BOONE — Election Day for two open seats on the Blowing Rock Town Council takes place Tuesday, Nov. 5. Four candidates are running for two open seats on the Blowing Rock Town Council, with the top two vote-getters winning four-year terms. The Blowing Rock mayor is running for re-election unopposed. The mayor receives a two-year term.

Early voting in Watauga County began Wednesday, Oct. 16, on the ground floor of the Watauga County Administration Building at 814 West King St. For more election coverage, visit wataugademocrat.com/election/election2019.

The Watauga Democrat asked each Blowing Rock candidate to provide responses to a series of questions for publication. Following are their responses.

1. Why are you running for this office? You may also wish to briefly mention your top issues or goals if elected or re-elected.

2. An ongoing challenge has been the balance of keeping the charm of the village while pursuing and allowing economic growth. How do you plan on keeping this balance as an elected official?

3. Parking is becoming more of an issue in Blowing Rock with an overall increase in visitors in recent years. How should Blowing Rock tackle this issue going into the future?

4. In one sentence, how would you improve the communication between the town of Blowing Rock and Watauga County officials?

5. Yes or no answer with one sentence explaining why. Would you be in favor of not renewing the town’s current contract with Watauga County for dispatch and 911 services?

Blowing Rock Town Council Albert Yount

Bio: Native of Newton and Blowing Rock resident since 1995. Active service with Honorable Discharge, U.S. Navy. Bachelor of Arts in History/Government at Lenoir Rhyne University. Former Chairman/Member of Catawba County Board of Elections. Former Chairman/Member of Hickory Regional Planning Commission. Retired member of Newton Fire Department. Operated N.C. incorporated business 1973 until October 2018.

1. My quest for re-election is to do (but is not limited to) what I can offer towards protecting and preserving the village atmosphere in Blowing Rock. That atmosphere and visual effect is the stock in trade for our village. Note that my campaign theme is “Progress (hand in hand with) Preservation.” No way am I adverse to commercial development but insist it fits its proposed location.

2. Simply prohibit building of structures that threaten or upset their environs relative to height, mass and proximity to established single-family neighborhoods. Pay attention to the axiom — “What’s the big idea?” Small space has big rewards.

3. Parking is a top priority. First I propose we employ a professional to inventory our current parking availability and determine if that space is being used to its full utility. Only with that information can we sensibly determine any forward plans.

4. Our recently hired town manager Shane Fox has resurrected working lunch dates with the Watauga County manager which is a good start towards improving both town and county relations and needs.

5. Simply much too complex for a one sentence answer or a quick yes/no. The Blowing Rock Town Council notified Watauga County of our intention to sever our communication contract within one year, which puts the issue on the front burner — (note I used the word “intention”).

Jim Steele

Bio: Served Blowing Rock for over 16 years as a member of the Town Council, Planning Board and Community Foundation of Blowing Rock. Spent over 30 years in senior management of three companies. Married to Gwen Steele and we both are members of Middle Fork Baptist Church.

1. I am seeking this office due to my passion for the people and vitality of our town. Based on my experience in business and knowledge of local government, I can help our new manager accomplish our new goals. Three issues in the near future are: short term rentals,new sources of revenue and a new parking strategy.

2. In order to keep our town charming and yet grow gracefully, we need to update our land use codes in Town and Central Business Center. Growth will be accomplished through infrastructure using technology. Keeping our taxes in check and being good stewards of spending has been a “hallmark” of my tenure in office.

3. The parking issue will be addressed at a town hall meeting with all stakeholders present to help develop a plan.

4. In order to work effectively with the county we will utilize our new town manager who has experience in both fields of government to explore best practices in working together. I would also like to see a council member attend the monthly meeting of the (Watauga) County Commissioners.

5. No, we should not renew our contract with the county for dispatch. We can provide our citizens with better service and have it be less costly.

David Harwood

Bio: Originally from Albemarle, David Harwood attended N.C. State University earning two architectural degrees. He has owned several businesses and is currently president of Sketchline Architecture, PLLC. David and his wife Gina have two daughters. He has served on various executive boards in town and chairs Blowing Rock’s Planning Board.

1. My wife, Gina, and I moved to Blowing Rock in late 1999 from Raleigh. Having grown up in small North Carolina towns, we wanted to raise our two daughters in a similar community. Our village has given so much to my family over the last 20 years and I want to continue to give back. I am passionate about maintaining the small-town charm that drew my family here to live. At the same time, I want to collaborate with residents, council members, community organizations and business owners on defining the future of our village and proactively plan a shared vision of that future. My overarching goal for Blowing Rock is to foster an environment of collaboration and proactive planning. Period. By instituting proactive planning, versus reactive or inactive planning, we can create a strategic roadmap that is coherent, inclusive and transparent. With a realistic plan we can intelligently address the issues of future commercial development, short-term rentals, emergency services, parking and infrastructure. I want to maintain a community that is vibrant, beautiful and prepared for growth.

2. There is growth and then there is smart growth. Smart growth relies on careful planning that includes design standards for commercial business districts, focused economic development and enhanced amenities for citizens and visitors. These considerations can maintain the charm and increase the ambiance of the village. The planning starts with a shared vision that details broad goals for overall direction. This shared vision will serve as foundation for decision making. Next is a strategic plan that specifies how we will achieve these goals. The plan defines policies, milestones, and how we measure progress. Finally, the financial plan serves as the roadmap to achieving the goals within the constraints of available resources. Blowing Rock’s residential tax base has minimal growth yet costs to the town continue to expand. Economic growth is necessary to maintain the same level of town services while expanding opportunities to improve infrastructure and amenities to our citizenry. Embracing smart growth allows Blowing Rock to maintain charm, provide for its citizens and expand its revenue sources.

3. I’m not sure we have a parking issue as much as we have a parking management issue. Certainly, there is less available parking seasonally and during certain events. Often there is ample parking blocks away but visitors are unaware of it or unwilling to walk from the available spaces to their destination. In the short term, public/private parking scenarios should be investigated. Additionally, Blowing Rock should implement paid parking in the most popular areas of town and limit stays to no more than two hours depending on the location.

4. Building rapport and trust with county commissioners is essential to communication and can be started with candid discussions and attendance at Watauga County Board of Commissioners meetings.

5. Yes. At no additional cost to our town, a hybrid system can be implemented that allows police dispatch to return to our town and the few 911 calls we receive can be handled by a contracted communications service.

Ray Pickett

Bio: Ray is a former town of Blowing Rock commissioner and owner and operator of The Blowing Rock Inn, a family business, since 2001. Ray’s civic service also includes vice-chair of Blowing Rock Planning Board, member of N.C. League of Municipalities Legislative Action Committee, Blowing Rock Comprehensive Study Committee and Blowing Rock Downtown Retail Strategy Committee.

1. I’m running for council because I believe I can bring good insight and experience to the council. I would like to identify the worst problems with our infrastructure and come up with a plan to address it.

2. The balance of charm and growth in the village has long been a challenge. I would look at our comprehensive plan and try to work with our codes to make that plan work for us.

3. Parking is an issue and has been for a long time. The worst problem seems to be on a few of the peak weekends. Being that is not a year-round issue we may need to look at working on a better shuttle service and temporary parking.

4. Just give them a call or send an email, from my experience most of them are willing to sit down and talk.

5. Yes — that is yes unless they are willing to have their people better trained to do that job.

Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers

Bio: Attended Blowing Elementary, Riverside Military Academy Watauga High, Appalachian State. Married to Deatra Sellers. Spent 36 years at Rochester Midland Corp and Cape Fear Consulting. Proprietor of the Blowing Rock Attraction. 2016 Blowing Rock Rotary Citizen of the Year; 2018 Jerry Burns ambassador award winner; Blowing Rock Chamber and Historical Society board of directors member.

1. Continue to maintain the uniqueness of our town. Greater utilization of satellite parking using AppalCART to shuttle downtown. Completion of Sunset Drive. Completion of revitalization of Memorial Park. Focus on infrastructure repair and replacement. Continue to enforce the current regulations for the short-term rental issue. Maintain town ordinances to manage growth on U.S. 321/ Valley Boulevard. Consider options for pickle ball courts.

2. Enforce zoning ordinances. Emphasize the need for exterior of buildings to conform with current architectural designs. Entertain businesses that are closely related to our demographics and instill our values.

3. We are currently looking at new options for parking in our town that could include private-public partnerships, also utilize current satellite parking and shuttle services for the downtown sector.

4. As mayor and council we need to continue to build a positive relationship with Watauga County, working on issues that involve both governments. We need to focus on how we can work together on issues that impact Blowing Rock citizens.

5. At this time 911 will stay with Watauga. Many Blowing Rock citizens have requested police representation in our police station seven days a week. This decision has nothing to do with Watauga County’s performance. Our police station will be manned seven days a week from 7 a.m. til 7 p.m. This will not cost the taxpayers any additional funds.

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