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A Conversation with Elk Park Mayor Daniel Boone

Elk Park Mayor Daniel Boone

By Tim Gardner

The Town of Elk Park’s Mayor is Daniel Boone, who is from one of the Town’s and Avery County’s most prominent families.   Boone’s father, John, was Elk Park’s mayor until his passing last spring. Daniel Boone succeeded his father in the position. Daniel Boone also serves as a State Highway Patrolman for this region. Additionally, he is known as one of Avery County High School’s all-time greatest football standouts. As a running back, he rushed for 1,569 yards on 201 carries and scored 23 touchdowns while averaging a stellar 7.8 yards per carry as a senior in 1998. That season, he helped the Vikings win their first conference championship since 1979, their first-ever outright Western Highlands 2-A Conference Championship and achieve the first 10-win season in school history.

And Boone currently leads the government of a small town with a big history.

In 1882, the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (Tweetsie) linked Cranberry and Johnson City, Tennessee with a stop at Elk Park; three years later, Elk Park was incorporated. Elk Park was so named because of the number of elk killed there. In 1911, Avery County was established; originally Elk Park was to serve as the county seat, but was changed after North Carolina Lieutenant Governor William C. Newland made a deal that the new county seat would be named after him for his aid in passage of the bill. However, Elk Park served as a temporary county seat while the new incorporated town of Newland was being constructed.

In 1950, the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina decommissioned the railroad at Elk Park, ending rail service in Avery County, though it has survived as a town.

And in 2005, Elk Park School was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The town’s population was 452 at the 2010 census. According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.7 square miles, all land.

Continue reading for a conversation between this reporter (my questions) and Mayor Boone (his answers) about various topics, including his political and public service credentials, the Town of Elk Park’s top attributes and its over-all financial solvency and top challenge in the upcoming years.

High Country Press: For those who want to learn more about you, what are your personal and professional backgrounds?

Boone: My father is the late John Boone of Elk Park NC. He retired as North Carolina Department of Corrections guard. My mother is Melba Boone. She retired as a mill worker US Textile in Newland. I have an older sister and a younger brother. My wife is Brandy Turbyfill Boone and she works at Eagles Nest.   Her father was the late Wayne Turbyfill and her mother is Loraine Turbyfill. My wife and I have 2 sons, ages 10, Braxton; and 13, Bentley. They play football now for the recreation league and middle school, respectively for Avery County.

My first job was a ski technician at Sugar Mountain Resort during my high school and college years, after attending Mayland Community College and a brief time at Western Carolina University. I followed in my father’s footsteps and became a prison guard. I then entered the North Carolina State Highway Patrol Academy on June 1, 2002, and graduated the patrol school on Dec 17, 2012. I was assigned to a duty station in Union County, NC. After a little more than a year, I got to transfer to Watauga County. Then just a fraction more than three years later, I transferred back home to Avery County and have been here since.

In 2009, I was elected as an Alderman for the Town of Elk Park. After the unexpected death of my father in May I was appointed by the Elk Park Board of Alderman to continue my father’s term. I also received my private air pilot’s license in 2013 and I hope to continue to train and be a commercial pilot when I retire from the Highway Patrol. I’m also an active member of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Frank.

High Country Press:   What does your practical experiences in elected office and public service entail?

Boone: My experiences in both fields have left me with a ‘mixing bowl set’ of qualifications. With that being said; I believe the most important lesson that has been instilled in me is the art of being patient. Sometimes, in a court room, on a traffic stop or in a town meeting, tempers flare; the most important thing that I can do for myself and my team is remain calm and strategic.

High Country Press: What would you list as the components and mandates for being a productive small-town mayor?

Boone: Having the support and trust of the Board of Aldermen, hard-working employees and volunteers. Our town clerk is pertinent to ensure our checks and balances are correct and we also collaborate to write for grants for Elk Park. It is encouraging to have the support of the Town’s citizens, knowing they’re also behind our ideas. There is much more than just attending monthly meetings as some may think. I spend a lot of time away from my family doing things around the town and I thank my family for understanding my work fulfilling my Town duties.

High Country Press: You also work as a North Carolina Highway Patrolman. How has your work as a State Trooper helped you in your role as Mayor and vice-versa?

Boone: As a State Trooper we were trained to treat people fair and equal, with no favoritism. When I decided to run a seat on the Town Board of Aldermen that was my promise to the people and to myself. I plan to keep that promise and a priority as Mayor.

High Country Press: What do you consider the most rewarding aspects of being Mayor of Elk Park?

Boone: The opportunity to bring the community closer together and to fight for our citizens. I look forward to helping keep Elk Park as one of the county’s most admired towns.

High Country Press: What specifically do you consider the Town of Elk Park’s greatest resources… those of which you want to brag about and of which you are most proud?

Boone: Elk Park has many untapped resources. I have already been in contact with the Avery Chamber of Commerce about a few of my ideas to bring some more life into the town and I’m very excited about those opportunities. Currently, I would like to brag about the Lucille Winters Park, a staple in the community, named for a former Mayor here. Various people from Roan Mountain and Newland go there to celebrate their children’s birthdays. After much work, it has become one of the better parks in the area. And with the addition of the John Boone Memorial Boone Entertainment Pavilion, named in my father’s honor, we can hold various events there. My family has personally put a lot of hard work into the pavilion and its events and projects. I’m very proud of our entertainment pavilion and I invite everyone to come and enjoy it!

High Country Press: What are some lessons you learned from your father about being a mayor that have especially been beneficial in your role holding the same office?

Boone: My father was an avid historian. He brought a lot of history into our Town Hall. It’s lined with pictures of every Mayor since Elk Park was founded. I never considered myself to be a historian until I came into this role (Mayor) and realized the importance of keeping that heritage that Elk Park holds in Avery County. Looking back, we were the golden town in the county and hope others still consider it to be that. We’re always considering ways to improve our Town, but we’re proud of all we have accomplished.

My father would often say ‘Go by the Book’ and ‘Learn the Town Ordinances and Laws.’   He would also tell me to ‘Take the time and care about what you are doing.’ Another of his all-important sayings was: ‘Give it your all at what you do.’

High Country Press: How would you rate the current financial solvency and over-all status of the Town of Elk Park?

Boone: Very good—especially considering the unfounded rumors circulating before the last election that we were broke and if we kept spending we would go under. We ended the 2017-18 fiscal year with a surplus in our General Fund bottom line and our Water/Sewer fund of several thousand dollars. During the time from 2009 to the publication of this article, the Town has built a new Town Hall, bought three new work trucks, upgraded to a newer backhoe, built a new four-bay shed at our sewer plant, made upgrades at the sewer plant, built a new picnic shed at our Town Park and made many new upgrades to our park.

Despite all our facility upgrades and purchases, we have not raised our Town’s tax rate and are close to, if not having more money in our fund balance than we ever have. The next few years will be challenging to keep our funds up and do all the upgrades that we need to the sewer plant. However, given all the listed upgrades the Town has completed within the last 10 years and still having a surplus of funds, I’m confident it’s achievable.

High Country Press: What is the greatest challenge for the Elk Park currently and in the next few years that you, the Board of Aldermen and the Town’s citizens are working through?

Boone: During the next few years we will need to continue to upgrade our sewer system due to it being more than 25 years old. That is our top priority. We applied for a grant to help with its expenses, but were denied.

Keeping tax and water utility rates at a minimum and continuing to improve the town’s services also are my priorities. But all things considered, we are still doing well financially and in all general aspects.

High Country Press: You work at the leisure of the Board of Aldermen and of course, foremost, your fellow-Elk Park citizens. Who are the Board of Aldermen members and the other town employees? And how do you feel about their work individually, yet collectively, as a team, for the betterment of the Town?

Boone:  Our aldermen are: Brad Benfield, Tony Eller, Tommy Norman, Mike Smith and Joel Whitley. Our Town Clerk is Connie Guinn, who reports to me as Mayor. Our Maintenance Supervisor is Tyler Boone and our Utilities Supervisor is Otis Ward. Both report to Joel Whitley. Our Police Chief is Mike Ellenburg, who reports to Mike Smith. Tony Eller serves as our Financial Officer.

During meetings, we all have different ideas and that is how the best solution is achieved. But in the end, they all our Aldermen and other employees do a great job. We have a great working relationship. Any of the Aldermen can call up an employee and talk to him or her about any business issues or concerns that the other may have.

High Country Press: What advice would you offer an aspiring political candidate—particularly one who may seek a small town or county office?

Boone: When you serve as a government official, you’re a voice for the people and don’t take that responsibility lightly. Go by the book, and don’t show any favoritism. Treat everyone equal. And keep the promises you make.

Offices held aren’t meant to just attend monthly meetings and hold a title; but to be involved, know ordinances, understand the budget, be aware of conditions effecting citizens and why you are voting for or against what is on the agenda.

Someone or social media will sometimes spin anything good you try to do, but do it anyway. And remember, doing what is right isn’t always popular. But why did you seek a position in politics anyway, for popularity or to do what’s right?

High Country Press: What additional comments would you like to make to all who read this article, particularly those who reside in the Town of Elk Park?
Boone: As Mayor I want to see the Town’s people keep coming together. In the summer of 2019 we plan to host several special happenings in the Town Park at our new John Boone Memorial Entertainment Pavilion. It will be a time for those attending to enjoy bands, movies on our massive screen, karaoke nights and more. We will post upcoming events to be held there on our Town’s Facebook page.

Also, anyone who has a complaint, problem, or concern relating to the Town, come to our monthly Board of Aldermen meetings or contact me or one of our Aldermen. If we don’t know about it, we can’t fix it. If you hear a rumor about the Town that you are concerned about, come to us and we’ll address it and give you facts.

Among the most treasured personal possessions of Elk Park Mayor Daniel Boone is this football commemorating his impressive achievements as a running back for the Avery County High School Vikings during his senior season of 1998.