Commissioner hopefuls differ on Buncombe County’s top issue

Written by on October 18, 2012 in Buncombe, ELECTION 2012, Politics, Region, Special Reports, Top News Comments Off
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District 3 candidates share opinions about nonprofit funding, county debt, more

(Left to right) Republicans Joe Belcher and David King and Democrats Terry Van Duyn and Michelle Wood introduce themselves to voters at a candidates forum held Monday by the League of Women Voters of Asheville and Buncombe County and moderated by Jerri Jameson. Voters will select two of the four to represent southern and western portions of the county on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. Angie Newsome/Carolina Public Press

At the final League of Women Voters for Asheville and Buncombe County forum Monday evening, the four candidates running for the two seats on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners’ District 3 race talked about what they thought were the most important issues facing the county and more.

About 70 people attended the forum at the Skyland Volunteer Fire Department where the candidates answered questions submitted by the audience and moderated by former Clear Channel Asheville News Director Jerri Jameson, who is starting a new job with Mission Health System next week.

Carolina Public Press, Mountain Xpress, The Urban News, News Radio 570 WWNC and 880 The Revolution co-sponsored the public forum.

Running for the two District 3 Buncombe County Commissioner seats and at the Monday’s forum were Republican Joe Belcher, a regional manager with Clayton Inc.; Republican David King, a farrier; Democrat Terry Van Duyn, a former programmer and systems analyst and a community volunteer; and Democrat Michelle Pace Wood, a self-employed real estate agent.

During introductions, Belcher said representation on the commission needs to be more inclusive in the county. King said he wanted commissioners to be good stewards of the county’s money. Van Duyn talked about how her community involvement and volunteerism have prepared her to serve, and Wood said she particularly would work hard for jobs, schools and veterans.

When asked what they saw as the biggest issue facing Buncombe County, Belcher said he was concerned about county debt and that he wants to work with county staff to eliminate or reduce ongoing debt.

King said jobs and economic opportunities are the biggest issue and that the role of the commission is to support the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and other agencies involved with job growth.

Van Duyn agreed that jobs are a big issue but also said the funding of schools needed attention, especially as the county deals with state budget cuts in educational funding.

Wood said the jobs situation is the “number one crisis we have right now” and that the county can do things for help make Buncombe County, “not Greenville County (in South Carolina),” businesses’ top pick.

The candidates were asked if they support Buncombe County giving money to nonprofits.

Belcher said public money should not be given to an organization unless there’s accountability and that the possible duplication of work by nonprofits needs to be examined.

King said oversight and accountability is important and that the county has successfully partnered with nonprofits with those groups supplying services with a measureable savings to the county.

Van Duyn said she approves of the county partnering with nonprofits, describing this not as charity but rather as making investments in the community.

Wood said it is important that with anyone who partners with the county – whether it’s a nonprofit or a business contractor – that there is accountability and that the commission is taking care of taxpayer dollars.

All four candidates said they support the use of business incentives to help foster job growth.

And when asked whether Buncombe County should offer domestic partner benefits to county employees, each candidate said “No.”

The original plan for the night included incumbent N.C. Rep. Tim Moffitt, a Republican, facing off in a debate against candidate Jan Whilden, a Democrat. Moffitt and Whilden are running for District 116 in Buncombe County which includes parts of Candler, Enka, Leicester and South Asheville and mimics the Buncombe County commissioners District 3 boundary.

However, Moffitt told organizers that he could not attend the forum because he was tending to business in Raleigh, so there was no debate. Instead, Whilden and a campaign representative of Moffitt’s were on hand at Monday’s forum to talk with voters.

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Kathleen O. Davis

Kathleen O. Davis is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press. Contact her at kathleenodavis@gmail.com.

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