What’s their top priority for Boone? Municipal candidates answer

Jake Markland, News Editor

Leading up to the Watauga County 2021 municipal general election Nov. 2, The Appalachian sent each candidate the same questions via email, asking what motivated them to run for their positions and how they plan to tackle other issues. Read about their top priorities here. 

 

Tim Futrelle (Mayor)

I have two actually. Quality, affordable housing and renewable energy development.

Todd Carter (BTC)

I want to pass the non-discrimination ordinance, that currently sits idle, to ensure that Boone codifies equitable protections for BIPOC, minority, disabled and LGBTQ residents and visitors in employment, housing, education and access. If I’m elected to Boone Town Council, passing the NDO will be on the agenda for every single meeting until it’s done! Beyond that, I will be exploring all available avenues to incentive minority-owned small business to open in Boone. There are far too few, I can count them on one hand, Black owned businesses in Boone, yet each year we hear about the goal of Appalachian State to increase minority enrollment. LGBT youth are woefully underserved by our town with little available professional or peer-related resources to support their journeys. We as a town and a community need to encourage and welcome a more diverse population. 

As Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor once said: “The dynamism of any diverse community depends not only on the diversity itself but on promoting a sense of belonging among those who formerly would have been considered and felt themselves outsiders.” 

Dalton George (BTC)

First and foremost, I will fight to address substandard housing conditions as well as predatory housing practices. Hope begins at home and it’s no secret that many of our town’s residents are feeling hopeless. While some candidates have begun to address these issues, they are coming to the issue late. I am the only person running that has consistently addressed housing conditions and practices, rather than just talking about them. Affordability and scarcity force many into housing units that are not suitable for anyone. Finding creative ways to balance this power imbalance, improve our current housing stock and ameliorate predatory practices –– these have been and remain my main goals. Even before my recent appointment to the town council, I had worked side by side with local leaders to introduce municipal policies to address our housing issues. Now, during my short time thus far as a councilperson, I’ve introduced these policies myself, tackling the issues of mold in housing units, retaliatory evictions and others. Housing is an issue that transcends the divides we have in our community. It is an issue that I have fought to address and will continue to do so. No one in our community should be paying to live in conditions that harm their health, safety, and comfort.

Benjamin Ray (BTC)

Benjamin Ray did not respond to The Appalachian’s questions but told the Watauga Democrat housing opportunities is his top priority. 

Virginia Roseman (BTC) 

Improving relations with the County Commission is our most important challenge.  The county and the town have shared concerns that we can come together on.  This relationship between the commissioners and the councillors has to be mended and each must be willing to go back to the table — to best benefit all — to make necessary changes to the distribution of the sales tax that we collect.

Eric Wooldridge (BTC)

On my website (eric4boone.com) I outline four primary focus areas, including: downtown revitalization; outdoor recreation and greenway expansion; arts and culture; and neighborhood protection. The key to all of this, and my number one goal, is to see our community engage in long-range planning and bold visioning. You cannot effectively operate any institution, business or community without a great vision. Boone’s Comprehensive Plan was written in 2006! Boone’s (former) land use plan was unadopted by the council with seemingly no intention to revisit the growth challenges ahead of us. According to new state law (see GS 160D), we must maintain an updated comprehensive plan. Let’s take this opportunity to engage all citizens to cast a community vision for the next 15 years to create Boone Blueprint 2035! With a vision, we can internally become more focused and strategic, effectively stewarding our limited staff and financial capacity. In addition, if we can externally communicate our vision to state, federal and private grant-making institutions, we suddenly create new opportunities to secure grant funds to augment our local dollars. This is the type of multiplication necessary to take Boone to the next level, and it starts with great planning. 

Eric Brown (BTC)

My priorities are to see objectives of the council met and the agenda of the community heard and considered.  Pedestrian life in Boone should be a friendly experience.  Not everyone wants to enjoy the High Country with a car.  I see keeping Boone friendly to pedestrians as an attainable vision for the future.  Our food supplies are actually a good indicator that Boone is a growing and healthy place to live and work.

Christy Cook (BTC)

If elected, I work for you.  And that means all constituency groups within our Boone community. However, one primary focus for me will be listening to, partnering with, and advocating for the children (K-12) of Boone and Watauga County as well as their families, guardians, and other key stakeholders who may be directly engaged with the K-12 population. 

I would like to give our local children a voice and get them more involved in building the best Boone! This segment is our legacy and Boone will always be their “Hometown.” I believe that we must continue building the best Boone together. Incorporating K-12 voices now will ensure that Boone remains the special place that it is today. When you invest in a community the level of continued engagement and appreciation increases. Ideally, our K-12 population would want to stay in Boone as young professionals and beyond. 

In focusing on the K-12 population, I understand that our children may choose to educate themselves and pursue career paths both locally and/or globally yet, the goal is for them to ultimately reinvest back into their hometown. Collectively, we can build a town with the best mix of housing, jobs and amenities that will always resonate with our legacy and provide a guiding light to our children that they may always have a place that they’re proud to call home. That being said, serving all citizens of the Town of Boone to the very best of my ability with integrity and strong character is of utmost importance! 

Becca Nenow (BTC)

My top priority is working on bike and pedestrian infrastructure since this area can serve the experience of multiple populations in Boone: students, visitors, and local residents. Bike/ped also serves multiple purposes including: reduce carbon emissions, reduce traffic congestion, prepare for the future growth in population density in town, an enjoyable and low-impact experience for visitors, etc. Not to mention, car tires are a significant source of microplastics, which is a concern that needs dire attention and problem-solving.

Edie Tugman (BTC)

Edie Tugman did not respond to The Appalachian in time for publication.