Enka High student on tractor

Enka barn raises questions about Buncombe special interest funding

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Oct. 6 to award $15,000 toward the construction of an agricultural education facility at Enka High School. But as Chair Brownie Newman noted, recommendations to support such projects are normally made by Buncombe’s School Capital Fund Commission or Board of Education and funded through the regular budget cycle.

Cawthorn with veterans at Point Lookout Vineyard

COVID-19 campaignin­g divides local candidates along partisan lines

Many Republican candidates have continued to build voter support through traditional in-person campaign events such as rallies and fundraising concerts. In contrast, Democrats have largely relied on virtual efforts such as phone banking or Zoom calls, eschewing big events out of concern they might encourage spread of the coronavirus.

Vance Monument on June 19, 2020

Commission split in vote to remove Confederat­e monuments

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners remained divided along partisan lines. Chair Brownie Newman and his three Democratic colleagues voted for the removal of Confederate monuments at Pack Square Park and the county courthouse, as well as establishing a task force on the Vance Monument, while Republicans Joe Belcher, Anthony Penland and Robert Pressley voted against those moves.

Robert Pressley at April 16 Board of Commissioners meeting

Buncombe board split on direction for next phase of COVID-19 response

The commission’s Democratic members passed direction for expanded community testing and contact tracing over the objections of its Republican contingent. Joe Belcher, Anthony Penland and Robert Pressley stressed their commitment to ensuring the county’s safety but expressed concern over the process by which the resolution was introduced and some of its terms.

Buncombe County seal

Commission­ers consider medication-assisted treatment endorsemen­t

Board chair Brownie Newman, Vice Chair Jasmine Beach-Ferarra and member Amanda Edwards have placed a resolution endorsing the Sheriff’s Office’s use of MAT on the commission’s agenda for Tuesday, Aug. 20. The treatment is currently offered to the jail’s pregnant female inmates, but Buncombe officials hope to expand its availability to all incarcerated individuals.

Quentin Miller discussing ICE

Buncombe board debates ICE detainer bill

Republican members of the board argued that their Democratic colleagues were out of place in issuing official letters against pending state HB 370, which would require Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller and other sheriffs throughout North Carolina to comply with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests on penalty of removal from office.

Democrats find widespread success in county races

Robert Pressley, incumbent Buncombe County commissioner for District 3, was the only Republican to win a county race in the hotly contested 2018 midterms. Buncombe County Democratic Party Chair Jeff Rose said the party’s unprecedented midterm voter outreach had helped propel Democratic candidates to wins in nearly all local contests.