network, share ideas and access resources.

Financial assistance programs, grants or low-interest loans can further incentivize entrepreneurship and provide much-needed capital for business development and expansion. Additionally, mentorship programs connecting experienced business owners with newcomers can offer valuable guidance and support, helping them navigate challenges and avoid common pitfalls.

In your opinion, is it sustainable to operate two school districts? Why or why not?

Combining the school districts has the potential to streamline administrative processes, reduce redundancy and save costs. It also allows for a more equitable distribution of resources, ensuring that every school has access to the necessary funding, staff and materials to provide a quality education. Shared services, such as transportation and maintenance, can be more efficiently managed, optimizing resources across the entire district.

Moreover, a unified district offers increased flexibility in staffing and program offerings, enabling schools to adapt more readily to changing educational needs and trends. Collaboration among teachers and administrators is also enhanced within a single district, fostering the sharing of best practices and resources to benefit all students.

While these efficiencies could improve student support, it’s essential to carefully consider the potential impacts on students and families. Any decision regarding school district consolidation must prioritize the student’s well-being and academic success above all else.

To learn more about Horton, visit  


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