Sustaining community: A conversation with local candidate Terri Wells

Terri Wells

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.

Commissioner Terri Wells is seeking reelection in 2024, representing the newly drawn District 2. Wells is a ninth-generation Western North Carolina farmer with experience in public education. On her campaign website, she touts her accomplishments in connecting rural communities with high-speed broadband internet, conserving natural resources and championing public schools. Wells, a Democrat, will be running against unaffiliated candidate Bruce O’Connell.

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?

Wells: Plenty! Thanks for asking. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners is a separate entity from the Asheville City Council and other local municipalities. Our ordinances impact the unincorporated areas of the county. We do not manage water, sewer or roads. We do, however, prioritize working with our partners to ensure that we are planning for our future infrastructure needs. We set the property tax rate and approve the annual budget that prioritizes county services. More than 70% of our general fund budget goes to our schools, public safety, and health and human services. The decisions we make not only impact the daily lives of our community members but the overall direction that our county will take over the next decade. With my leadership, we are on track to conserve more than 20% of our land, specifically prioritizing our working-family farms to ensure we have a healthy, local food supply.

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? 

It’s pretty simple. Leaders need to listen more and talk less. Leaders need to meet with and listen to community members in order to understand the different views about the issues of our community. This is what I have been doing for four years. I seek community discussion by offering community events across the county, with recent events in Candler, Leicester and Swannanoa. I welcome everyone, especially those who may have a different opinion because I want to understand where they are coming from as well. I encourage everyone to remember that we all come to these conversations from our different backgrounds, and we can all learn and contribute to these important discussions about the issues that impact our daily lives. No one has all the answers, but by being willing to listen and learn, we can work together toward solutions that will build a stronger Buncombe for everyone.

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

Infrastructure, education and opportunity are key for our small businesses. I have heard from small businesses across the county that they need broadband, and I will continue my work to ensure that everyone in our county has access to high-quality, high-speed broadband internet. With my leadership, residents and businesses are being connected to fiber internet in Reems Creek, Ox Creek, North Buncombe, Leicester, Sandy Mush and Fairview. In Enka-Candler, I am advocating for funding from our state legislature so MSD can extend the sewer, which will provide more opportunity for small business development. Business owners have told me that they need help hiring, and they need our schools to be providing great career support, especially in the trades. I will continue to support career tech in our schools, as well as support programs that provide business training and incubation so that we continue to develop our homegrown talent.

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

The N.C. General Assembly has mandated that this issue be studied, and I think it is important that we have a thorough assessment and understanding of the impacts of operating two school districts. As a former high school teacher, I understand how these big decisions can impact students, parents, teachers and staff. We need to listen to parents and staff to make a well-informed decision to help families in our school districts get the best education possible for our children. Once we review the findings and recommendations from the report and listen to our community, then we can make an informed decision as to what will be the best way to proceed for our community in the long term. A strong public school system is the backbone of our community.

To learn more about Wells, visit


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One thought on “Sustaining community: A conversation with local candidate Terri Wells

  1. Voirdire

    Terri Wells.. focused public servant for the past four years …just what Buncombe County still needs. Kind of refreshing here too…. it’s not about her… it’s about sewers, high-speed broadband internet access and family farms. Nuts and bolts.

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