By Eligiah Thorton
Editor’s Note: This week we have interviewed all the local candidates for office who would respond to our request for an interview. This is an effort to help you to get to know them better. While not all candidates have challengers for their seats, we hope these interviews and profiles of the candidates will help our readers get to know their elected and possibly elected officials better. The candidates are in alphabetical order by political race.
Fitzsimmons interested in his community
Weaverville – Patrick Fitzsimmons is running for re-election for Weaverville Town Council and has been working with the community for over 15 years.
He is the Executive Director for Mountain BizWorks, a local non-profit that helps small businesses in the community with coaching, loans and continuing education for small businesses to grow and become a part of the community.
His former occupation was the CEO of the American Red Cross of Western North Carolina. Originally from Kansas, Fitzsimmons grew up in a military family and moved from town to town, settling in the Weaverville area in 2004.
Fitzsimmons has served on many boards in the community, such as the Weaverville Economic Development Advisory Board and the Citizens Academy, based in Weaverville that is there to provide the community with education on how town government works day-to-day.
Fitzsimmons’ main campaign points for the upcoming election are as follows:
Comprehensive Land Use Management Plan – The Town of Weaverville is experiencing a growth rate far larger than the municipalities around the town. Fitzsimmons intends to make sure the development is managed so that it will benefit the entire community, which includes where new structures should go as it pertains to the town’s values. There were twice as many building permit applications in 2018 than in 2017. He feels that it is crucial to manage that growth in a healthy way for the community as a whole.
Expansion of the town’s water plant and supply lines – With the enlargement of the water plant in the town, Fitzsimmons wants to make sure there is an adequate water supply for the continued growth of the town. “What influences development in the area is where water supplies are. We are making sure there is not only water for the residents in Weaverville but will also help determine where development occurs,” said Fitzsimmons.
Development of the community center at Lake Louise – The community center is a rather significant expense for the Town of Weaverville and Fitzsimmons wants to make sure that with that development, the center is going to be used for something that is wanted by the citizens of Weaverville.
There are hopes that more recreation will be added to the community center as well, such as tennis courts and basketball courts, as well as joining the greenway to the park there as well. There have been several meetings about the construction already, and a mixed group of staff and citizens have been assigned to make sure the community center is used for the wants and needs of the community as a whole. Fitzsimmons encourages the citizens of Weaverville to attend regular meetings so that the voices of the community are heard as the Town of Weaverville continues to grow. If you would like to contact Fitzsimmons, his Biography and Contact information are located on the Town of Weaverville website at Weavervillenc.org.
McKenna invested in the community
Weaverville – Jeff McKenna, running for re-election to Town Council for Weaverville, has been in the area since 2005. Since moving to Weaverville, he and his wife Rhonda have been an integral part of the community.
His wife Rhonda is involved with Habitat for Humanity and the two both graduated from the Citizens Academy, which is an educational program geared to inform the residents of Weaverville of how the local government works.
Their daughter Emily graduated from North Buncombe and UNC-Chapel Hill and is currently living in Raleigh, pursuing her career. McKenna is the Vice President for Speak Easy, Inc, a communications development company based out of Atlanta. McKenna was also the Chairman of the Weaverville Zoning Board for over 10 years and volunteers to help others with their own start-ups with organizations like Venture Asheville. With over 30 years of experience in the technical and start-up field, McKenna contributes his wealth of knowledge to those who are looking to start their own businesses in the community.
McKenna’s main Campaign points are as follows:
Strategic Growth Plan – With Weaverville’s growth rate being three times that of Asheville McKenna feels that it is crucial to manage this with the plan already in place by the town government. This plan is a strategic growth plan that will keep the small-town roots and the small-town culture with stable and consistent growth even though the town is expanding rapidly. The growth plan includes transportation services, Greenway Projects, managing water lines and overall steady growth that won’t take away from the uniqueness of the town. This stability comes with community involvement, as well. McKenna would also like to strengthen the town government’s relationship with the community. The long-term plan for strategic growth involves the residents and McKenna would like the community to go to town meetings and have their voices heard on what the residents think the town needs as they look to the future of Weaverville.
Water Supply – With any new growth comes the concern of resources.
McKenna wants to ensure that the water supply of Weaverville keeps up with the rate of expansion. The plan is to expand the current water plant and also add water lines to the West of I-26 to stay ahead of the growth of the town.
Community Center at Lake Louise – The new community center is at the top of a lot of Council Members’ lists. McKenna believes the center will promote more of an active lifestyle for the residents of Weaverville. Recreational areas, events and most of all, a gathering place for the community, he feels the new community center will be a hub so residents can meet and enjoy their community together. The input of the residents is essential to the council members, so a small group of residents and staff have been assigned to gather information on what the community feels is important to have at the community center once opened.
If you would like to contact McKenna, his contact information is listed on the town website at weavervillenc.org.
Nagle has unfinished business on the board
Weaverville – Andrew Nagle, running for re-election for Weaverville Town Council, has resided in the town of Weaverville with his wife, Elizabeth Conrad Nagle, for over 25 years, and has two adult children.
Nagle grew up in an Army family and traveled extensively in his childhood. Graduating from Appalachian State University in 1987, the couple moved here to work for a local family-owned business, A-B Emblem, located in Weaverville, where Nagle is Executive Vice President. The company, founded in 1944 by Elizabeth’s family, provides emblems and patches for a wide range of businesses and government agencies around the world.
Nagle has been an integral part of the community as well as Buncombe County throughout the years. He currently serves on the board of Manufacturers Executive Association and has served on the Board of Directors for the Asheville area Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County, which promotes economic development in the region and supports long-term economic growth by attracting new businesses to the area.
Nagle’s main campaign issues are some unfinished business the town has he’d like to help guide. Those points are as follows:
Provide water for the northern regions of the Town – Nagle would like to continue the current dialogue about expanding the water lines to the north of Weaverville. This means adding new waterlines from the existing and possibly extending the waterlines into other municipalities such as the Marshall area. He would like to work out a strategic plan for the expansion to make the transition smooth. This involves financial planning and communication between the municipalities and the Town of Weaverville.
The New Community Center for the Town- The community center that is planned for Lake Louis is a significant financial investment for the town and Mr. Nagle wants to ensure that the community needs and wants are met in this venture. The council approves the budget for the town and this includes the budget for the building of the center. The community center project has a small group of staff and citizens that will govern the details of the project, but Mr. Nagle hopes to involve local businesses in the space to showcase work done by local artisans and small business owners.
Managing Growth in the Town – Nagle would like to see the new growth managed in a strategic and balanced way for the town. He would like to see zoning ordinances that allow for smaller lots and more affordable and sustainable housing as the cost of housing in Buncombe county continually grows. Though the town doesn’t control how much a home can or could cost, he hopes that with finding a way, with zoning and development, that they can help keep the costs at a reasonable rate for current and new residents.
Mr. Nagle encourages the residents to attend regular meetings to stay up to date with current issues in the town and so that the community is moving forward together. If you would like to contact Nagle, his information is listed on the town’s website at www.Weavervillenc.org.
Angel serving community in many ways
Woodfin – Jim Angel has served as a Woodfin Town Alderman for the past 14 years. A native of Yancy County, Angel moved to the Town of Woodfin in 1968. He has worn many hats since moving to the community, including the Woodfin Fire Department, where he was Chief for over 22 years. Also, during his time in service, he has been the chairman of the Woodfin community center. He has seen many changes throughout his time here and would love to continue to see more growth in the community and it is an honor for him to call Woodfin home.
Angel’s main Campaign points are as follow:
Continue to be a part of a board that seeks to address the needs and concerns of Woodfin Residents- As an Alderman, it is Angel’s job to represent those who have elected him in the community. This pertains to any new development within the community or anything that might affect the citizens of Woodfin. Angel would like to continue to speak for those in his community, involving any concerns they may have about any issues as he has done for the past 14 years.
Work to keep the residents of Woodfin’s Property Taxes as low as possible- With an ever-growing community comes ever-growing tax rates. Angel would like to work as much as he can to maintain the already lowest in the county municipality tax rate of .2800 compared to that of the City of Asheville’s, which is .4289. Property tax will only increase with the growth of the community, but Angel hopes that he can help keep that down for the residents of Woodfin.
The installation of a water line on Ingle Road- “As a Part of the Woodfin Fire Department and for the betterment of the residents of Ingle Road, I would like the town to try and secure funding to install a water line on Ingle Road,” said Angel. Ingle Road is located off Old Leicester Highway and currently does not have a water line to be accessed by the public. This creates a logistical roadblock for the fire department and when seconds matter in a house fire, having that water supply is critical for the residents and those who are battling those flames.
If you would like to contact Angel, you can reach him through the town’s website at www.woodfin-nc.gov
Honeycutt hopes to continue serving community
Woodfin – Donald Honeycutt, running for re-election to the Board of Alderman in Woodfin, is a native to Woodfin. He lives in the town with his wife and also has two adult children. Honeycutt attended Woodfin Elementary, continued to Erwin High, and eventually ABTechnically Community College. Honeycutt has worked for a family-owned car dealership in Buncombe County since 1995.
Honeycutt has also served on the Board of Directors for the Fire Department for eight years, as his father was a firefighter, he continued the tradition as a board member. Honeycutt’s political ties to the town are extensive a well as his uncle once served as a town alderman for several years, and other family members have served the town throughout the years.
Honeycutt’s main campaign points are as follow:
Keeping Tax Rates Low while continuing to maintain service – Honeycutt would like to maintain the low tax rate of the town but also continue to provide the services to the town that are needed for residents. Balancing the town’s budget and also finding ways to save money so residents don’t see much of an increase in their tax rates to do so. One of the essential services is providing is policing. This includes hiring and maintaining a certain number on the force that can ensure adequate safety for the residents of the town.
Parks and Recreation – Honeycutt would like to see the projects at hand to completion. One of the projects in the works is Silver-Line Park. Silver-Line Plastic Corporation recently donated five acres of riverfront property to become a recreational park with river access. Other projects in the works that Honeycutt would like to see to completion is the greenway system that will connect with the Asheville Greenway System. The town is working with RiverLink to make sure the projects are environmentally and economically sound for the river and the Town.
Continue to address concerns of the residents – Honeycutt would like to sustain the work of the Alderman and make sure the interests of the residents of the town are being considered. Honeycutt encourages the members of the community to come to meetings and keep informed on what is happening in the town so the alderman and the mayor can represent the community as a whole, with all concerns being heard by the council.
Lunsford involved in community
Woodfin – Ronnie Lunsford has been a part of the Woodfin community for over 42 years. Growing up in Asheville, he moved to the Town of Woodfin in 1977. Lunsford and his wife have two grown children. A retired mechanical inspector for Buncombe County, Lunsford inspected the electrical, plumbing, mechanical and other systems for residential and commercial sites. Lunsford has been involved in the community for years and while his children were in school in Woodfin, he and his wife were involved in the Woodfin Youth League Board, which involved organizing and helping support the young athletes of the community. Lunsford is currently involved with the Moose Lodge, in Marion, NC, where he is a member. The Moose Order is a service organization that helps those less fortunate worldwide, through raising money and annual charity events such as providing Christmas gifts for children in need. Lunsford’s main campaign points are as follows:
Maintaining a low property tax rate- Property tax rates in the Town of Woodfin have just increased but are still relatively lower than the surrounding municipalities. Lunsford would like to keep these rates low for residents of the town and to attract new residents to the community.
Keeping the river clean- Lunsford would like to work more with RiverLink, an organization that promotes environmental well being to the French Broad River as well as bringing economic vitality to the area. This includes greenways, parks, upkeep close to buildings and bringing access to the river for the residents to enjoy. Lunsford hopes that by maintaining a healthy relationship with the riverfront and the residents that it will help the town prosper both environmentally and economically.
Development of Silver-Line Park – The development of the Silver-line park is a large item on the agenda of the town. Five acres were donated from the Silver-line Plastic Corporation, founded in the Town of Woodfin in 1962. This park will be used for recreational activities while also providing access to the French Broad River. The full design is still in development but Lunsford hopes this park will be used by all residents and a place where families, schools and other groups in the town can meet and enjoy. For more information about the Silver-line Park and other parks in the works for the Town visit the Town Website at www.woodfin-nc.gov/parks.
Lunsford encourages the residents of the town to attend regular meetings. If you would like to contact Lunsford, his information is on the town website at www.woodfin-nc.gov.
Nichols aspires to seat on board
Woodfin – Linwood Nichols, running for Woodfin Town Alderman, is a fresh face for this upcoming election. Nichols has resided in Woodfin for the past 23 years, along with his mother, stepfather and brother. Nichols is set to wed Jennifer Lance in October of this year and reside in the Town of Woodfin together.
Nichols attended Erwin High School and continued to Asheville/Buncombe Technical Community college while also enlisting in the Army Reserves for over three years as a Water and Fuel Systems Maintenance Professional.
Nichols is currently employed at Thermo Fisher as Head of Security and hopes to pursue local politics. According to Nichols, he has been officially endorsed by the North Carolina Central Labor Council and the State AFL-CIO. The AFL-CIO is one of the largest associations of Unions in North Carolina with a mission to advocate for workers’ rights in the state, such as safe working environments, consumer protections, and quality public services on behalf of all working people. Nichols Campaign points are as follows:
Extend public transportation for all residents – Nichols would like to extend the public transit that currently exists so that all citizens of Woodfin can easily access transportation lines. Currently, Mountain Mobility is the only far-reaching mode of transportation that is available to the citizens of Woodfin. Nichols hopes to work with Buncombe County to extend transportation to the community.
Raise the standard wage to a living wage – Nichols hopes that he can work with local businesses and town government to make sure there is a standard living wage for the community as rising costs of living and inflation are affecting the country as a whole. As the costs of products, especially food, surge small towns are usually hit the hardest, thus needing a standard living wage to counteract the rise.
General increase in action – Wanting to see a general rise in engagement with the town and the current issues that are ongoing, Nichols would like to become more involved and acquainted with the current affairs for the town so that he can help take more action and help resolve issues that are related to the Town of Woodfin.
Nichols also would like the residents of Woodfin to attend regular meetings, so they are up to date on the current issues as well. If you would like to contact his email is Com.L.Nichols@gmail.com
VeHaun at home in Woodfin and as mayor
Woodfin – M. Jerry VeHaun, the current Mayor of Woodfin, has been Mayor for the past 16 years. Growing up in Woodfin, Jerry attended Woodfin Elementary, Erwin High School and also attended UNC-Asheville. While maintaining his responsibilities as Mayor, VeHaun is also the Buncombe County Director of Emergency Services, a position he has held for the past 48 years. VeHaun will retire from this position at the end of this year. VeHaun currently lives in the Town of Woodfin with his wife, Genny. VeHaun’s campaign points are as follows:
Keeping tax rates low in the Town – The tax rate in Woodfin is the lowest municipal tax rate in the county. The Mayor and the Board of Aldermen are responsible for this. He hopes to keep that rate low for the residents as there is continued growth within the town. This low tax rate will help to keep current residents from leaving and will inspire growth with new residents.
Maintain healthy growth for the town – Jerry would like to see more growth in the town such as small businesses and homes, along with a new park for the residents. He also wants to make sure this growth comes in a positive and responsible manner for the town. VeHaun wants to make sure with each addition to the town that needed resources such as water are evolving with the growth.
Provide the best possible service for residents – Jerry wants to provide the best service possible to the residents of Woodfin. He also wants to continue to provide those services the residents actually want and need which are discussed in town meetings or special forums. Adding parks for recreational use, cleaning up abandoned buildings and eyesores along its streets are examples of his wishes. He also wants to continue to create an overall sense of well-being for the residents of Woodfin.
VeHaun encourages the residents to attend the town meetings to provide input to the town. This input is very important for the town to grow and to maintain services for its citizens. If you would like to contact the Mayor, his contact information is listed on the town’s website at www.woodfin-nc.gov.
Gassaway finds job experience helpful in role as chairperson
Woodfin – Sarah Gassaway, running to retain her seat as chairperson of the Woodfin Water District Trustee, is a lifelong resident of the Woodfin Community.
Sarah has been a Trustee on the board since 2009 and became the first female Chair of the Woodfin Sanitary Water and Sewer District Board of Trustees in the Board’s history.
Sarah retired as the Woodfin Elementary School Secretary/Treasurer in 2007 with 31 years of tenure and has been focusing on her position as Trustee since. Sarah graduated from Erwin High, continuing to AB-Tech from there, eventually meeting her husband, Jack, who is a local Pastor at Richland Baptist Church. The couple have two grown children who live outside the town as well as six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Since Sarah has joined the board, Sarah and the other board members have maintained a debt-free department and feel it is necessary to continue to do so. Her main Campaign points for the upcoming election are as follows:
Conservation of Resources and Funds – Maintaining the continued agenda of and preserving the natural environment within the Woodfin Community while also maintaining the budget to do so. The Woodfin District has won the clean water award seven times and Sarah hopes to keep that title as the community continues to grow. The trustees’ job is to vote on the budget, which includes expansion of lines while also considering the environmental impact and the impact any new coming increase would have on clean water and the residents of the community.
Keeping water rates low for residents – The Woodfin Water district has some of the lowest rates in North Carolina and Sarah’s mission is to keep it that way. While the town is experiencing expansion, the trustees’ job is to maintain the budget and make sure that with any new development and cleanup of old pipelines in the community that the residents don’t take a hit. Sarah, being a treasurer for over thirty years, hopes that she can continue to help keep the rates low for consumers in this community with maintained vigilance and careful decision-making that she and the other trustees are entrusted to do.
Maintain a healthy relationship with water district employees – The turnover rate for the Town of Woodfin Water District is extremely low. Sarah hopes this will continue to be the case for the hardworking people of the department. The job of the trustees is to vote on labor budgets, as well, and this involves raises, salaries and the overall financial contributions to the employees of the water and sewer department. “The people of this department work extremely hard,” said Sarah. With continued renovations of the department’s resources such as old pipelines and the water facility itself, “We need to always look out for the employees who are the ones working hard to facilitate this growth.”
Gassaway is available for any and all questions from the community and encourages the residents to come to the monthly meetings. You can find her information via the Woodfin Water website.
Don Haynes looks to continue experience to help the water district
Woodfin – Donald Haynes of Woodfin is running for re-election for a seat as Woodfin’s Sanitary Water and Sewer District Trustee. Haynes resides in Woodfin with his wife of over 50 years and has two daughters who currently live in the Western North Carolina area.
Haynes grew up in the Asheville area and attended Lee Edwards High School, now known as Asheville High School. Continuing his studies, he attended Western Carolina University, where he earned a degree in Business with a minor in history in 1962.
From there, he went into property-casualty insurance, where he gained knowledge in risk management, insurance operations, business law, property insurance, business insurance and finance and accounting in the insurance field. He became CPCU (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter) certified, which is the most distinguished designation awarded in the insurance industry. Haynes became the Vice President of the Tomberlin Insurance Agency for many years, retiring in 2000. He still hopes to use his knowledge and strengths for the good of the Woodfin water district. Haynes main campaign points are:
Keep the water rates low for customers – Haynes would like to keep the already low water rates low as growth occurs within the water district. While new development and continued plans for expansion within the community occur, Haynes would like to navigate the new growth with steady management and input from the Trustees so that the consumers do not suffer from higher costs. He would like to keep the customers satisfied with the water rates and maintain that trust with the community.
Maintain and repair existing water lines – Haynes would like to continue the hard work that is being done by the employees of the water department by maintaining the existing water lines and ensuring good, clean water for area residents and future clients of the water district. This includes repairing older water lines in the town and installing new waterlines and expanding those lines if they are needed.
Use his knowledge base for the customers – Haynes would like to continue his work by using his knowledge in insurance and business to help maintain the water department’s financial stability. He hopes to continue this by making smart financial decisions, via working with banks (reducing service fees) and insurance companies to keep the cost of business low. This, in return, will help the employees and the citizens in the community with the institution of long-term strategic plans and goals that work for the community and the water district.
Haynes encourages citizens to attend the regular meetings to stay informed with current proceedings of the Woodfin Water & Sanitary District.