By Nathan Ham
Candidates running for the Boone Town Council as well as mayoral candidate Tim Futrelle took part in the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce’s Meet the Candidates Forum on Tuesday night. The forum was held virtually and streamed live on Facebook, YouTube and was broadcast on the radio for listeners to hear what the candidates felt needed to happen most for the town.
Tim Futrelle is running unopposed in November to be Boone’s Mayor. Futrelle said he is looking forward to serving in the position and is excited to get back into public service.
“The mayor’s position is a unique position where I can work as a sounding board for the community and community members that have very important issues that they want handled,” Futrelle said. “I can put the word out there, I can get support for that and hopefully, I can help shape some of the policy that the council sees and votes upon.”
Futrelle, who previously served as a Watauga County Commissioner from 2008-2012, said some of his main priorities include water conservation, renewable energy, affordable housing and small business growth. He feels like his time serving as commissioner will help build a better relationship between Boone and Watauga County.
“I think my experience will make that a more professional and more collaborative relationship. We’ve got a lot of opportunities there,” Futrelle said.
Four candidates are running for two unexpired terms left on the council following the retirement of Loretta Clawson and the resignation of Dustin Hicks earlier this year. Edie Tugman, Christy M. Cook, Becca Nenow and Eric Brown are vying for a pair of two-year terms that will expire in 2023.
Tugman first came to Boone in 1964 and has moved in and out of the High Country as jobs required. She worked for almost 22 years in the insurance industry and for a large regional hospital system managing loss reduction. She feels like being able to smartly manage the growth of Boone will be a big focus for the upcoming town council.
“I think there are so many things on the horizon. There has not been a long-range plan for Boone since 2006,” Tugman said. “The present council has started working on a project now for a new downtown business zoning and historic overlay. I think those are amazingly important but I think we also need to be looking at larger Boone and how we are going to manage growth in the larger area of Boone and not just downtown.”
Cook served in the United States Air Force and came to Boone in 2002. She is currently a full-time faculty member at Appalachian State, and education is one of the areas where she would like to see the town council make a bigger impact.
“I am specifically running for Boone Town Council to listen to, partner with and advocate for the K-12 population, which is now right around 4,700. I am listening to them and their families and caregivers, as well as other key stakeholders tied to that population. I believe strongly that they are our legacy and I would like to create as many opportunities for this segment so that they would stay here as young professionals,” Cook said.
Nenow’s family moved to Boone in 2006. She was a fifth-grader at the time. After graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill and hiking the Appalachian Trail, she returned to Boone and started Resupply, a business that offers refills on personal and household care products as well as items to live more sustainably.
“I am interested in the sustainability of Boone, not only in terms of energy but also our growth, a sustainable economy and sustainable government that includes the voices of our town’s people,” Nenow said.
The final candidate for the two-year unexpired term is Eric Brown. Brown was born and raised in Boone and attended UNC-Chapel Hill where he double majored and graduated with a degree in economics and another degree in romance languages. He also hopes to put together a better connection between Boone and the outlying parts of Watauga County.
“I’d like to value the relationship between Boone and Watauga County. I’ve lived outside of Boone in areas like Deep Gap, I have family now currently in Blowing Rock. I know there are a lot of business relationships that go inside and outside of Boone,” Brown said. “The shops, businesses, schools, churches, all of these things are to be listened to and respected very much in a good way that would affect a positive relationship.”
Five candidates are seeking election to the three other seats on the Boone Town Council. Virginia Roseman, Jon Dalton George, Todd Carter, Benjamin Ray and Eric Woolridge are the candidates for those positions. Roseman and George were appointed to the council to fill the seats left behind by Clawson and Hicks. The two candidates of this group with the highest vote totals will receive a four-year term and the third-highest vote total will receive a two-year term.
Roseman has lived in Watauga County since 1997 and lived in the Boone town limits since 2008. She attended Western Carolina University where she studied child development and family psychology. She started her career working in the local school system before transitioning into working at Horn in the West for eight years.
“That was something that really instilled in me that I needed to be part of my community. Through that avenue, I learned I wanted to be part of what makes Boone great,” Roseman said.
George recently graduated from Appalachian State and considers himself an activist for many causes in the community.
“The four or five years I have spent in the town of Boone I have really worked to make this a better place. I have advocated for voting rights and protected voting sites in town and made sure everyone could vote easily and accessibly,” George said.
Some of the other causes he plans to fight for on the town council are sustainability, affordable housing and accessibility in government.
Carter grew up in Hendersonville and attended UNC-Chapel Hill. Most recently, he has been working at Hospitality House of Northwest North Carolina for the past 10 years and has previous experience working in for-profit companies as well.
“I am well equipped to look at both sides of the issue having managed large budgets and having worked the last 10 years as a community activist and non-profit leader in Boone,” Carter said. “I care tremendously about this community.”
Working alongside people every day that are struggling to find permanent housing in the High Country has been Carter’s main motivation to fight for affordable housing in Boone.
“I have been working on the fair housing issue since almost when my feet hit the ground here. I know the struggles, I know the people who have experienced the struggles, and I want to get something done about it,” Carter said. “That is my commitment. We are actually going to provide accessible housing to the workforce, to single-income families, and it should not take a single-income family with three children having to make $38 an hour to live in Boone. I am here to fight for the people, people are my passion, I am excited to be running and I am excited to take my next step in activism for the people of Boone.”
Ray has been a Boone resident in Boone for nine years where he owns his own real estate firm. He graduated from Lees-McRae College with a business degree and loves to call Boone home.
“People really are my heart. Boone has been the most amazing place to live. I get to drive through the beautiful campus every day to see the energy and vibrancy of this town. It’s a pleasure to be a real estate agent in a place like this. It’s so easy to sell Boone, North Carolina. I travel a good bit and always love coming home to this place,” Ray said.
Working in real estate gives him a background that he feels like he needs to tackle housing issues in Boone.
“Affordable housing for our locals who are the backbone of this community that work so hard to keep this economy growing is something I feel like really needs to be something we address in the very near future. We also need to understand our growth gracefully and work together as a town and county to understand growth in a common-sense way,” Ray said.
The final candidate for the town council is Eric Woolridge. He previously worked with the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority and went on to start Destination by Design, which he has operated for about the last nine years.
“One of the big reasons why I’m running is I have been encouraged to do so by people that have followed my career in local government over the years. I also love the fact that this is a non-partisan election, I have always been an unaffiliated voter,” Woolridge said. “I’m ready to give back and serve the community.”
Woolridge played a major role in the creation of Rocky Knob bike park and expansion of the Greenway during his time with the TDA.