A career businessman now making the switch and trying his hand in politics, Tommy Sofield said he hopes to bring a collaborative attitude and an open mind to Watauga County if elected to the Board of Commissioners.
An App State alumnus and former football team captain in 1975, Sofield, 66, received the Outstanding Service award from the Appalachian Alumni Association in 2017.
“Appalachian meant a lot to me and gave me a chance to get started in life,” Sofield said. “Without the football scholarship, I would have never gone to college.”
Sofield turned that football scholarship into his career in the private sector. He is a real estate developer and the owner of Sofield Properties. Sofield also owned Wilkesboro-based U.S. Chemical Storage, which he sold in 2013.
Sofield donated the Sofield Indoor Practice Facility, which opened in 2006. As a real estate developer, Sofield handled the construction of the facility.
Sofield said he wants to provide more opportunities in Boone for graduating App State students. A Virginia Beach native, Sofield has stayed in Boone since graduating. He said he feels that App State, Boone and Watauga County, along with local business leaders, need to work together to make Boone a place of opportunity.
“I would like to challenge our business leaders to hire more interns (from App State),” Sofield said. “Instead of going to Raleigh, Research Triangle or somewhere else (students) can stay right here.”
In order to do that, Sofield said the Board of Commissioners’ focus needs to be on infrastructure, specifically parking, and affordable housing. There is an opportunity to “integrate the growth” of Boone by making it easier to move around, Sofield said.
By switching from the private to the public sector, Sofield said he wants to bring common sense and fresh ideas to local government. Sofield said he will approach government from a business standpoint, with a focus on being profitable.
“It’s not the County Commissioners’ money, it’s not the county’s money, it’s the residents who live in the community’s money,” Sofield said. “We need to remember that and spend it wisely.”
Sofield said he will interact with the private sector to create public-private funds to improve government efficiency. He pointed to the current construction of the new “Village at the Rock,” which is funded by public-private money.
As County Commissioner, Sofield will be tasked with levying taxes, developing the budget and directing the fiscal policy in Watauga County.
Sofield, a Republican, is running against Democrat Charlie Wallin for the District Five seat on the Board of Commissioners.
Story by Tommy Mozier
Photo courtesy of Tommy Sofield
Featured photo caption: Republican candidate for Watauga County Commissioner, Tommy Sofield (left).