Xpress presents: Asheville’s eight influentials for 2016 — Annie Butzner

Photo by Emma Grace Moon

From Dec. 1-5, Xpress’ website will feature profiles of the eight people we selected as Asheville influentials for 2016. You can also view all eight in this week’s print issue.

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Our area sees its fair share of awards and recognition ceremonies. And many dedicated individuals receive well-deserved attention for the work they do to make our community a great place to live.

But it often seems a small group of movers and shakers get all the glory, while the energy and talent of legions of other contributors remain hidden in plain sight.

So, in the spirit of our mission to build community and foster civic dialogue, Xpress set out to find some of those lesser-known folks who are quietly doing important work in the Asheville area. We put out a call for nominations and received a total of 41. From there, our editorial team conducted background research on the nominees, including interviews with colleagues and collaborators. Gradually, over a series of meetings, the list was narrowed to eight outstanding influencers.

The nominees, overall, embodied a high degree of the qualities we were hoping to celebrate. That’s the calling card of a committed community: We have an abundance of passionate citizens mobilized to make a difference in the Asheville area. We realized, through the course of this project, it only scratches the surface of all the active, influential people in our region. As such, Xpress hopes to revisit this concept in the future.

Xpress applauds the work of those profiled here, and we hope you will be as inspired as we have been to learn more about their motivations and contributions.

— Xpress editorial staff

Previous profiles:


There are two ways to view the Q&A: Either click the graphic below or scroll down to see text version of their answers (some text versions have more information than we could fit in the graphic).

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Annie Butzner

  • Advocates for seniors in Buncombe County
  • Registers senior voters
  • Works for senior voting issues like large-text ballots
  • Fights for increased access to public transportation

Nominator’s quote:
“Annie is a tireless advocate for seniors in Buncombe County. She monitors and interacts with seniors in over 100 facilities, including group homes for voting rights and the right to humane care and accessible public transportation. She has worked throughout Western North Carolina to help register voters, often at her own expense.”

Job, volunteer work:
Senior Suffrage; WNC GOTV; Buncombe County pop-up markets; Green Opportunities; Minnie Jones Community Health Center; Land of Sky Regional Council community volunteer ombudsman; Transylvania County NAACP; We the People Campaign advocating to increase access to the ballot.

What books, music or other media influenced you as a kid?
Nancy Dickerson biography, Clara Barton biography, Gone With the Wind, “Today” show and Walt Disney.

Who were the three most influential people in your life as a kid?
My parents, grandmother and aunts and uncles.

What books, music or other media influence you today?
I read New York Times, Asheville Citizen-Times, Mountain Xpress and The Urban News each morning (my father said, “Before you enter a conversation read a national, local and regional newspaper). I am currently reading The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism, Between Shadow and Sun: A Husband’s Journey Through Gender — A Wife’s Labor of Love and Becoming Jane Jacobs.

Who are the three most influential people in your life today?
Sophie Dixon, William Barber, the legacy of Jane Jacobs and Judge John D Butzner, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Jane White.

What is your favorite quote?
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everyone, only because, and only when, they are created by everyone” — Jane Jacobs (my aunt).

How does Asheville influence you?
Asheville is friendly and inviting.

What makes you passionate about Asheville?
I am passionate because of the heartbreaking oblivion, lack of empathy of the powers to be in taking action to provide needed city and county services.

Why is investing in your community important?
Investing in the community is important because we are all part of the community.

Is there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to be the community-spirited person you are today?
A defining moment was observation of clients, residents and patients who had no control over their own lives. Voting is an expression of concern for ourselves, family and community. I decided to make voting easier to assist in developing political influence to control our own lives. Voting is the connector.

If you had $50,000 to spend on your project, how would you spend it?
If I had $50,000 to spend, I would use $25,000 on current activities, buy fortune cookies (they make everyone’s day a little better) and spend more time on a book attacking our long-term health care system.

What’s your core advice for your fellow community members?
Eat one meal a week with residents in adult care homes. Bring newspapers, games and snacks with you. Register and educate potential voters year-round.

What keeps you awake at night?
Usually, I am so tired I just fall to sleep.

What helps ease your mind so you can sleep?
I read cookbooks.

If you hadn’t chosen your current path, what are some other ways your career or your interests might have evolved?
Spend time sculpting and weaving.

What is one thing about you that people would find surprising?
I became a nurse because I was married to a professional athlete and needed a portable skill.

What can the community do to support your work and efforts?
Build relationships by repeatedly volunteering at same places. Create trust through your presence.

What would you like your work’s lasting legacy to be?
Annie Butzner always thought of others first and furthered community action to expand everyone’s civil rights.

Please feel free to add anything else about yourself, your projects and/or passion that we did not ask about.
The Board of Election building must be moved to an accessible location for everyone.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Dan Hesse
I grew up outside of Atlanta and moved to WNC in 2001 to attend Montreat College. After college, I worked at NewsRadio 570 WWNC as an anchor/reporter and covered Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners starting in 2004. During that time I also completed WCU's Master of Public Administration program. You can reach me at dhesse@mountainx.com.

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One thought on “Xpress presents: Asheville’s eight influentials for 2016 — Annie Butzner

  1. Deplorable Infidel

    elections board bldg is fine right where it is…near much public housing…very few people EVER go there. so many other ways of voter registration.

    fortune cookies ?

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