Newly elected Boone Town Council brings new and old faces

Adam Zebzda, Reporter

The Boone Town Council will have a new dynamic and new priorities as recently elected members prepare to take the helm, with sustainability, affordable housing and App State at the forefront of the agenda.

This year’s election was decided by 102 provisional ballots. Newly elected members Dustin Hicks and Nancy LaPlaca will join incumbents Connie Ulmer, Sam Furgiuele and reelected Loretta Clawson on the council.

On Nov. 12, Clawson, LaPlaca and Roseman gathered in the Watauga County Courthouse to witness the counting of the provisional ballots. In total, 117 provisional ballots were cast in the Boone Municipal Election, 102 of which were approved for counting by the Watauga Board of Elections. The 15 not approved had issues in registration status, jurisdiction or incorrect addresses. 

The 2019 election was particularly competitive due to the low voter turnout, Board of Elections Chair Jane Hodges said. 

“We were all disappointed in the turnout, and in the end, all the candidates were so close, a low, low turnout. I was so disappointed in the turnout,” Hodges said.

Incumbent Loretta Clawson has roots in Boone from serving as a former mayor to membership on municipal boards. Her work spans decades. 

Clawson’s key issue is sustainability in regards to climate, housing and voting rights. The Town of Boone has committed to terminate the use of nonrenewable fuels by 2040 and climate neutrality by 2050. 

Since 1997, the town has implemented electric transportation and a tree-planting program. 

Clawson said she plans to focus on protecting existing neighborhoods while ensuring housing for App State students. 

Clawson plans to continue defending the ability for students to vote. She said it strengthens local democracy. 

Discussing the election results, Clawson said she “felt wonderful about them.” 

Clawson will serve a four-year term.

App State senior and sustainable development major Dustin Hicks will become the youngest current member on the council, using their age as motivation to represent the younger demographic of Boone. 

According to their Instagram page, Hicks is focused on climate change and housing. They are a member of the Climate Action Collaborative and want to improve affordable housing, especially for students. Environmentally, Hicks’ page states they want to strive for a climate-neutral town government by 2030 and help build a sustainable economy. Hicks could not be reached for a comment. 

Clawson said she is excited to start working with Hicks and believes they “will be a real asset to the town.” 

Hicks will serve a four-year term on council.

Member of Boone’s Sustainability Committee and newly elected council member Nancy LaPlaca said she plans to lead the town towards more sustainable and climate-friendly practices. 

She said she ran to ensure Boone immediately increases the use of clean energy. LaPlaca strives to reach climate neutrality by the town government by 2030. 

LaPlaca said she plans to focus on housing affordability, creating additional mass public transit options and protecting single-family homes. 

LaPlaca said she is “honored and excited to start working with the council.” 

LaPlaca’s term will last two years as municipal term rules state the top two vote getters serve four year terms while the candidate with the least votes of the three serve a two year term.

Virginia Roseman, who ran for Boone Town Council, did not win a seat. 

“I am heartbroken, but everything works out how it’s supposed to,” Roseman said. “The town is in good hands.”

She said now that the election is over, she looks forward to spending more time with her grandchildren.

Election results stand at 891 votes for Hicks, Clawson with 880 votes, LaPlaca with 863 votes and Roseman with 848 votes.